Special Reports

Two Playwrights From The Netflix Plays Queue Up Nora Ephron and Rasputin

Sarah Burgess and Michael Mitnick go for sad lesbian Nazi dramas and repeated viewings of Face/Off.

What drives your movie selections? Do you go for “Critically-acclaimed Violent Suspenseful Movies”? Or are you more of a “Dysfunctional Family Drama” type? Whatever your preference, the playwrights of Ars Nova‘s The Netflix Plays are aiming to fill the hyper-specific categories that populate your queue.

Inspired by the latest Ars Nova production, a collection of original short plays and live music based on the popular DVD/streaming movie website’s recommendation categories, we asked the playwrights to take us on a tour of their Netflix queues. Here are the movies it takes to generate hyper-specific categories like “Films That Answer the Question ‘”What Happened to Selma Hayek?'”

Next on deck in the series are playwrights Michael Mitnick (Because You Watched Frasier: BECAUSE YOU WATCHED FRASIER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and Sarah Burgess (Inscrutable European-Set Thrillers: Bolzano).

Michael Mitnick
Michael Mitnick

Michael Mitnick

In the queue:

History’s Mysteries: True Story of Rasputin

Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Movies for Perverts.”

I’ve had this in my queue for three months. I like that Netflix lists Rasputin in the “Cast.” I have watched it and it isn’t very good.


Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Because you are Irrationally Angry.”

This is genuinely one of my favorite movies. The bad guy’s name is “Castor Troy.” That’s enough for me to give the movie a billion thumbs ups. We learn that all of the sounds needed to recreate Nicholas Cage’s voice are contained in the sentence, “I could eat a peach for hours.” There is also one of the few genius moments in American cinema when John Travolta does a Nicholas Cage impersonation and then smokes a previously-forbidden cigarette with his daughter who gives him a look that says, “You know what, Dad, you’re actually cool now and I’m sexually attracted to you.”

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette)

Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Snobs.”

This was added by my roommate who is illegally using my account. He added it while drunk about a year ago and I know he will never watch it.


Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Because You Like Good Movies.”

Sample dialogue:

What Jane Austen novels have you read?

None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened; that it’s all just made up by the author.


Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Because you watched Face/Off, watch Face/Off again right now.”

I don’t have it twice in my queue because that’s not an option, but I would if I could.

I want to take his face…off. Eyes, nose, skin, teeth. It’s coming off.

Sarah Burgess
Sarah Burgess

Sarah BurgessIn the queue:

Hiroshima: BBC History of World War II

Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Violent Military Documentaries.”

I went through a brief, but consuming WWII history phase.

Aimee and Jaguar

Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Emotional German Gay & Lesbian Dramas Based on Real Life.”

This is also WWII-related, and I’ve actually seen it before. I thought my girlfriend would like it, but she hates subtitles, so it’s still sitting there. So at this point I’m just hoping that one day she’ll be so in the mood for an excruciatingly sad lesbian Nazi drama that she’ll look past the foreign language issue.

The Naked City

Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Classic Film Noir.”

I took a film noir class in film school, but I was absent for a few sessions, so I missed this one. What I’m saying is this is kind of a guilt add.


Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Witty Romantic Comedies.”

The 1980s are kind of a blind spot for me, cinematically.

4th and Goal

Hyper-specific Netflix category: “Heartfelt Sports Documentaries.”

[I added this] hoping for one thing and one thing only: a final scene in which a college football player waits by the phone on NFL draft day and then when he finds out he’s been drafted, he starts crying, and then we cut to his mom and she’s crying, and she knows, and he knows, that all the sacrifice was worth it. Even that one summer she had to work two jobs to pay for new cleats. Maybe his high school coach is standing off to the side, holding his composure, because he’s a tough bastard with a lion’s heart. At that point I’ll be scream-crying into my throw pillows.

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The Netflix Plays

Closed: February 9, 2013