I was excited about the premiere of the new season on November 16th, and I started to watch episode 1.
I got about 15 minutes into it and impulsively switched over to the Criterion Channel, where I browsed the “Pre-Code Divas” collection, picked one almost at random, and watched it straight through to the end.
I tried watching the rest of that “Crown” episode the next day and only got through about another 15 minutes before giving up. Turned the TV off entirely.
Why is it so unwatchable? I’m not even up to the really bad thing that I’ve seen spoiled in various reviews. And by “really bad thing,” I don’t mean that Diana dies in a car crash. That can’t be spoiled, and the show puts that first, before the opening credits, so at least you’re spared wondering how they will depict that. (They show the car entering the tunnel, and you hear a crash.)
No, what I saw spoiled is this, so don’t go there if you’re avoiding spoilers. I’ll just say I hate that device, but I hadn’t got there yet. Should I force myself to watch to the end of the series because I’ve come so far? No, I’ve bailed on so many series. I’m not going to spend my evenings getting to the end of everything I’ve enjoyed for a season, e.g. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
And Netflix doesn’t even seem to expect it. When I go to its front page, I see all kinds of prompts to watch this and that, but nothing for “The Crown,” even though Netflix must know I’ve watched all the other seasons.
Is everyone avoiding it? Maybe it’s just bad enough that Netflix knows pushing it will backfire and has decided on a strategy of letting it build favor with fans. The new season has a 55% — “rotten” — critics’ rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and a 100% fan rating, so — the idea might be — let it ferment slowly into a cult favorite.
But — speaking of cult favorites! — I love the pre-Code movies at Criterion. In October, I watched 5 from the “Pre-Code Horror” collection: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “Freaks,” “Island of Lost Souls,” “The Old Dark House,” and “The Black Cat.” And in November, I’ve been watching the “Pre-Code Divas.”
The one I chose to escape from “The Crown” was “Safe in Hell.” But I’d already watched “The Cheat,” “Night Nurse,” “Three on a Match,” and “Baby Face.” (“Design for Living,” one of my all-time favorite movies, is something I’ve re-watched within this year, for reasons other than its inclusion in “Pre-Code Divas.”)
Before this pre-Code frenzy of mine, I was very rarely watching movies. I could go months without watching a movie. I mean, I watched a bunch of movies in 3 days when I had Covid, but that just seemed to prove the essential indolence of movie-watching. You can rise above that low level, but you need to find the higher ground within yourself. It’s not easy.
But pre-Code movies are working for me. Not sure why. They’re short. But no shorter than an episode of “The Crown.” There’s no pretense of elevation, which is an annoying thing about “The Crown” when it is, in fact, leaning into trashiness. The pre-Code movies celebrate trashiness and anything else they can get their hands on. Sublime!
Here’s a delightful sample, from “Night Nurse”: