The Inner Workings of this Crazy Project

I often surprise people when I mention how much work went into setting everything up for this project, and maintaining it. I thought it might be vaguely interesting to write about it, so you guys can see what goes on behind the scenes. Heh, movie jokes (I kid, I kid).


Hopefully this isn't too long and dull!



Setting Everything Up

This was by far the hardest part. Once I got the idea to do this project, I had to figure out a few things. First, and most importantly - could I watch one movie a day from primarily just Netflix? I normally got three movies at a time, and I was worried that this wouldn't be enough. If I had a spot where three movies in a row were discs from Netflix, would I have the fourth movie at my house on time? What about Sunday, when no mail is picked up or dropped off? Or holidays? I decided to change my Netflix account to get five movies at a time, just to be safe. I'd rather have a little stockpile of upcoming titles at home and not have to depend so heavily on when mail arrived.

I saw that some of the titles were on Netflix Instant, and I was hopeful that they would stay there. Films can sort of be added or taken off with little warning, but it was nice to see that there were blocks of time when I would be able to not worry about mailing things back. I was optimistic that I would be able to watch all of the movies with no problems. 

The hardest part about this was that I wanted to watch the movies in order! It's really easy to watch 365, or even 500, movies a year - with On Demand on TV, and Netflix Instant, there are so many movies that are easily available to watch. It might be hard to find the time to do it, though. The challenge for me is that I can't just pick any title off of Netflix Instant and fire it up. I have to watch something specific. I sometimes have wished I could go out of order, because I've had to watch so many movies leave Netflix Instant before the day I had to watch them.

The next step was setting up a schedule of films. I made a big list of all the movies out of Roger Ebert's Great Movie books, and I started, one by one, making an event on my calender for each film I was going to watch. Tedious, tedious. It felt like it took me all day, but having a calender set up has been one of the most helpful things! It's an easy way to check what films are coming up (in case I'm out and see a movie I need to watch on sale or something), and I never feel lost or confused about where I am in the project.

After that, I needed to get my Netflix queue in order. Of course, I used it for personal movies, so it was a mess. I also didn't want to delete everything in my queue, since I still wanted to see those films! I sort of clicked around on the site uselessly for a while until I thought of the best way to add all the films, that would involve the least futzing when I was done. I started adding the last titles from Great Movies III first - so I did it all in reverse. This way, I could add the last title and hit "move to position #1" to get it out of my personal movies. Then, when I added the movie that came before it in the list, and moved it, it would be in the right position. This makes less sense now that I've tried to explain it, haha! I spent a long time searching for movies and adding them to my queue. There were a handful of movies that Netflix did not have - and majority of them seemed to be hard to find or out of print entirely.

My Netflix Queue.

I made another list of all of the films I couldn't find. I could either buy them used on Amazon or get another rental service membership, this time from Facets, which is a Chicago theater and rental store that carries foreign, independent, and out of print titles. If you can't find your movie anywhere, Facets has it. It's a little pricey, though, and after doing some boring math I decided it was cheaper to buy the films I needed used off of Amazon. Since I bought them used, a lot of them were on VHS, or weird copies. Chimes at Midnight appears to be...handmade. Some of them are old rental copies, and stuff like that. It's kind of interesting to have such a strange little collection. Of course, after I bought some of these, Criterion announced it was releasing them on Blu-ray...after I would have to watch them. I know that L'Atlante and Orpheus are getting released, but alas, too late. 

Stack o' films.

I am always strangely interested in box art, and assume others are as well.

Discarded copy from a library.

A Korean, region-free import of Orpheus.



Maintaining Everything

Not too long after I started, Criterion announced that it was moving all of it's titles to Hulu. Of course, tons of the movies I have to watch are part of the Criterion Collection, so I had to create a Hulu Plus account so I could stream the Criterions to my TV. Since the collection is still new, lots of new titles are being added every week (which I need to check, and add anything I need to watch to my queue). The most frustrating side-effect is that as more titles are added to Hulu, there are less Criterions streaming on Netflix.  I try to keep this in vague order, so I don't have to waste too much time trying to find everything when I need to watch it.

Hulu queue.

To keep the project functioning day-to-day, I have a list of the Great Movies, and their "status" next to them. I make a note if I own the title, if it's streaming on Netflix or Hulu, if I need to buy it, or if it's shipping to me. I try to update this as often as possible. I check my Netflix queue often to see  if anything is going to be taken off of Instant, or if anything has been added. I also check Hulu about once a week to see if any new Criterions have arrived. There are a lot of movies that I need to watch that I love but don't own yet. I tend to check for Blu-ray sales on these movies often, and my boyfriend and I spend a lot of time stalking the Blockbusters that go out of business in my area for cheap movies. I think, though, honestly, that we just use the project as an excuse to buy Blu-rays that we want. Like Saturday, I kept thinking that I should go out and buy the collector's edition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I didn't need to, but if I'm going to watch it anyway....

On Friday I was playing around on Ebert's new iPhone app and realized that he still posts Great Movie Essays online. There is a handful of movies he's written about that never got published in his books yet. For fun, I thought I'd tack these on to the end of my project, since many of them I've wanted to see, or really love already. Of course, this meant I had to spend all of yesterday dragging films around on my queues and making lists of out-of-print titles. Of course, the longest and most expensive film ever is not on Netflix, and it's still somehow cheaper to buy it. One of the movies I have to watch is Shoah, which  is a nine hour long documentary (four discs!), and the cheapest way I found to buy it so far has been another Korean, region-free import, since it seems...out of print?

Playing around on Ebert's app, checking off what movies I've seen, and what ones I still have left. 

I'm actually starting my new full-time job today, so that's going to add a new challenge to this whole project. That's why I spent a lot of time this weekend making sure all my movies were in order on my rental queues, and making sure that the new Great Movies were added to my calender and queues as well. I won't have to much time to check Netflix and Hulu, and I wanted to make sure that even my Instant queue on Netflix was in order, so it didn't take me an extra 20 minutes after work to find the movie I'm supposed to watch.

I did part of this project with a temp job, and it was really tough. It was hard when I was tired from work to sit down and focus on something. Most people, myself included, are used to vegging out when they get home, and it was hard to have to watch serious films. Some of the movies are so long, too, which makes it even harder! But I'm not going to give up or stop, even with my new job. My posts might be a little shorter, but I still plan to watch and write about a movie every night, and keep to the calender I made for myself. Like I posted earlier, the support I've gotten from you guys and from Ebert himself has been so fantastic. It's kept me really motivated, and I'm really excited to keep working on my project!
Can't let the man down!

Paris, Texas

Orpheus