Why Most Netflix Movies Are So Bad
Plus the most authentic love movies of all time
For years now, streaming services have been putting out hundreds of what I like to refer to as “algorithm movies” to rack up views and drive subscriptions for their service. While many streaming services are guilty of this, the repeat offender is Netflix. In fact, they aren’t just a repeat offender, they created the algorithm movie monster.
To me, an algorithm movie is a film that has a compelling storyline and an A-list cast but is ultimately very underwhelming in execution. Algorithm movies could be anything from a bad action movie to a romantic comedy. It’s usually very predictable and whatever formula the writers are going for usually comes off as dull and uninspired. You have probably even seen one or two of these yourself on Netflix over the past few years - “Purple Hearts”, “The Gray Man”, “Red Notice”, etc. Ironically, most of these “algorithm movies” are among the most matched movies ever on Netflix, yet the collective audience and critics ripped them apart.
This past weekend we saw a prime example of an algorithm movie hit Netflix. It came in the form of a star studded rom com featuring Ashton Kutcher, Reese Witherspoon, Jesse Williams, and Steve Zahn. “Your Place or Mine” was on paper going to be great. In reality, the film was like almost every other Netflix algorithm movie, completely void of any real emotion or purpose. I am ashamed to admit that I fell for the algorithm trap. When I saw the trailer a few months ago I was completely won over and counting down the days till this film came out. About 25 minutes into the film I couldn’t wait for it to end. Some will say I am being too harsh, but I genuinely wanted the film to succeed. I adore Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon is one of my favorite actresses, but even with all of that, there is no denying that the script feels like something an AI would write, the direction was lackluster, and the chemistry is some of the worst I have ever seen on screen.
Over the weekend I posted a clip of the climatic scene in Your Place or Mine on Twitter (can be seen below) and over 140,000 people viewed the tweet. Of those 140,000 people, I had dozens of people comment, quote tweet, and DM me their thoughts on the film - not a single one of them disagreed with the film being atrocious. Keep in mind that normally nothing I tweet is universally agreed upon. I could tweet “Casablanca is a good movie” and I would have fifteen people in my DMs and twenty trolls calling me out on Twitter. So in a world where no one can agree on anything, why can we all agree that Netflix algorithm movies are bad? And is there anything that we can do to change that?
To start, I want to make it clear that not all algorithm movies are total flops, the term just means that the movie was created with the intent of getting lots of clicks, not for being a great piece of art. If a film has an appealing premise or three or four actors/actresses you like are in the movie, Netflix has already won because you are going to click on the movie. If enough people click the movie, it catapults into their top 10, which means even more people will click on the movie. At no point in that cycle does the film being great play a role in people clicking on it. For this reason, Netflix doesn’t care if their films are good, they just care that you watch them. Sure, they have a couple of awards films that they put out each year, but the bulk of their content is not made to be quality content, it is meant to be consumed. The more things you consume per month, the more likely you are to justify spending money on your subscription for next month.
Streaming services like Netflix make a lot of money off of algorithm movies, and that’s why they continue to make them. When your upside for each family is a mere $15 a month (unlike the theatrical business model where it is $15 per person for each quality movie), you don’t really get rewarded for quality films, you get rewarded for driving more people to the service which can only be done if you churn out lots of content, good or bad. Netflix keeps making these films because people keep watching them and talking about them with their friends, even if they are terrible.
The whole thing is quite frightening because there are really only two ways this cycle will end:
People stop watching these algorithm movies - I am a strong believer this will never happen because as long as they keep hiring A-list actors to act in these lifeless films, people will continue to watch. Heck, I solely watched “Your Place or Mine” because Reese Witherspoon was in it. Netflix knows this and knows that our culture is so celebrity obsessed that most people will watch anything if one of their favorite actors or personalities are in it.
Netflix runs out of money to pay the A list actors so much money to act in these terrible films - I think this one could eventually play out down the road. The reason most actors don’t care to act in a bad movie for Netflix is because they are getting paid astronomically more than they would for any other film. The old phrase in the industry used to be “one for them one for me” meaning actors would do one movie for a paycheck then one movie that gets them creatively excited. However, recent years have shown that the slogan now is more like “one for Netflix one for me”.
While we all sit around and wait for Netflix to run out of money to fund these algorithm projects, the good news is that there is still some quality content being churned out by other streaming services. Aside from the awards contender content that Netflix puts out, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime have been putting out some really great stuff. In fact, Amazon Prime has been putting out some pretty original Rom Coms over the past year while Netflix has put out the likes of “Purple Hearts” and “Your Place or Mine”. So, instead of further supporting Netflix’s algorithm movies and firing up Your Place or Mine this Valentines Day, I would recommend checking out “I Want You Back” or “Somebody I Used To Know” on Amazon Prime. Both are well written and original films that are some of the best new rom coms of the past few years.
Here is to hoping that the streaming industry moves away from the algorithm trap and towards placing a higher value on unique and thoughtful content.
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The Most Authentic Romance Movies Of All Time
Since it is Valentines Day, I couldn’t leave without plugging what I believe are the three greatest romance movies of all time, Richard Linklaters’ Before trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. It is not an original thought, but I firmly believe that there has never been a more accurate depiction on screen of romance and how it endures (or doesn’t) as life goes on.
The first film in the trilogy is Before Sunrise (1995) and tells the story of two young strangers, Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), who meet on a train and spend a night together in Vienna. Through conversations that span the course of a night, the two form a bond and share their views and philosophies on life and love. In an effort to not spoil the second and third films, all I will say is that the second installment, Before Sunset (2004) takes place nine years later and then the third film, Before Midnight (2013) takes place nine years after the second film.
The films have minimal plot, but instead center around the two kindred spirits walking and talking about life and their thoughts on the world. The dialogue at times feels more authentic than any script ever written. You get so entranced in Hawke’s and Delpy’s chemistry that you feel like you are apart of their relationship. Above all, it is authentic and real, which causes you to feel the heights and depths of emotion that love can take transport you to.
If you have never seen them before, I am genuinely jealous because I only wish that I could go back and experience these films again for the first time. I watched all three in consecutives nights the first time I saw them and it is an experience I will never forget. If you are looking for a movie to watch with your loved one for Valentines Day (or any day for that matter), I would HIGHLY recommend the Before movies. The first two are currently streaming on HBO Max and the third is currently streaming on MUBI.
If you have never seen them and decide to watch them, let me know what you think!
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