Arts, Movies, Column

Direct To Netflix: Coming Soon To A Smartphone Near You

There’s a right way to experience a movie—and it’s not a Netflix “cloud” casting media into your brain.

It’s October in Boston. The world is getting progressively darker, and the cold has begun to seep into my bones. Meanwhile, Boston College continues to bombard us with pictures of pretty fall leaves—regardless of whether it is dreary and generally depressing out.

And on comes the sick pervasion of pumpkin everything. Pumpkin spiced coffee. Pumpkin-flavored beer. Anything that could conceivably hold a pumpkin flavor can and will. “Who doesn’t like pumpkins?” shouts Big Brother aside a poster of Russell Crowe. But the truth, my friend, is that pumpkins don’t taste like this. If you cut up a pumpkin today, and scooped out a handful, and gave it the good old college try, it wouldn’t have the sugary spice of that coffee you love so much. They’re lying to us. Pumpkins are on this earth to be sat upon and to be carved, and, if you’re really hungry, to make bread.

You could convince me to include pumpkin pie as well because even I have weaknesses.

Why the fuss, Ryan? Why not let people go their own way in life?

You can. I won’t begrudge you the little things that get you through the day. (I listened to Bon Iver every night before I went to bed to get through last week.)

So, if Adam Sandler wants to make four movies direct to Netflix, he can. It’s a win for him and an obvious loss for us. Yes, Netflix has entered the features game. After the rocking success of Emmy nominated House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, Netflix has reached deals with Sandler and the Weinstein Company, which will produce a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which made over $200 million in 2000. It’s a calculated step for the streaming giant. On its way to conquering television, Netflix now has its eyes set on film, conceivably targeting movie theaters.

And that has caused some unease in the industry. Regal Cinema came out with a blustering statement about how it refused to partake in such an “experiment.” But there’s been some unease for a while. When you can shoot something on your cell phone or a $300 camera you bought from Radioshack (or more likely Amazon, as Radioshack recedes into the cave with old buddy Blockbuster) that looks pretty close to Friday Night Lights and can watch it on said cell phone, you have to admit that media is changing. You probably didn’t hear it here first.

The days of going to the movies may be over. And that’s a shame. I’m not a purist. I’ve only been to Coolidge Corner a few times. A month’s Netflix may even cost less than going to the movies once. With all that out of the way, let me say the obligatory and admittedly vague “there’s something about going to the movies.” The popcorn, the giant screen, the previews, the teenagers making out in the back corner. It’s like going to a baseball game, or more so a concert—one of the events we communally acknowledge as “art.” Going to the movies gives 13-year-olds something reasonable to do on a Friday night—so long as they don’t loiter too much in the parking lot. We won’t stand for that. As someone who goes to the movies alone more than most (because I review them, not because I don’t have friends!), there’s something tangibly different about watching a movie in a big audience. I think everyone who saw Guardians of the Galaxy this summer experienced that. I think anyone who saw The Avengers a couple summers experienced that.

Netflix has been so successful with television because television is such a friendly medium. Television is what’s on when you’re making dinner, eating dinner, and thinking about what you want to eat next. It’s just there for your convenience, and Netflix made television more convenient. It’s what made television cool and amplified it.

But what makes films different is that they demand your attention. Someone spent years of his or her life to build this two-hour experience for you so much so that he or she wants you to watch it on a giant screen, with surround sound, and a bunch of other people. That’s what’s best about films, and if Netflix starts releasing film straight to your phone for you to watch on your way to work, that takes away from what makes film awesome. It makes film television.

There’s a right way to experience a movie, just as there’s a right way to experience a pumpkin. The way we do things is as important as what we’re doing. I understand Netflix’s urge to capture the market, and it’s right that a movie ticket shouldn’t cost $10. If it wants to finance Adam Sandler’s vacations for the next few years, fine. Let it. If Starbucks wants to make pumpkin spiced lattes for three months, I’ll live. I might start listening to more Bon Iver (I promise I’m not pretentious) than usual. The movie theater and its place in culture are really some of the few things I actually care about, along with proper pumpkin consumption.

And I want my kid to grow up in a world where if he and his friends are bored on a Friday night, they can see a good movie in an actual theater, run by actual people—not some Netflix “cloud,” casting media into their brains.

Featured Image Courtesy of Netflix


October 6, 2014
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Established in 1919 as Boston College’s student newspaper, The Heights has been both editorially and financially independent from the University since 1971. The Heights serves the students, faculty, and staff of the Boston College community, as well as our neighbors in Chestnut Hill, Newton, and the Allston-Brighton area.  

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