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Arlington: Why do you love Death Race so much?

Good morning, Washington metro area! Your taste in movies is really, really boring!

Over the weekend, the New York Times posted a fascinating map of Netflix rental patterns by zip code in 12 American cities. The Washington region’s (actually, every region’s) No. 1 DVD rental from the service in 2009 was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Fincher‘s long, snoozy, existential overinflation of a pithy, social-satirical short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It starred Brad Pitt, it was total Oscar bait, and its domestic take fell just short of its $250 million production budget (although it earned another $206 million overseas). Also, it was kind of like that other movie its screenwriter penned, and, with its Southern Gothic patina and extremely convincing CGI, looked really pretty. But seriously: zzzzzzz. (I wrote a positive, if cautious, review here.)

The next most popular rental nationwide was Changeling, which was overacted, overdirected, overscripted, and overscored—-in other words, it was a film by Clint Eastwood. (To be fair, he’s made a number of great, maybe even epochal, movies this decade, especially Mystic River.)

DCist has some thoughts, and Greater Greater Washington has a great analysis of the map that looks at the divide in taste between the area’s majority-black and majority-white zip codes, as well as differences in the preferences of urban and suburban Netflix subscribers.

A few observations after the jump:

  • Are Oscar nominees rented more than purchased? Or do Netflix members just not dig summer blockbusters? Which is to say: Why doesn’t this map hew closer to the top-selling DVDs of 2009, on which films like Benjamin Button don’t perform especially well? My gut reaction is that the Oscars may not be as irrelevant as they often feel—all five 2009 Best-Picture nominees do well on the map. But I think the bigger factor is age: Netflix viewers are clearly older than the average moviegoer—-a fact still that hasn’t stopped Twilight from coming in No. 6 nationwide among Netflix users.
  • Clearly, the zip code with the strangest taste is 20701, which is the area around Annapolis Junction, Md. Its top-rented film was The Beales of Grey Gardens, which as far as I know isn’t even a real movie: It contains leftover footage shot for the Maysles Brothers’ influential documentary Grey Gardens. Also big in that area’s queue: the music docs Made in Sheffield (No. 4) and Lee Ritenour: Live in Montreal with Special Guests (No. 8). Rock on, 20701!
  • Biggest performer in Washington City Paper‘s zip code, and indeed much of Northwest: Milk.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still—-the original!—-somehow made the top 100.
  • So did Fireproof, a drama produced by the Evangelical Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia, starring that guy from Growing Pains. The film was the highest grossing independent film of 2008.
  • The only foreign-language film in the top 100 (other than the mostlyEnglish-language Slumdog Millionaire): I’ve Loved You So Long.
  • The D.C. area’s tastes aren’t especially different—-or more interesting—-than other cities’.
  • Seven Pounds was a really, really terrible movie.

(Disclosure: I freelance for the New York TimesT Magazine blog.)


– Theatre Du Jour has postponed its performance of The Zoo Story by Edward Albee, according to DC Theatre Scene.

– Pics of the No Pants Metro Ride at DCist and WaPo.

Noz posts a great go-go documentary from the late ’80s.

Love for Vampire Weekend.

Conan O’Brien: Will he stay or will he go? Either way, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, he’ll make serious bank.

– Song of the day! Basia Bulat‘s “Gold Rush”: