Posts tagged ‘Netflix’

One may be familiar with the concept of the armchair quarterback or the Monday morning quarterback, but over the past 45 years, the aftermath of the Super Bowl has changed considerably.  The Monday morning quarterbacks discussing the various aspects of the previous day’s game (and identifying what their particular team could have/should have done differently to bring about a more satisfactory outcome) have been replaced by the Monday morning Ad Executives.

When I went to work this morning, I expected to hear discussions regarding last night’s Super Bowl.  The Steelers fans would be talking about how their team just did not pick up enough steam soon enough, and while they played their hearts out during the second half, if it had only come sooner or lasted longer, they would have won.  The Packer fans would be talking about how amazing it was that they were able to fight off the Steelers in the second half despite a plethora of injuries to key players.  But no.  The vast majority of discussions centered around the Super Bowl commercials.  What was your favorite?  Which ones did you like?  Which ones just did not work?  Everyone seems to know how and why the different ads worked or didn’t work.  Fox Sports has even gone so far as to allow web viewers to vote on the ads, giving a “thumbs up” to the ones they like and the “thumbs down” to the ones that just don’t do it.  And just in case you were lured away from this great American tradition by the likes of the Puppy Bowl, Enchanted, or Netflix (or you were just in a cave somewhere), you can screen the Super Bowl ads here.

Personally, there were a couple that caught my attention.  As a parent, the Volkswagen/Star Wars commercial has to be my favorite.  For pure fun, I like the Bud Light “Product Placement“, Bridgestone Tires, and Doritos “Healing Chips”.  I thought there were a few too many upcoming movie ads.  I can understand the studios wanting to put their new releases into the minds of the public, but it just seemed like a little bit of overkill, considering that these same movie trailer commercials will be airing on every station day and night for the next one-to-six months, depending upon when the movie is released.  There were a few ads that really didn’t work for me.  I could have skipped both of the Eminem ads.  I felt the tea one was lame, and the Chrysler commercial was somewhat ambiguous, in that it was hard to tell if Eminem was endorsing Chrysler or the city of Detroit.  Actually, many of the car commercials were just humdrum – not a lot of entertainment value, just “here’s our new car and this is what makes it special”.  And none of them really seemed that special (aside from the aforementioned VW ad).

Over the past 45 years, Super Bowl ads have evolved from just putting a product in front of one of the annually largest TV viewing audiences to being part of why that audience is so large.  The comment that seemed to be repeated the most this morning was, “I didn’t really have a great interest in the game, I just watched it for the commercials.”  In truth, there was a point during the evening that I was in my son’s room, putting away clean clothes, and racing out to the living room only when the action on the field was coming to a stop.  All of this begs the question: What is the future evolution of the Super Bowl ad?  I foresee a day when a DVD of the ads is available to order as soon as the game is over, with the proceeds going to some charity or cause endorsed by the NFL.  Or, possibly a TV special, airing a week or so after the game, that consists of nothing but Super Bowl TV spots.  Of course, if that ever happens, only the football fans would watch the game.  The rest of us would be free to watch the Puppy Bowl, or whatever else tickled our fancies, and set our TIVO’s up to record the commercials.  Just don’t hit that “skip the ads” button.

I grew up going to church.  I still go to church.  As a matter of fact, in my lifetime, I have attended many churches of varying denominations, and the messages were always the same – Love thy neighbor as thyself, Do unto others, and For God so loved the world, etc..   The problem is that much of the time, very nice, well-meaning people go to the church of their choice, listen to the sermon, recite the prayers, sing the songs, sit, stand or kneel when appropriate, and then go home, feeling that they have met their religious “obligation” for the week.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I have, on occasion, fallen into this categorization myself.)  It is one thing to say, “I believe,” and quite another to put that belief into behavior.

My husband is a Netflix junkie.  He regularly scours the Netflix site looking for interesting things to add to our instant queue.  Recently, he pulled up Netflix and told me, “You need to watch this movie.  I watched it last night, and it was certainly not what I expected, but it was really good.  You need to watch this.”  And with that he started Lord, Save Us From Your Followers.  If you have not heard of this movie, I highly encourage you to seek it out.  It is available for instant streaming on Netflix, and has also been released on DVD.  There is also a companion book (which I have not read, but would like to).  The simple premise of this book/movie is “Why is the Gospel of Love dividing America?”  Dan Merchant set out to discover why “Christians” have gotten such a bad rap over the years and why, if we all agree that Jesus calls his followers to “Love One Another,” we don’t seem to be doing that in our daily practice.  It is a provocative look at faith and how that faith translates into daily behavior.  Several years ago, a minister I knew told me that he believed that Religion had given Faith a bad name, and this movie really seems to drive that point home.

Now don’t get me wrong, this film is not Christian-bashing or Religion-bashing.  It asks the question “What would Jesus do?’ and then sets out to try and answer it.  Would Jesus have a political party affiliation?  Would he be hanging out with the movers and shakers or would he be found with the homeless under the bridge?  And if we are really striving to live “Christ-like” lives, what should we be doing?  Ironically, several of the most “Christ-like” insights come from none other than Al Franken, a life-long Jew.  Franken is not the only notable name that shows up in this film, either.  Tony Campolo, Rick Santorum, Lars Larson, and Tom Krattenmaker also contribute their insights on the subject.  Archival footage including the likes of Bono, President Bush, Bill Maher, Pope John Paul II, and Jon Stewart is also used.  Many times when someone used archival footage under Fair Use, the user will “selectively edit” the footage to help support the point that they are trying to make (see “Michael Moore”), but I don’t get that here.  Merchant uses footage to help tell the story, but his point is made without the footage by virtue of the first-hand experiences shown throughout the film.  Merchant filmed a group going under the bridge for a once-a-week service to provide the homeless food, clothing, and personal hygiene. Watching that segment really made me stop and question what I had done recently to help those less fortunate.

Now, all the way through the movie, Dan Merchant stresses repeatedly that he is not trying to rate anyone, judge anyone, or belittle anyone for things that they may or may not have done in their lives.  He is also not taking sides, by any stretch of the imagination.  What he IS trying to do is “start the conversation” – get people talking about what they really believe, why they believe it, how strongly they believe it, and how that belief can be translated into action.  What results is one of those films that seems to continue beyond the ending credits.  It causes you to stop and think, and then want to talk about what you just experienced and how, if at all, it affected you.

Ironically, as we head, full-throttle, into the Christmas season, we see a lot more people doing those things that this movie encourages us to do year-round – giving to the less fortunate, taking time out of our busy lives to help another, and showing compassion and caring to everyone we encounter.  When I was in my early teens, someone gave my mother a poster at Christmastime that said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”  She hung this poster up in our big eat-in kitchen, where we could see it every day, at every meal.  I teased her in January when she did not take it down with the other Christmas decorations, but she told me she liked being reminded of that “Christmas feeling” even beyond Christmas.  I didn’t understand then.  I do now.  So does Dan Merchant.  I think Dan Merchant is a hero.  Not the kind that rushes forward to face the danger, but the kind that is slowly, methodically, one person at a time, trying to change the world.  And I like the direction he thinks we should take.

A while back, my husband decided it was worth $10 a month for us to have Netflix.  Not because we could have DVDs sent to us in the mail, but because we could watch streaming video through our XBox.  Once we got up and running, my husband took to spending hours at a time (usually after everyone else had gone to sleep) combing through the online catalog of titles available to stream instantly.  Quite soon we had an instant queue with over 200 titles.  That didn’t include the “Suggested Titles” in the various genre categories that we could also choose from.

In looking at the various titles my husband had chosen to add to our queue, I began to notice a penchant for documentaries.  And not just your run of the mill documentaries.  Weird documentaries.  He had one all about how people surgically alter their bodies to extreme extents.  The plot to assassinate Hitler.  The history of stupidity.  The development and use of the Helvetica typeface.  The tiny division of hip-hop known as “nerdcore”.  (For the record, I am NOT making any of these up.  As of this writing, all of these – with the exception of the body mod one – are still currently on our list.)  Anyway, in and amongst these odd documentaries was something called “The Future We Will Create: Inside the world of TED”.  You may be thinking, Who is TED?  TED is not a who, but a what.  It stands for Technology Entertainment Design, and it is an annual invitation-only conference held in California.  Over the course of four days, guest speakers get 18 minutes to present what they are doing or what they would like to do, and why it should interest us.  Speakers include leading scientists, philosophers, entertainment industry leaders, and performers.  At the end of the conference, the TED Prizes are announced.  Each prize winner is allowed to present to the the assembly a wish – what they would like to see happen that will make the world a better place.

On the surface, it all sounds very high-brow, until you take a closer look.  These people are very serious about what they are doing and are presenting simple ideas in a user-friendly format that can make life better for us all.  When the prize winners announce their wishes, the entire group of attendees leave TED with only one goal in mind – make it happen.  Entrepreneurs, scientists, entertainers, designers, with all their contacts and all their venture capital, spend the next year doing what they can to help make the prizewinner’s wish a reality.  Past winners include Bono, Bill Clinton, and Jamie Oliver, among others.  And ideas and innovations presented at TED have changed the world.  In the documentary, you can see the design originator presenting what has since become the CNN Magic Board – the giant touch-screen interactive computer interface that they used quite effectively during our last presidential election.

TED is not only about learning and expanding a person’s mind to be able to “think outside the box.”  TED is a lot of fun, as well.  The further I got into the documentary, the more I found myself thinking, “It would be SO COOL to be able to attend one of these conferences.”  Luckily for all of us, TED thinks the same thing, and they have created a website that you could spend all day in, searching for different talks on any one of a thousand topics.  TED has also expanded since its inception as a small gathering in 1984 to an international organization, hosting conferences here and abroad, and simulcasting conferences to “satellite” conference locations and online.

If you would like to be inspired, educated, amazed, informed, entertained, empowered, or otherwise enlightened, drop by

P.S. Vilayanur Ramachandran is a genius.  Look him up.