For several years I’ve been playing something that I call the “Netflix Mystery Game.” It might be more apt to call it a personal pastime than a game, and, unlike other movie trivia games, it relies more on ignorance than knowledge. The “game” is based on my personal inattentiveness with the film industry. I find very few new movies compelling and avoid going to movie theaters due to ticket prices and volume levels. I have a Netflix account that I use mainly for television series but I add movies to my queue occasionally. My media habits are such that I manage to miss a good amount of movie press and, as a result, I have some trouble finding ideas for DVDs to request. Movies tend end up in my Netflix queue for one of the following reasons:
- The movie is prominent or unusual enough to earn a mention in my media feeds.
- The move was nominated for an award (a cachet that I adhere to).
- The movie has an actor or director that I am exploring based on the enjoyment of a previously viewed film.
- The movie was recommended by a friend.
Netflix gives users the option of adding movies to their queues before the movies have been released for home viewing. Many months may separate a request for a movie and its delivery, by which time I may fail to recognize the title on the disc sleeve and have no memory of why I added it in the first place. This is how the Netflix Mystery Game begins. When a mystery DVD arrives I don’t check my account or look up the movie on IMDb. I throw it in the DVD player, press play, and see how long it take to figure out which of the four aforementioned queue-addition categories it belongs to.
Yesterday two Netflix DVDs arrived in the mail. I wasn’t expecting a second disc but reasoned that it was a complimentary bonus generated by a waiting-list delay at the top of my queue. One disc contained television episodes and the other a movie. Nothing about the movie rang a bell but the elusive title suggested it was a perfect candidate for the Netflix Mystery Game. The movie was Project X.
I started watching the movie and eliminated Category 2 in the first 30 seconds. Category 3 was eliminated shortly after that. It was rather underwhelming to watch but I’ve sat through bad movies before and I still wanted to solve the mystery. Category 4 seemed the most likely but I couldn’t think of a friend who would have recommended it. I considered a number of ironic and meta-appreciation theories for which one might advocate the movie but none of them led me to a suspect.
Once the movie ended (at least it was rather short) I skimmed the Wikipedia article for clues that validate one of the eliminated categories but to no avail. Then I went to my online Netflix account. I discovered that Project X was not in my queue not had it ever been. I had already thrown away the mailing label and taken the trash to the dumpster so I couldn’t check to see if the disc was intended for me or for a neighbor. But even without concrete evidence I am ruling the movie as Category 5: Delivery error. Mystery solved.
On the other hand, if any of you have another theory, or clearly remember recommending Project X to me, please let me know. 🙂