Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Attractions, Distractions

Unlike many, who mourned its end as if a friend had died, I didn't get all that angry when FilmStruck ended last October.  I mean, I loved FilmStruck with their library of Criterion and Turner Classic Movies films, but it posed yet one more distraction from writing - all those great films streaming and available at any time, not to mention all the stimulating extras.  I had enough work to do and enough recent films and television series to catch up on without being lured by such extraordinary film libraries.

Then, to my chagrin, in mid-November, just a few weeks after I'd breathed my sigh of relief over FilmStruck's demise, came the announcement that the Criterion Channel would rise.  Just when I thought I was safe, I thought, and against my better judgment, I signed on to the new channel as a charter member, making myself eligible for a bit of a discount on the yearly subscription.

Well, yesterday, the Criterion Channel launched.  As I feared, it looks marvelous.  There's a library of over 1600 films and loads of extras. The curation, which was one of the best things about FilmStruck, remains, clearly, at a high level.  And according to what I read, the channel intends to refresh itself constantly by showing "Hollywood, international, art-house and independent films from major studios and dozens of independent distributors".  Damn!  I live in New York City and there are theaters where I can watch these films on a big screen. I'm not starved for cinema here. A number of revival houses thrive.  Do I need a streaming service to add to my list of potential visual distractions, fun things to do that are not writing?

No, I do not. But no also, sadly, as far as my having any plans to surrender this subscription.  For one thing, look at what they're offering right off the bat with their Columbia Noir collection: Fritz Lang's The Big Heat, Joseph H. Lewis' My Name is Julia Ross and So Dark the Night (Lewis the director of Gun Crazy, by the way), Richard Quine's Drive a Crooked Road (with a never better and dead serious Mickey Rooney), and Jacques Tourneur's lovely Nightfall, adapted from the David Goodis novel.  And there are others, including Irving Lerner's minimalist absurdist hit man masterpiece, Murder by Contract.

You know them when they're there.  People who don't mean well.  In this case, insidious peddlers of glorious cinema who couldn't accept defeat when the big company that owned FilmStruck cut off that niche service!  Wow. These dedicated peddlers had to go and start their own film channel and make doing other stuff in life, during what little free time I have, that much more difficult to get to.

What can I say?  I'm all in.

*Footnote: Just searching through what the channel has, I saw that its streaming The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.  This is not the Terry Gilliam film from 1988, but an animated Czech film from 1962, made by the brilliant Czech filmmaker, Karel Zeman. I liked the Gilliam film, but the Czech film is a much better version of the story about the intrepid German adventurer aristocrat from the 18th century.  It is a charming, lovely, beautiful film filled with wonders.

Why am I even writing anymore? Time to sign off and go watch something.

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