Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?
It was itself like a sequence in a movie. One by one the theatres announced they're closing because of COVID-19: The Rio, Cinematheque, VanCity, the Regal chain, which operates in 42 US states, and then our major ones, Cineplex and Landmark.
Big films like James Bond's 25th, A Quiet Place Part II and Black Widow are delayed. Smaller films too. Mick Jagger was to be on screen as of today (Friday) in an art-world thriller that also includes Donald Sutherland. Two Canadian films, Anne at 13,000 Feet and Ash will just have to wait and the Chinese film To Live to Sing won’t be back in theatres on Monday as planned but goes the next day to iTunes.
There’s more. Both Cannes and the DOXA film festivals has just been postponed, although they were still weeks away. So have the Canadian Screen Awards of March 29.
Worse there are now all sorts of articles fearing for the future--initially for the summer movie season because so much film production has stopped for now and ultimately for the industry as a whole.
Will movie theatres die altogether? Pessimists are asking that question as the streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ fill in and more people discover how much easier it is to watch them than to go out.
I’m not too worried. I say movies have survived onslaughts before and theatre, radio and books haven't disappeared either, have they? But a change is in progress and streaming is it right now.
In that spirit, here are a few recommendations, not at all comprehensive, but maybe useful.
NETFLIX: The streaming giant has a lot of original movies that, according to a friend who’s watched many, are merely ordinary.
That includes Spenser Confidential, the Mark Wahlberg film they’re hyping so much these days. But a new one starting today, The Platform, is getting good reviews.
Good bets though are the four films the Academy Awards nominated: Roma, last year, and The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes this year. Good time to catch up if you haven’t seen them, especially The Two Popes, my favorite of the four.
Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce put on an acting showcase as Benedict and his successor Francis (Pryce should have won the Oscar). Since so much of the film is of the erudite, witty and often funny conversations between the two, it plays well on a TV. Ironically, it also shows what you miss. There’s a re-created Sistine Chapel (filming isn’t allowed in the real one) but you don’t feel the grandeur if you don’t see it on the big screen.
Digging deeper on Netflix I found a gem from four years ago, Lion, in which a boy in India gets himself lost, adopted by a couple in Australia (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) and 20 years later tries to find where he came from. Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire and the freshly delayed The Personal History of David Copperfield) plays him as an adult towards a most emotional resolution.
I didn’t have to dig too far to find Contagion. It’s nine years old and has had a lot of attention now because it’s so spot on about exactly what we’re going through. A virus is spreading, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cottilard and others are trying to contain it and a nutbar blogger (Jude Law) is an interfering troll.
There’s constant unease in this Stephen Soderbergh film but also documentary realism that’s scientifically accurate and quite detailed. It seems other streaming services have the film too. It’s enjoying a new life.