UPDATE (November 16, 2018): New, Independent Criterion Channel to Launch Spring 2019
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UPDATE (October 26, 2018): Warner Media — controlled by those sick bastards at AT&T since the horrific merger — are shutting down FilmStruck on November 29th. AT&T: Always finding new ways to enrich ourselves and screw you. Thank you for using AT&T!
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Yesterday was my last day subscribing to Netflix. Miss them, I will not. I had been meaning to kill the subscription for quite some time, finally pulled the trigger a couple of weeks ago, and the final days ran out at the end of February.
It’s been painful to watch Netflix’s escalating deterioration and hubris. After arguably putting movie rental stores out of business almost single-handedly, Netflix decided that they no longer really cared about classic films.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wants to play Hollywood movie mogul for himself. So Netflix has been decimating its online catalog of classic, quality films, and replacing them with a cavalcade of mediocre productions. Their corpus of classic television has been going in the same direction for ages now.
What’s more, Netflix is spending billions of dollars — reportedly $8 billion just this year — to produce its own stream of mostly unwatchable films and series — which they continuously promote through app screensavers and in every other way possible.
It’s gotten to the point that whenever you hear the characteristic loud “thum thum!” that precedes a Netflix production, you know it’s time to move on.
That’s not to say that Netflix doesn’t occasionally produce a quality film or show — but the ratio is awful, and seems to be mostly of the “stopped clock is correct twice a day” variety.
Their “You might like this, Lauren!” recommendations stink. You can dig through their online listings for ages and find nothing even remotely worth your time.
Bye bye Netflix.
Luckily for those of us who care about classic films and quality films in general, there’s a superb online alternative —FilmStruck/Criterion:
FilmStruck is a service of Turner Broadcasting, who also produce the always excellent Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel, of which I’ve been a fan since its inception many years ago.
I subscribed to FilmStruck (and their wonderful Criterion Collection add-on) some weeks ago, around the same time that I issued my Netflix cancellation (Netflix vis-a-vis FilmStruck/Criterion pricing are both very similar, by the way).
One of the best entertainment-related decisions I’ve ever made.
It would be fair to call F/C something of a TCM on super-steroids (and in fact, F/C has just now begun to integrate some new F/C intros from TCM hosts, and classic materials from the TCM archives — super!)
Are there downsides? Well, in all honesty F/C’s website is pretty slow and clunky. Their device apps need significant work. While you can run three simultaneous video streams, there’s no mechanism for separate users per se.
I don’t care. All of that logistical stuff will certainly improve with time.
Once the video streams are running they look great. Films are in HD whenever possible and are in reasonable aspect ratios. There are no “ID bugs” on the screen during films (and here I’ll also note that TCM has always had a policy of keeping their ID bugs to an absolute minimum — just a few seconds at a time occasionally during films, which is also very much appreciated).
The depth and breadth of F/C’s superb classic and independent films online catalog are breathtaking.
But there’s a lot more there than the individual movies. There are curated collections of films. Often there are all manner of “extras” — not only the kinds of additional materials familiar from DVDs like commentary tracks, discussions, and other original features, but F/C-produced materials as well.
It really is a classic film lover’s paradise.
What’s more, a few days ago it was announced that Warner Bros. was shutting down their own standalone streaming service, and transferring their vast library of hundreds of classic films to F/C — some of those have already become available and they’re great. I started into them yesterday with “Forbidden Planet” and “Casablanca” — and that’s just barely scratching the surface, of course.
Anyway, you get the idea. If you’re happy with the kind of putrid porridge that has become Netflix’s stock-in-trade these days, more power to you — enjoy.
But if you care about great films, about classic films — I urge you to give FilmStruck/Criterion a try (there’s a 14 day free trial, and you can view via a range of mobile and streaming devices, including Chromecast, Roku, etc.)
Sorry Netflix. That’s show biz!