Paul Haggis’ Oscar-winning Crash has been the most frequently rented movie on Netflix since its DVD release in September 2005, the Chicago Tribune has pointed out. I’m amazed by the film’s perseverance, especially since I think that it’s a well-meaning misfire. It would make sense if this was March 2006 and Crash had just won the Best Picture Oscar in an upset over Brokeback Mountain. But it’s three years later and, still, more people are choosing to rent the L.A. racism parable than any other movie.
So what gives? One can draw some conclusions by taking a gander at the rest of the site’s Top 100 rentals. What’s intriguing is how the list is dominated by middle-range "prestige" pictures, rather than expensive blockbusters. The theory is that most moviegoers avoid these films and opt for the big "event" films. Then, when it comes time to watch something at home, they’re more willing to experiment with an "art film" — because, at home, you can rewind if you don’t understand something, or eject the damn thing if it’s too boring or bizarre or British. Thus, the Netflix popularity of No Country for Old Men, Walk the Line, Babel, Hotel Rwanda, Michael Clayton, Syriana, Million Dollar Baby, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Finding Neverland, The Constant Gardener, Memoirs of a Geisha, Mystic River, Good Night, and Good Luck, Ray, Sideways, and so forth.
Nevertheless, I still can’t figure out why one of those movies hasn’t replaced Crash in the No. 1 spot. PopWatchers, can you explain why Crash is managing to keep its throne? Are you one of the millions who — gasp! — rented Crash on Netflix? You’ll have to answer to The Departed, which is not too f—ing happy about its runner-up status.