At the time of this writing, America was trapped inside during the COVID-19 pandemic. With diligence, persistence and lots of luck, conditions might have improved by the time you pick this up in May.
Regardless, it will be a long time before the movie industry gets back to normal. With theaters closed, distributors hastened to move screenings online to recoup some costs, and large-scale film festivals have been canceled or postponed.
With that in mind, this month’s column is a bit different. Instead of a usual breakdown of Oklahoma events, DVD releases and theatrical debuts, the focus is on the streaming side of film-watching by highlighting services that are a little more out of the way. Most people have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and/or Disney Plus, but by now you’ve probably watched everything you want from those services. Here are three more to tide you over.
Cost: Free, but with ads
Focus: Grab bag
Crackle is an unusual entry in today’s streaming wars – the forgotten little brother of Hulu and Netflix. The site’s catalog comes larded with forgotten B-films and direct-to-DVD sequels (Lake Placid 3, anyone?). But if you dig a little deeper, the site has some classics – the sort you really should have watched by now – all at the small cost of sitting through advertisements.
Here are three quick picks: for wonder, Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind; for dark comedy, Sunset Boulevard, one of the greatest films about films; and, for not going anywhere, the infamously long (but undeniably awe-inspiring) epic Lawrence of Arabia.
Cost: $10.99 per month
Focus: Independent and world classics
Regular readers notice the frequent touts for DVDs from the Criterion Collection for the simple reason that the company re-releases hard-to-find, excellent films from around the globe. The Criterion Channel allows you to stream the movies in its collection with a subscription. Unlike bigger services, there’s no fat here; every film is worth watching.
Take an international tour with Criterion and catch up on some classic foreign films, like Federico Fellini’s 8½, Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classic Yojimbo, and Gabriel Axel’s hunger-inducing Babette’s Feast.
Cost: Free (with a central Oklahoma library card)
Kanopy has one big advantage: It’s free of ads and free, period, so long as you have a member card with a participating library (such as the Metropolitan system in and around OKC, and the Pioneer system in and around Moore and Norman). The service shows all sorts of indie films, but its biggest draw is its treasure trove of documentaries.
Kanopy is the only place to find the films of Frederick Wiseman, such as his patient and structural Hospital and Ex Libris. Kanopy also houses films by the Maysles brothers, including Grey Gardens, a classic about shut-ins that is perfect for pandemic viewing.