What Shall I Watch Tonight?

The first day of each month is a big day in my obsessive quest to watch movies that I will “really like”. At the end of each month I recalibrate my probabilities and start the next month with a fresh Top Ten Movies to Watch list (see updated list) . Here’s the rub, only one of those movies is available for me to watch tonight. It therefore is really a list of the Top Ten Movies to Watch Someday.

I’m adding a new list under my Movie Lists section, Top Ten Movies Available to Watch This Month. Technically, almost any movie I want to watch is available if I’m willing to pay for it. But, I do have a budget with an already significant allocation to it. So, the movies available for me to watch in a given month are limited to “free” movies available from my cable company (Comcast), HBO, Showtime, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Netflix DVD (2 a month limit). My list is made up of the movies that are available to watch this month on these platforms plus two movies from Netflix DVD. I’ll generally use the Netflix DVDs to make a dent in my Someday list. There are also some miscellaneous streaming channels (Crackle, Tubi TV etc.) that I’ll use on occasion.

Which brings me back to the first day of the month. While each of these platforms will make some weekly additions and deletions to their available movies, there are wholesale changes on the first day of each month. The supply and demand curve for “What Shall I Watch Tonight?” can be radically altered on the first day of each month.

So, “What Shall I Watch Tonight?” I don’t know yet but check out the list. You’ll find it there.


The Shiny Penny

You pull a pocketful of change out of your pocket and two coins catch your eye. The first is a tarnished old quarter that you can hardly identify as a quarter and the second is a brand new shiny penny. You’ll probably get rid of that old tarnished quarter in the first transaction that comes along. You have an irrational fear that its not worth the same as other quarters in your pocket. As for the shiny penny,you’ll probably use up all of the older pennies in your pocket before you give up that shiny new penny.

We have a tendency to select movies to watch on the same basis. We prefer to watch a mediocre shiny new movie rather than a much better tarnished older movie. We can’t resist the allure of the unknown experience of the new. Or, we fear that the new movie will come up in conversation at a social gathering and we’ll be left out of the discussion. Whatever the reason, it’s an emotional choice and, like many emotional choices, it comes with greater risk of regret.

If your goal is to spend a couple of hours totally engaged in a magical movie experience, then you need to be more selective in what you watch and you need to broaden your pool of movies to watch. The reality is that the number of shiny pennies that are magical movie experiences is limited. In any given year, there may only be a handful of new movies that are “wow” movies. There might be a dozen or two more that you’ll “really like”. The less systematic you are in your movie selection the more unsatisfying movie experiences you’ll need to go through before you find those dozen or so shiny new movies worth watching.

So, how do you improve your chances of picking movies you’ll “really like”? First, create a watchlist. Identify the movies you want to watch before you sit down on the couch and start scrolling through the list of movies available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or On Demand. Second, set some criteria for the movies you’ll put on your watchlist. It can be as simple as targeting movies that sound interesting to you and are Certified Fresh by Rotten Tomatoes or it can be as complex as the Bayesian probability approach that I use (more on my approach in a later post). Third, don’t limit yourself to recent movies, Cast a wider net. Movie-making has been going on for over 100 years. If you really don’t like old movies, check out movies released since 2000, for example. Finally, include great movies that you’ve seen before in the pool of movies available for your watchlist.

If you click the link on the sidebar of this page titled My Top Ten Movies to Watch, you can see my current watchlist. These are movies that I either haven’t seen before or haven’t seen in the last 15 years. These are the movies with the highest probability that I will “really like”. The list includes newer movies that I’ve never seen before and older movies that I have seen before.

Every month I remove movies from my database that I haven’t watched in fifteen years. Those that meet my selection criteria, I’ll watch again. If it’s a movie that I’ve seen only once before, it will often feel like I’m watching it for the first time. And, if it’s one of those magical movies, I’m grateful that I valued that old tarnished quarter instead of the shiny new penny.