So I finally got Netflix's Watch Now feature enabled and running! Not on my smoking awesome new iMac, but on the janky laptop I bought on Craigslist last month for $100. And it only runs with Internet Explorer, so tonight I'm gonna browse like it's 1999. Tabbed browsing was so lame anyway. My tech misgivings notwithstanding this is a huge relief, the moment Netflix announced this new feature I immediately felt deprived that I wasn't able to use it.
The selection is still a little grim: plenty of popular foreign films, some great classic comedies but the only title less than 10 years old is Zoolander. Hitchcock, Herzog, De Palma and seventies American films are all well represented. Showtime has seized this opportunity to launch their less popular shows. I've never heard of anything in the Kid's section but that's no biggie, infant massage instructional film? Eww. A huge History channel mini-series on Nazi history. I've never heard of half of the 10 most Watch Now'd titles. I imagine all of Red Envelope's (Netflix's home distribution company) will be made available for Watch Now.
The Watch Now selection is not really searchable at this time, only browseable. Which is a pain since much of my excitement for this feature came from the fact I had spent the prior hour sobbing through the Gilmore Girls series finale and was trying to get a Lauren Graham fix in the middle of the night. There's a separate (browseable) category of Watch Now'able titles that are currently on your queue.
Viewing requires a standalone player download and an additional security upgrade for its DRM. (DRMing a stream? Is that necessary?) Viewing started up after about a 3 minute buffering. Video quality looks great even at full screen display. There were no hiccups or ads and it the player didn't crash no matter how hard I tried. However the volume is way too low -- even with system and player volume maxed, it was at times inaudible but otherwise just fine.
Here's the (extremely awkward) product demo of the partnership Netflix is building with Microsoft's Silverlight. Mac and Firefox support are on the way!
On the first night, I ended up watching Conversations with Other Women, a very charming, chatty indie about two people who meet at a wedding but know each other from before and are sort of coy about it. Very based-on-a-play (in the good way) and a great soundtrack mostly by Carla Bruni. The film is told with the mildly exhausting gimmick of near-constant split-screen (what-why-huh?) but is worth checking out.
RIYL: Kicking and Screaming, Before Sunrise.