Swimming down the movie stream: THE CRITERION CHANNEL.

I’ll be honest.
I loved the idea of FILMSTRUCK more than I did the actual service.

Don’t get me wrong. With a library of films from both Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, FILMSTRUCK had a selection that was deeper than the Mariana Trench. All of if carefully curated and hosted by a formable team of nerds including Ben Mankiewicz and Alica (Be still my heart.) Malone. The progamming was, as the young people would say, lit.

Actually watching it though was another matter.

Because FILMSTRUCK did not have a PS4 app (And contrary to published promises, never did.) the only way I could watch it on my tv was to shell out for a Google Chromecast and stream it though an app on my iPod. And that was problematic because I couldn’t get the commentary tracks to play. And for a filmmaker, that’s kind of a dealbreaker because half the juice of getting a Criterion title is the Yak Track that gives you all the behind the scenes info that you can knick from later to make your own stuff.

Never the less, I held firm because the catalogue was so dense and well curated. And I figured that someday, they’d come though with the PS4 app.

But someday never came.

When WarnerMedia annouced that it was shutting down FILMSTRUCK last October, the howl of rage and sadness heard from film nerds was so loud, you’d think that Michael Bay had been caught skull fucking Ingmar Bergman’s cadaver. And it didn’t subside until Criterion annouced that, screw it, we’ll start our own streaming service!

Which they did. And it went live this month. And like FILMSTRUCK, it has the same plus and minuses.
On the plus side, the library is what you’d expect from Criterion. So far, I’ve treated myself to THE BIG HEAT (1954 Fritz Lang Film Noir.) LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVARLY (1979 John Woo doing the Wuxia genre.) and THE FABLOUS BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1962 Czech film by Karel Zeman that had a big influence on Terry Gilliam.) and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the library. And because they put the commentary tracks on seperate video files, I can actually play them!
The down side? Once again, there is no PS4 app and as I quickly discovered, the channel is incompatable with Chromecast. Which means, I had to shell out thirty bucks for a Roku player. (The mini upside is that it’s easier to deal with than the Chromecast. So there’s that.) But the menu is still kind of clunky and whole swaths of the collection are difficult to find. The Web Browser version has an All Films opition but it hasn’t made the Roku app yet.

Worse, there are some titles that near the end overlay the title with “could not play content error code: -3” . This happened with BARON MUNCHAUSEN and LAST HURRAH and apparently it’s been happening with some other titles too.

But again, this is the early days of the channel and I’m hoping that Criterion will work these bugs out as they go.
Becuase by making these films available to a larger public they are doing the Lord’s Work.
Films only live when they are seen and there’s a whole lot of films that deserve to live long lives.
And I hope they do finally make a PS4 app because the idea of a kid discovering Bergman’s PERSONA on the same machine he plays CALL OF DUTY on tickles me no end.