The Treacherous Queue

Netflix is a fixture at Polytropos HQ. We get the most mileage out of it by renting TV shows and miniseries. Over the years we’ve watched The Sopranos, The Avengers, Six Feet Under, and I, Claudius. Right now we’re making our way through Babylon 5. Scattered in among the discs for the show of the moment, we rent plenty of movies. Which show we’ll be watching at any given moment is a matter for amicable consensus, the hallmark of a harmonious marriage. When it comes to the movies, though, it’s a free-for-all.

I have a decided advantage here, because I log on to Netflix more often than Suanna. Thus the Queue contains more of my choices than hers, and I more frequently bump mine to the top. She has access to the account, of course, and could easily compete with me, but she’s much more laid back about these things. With great power comes great responsibility, though — when we find ourselves watching a really bad movie that has somehow bubbled up to the top of the Queue, there’s only me to blame. Case in point: last night. The movie: Serendipity.

I have been trying to reconstruct my thought process at that instant, however many months ago, when I added the movie to the Queue in the first place. It hadn’t been recommended to me by anyone. I don’t remember reading any reviews one way or the other. I think it must have been one of those times where I picked it out on the strength of the actors, something I almost never do. After all, an actor could star in one of the best movies of all time, but most of the rest of his movies could suck. (This is called the “Gabriel Byrne Effect.”) But I did it this time. As I was clicking on the little red “RENT” button, I was no doubt thinking to myself, “John Cusack is a fine actor and a great boon to any film is in. If he’s involved in this project, it has to be good.” But I was also thinking to myself, “Kate Beckinsdale is dreeeeamy.”

And she is, to her credit, quite dreamy in Serendipity. So dreamy I wanted John to punch her. The first time she did that thing with her lip, it was cute, very disarming, all that. But the fifteenth time, you started to worry that she had a facial tick or something. Same deal with the thing she did with her eyes, and that other one with her hair. Her entire performance was based on her using cute looks to distract us from the fact that the things she was saying made absolutely no sense. John isn’t as bad, though I shudder to think of the amount of time his hair people must have spent giving it that just-a-little-tussled look before every single scene.

The director, Peter Chelsom, possesses a terrifying power – he can make talented actors set aside their basic instincts and behave like stupid people. In our Hollywood-obsessed society, I believe this qualifies him as a bonafide supervillain. He has directed nothing else you’ve ever heard of, but it’s worth noting that his very first film is called Treacle.

After we finished watching it, Suanna didn’t even need to say “I told you so.” She just had to smile and fix me with a look that said “You never, ever, ever get to make fun of any movies I put on the Queue, ever ever again.” I have learned my lesson. Months hence, when I put Underworld on the Queue, even though I can already tell it’s going to be bad, it won’t be because of Kate, but because, y’know, vampires versus werewolves. How cool is that?