It never used to be this way. Canada, the friendly and primarily Englsih-speaking neighbour to the North of the USA, used to get all the same stuff that they got stateside, at roughly the same time. Movies would be released on the same weekend, Canadian stations would broadcast big teevee shows on the same night, and all was right with the world.
If it weren’t for American teevee, we’d be stuck watching The Beachcombers.
Lately, though, this wonderful system has been falling apart. It became personal when the hotly-anticipated video game Rock Band was delayed a number of months in Canada – ostensibly so that the company could produce the bilingual French and English print materials. (i never bought that excuse … the game was published by EA, who have had ample experience writing French and English game manuals over the years). CTV, the primary Canadian carrier of American teevee for the masses, started pre-empting and re-scheduling certain top-tier shows like LOST, because they’d ordered hit shows from two competing American networks. Geo-blocking is rampant; Canadians can’t access Comedy Central, we can’t watch Hulu, and we don’t have TiVO. And the biggest cultural carrot that’s been dangled in front of our noses for years has been Netflix.
Netflix: its coming was prophesied.
Netflix is a video rental service that charges a flat monthly fee, and provides subscribers access to a library of DVDs. More recently, they’ve added a video streaming service. As this service has been rolled out to numerous gadgets and gizmos that we Canadians own (iPods/iPhones, Xbox 360′s, PS3′s, Wiis), and the Yanks have made a huge fuss over it, we’ve been positively salivating at the prospect of the service coming to the Great White North.
Well, Netflix is here now. And what do we have, after the long wait? Imagine if, for just eight dollars, you could watch any movie – ANY MOVIE YOU WANTED – from that discount DVD bin next to the cash register at Home Hardware. ANY MOVIE. You’d just have to pay Rogers or Bell the extra fifty bucks a month to increase your bandwidth cap, and this world of Earthly pleasures would open up to you.
Ice Twisters: just one of the New Arrivals you can enjoy with your new Netflix Canada membership. It’s about tornadoes that are made of ice. According to the synopsis, they “precipitate nothing but trouble.” i didn’t write that.
i haven’t counted the number of movies on the Netflix Canada service, but i think it’s roughly twelve. Twelve movies, and i’ve already seen three of them. The movies are grouped into pretty granular categories, with a LOT of repeats between genre listings. Let’s take a look at the Netflix Canada offering of “Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy” movies. But before we do, quick: what are the top ten Classic Sci Fi & Fantasy movies that come to your mind? i hope you could name ten, because Netflix Canada only offers seven. Seven movies. And classic, they ain’t:
- Mad Max (no Road Warrior, no Beyond Thunderdome)
- Godzilla’s Revenge (no original Godzilla, which has an IMDB rating of 7.3, to Revenge‘s 4.0)
- Ghidora: The Three Headed Monster (i’m no monster movie fan, but where’s Gamera? Mothra?)
- Fahrenheit 451
- Silent Running
- Red Planet Mars
- King of the Rocket Men
Did you perhaps think of Metropolis, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or THEM? Or did you conjure up more recent classics like Blade Runner, Alien, Willow, The Abyss, or Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Well tough nuts. They don’t have ‘em.
BONUS: Can i get an American subscriber to list the movies in this category on American Stream Instantly Netflix? Kthx.
The “Classic” moniker is admittedly subjective. i was hoping for an education in science fiction film. Instead, i searched in vain to find that they didn’t carry TRON, The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, Explorers, or SpaceCamp.
The Hits Just Keep On Failing to Come
Netflix Canada’s twenty-two selections in the pure “Fantasy” section include stinkers like The Golden Child, Bewtiched (the Will Ferrell bomb), Cool World (??), and the Uwe Boll schlockbuster In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.
“Cult Comedies” (thirteen movies in total) has a few decent picks like The ‘Burbs, Being John Malkovich and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but really stretches the category with Teen Wolf (which is also inexplicably found in “Teen Horror”) and Big Top Pee Wee. No Election, no Rushmore, no Living in Oblivion, Ghost World, The Big Lebowski, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Heathers, Very Bad Things, or any other cult comedy I can think of.
(You’ll find Jeff Dunham and Joe Rogan in the Stand-up Comedy section, incidentally, which also stretches the genre category beyond its reasonable limits)
Yay! Look what’s just arrived in Comedy. i think i’ve only heard of TWO of those movies, and i rather wish i hadn’t.
i’ve complained about it a bunch on Twitter, so i think i should just post this last rant and shaddup about it. Here goes: Netflix Canada perfectly recreates the depressing feeling you get when you go to a Blockbuster Video store closing to buy some discounted DVDs and the place has been picked over, and all that’s left are twelve copies of Jim Carrey’s The Number 23. You try to convince yourself that your wife will really like the romcom Picture Perfect (starring Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Bacon), or that $6.99 is a small price to pay for all the fun your kids will have watching the animated feature film The Missing Lynx, with the voice talents of … no, seriously – WTF? The Missing Lynx? What the hell is that? MetaCritic and Rotten Tomatoes don’t even have entries for it, and the IMDB folks put it at a 5.6. Based on my viewing preferences (i spent an hour or so rating movies on the Netflix site – movies that Netflix Canada doesn’t even have in its library), Netflix itself thinks that i’ll rate The Missing Lynx at about a 2.4/5.
Remember when this came out in theatres OR went straight to video? Neither do i.
My American friends to the South speak of a land flowing with milk and honey – of a Netflix that has absolutely everything you could ever want to watch, streamed to every digital device you own short of your pocket watch. Now either the Yanks have a peculiar predilection for bargain bin trash, or we hosers are, once again, gettin’ hosed.