This week I take a long, hard look at the steaming, streaming media that flows into my house unbidden, like ground water into a sump hole with an inoperable pump. Through fate, providence, or bad luck, I am still enjoying a “trial period” on some of these services. In a month or two, I will be forced to put on my big boy pants and decide which ones to keep. This is a difficult decision. Because my loving, departed parents, who grew up during the worst years of The Great Depression* refused to spoil me, I had to do it myself. Much like my experiences with the morass of cable television or the jungle of physical media, it pains me so to think that someone, somewhere is able to watch SOMETHING THAT I CANNOT. I have tried to correct that situation by surrounding myself with more movies than I could possibly watch in several lifetimes. Right now, I am typing with a 4K Blu-ray disc under each armpit… because I can.
One of my favorite Saturday Night Live sketches from the last few years was a parody Netflix commercial for that emphasized their amazing glut of programing. “[We introduce] the endless scroll: by the time you reach the bottom of our menu, there’s new shows at the top, and THUS THE SINGULARITY WILL BE ACHIEVED.”
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Drive, Walk Hard, and Spotlight. Netflix also currently hosts lesser-known sleepers that I loved, like The Little Hours, Killing Them Softly, Where Did Jack Go, and A Serious Man. It’s nice to have all of these available at the touch of a remote button, but I think the main reason to keep paying for Netflix is their ability to produce major works that I would actually have paid money to see in a theater on a regular basis: Dolemite is My Name, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, The Irishman, Da 5 Bloods, and Roma are some of my favorite films from the last few years. Counting admission and popcorn, if Netflix can release just one of these a month, my subscription pays for itself.
Thank goodness that I get a free year of APPLE TV+ because I recently bought a new laptop; I would have cancelled it already. (As if you can ever cancel anything from the Apple-verse. You know Steve Jobs is still lurking somewhere in your phone, tablet, or laptop, just waiting to fuck with you.) Unless I’m doing it wrong and there are boatloads of content hiding from me somewhere on another screen, Apple TV+ seems to offer a few exclusive television programs, none of which I want to watch. Apple seems loathe to offer the treasure chests of content of other streaming services because that would decrease their revenue from renting and selling movies. Apple TV also seems far more interested in being a simple conduit to other streaming services for an additional price: the Arrow Video Channel is $5 a month, Britbox is $7, and Cinemax is $10. Apple TV+ seems less like a streaming service and more like an immense hole in the ground into which I’m supposed to keep tossing money. No thanks.
I will never cancel SHUDDER as long as Joe Bob Briggs hosts The Last Drive-In. Never.
At the Drive-In, American: The Bill Hicks Story and Looking for Lenny being but three) and smaller, excellent narrative films (Vivarium, The Party, and Plan 9 from Outer Space!) Like the ubiquitous online retailer, Amazon Prime ain’t going nowhere.
THE CRITERION CHANNEL is something I believe in, like a museum. Even if I never watched it (and I watch it plenty, believe me.) I would still think the monthly fee was worth paying just to sustain it. It’s $11 a month, but if you pay for the entire year, it’s only $8.30 a month, a mere bag of shells. I’ve been with the Criterion folks since their laserdisc days; I’m not going anywhere.
The two latest streaming services that I am fantastically high on are HBO MAX and PEACOCK. If one subscribes to HBO on Xfinity/Comcast cable, both are free, and an extra $5 a month will give you Peacock Preferred Plus (the “Plus” is pudding) that offers expanded content offerings and no commercials. I am very impressed by the amount of content on both services and the quality of the content itself.
The original Blob, The Candidate, the original Cat People, Citizen Kane, all of the Criterion Chaplin films, all of the Showa-era (era) Godzilla films, A Hard Day’s Night, Hoop Dreams, Idiocracy, Lifeforce, Magnolia, The Most Dangerous Game, Night of the Living Dead, Quadrophenia, Safety Last, the first three A Star is Borns, That Thing You Do, The Wild Bunch, and Woodstock. Woo!
PEACOCK’s offerings remind us that NBC owns Universal Studios (or maybe it’s the other way around?) and Universal has made a lot of movies in their more than 100-year history. Peacock currently offers all of the Universal Hitchcock films (including Shadow of a Doubt, my favorite) and every episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television show. Every classic Universal horror film is here, including the Abbott & Costello ones and all of the Hammer Films released by Universal. I’ll repeat that—EVERY CLASSIC UNIVERSAL HORROR FILM. (Pant, pant—I’m okay now.) You can also find every episode of The Munsters, every episode of Columbo, and all of the Paramount Marx Brothers’ films. Lesser-known gems include Bug, Confidence, Big Fan, Grace of My Heart, Talk Radio, and Hard Candy. It’s an embarrassment of riches.