Netflix Short 23.976 (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Netflix Short 23.976 (2010)

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Danny INDIFFERENTThere's a lot that can be said for short, abstract cinema. The argument I'm currently thinking of goes along the lines of "Sometimes it's good, and sometimes it kinda sucks."

In between those two classifications, we have the aptly named "Netflix Short 23.976." This seems to be part of a series, though only "Netflix Short 24" is also up on Instant View. It's too bad that we're missing all of the other chapters since they could have aided in explaining what is happening here.

Since this movie isn't really anything but a series of images in 11 minutes, let's break them down into a list:

1. A stucco building. This would appear to be Netflix's main offices in Los Gatos, California, based on this. It is time lapsed as evident from the moving clouds. There is unseen gurgling on the audio track. This is the background for most of the following images.

2. A fountain. This would seem to be the source for the gurgling heard previously and throughout the rest of the film. The fountain is in the shape of a chalice and spits water out from four sides as well as it bubbling over the top. It is in front of a series of three doors. One contains a reflection of a man in a brown shirt. He has a microphone in his hand and is recording the noise the water is making.

3. A close up of one of the spouts. Just when you begin to think this is a hotel travel brochure, a hand cuts in. It belongs to a tan skinned male. It weaves beneath the spurting fountain in a gentle and casual manner.

4. The water hitting the pool from the fountain. The light is caught right at the area of impact, giving off a light bluish glow.

5. We cut to a couple of pans and zooms around the building. The gurgling of the fountain continues though it is not in sight. The building seems rather new, and has fresh and flowered plants growing around it. There appears to be a sculpture in the courtyard. We pan past the earlier seen bridge and catch the lens flair off of a window.

6. There's a zoom over the rooftops of some houses. The shot is focusing on some distant mountains that have sporadic amounts of green. The houses have ceramic shingles, and the area looks like somewhere in California. You can see a small green interstate sign but it's too distant to read. The zoom quickly pulls back.

7. A man runs between the pillars of the building. He is wearing all black and carrying a Netflix envelope. The camera is set so we can't see its reflection in any of the many glass doors. The man runs to a table and stops to catch is breath.

8. The man dodges between some trees. Like a spaz. The footage becomes noticeably darker at this point, probably due to either a cloud or lighting issues with the camera. The man then does a fairly lame cartwheel and even lamer somersault. He then sticks his hands out as if to say "Ta da!"

9. We cut from that to what is ostensibly the best part of the movie. While working on a laptop, holding it in one hand and clicking with the other, the man does a moonwalk. Well, he walks backwards on his tip toes, in possibly the lamest possible way to even pretend to be doing a moonwalk. During this, he goes behind the aforementioned fountain. He has a look of supreme concentration while doing this.

10. A model train circling a track. In one of the cars is a toy penguin and a toy baby penguin. The baby is wearing a winter hat and a scarf. It circles a few times.

11. Here we see the train from a side view. The camera is stationary while the train goes by. There is an imperceptible cut each time the train goes by so that it seems to arrive just as soon as it left. The penguins are still present. It is a New York Central train.

12. A pan across some bright flowers. I noticed dandelions, a hydrangea, and several colors of daisies among them.

13. A long steady shot of them.

13. Reverse pan of the same flowers.

14. The moon rising in the night sky. It is a full moon. There are a few wisps of dark clouds but you cannot see them unless they are in front of the moon. It rises from the bottom left to the upper right.

15. The man dribbles a soccer ball. This is shot from the waist down, and we only see one of the man's legs and his hand.

16. The man is lying on his back. He throws the soccer ball between his two outstretched arms. He has a look of extreme concentration on his face.

17. The soccer ball is thrown across the screen. We do not see any part of the person on the left side. The person on the right is the man we've seen so far because we see his hand for a few shots and it is similar to what we've seen before.

18. The man juggles the soccer ball, an apple, and a yellow medium sized ball. It is mildly impressive to watch.

19. The yellow ball has been attached to a tether. It swings across the screen, back and forth, losing its momentum.

20. The climax of the piece. The gurgling has stopped. The man sits in a chair in front of the glass sculpture we saw before. He recites Marullus's monologue from Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 1:


Wherefore rejoice? What conquest brings he home?
What tributaries follow him to Rome,
To grace in captive bonds his chariot-wheels?
You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The livelong day, with patient expectation,
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome:
And when you saw his chariot but appear,
Have you not made an universal shout,
That Tiber trembled underneath her banks,
To hear the replication of your sounds
Made in her concave shores?
And do you now put on your best attire?
And do you now cull out a holiday?
And do you now strew flowers in his way
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood? Be gone!
Run to your houses, fall upon your knees,
Pray to the gods to intermit the plague
That needs must light on this ingratitude.

You can read an explanation of the monologue here. The man gives this speech in an angry and indignant manner. His shirt is also soaked in sweat, possibly from all the running, ball juggling, and cartwheeling.

He's a little hammy, but not bad.

After the monologue, he pops his mouth a few times, and then clacks his tongue and teeth.

21. Time lapse of clouds moving against a setting sun. The gurgling has returned. The time lapse is fairly obvious because there are cars in the bottom portion of the shot that appear and disappear with no frames in between.

22. The Netflix building, with the sign on the front. There is a shadow from the railroad marker that you can see in the Wikipedia picture I linked to above. This is also during dusk. This fades out and ends the live action portion of our film.

23. The screen turns black with a white circle in the middle. An annoying beep begins to occur, like an alarm clock. The circle begins to disappear in time with the beep.

24. Color bars.

25. Five circles on a grid. They are only white outlines.

26. Grey color bars.

And that's it. Now, it's time to analyze. What does this mean? What are the significance of the balls? Why the fountain gurgling over every scene? Why moonwalking and a laptop?

The easiest way to start looking at any abstract cinema is to look for the blindingly obvious metaphors first. So let's s run down the metaphor list:

1. It's about Jesus. Well, there is no obvious resurrection motifs, and I think it's safe to say that Jesus was a carpenter and not a cartwheeler. While Marullus's speech does talk of betrayal, that is still a fairly long shot. Old Man and the Sea this is not.

2. It's about homosexuality. While our leading man is dapper, and he *cough* does know how to juggle some balls, this is also fairly tenuous. The problem is that if it's about homosexuality, then it doesn't seem to say anything about it, other than to state it's existence. Which seems fairly obvious regardless.

2. It's about feminism. No women appear during these eleven minutes; even the reflection of the person with the microphone showed that he was a man, and the two toy penguins in the locomotive were at best gender neutral. Is this a commentary about how women aren't needed? There are shots of time passing, homes happy and business full of nothing but The Man. He has sports and recreation, and even a bit of arts to occupy him; if you read the analysis of that scene from Julius Caesar, it's apparent that there are no women in that scene either!

The only problem with that interpretation is that it still doesn't explain the moonwalking. Nothing explains the moonwalking. Even if we try and dissect that scene on it's own, it's just a jumble of wild metaphors:

Moonwalking = Michael Jackson, 1980's. Laptop = connectivity, information, communications. Fountain in the foreground = forbidding presence of a constant stream of material, the presence throughout the film, continuity. How would any of this work with any of the other images contained within, other than some lame broad synecdochic pop culture swipe?

Julius Caesar and Michael Jackson?! Madness, it's all madness.

I give up. It's simply too much to fit into a coherent whole. In fact, if I didn't know better, it just strikes me as if someone at Netflix had a hi-def camera to mess with for a day and him and some friends goofed around with it. Here's what the description reads:

Well, it's a mystery to me. That lack of clarity forces me to knock it down to 'Indifference', but that scene of the moonwalking was one of the most delightful surprises I've seen all year. If you have your own interpretation, let me know, I'm more than happy to hear it.

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Netflix Short 23.976 (2010)

This is currently available on Netflix Instant.

Directed by ???
Written by ???
Starring ???

Posted by Danny

Comments (4) Trackbacks (1)
  1. “Who is that “dapper” man?” That guy was just the assistant cameraman, not a hired actor. The footage was shot with a Red camera at Netflix headquarters, at various frame rates, to create footage for testing purposes that Netflix would not have to pay a studio licensing rights for. The various activities shown in the piece are speicfically designed to replicate and reveal the technical challenges in time coding… harsh and sibilant speech, random movement, smooth continuous movement, ball tracking, water flowing, tracking movement between vertical lines, etc.

  2. Well… that’s kind of a let down. But it makes sense. Thanks for the info!

  3. I was wondering if you ever considered changing the layout of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?

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