Friday, December 23, 2011

The 12 Docs of Christmas...

Hi, Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix here. I am a huge fan of documentary films and helping our subscribers get access to them even if they don’t live in the big cities is one of my favorite parts of this job. Our documentary selection is a point of great pride for me and my team. Documentary films play a very important role in a world where news is coming is shorter and shorter bites and the stories of our lives are becoming more and more complex. Documentarians entertain, inform and sometimes change the course of history. This year has been a great year for docs and some of the world’s best storytellers have brought their films to Netflix for streaming. It is hard to choose just a dozen of the best documentaries recently added, but I thought it might be a way to help you catch up over the long holiday break.

#1 Senna
For me, this is the best documentary in the last few years. This is the story of Ayrton Senna, the great Brazilian Formula One racing star. Director, Asif Kapadia compiles an amazing amount of footage that follows Senna’s brilliant career as well as intimate private footage that document the full and rich life of a true risk-taker. Even if you don’t like racing, you will not be able to take your eyes off of this great film.

#2 Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975
The history of the Black Panther movement is the history of this country seen through the eyes of a foreign film crew and documented over 9 years. The film features extraordinary never before seen footage along with commentary from some of the most important African Americans reflecting on their legacies.

#3 Cave of Forgotten Dreams
A fascinating film that explores the Chauvet Cave in France, which contains some of the oldest human painting on earth. Warner Herzog's hypnotic narration takes you on a journey and contemplates what these ancient artist must have been like more than 30,000 years ago. It is a visually stunning and endlessly interesting exploration of humankind.

#4 Waiting For Superman
Oscar winning director Davis Guggenheim turns his attention and his camera to the failings of our education system. It is a personal as well as journalistic mission. This film is partly emotional and partly informative in equal measure. Guggenheim is one of America’s finest documentary filmmakers. Also take a look at his other recent doc “It Might Get Loud” and you will get a sense of his amazing range.

#5 Winnebago Man
This is a film made for the Internet generation. It is a funny and fascinating exploration of what happens when a moment that you did not plan for anyone to see gets uploaded to the web and you become an Internet sensation. filmmaker Ben Steinbauer tracks down Jack Rebney -- who's become known in underground circles as the "Angriest Man in the World" -- and tries to discover what makes the loner tick.

#6 Buck
Buck Brannaman was the inspiration for the movie “The Horse Whisperer.” This Sundance Film Festival Best Documentary winner explores his complex life and work. He is an inspiration and source of wonder. Cindy Meehl reveals much about how Buck came to learn so much about communications with horses as well as humans.

#7 The Arbor
Ok, This is no easy watch, but it is one of the most inventive ways I have ever seen a story told in a documentary. Actors lip sync to actual recorded interviews with the family of British Playwright Andrea Dunbar. Dunbar wrote of her turbulent family in her works and this film explores the people who inspired those tales. It is subtitled because the British accents are often very thick.

#8 The Last Mountain
Watch what happens when ordinary citizens in West Virginia stand up to the mining industry. This film is filled with inspirational and personal stories and presents a controversial story with balance and dignity. Filmmaker Bill Haney captures the passion of Robert Kennedy Jr. working side by side with a community fighting for their lives.

#9 Forks Over Knives
This movie will make you smart, skinny and have a longer life…or it is a great way to kill 96 minutes. Either way, you won’t regret the investment in this interesting and powerful documentary about the challenges of processed food in our bodies and how medicine cannot keep up with the advancements of the processed food industry. It is enlightening and actually entertaining too.

#10 Casino Jack and the United States of Money
Oscar winning director Alex Gibney, who has turned his camera on Enron, Eliot Spitzer, Hunter S. Thompson and military torture takes a fast paced and hard hitting look at the life and times of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It is one of the best films yet from this great documentarian. After you watch this one, check out how Kevin Spacey lights up the screen as Abramoff in the narrative version of this tale called “Casino Jack.”

#11 Camp Victory, Afghanistan
Carol Dysinger introduces us to the men and woman of one American military base in Afghanistan who are training Afghan troops. It is a rich world filled with characters and stories that will stay with you after you see this film. While we are celebrating the holidays at home it is a great time to remember that our troops are still on foreign soil and to see how they spend their days and nights.

#12 Storage Wars
I know the purist documentary lovers will boo and hiss, but I love “Storage Wars.” I admit it. I am addicted to this show. It is a reality doc-style TV series that I cannot stop watching. The cast of characters are bidders at auction for abandoned storage units and their stories are of the treasures they find there. It is the same formula over and over again and it just works. It is part “Antique Roadshow” and part side-show but it makes for addictive viewing. Watch both seasons and if you feel like you still want more, check out “American Pickers” and “Pawn Stars.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Android “Ice Cream Sandwich” Gets Netflix

Today we launched support for Android 4.0, also known as “Ice Cream Sandwich.” With this added support, streaming movies and TV shows from Netflix over the Internet will be available on an even greater number of Android devices.

I’m Roma De and as director of product management at Netflix, helping to expand the number of the devices that support streaming from Netflix is a major part of my job. Device expansion is also a key part of the company strategy.

As you may remember, in October we launched a new application in the Android Market to support Android 3.x (Honeycomb) tablets. At the time we also extended Android support to Canada and Latin America for the first time.

I’m glad to say that all phones and tablets that support Android 4.0 will run the new Netflix application. Download the free Netflix app from Android Market and start watching.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Netflix Unveils a New iPad App

Starting today, Netflix members can enjoy a newly redesigned experience for the iPad that makes it much easier to discover and instantly watch TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix.

I'm Zal Bilimoria, and I'm a product manager at Netflix where I lead product innovation for mobile devices. The new app is really a big step forward; it is much more immersive and provides greater focus on our growing catalogue by displaying twice as many titles than the previous interface. In addition, through optimization for touch-enabled tablets, Netflix members can now swipe through rows and rows of titles featuring larger artwork.

Members can enjoy the new Netflix interface on their iPad with iOS 5 by upgrading to the latest version of the Netflix App, available as a free download from the App Store, which will be rolling out to all users in the coming weeks.

More News

And there's more news. Starting today, Netflix members in Latin America can enjoy unlimited TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix on their Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, or on their HD TV with Apple TV.

Also, Netflix "Just for Kids" is now available on Apple TV, providing a section that offers a broad selection of TV shows and movies for children 12 and under. You can read more about "Just for Kids" in Todd Yellin's original blog post when we first introduced the section in August.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Netflix Unveils New Xbox Experience

Here at Netflix we love the Xbox 360. Since November 2008 our members have instantly watched millions of hours of TV shows and movies streaming from Netflix via their Xbox. Today I am excited to share two big announcements about Netflix on Xbox!

First, today we are launching our new Netflix experience. This application has been redesigned from the ground up based on all that we have learned and includes a number of great new features:

- A better browse experience with significantly more titles available for browsing and up to 3 times more titles available on screen to choose from at any given time. You really get a sense of the depth of movies and TV shows available with a simple and elegant interface optimized for TV

- A richer play experience that includes access to audio and subtitle settings, ratings capability, episode selection, and related title suggestions while you play for a more integrated experience

- Deep support for voice and gesture control using Xbox Kinect for browsing and play functions (Confession: we really like to lean back on the couch and use the voice commands while we watch!)

- Adaptive streaming that constantly optimizes your picture quality while you watch based on your current bandwidth

- Support for 720p HD (bandwidth allowing) and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound so movies and TV shows streaming from Netflix look and sound great!

Second, we are pleased to announce that Netflix on Xbox 360 is now available in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia as Xbox Gold LIVE is now available in these territories. We are happy that our members in Latin America can now use this rich platform to instantly watch movies and TV shows from Netflix on their TVs. And, with the new features above, they can enjoy the updated experience today!

How do you get the new application?

- If you already instantly watch via your Xbox 360, you will automatically receive the new Netflix application when you install Microsoft's new Xbox update released on Dec. 6.

- If you have not previously downloaded the Netflix app on Xbox 360, download the app for free from the Xbox Marketplace following completion of the Microsoft Xbox update

A few notes:

- Xbox Gold LIVE, a Netflix unlimited streaming membership and a high-speed internet connection are required to stream Netflix on Xbox

- Xbox Kinect is required to use voice and gesture control features

- As with other apps on Xbox, voice control with Kinect is not yet available in Portuguese


Chris Jaffe is director of product innovation at Netflix where he leads our work on Xbox, PS3, and Wii.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Movies and TV Episodes

‘T is the season for watching great holiday movies. We’re playing our part by featuring a sleigh load of traditional and new favorites. Longing to see A Christmas Carol? We’ve got two versions waiting for you. How about Miracle on 34th Street? Once again we’ve got three to watch instantly, from the original 1947 classic to a more modern version.

But wait there’s more to brighten the festivities. Beyond the many movies and specials, this year we’re highlighting the best TV holiday episodes.

Watch Michael from The Office let the vodka flow way too freely and embarrass everyone. Watch Sue from Glee rig the Secret Santa gift giving while the kids belt out lots of holiday songs. Watch JD from Scrubs persist through another jaded Christmas until a patient miraculously emerges from a coma.

We’re highlighting episodes that capture the full range of holiday moods—goofy, heartwarming, cynical, uplifting—with unforgettable TV episodes from 30 Rock, Roseanne, Arrested Development, South Park, The Andy Griffith Show, Family Ties, etc.

Finally we go way back in the vaults to unearth a wonderful hidden gem: Art Carney playing a drunken department store Santa who finds hope in the Twilight Zone. Please don’t miss this one and enjoy your holiday viewing.

Todd Yellin, the VP of Product Innovation at Netflix, plans on feasting on all of this fat-free holiday content during the month of December.