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Unsettling. Tragic. Chilling. That’s the story that is told in American Murder: The Family Next Door and it’s entirely captivating.

True crime documentaries are my jam. I usually enjoy seeing how a crime is investigated and how a court case is built. I am fascinated by circumstance and motive and the science behind murder. But for the first time in a long time, watching this story unfold made me deeply uncomfortable. And yet, I could not stop watching.

The story itself isn’t unique. Sadly, more than half of all murdered women die at the hands of their intimate partner. What makes this documentary so compelling is the layering of public social media posts, private text messages from the victim and video footage of police interrogations of witnesses and the suspect. Tension and dread build exponentially as the realisation of the truth of this horrendous crime is revealed.

Anyone who would have met Chris and Shanann Watts would have thought they were a typical American suburban couple. Two young daughters, a son on the way. Nice house, two cars. Social media feeds filled with smiles and loving moments. They were picture perfect – and then Shanann and her two daughters were reported as missing by a family friend.

Through a series of text messages, social media posts, police video footage and news reports American Murder: The Family Next Door reconstructs the story that gripped headlines across the country in August 2018. What began as a missing persons case became a homicide investigation within days and what followed was the unravelling of a chaotic alibi and a poor cover-up job of a relationship in crisis.

American Murder - Family Portrait
image courtesy of TMDB


The difference maker for this story is how Shanann Watts’ frequent social media posts not only documented her family but also preserved an honest portrait of her own humanity. Authentic moments of joy, motherhood and life were recorded in real time. Throughout this documentary, we come to know and identify with Shanann. We are brought into her family, her circle of friends. We get to know her intimately. And then she’s gone.

As the investigation uncovered, the truth behind all of those happy family posts was a wife in emotional distress as she watched her 8-year relationship with her husband and father of her children slip away. The truth was Chris had begun an affair with a coworker and had notions of leaving his family to establish a new life with this woman. In the end, he resorted to violence and unthinkable murder to free himself from the life he had built and then lied poorly in an attempt to cover up his crime.

American Murder: The Family Next Door follows the story of the murder of Shanann and her two young daughters, Bella and Celeste, from the first phone call to police through the investigation, trial and sentencing of the murder, the person Shanann loved and trusted, her husband, Chris Watts.

This is the story you’ll be texting your friends about, the one you’ll be talking about at work. This is the story you’ll be thinking about, long after the credits roll.

This documentary will be your new Netflix obsession.

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Trial of the Chicago 7 - Protest

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Before I begin, and in the interest of full disclosure, I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. He’s a writer’s writer and his words flow like music. He is a gifted storyteller who creates the most beautiful monologues and exposition and very few screenwriters can do what he does when it comes to crafting character depth and motivation. And with Sorkin behind the pen and behind the camera both, this flick literally has his fingerprints all over it.

Trial of the Chicago 7
image courtesy of TMDB

The Trial of the Chicago 7  is the dramatic retelling of the true events that took place surrounding the Democratic National Convention in 1968. In protest of the Vietnam War, several civil rights and anti-war organisations rallied together and converged on Chicago to make their voices heard. What began as a peaceful protest quickly turned into a violent confrontation with police. This film pieces together the escalating events that led to eight civil rights leaders being arrested and tried in violation of the Rap Brown law that made crossing state lines to incite violence a federal crime.

With his signature blend of humour, political savvy and compelling character development, Sorkin uses this historic federal case and the circumstances leading up to the trial, as a call to reflect on our current political climate without explicitly mentioning our present day politics, at all. He does so with expertly crafted monologues and protest scenes that echo images we have seen flood our news feeds in recent months and years. Issues of racism, media manipulation and law-enforcement bias are examined against the backdrop of rampant corruption and government over-reach that was as prevalent during the civil rights era of the 1960s as it is today.

One of the most interesting tools of storytelling that Sorkin commonly uses is telling the same story through the diverse points of view of his ensemble cast and in this film he does this beautifully, once again. This method is employed not only through the script as it was written but through the contrast in camera angles and quick-cut editing between characters during the retelling of some of the most dramatic scenes.

Trial of the Chicago 7 - Courtroom
image courtesy of TMDB

Sasha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne play off each other brilliantly as co-defendants Abbie Hoffman and Tom Hayden who frequently butt heads on how to move forward through the trial. Hoffman, part of a comedy duo that included Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, becomes a key narrator of unfolding events throughout the trial. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives a thoughtful yet understated portrayal of federal prosecutor, Richard Schultz opposite Frank Langella’s deliberately erratic and contradictory Judge Julius Hoffman. Each scene brings another dynamic combination of actors interacting with wit and purpose.

The original case featured in The Trial of the Chicago 7 is dramatic and fascinating in it’s own right and Aaron Sorkin’s style of storytelling only enhances the tale. His brand of parable-like teaching through film was made for these true-story accounts of government, politics and justice. Sorkin weaves a thoughtful narrative throughout the film without crossing the line into melodrama or self-righteousness. He just steadily and intentionally spins his tale into an intriguing and thought-provoking interpretation of the trial and political climate of the late 60s. It’s been five decades since this trial occurred but the themes found in this flick are as relevant today as they were in 1968.

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Did you know there are thousands of movies and TV shows that are on Netflix, but you can’t watch them from your country? No country has everything in the Netflix catalogue, not even the USA.

But with a few simple steps you can unlock these titles and watch them from any country in the world!


You can watch British Netflix from the USA, or Canadian Netflix from Australia, or any other combination.

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Delay between theatrical release and Netflix premiere, for movies released in cinemas in 2016

After you see a great movie in the cinema, then comes ‘the wait’. The never-ending stretch before you can re-watch it again and again to your heart’s content on Netflix.

The better the movie, the longer this wait feels, but how long is it actually? We turned to the data to find out.

Let’s start by answering this question narrowly, and then moving out to look around the world and over time.

In the US, there were 174 films which were released in cinemas during 2016 and which ended up on Netflix. The average delay across those titles was 474 days – i.e. just over a year and three months.

If we widen the focus to cover films in sixteen other major countries, we now include 258 films which were in cinemas during 2016 and then on Netflix in the same country. None had a shorter delay than the US. Some were very similar (Canada had a delay of 479 days and Russia 487), while others had a much longer delay (924 in South Korea and a whopping 1,170 in France).

Delay between theatrical release and Netflix premiere, for movies released in cinemas in 2016

How has this changed over time?

Let’s widen the study further, to cover four years worth of releases. As the chart below shows, the delay in the US has fallen slightly, with the delay dropping by 104 days between 2013 and 2016.

Change in delay between theatrical release and Netflix premiere in United States

This decline is found in every country I studied, albeit to varying degrees.

Change in delay between theatrical release and Netflix premiere, 2013 to 2016

A wider trend

This trend mirrors two patterns we see elsewhere in the film business over the past decade.

The first is the delay between theatrical and Home Entertainment releases (i.e. DVD and iTunes). The chart below shows the situation in the US, with a steep decline between these two “windows of release”.

Days between theatrical and home video release dates for movies from major Hollywood studios

The studios are pushing for shorter windows but are being fought by cinema operators who fear the loss of exclusivity will damage ticket sales. The COVID-19 pandemic allowed the studios to make further headway. While the cinemas were distracted and powerless, Star Wars 9, Frozen 2, and The Invisible Man were among the titles released on home platforms faster than expected.

The other trend which today’s data echos is the increased synchronisation among international theatrical release dates. In the 1990s, it would not be uncommon for a film to be released in intentional cinemas over a year after it’s initial run in US cinemas. However, digital distribution, online privacy and social media marketing have all pushed studios to reduce this delay, moving closer to having a global release date.

Average time between US and local cinema release, top 100 films

The business models of studio and cinemas were formed in the practices and economics of the twentieth century, whereas Netflix is very much a modern Silicon Valley operation. This means they think globally and are pushing for greater international synchronisation of content.

Notes

Today’s research is looking at 1,257 live-action feature films which were released in cinemas between 1st January 2013 and 31st December 2016 and which ended up on Netflix in at least one country. Theatrical release dates were from IMDb and Netflix release dates from What’s New On Netflix.

Unlock THOUSANDS of Netflix movies!


Did you know there are thousands of movies and TV shows that are on Netflix, but you can’t watch them from your country? No country has everything in the Netflix catalogue, not even the USA.

But with a few simple steps you can unlock these titles and watch them from any country in the world!


You can watch British Netflix from the USA, or Canadian Netflix from Australia, or any other combination.

Don’t miss out!
Unlock Netflix and start watching tonight!