I’m the loneliest movie watcher on the planet. No one sees the movies that I see.
We all live on separate media planets these days. Your streaming service is not my streaming service. You have cable or satellite TV. I don’t.
So when I recommend films and you recommend films, all these recommendations tend to go nowhere.
Admittedly, I make things difficult. Virtually all of my movies arrive via Netflix DVDs-by-mail. They come months after a film’s run in theaters. If they once had buzz, it evaporates long before I get them.
Cheryl allows me to be our movie-picker. It’s probably because I’m insufferable when stuck watching a lousy movie inflicted by someone else. I’d rather the error be mine.
If this a character flaw, so be it.
DVDs-by-mail is an admittedly antiquated delivery system. It takes days, not minutes, to receive an order.
On the plus side, Netflix DVDs-by-mail offers exceptional choice. It’s greater than that of any streaming service, including Netflix’s own, or so I believe. By going the snail mail route, I can roam farther afield than just the Hollywood hits.
My Netflix queue won’t win any popularity contest. It’s 80 percent movies plucked from the New York Times’ Critics’ Picks list.
What kinds of movies do these fancy-schmancy Times critics like? Lots of indies and foreign films. This is to say, movies low on special effects but with subtitles.
I lost my aversion to films in foreign tongues decades ago when every college town, including my own, had a theater for “art” films, which in those days meant Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut. That is to say, subtitles, subtitles, subtitles.
Cheryl has slowly warmed to captioned movies. She accepts one per weekend.
What goodies have NYT recommendations sent my way? In recent weeks we’ve enjoyed an Israeli drama, “The Wedding Plan,” a French drama, “Just a Sigh,” and a vampire movie in Farsi by an Iranian-American, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.”
This last one is a romantic killer!
Maybe they all had a run at Century Napa Valley. Maybe none of them did. But thanks to Netflix DVDs-by-mail, all of them had a one-night run in our living room.
Last Sunday’s showing, “Personal Shopper” by the French director Olivier Assayas and starring Kristen Stewart, was tense, spooky, sexy.
“The Big Sick,” a romantic comedy by the Pakistani-American stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani, was superb.
Not every movie in our home lineup has been blessed by the Times. We’ll see anything made by Wes Anderson, the Coen brothers, Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood. I’m also a sucker for titles with Jeremy Irons, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Owen Wilson and Matt Damon.
I carry around in my wallet yellow Post-its with movie titles scribbled on them. These are recommendations from my children and coworkers who are dead certain I’ll love what they loved.
What to do with these Post-its? Check to see if these movies have been vetted by the New York Times? What if I discover that the recommender likes garbage? Do I risk knowing this?
I’ll close with a recommendation: “A Ghost Story,” which we watched on a recent Saturday night.
It’s a wonderful, meditative movie about loss, with Casey Affleck as a ghost who wears a bed sheet and the stunning Rooney Mara who does not. The movie has minimal dialogue, lots of atmosphere and a memorable cello soundtrack.
Yet “A Ghost Story” perplexed us in many ways. Not all the pieces added up.
At breakfast the next morning I was still befuddled, so I called up the NYT review that had motivated me to order “A Ghost Story” in the first place.
Explain things, A.O. Scott!
Scott was up to the job. As I read aloud, he eloquently unpacked what we had seen the evening before.
Perplexion faded, appreciation grew.
We got so jazzed by Scott’s review that we did something we’ve never done before. That night we watched “A Ghost Story” a second time.
Our joint assessment? Everything about the movie was better with Scott’s illumination. The second time turned out to be a better time. I still managed to tear up during tender moments.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for the Times.