Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to rent movies at video stores anymore. You cant scuttle into Blockbuster, while wearing your At The Drive-In shirt, and ask Todd, the manager on duty, where his copy of 2002’s “Dog Soldiers” is located – that time is gone, pal. And don’t even think you’re going to find a Gregg Araki film in that fingerprint bombarded Red Box outside of your 7-11. You may as well just pick up that lonely copy of CityBeat with the Matisse-style rendering of Kristen Schaal on the cover and get back in your car. Sure, you can rent physical media by way of Netflix’s DVD plan, but it’s a sad and despicable ordeal that 90% of humans have avoided altogether. Luckily, the internet provides more than just recipes for Nutella-themed desserts, facts about Chloe Sevigny, and your friend’s Goodreads review of some terrible Chuck Klosterman book. There are quite a few streaming services, ranging from the obligatory Netflix subscription to the more esoteric Fandor, that should satiate most audiences.
Outside of their original programming, Netflix is essentially garbage water. Unless you love 1980s movies that star Jay Leno as a Detroit police officer, you’re out of luck. They also feature what I feel like are public domain titles from the 1990s, such as “The Little Rascals” and “The Flintstones”. To prove a point that they care about their customers, Netflix once laid out a huge banner to boldly state that they obtained the elusive license to “The Croods” – why is this kind of violence happening to good people? I don’t want to work an eight hour day to come home to “White Chicks”. How is Netflix not just TBS programming from ten years ago?
Hulu tries a little bit harder with its selection of Criterion titles, but the site’s clumsy navigation and dull interface makes the experience a losing proposition. With most of their customer base booting up New Girl reruns, Hulu isn’t hiding the fact that they are burying their foreign films into the deepest recesses of the site. For movie lovers, this streaming forum is steadily losing steam – unless you’re into badly produced documentaries with comic sans font.
Fandor is the illest streaming service for cinephiles. The aesthetic is sharp, and the movie selections are mind warping. From Jesus slaying vampires to dystopian MTV-like landscapes, there is nothing even remotely plain yogurt about this site’s streaming options. Many of the indie movies I love came from Fandor marathons. From Jon Moritsugu’s viscous “Terminal, USA” to Jay Rosenblatt’s unorthodox “Human Remains“, there is an endless variety of cool pictures on this particular service. Forget Netflix, and get with Fandor (almost every legit Kate Lyn Sheil movie is available here).
Filmstruck is the newest streaming service, offering a litany of Criterion and TCM curated titles. While it hasn’t officially launched, the buzz is real. Come November, it will be the only source for Criterion movies, leaving Hulu virtually uninhabitable for film geeks. If this platform has the same sort of social and cultural awareness as Fandor, we’re in for a dope treat. In my mind, the only two real options would be Fandor and Filmstruck, unless you’re super into watching Billy Zane’s “The Phantom” while sighing into a bowl of Sun Chips (see Netflix).
While you’ll never have that spontaneous, tactile vibe of reading the back of a DVD box again, online memberships are rapidly filling the void for film lovers with subscription services like Fandor, Filmstruck, and MUBI. Will Netflix ever learn that carrying 100 straight-to-video Danny Glover titles wont be the answer for movie lovers? I doubt it – their customer base is all about those show dollars. Still, in the world we live in, there is a place for everything.