Friday, March 14, 2014

You Know You Like Something When You Fight For It

This year's Oscar for Best Foreign Picture went to La Grande Bellezza. It is currently playing at the Angelika and at the Brooklyn Heights Cinema. Facts I had, as is my way, completely failed to register, instead impulsively renting the film on iTunes at first sight. One might normally, and rightly, assume that this cheapened the cinematic experience of the film, the watching of such a sumptuously shot, gorgeously performed and wonderfully directed film (not to mention whatever sonic ecstasy) in the confines of this small squeeze box of digital disappointment being a kind of art degradation bordering on immoral. I cannot argue with this, and in fact plead guilty to the host of disrespects. However, something happened while just trying to watch the movie that somehow added to the mystique of the film, sort of let the film itself reach out into my world for an extended period of time, infecting my experience with a sort of melodrama bizarro-mirroring the quiet emotional pandemonium in the film itself.  The following is my side (really the only side) of an email conversation (more a monologue) with Shashi B. a member of the iTunes support staff. I present it here more as proof of the beauty of La Grande Bellezza; a kind of self indulgent alternative movie review.

Mar 9 at 10:31 PM

(To the iTunes Support Staff)

The film I rented, La Grande Belleza, stopped playing. When I restarted the computer, the film was gone and I could not find it.
This has happened before, but I never thought to say anything about it.
The iTunes set up is very difficult to understand as well. 
Bad design. Sorry, but true.

Please refund me for the movie.

Thank you,

Todd Stewart

Mar 10 at 9:44 PM

Hi Shashi,

Yes, I went to my iTunes purchase history and it wasn't there... however, I did as you said and looked at the "Current Downloads" section and saw it there, downloading. I continued to download the movie, but during that period I received the notification that the rental period had expired ON THAT SAME MOVIE. Bizarre.
I am including two screen grabs of this process as "proof."

Now I'm not sure if this all will show up on my purchase history, and one might assume that if it didn't, I should be thankful or harm done, but I wouldn't be, in fact, the case. This sort of thing actually makes me not trust the processes that Apple has put in place, disrupts any normalcy I might be trying to bring to my life via my Apple products and causes me to take time out of a stupidly busy life (yes, it is a bit stupidly busy, and yes that is a bit of hyperbole) to write emails to you.

Here are the facts so far:

1. Last night I rented (or thought I rented) Paolo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty," which iTunes assumed I rented as well as it allowed me to start downloading it. 

2. During the download and subsequent viewing, the movie stopped downloading and stopped playing. 

3. When I restarted iTunes (and then the computer, when that didn't take) the movie was no longer in my iTunes rental library section of hell.  I say section of hell as iTunes is so oddly organized to me at this point as to be completely counter intuitive to a normally non-troglodytic middle aged man.

4. I asked for clarification on this from iTunes support.

5. iTunes support (you) told me I never rented the film and gave me some directions on how to prove that point.

6. Tonight I followed the directions which both proved and disproved that point: (the rental was not in my purchase history) & (the rental then magically started to re-download).

7. The download stopped AGAIN, with iTunes stating that my non-existent "purchase" was expired.

8. Now I am emailing you again.

9. I am now going to RE-RENT that Italian movie (on your dime or mine I still annoyingly don't know.)

I'm hoping I once again "won't be charged" for a purchase "I'm not making." But the fact that I couldn't finish a movie I rented last night because of your cruddy technology, a technology you stake your reputation and business on, and then had to explain all of this in a time consuming email, ought to AT LEAST get me a free rental of this film if not some sort of gift certificate to the butcher down the street. If you ask, I 'll tell you the name and number of the shop and you can set that up.

I look forward to your research regarding this snafu.


Todd Stewart

Mar 10 at 9:55 PM

Hi Shashi, 

Sorry I forgot to add the images that document the oddities here... plus my re-rental, where  iTunes asked me if I wanted to "re-rent" a movie "I'd already rented" which you pointed out that "I never rented."

Attached are those...

Mar 11 at 10:21 PM

Hi Shashi,

I see you are not so quick to respond to my emails as you were the first time.
Now I have rented the film again and tried to watch it, only to have it stop playing and have the rental period expire a second time.

This is horse shit, pardon my language. 
But really properly ridiculous.

The film is beautiful but the technology that allowed me to watch it, and apparently the support staff for that technology leave much to be desired.

I have submitted an obvious and true factual recounting of events and you've done nothing for me besides tell me things that are patently wrong.

I look forward to your reply.
Again, I apologize for the foul language.

Todd Stewart

Mar 13 at 5:41 AM

Hi Shasi!
Thanks for getting back to me. 
I have now rented the film three times in total.
The first time, which was shambolic.
The second, which resulted in a very long download time, and thanks to my schedule (and internet connection) I only had time to watch a few more minutes before the rental period was exhausted again.
And then, last night, a third time to finally finish the film. A film I had the full time to watch in total the first time I tried to rent it.
So you see how these things snowball. 
I guess at this point this means I've paid for the rental, as you refunded me the "first two" rentals, right?
This circumstance is far from satisfactory of course, but the milk has already started dripping off the table and luckily I have a dog to lap it up. 
Again, I apologize for my use of the term "horseshit" in an earlier email and I'd still accept a prime cut of beef from my friend Andrew's butcher shop down the street. He is not the butcher, but he is the owner and knows his meats!

The Great Beauty is an amazing movie by the way. Oddly, it was worth whatever trouble it took to watch it. I only wish I'd paid the same amount that I've paid to Apple (however partially refunded) in both time and money and caught it in the theater.

I also wish I had a TV and a DVD player and that those things were still the de facto home entertainment vehicle for films. Heck, I'd take VHS over this process.

Anyway and anyhow,
None of this, as always, is "your fault" rather the residue of that megalomaniacal Steve Jobs and his ilk. And Time Warner's of course. Without their proto-fascist desire to slow what should be free flowing information to a crawl where would we be?

Thanks for checking back in,

Todd Stewart

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