I have a few more thoughts bouncing around my brain pan on cancelling my Netflix subscription which I thought I would share with you. I have been a Netflix subscriber since the end of the 20th Century and practically all of the 21st Century with a short detour to a forgotten movie-by-mail competitor which turned out to be a disaster. As I wrote before, I LOVED Netflix mail order service and was surprised that their streaming service worked so well even with a crummy DSL connection. It was addictive. I was hooked.
No more. I still stream, but not with Netflix.
- As I said before I was spending an inordinate amount of time looking for a program to watch rather than watching a program. Netflix’s search engine always was terrible and their recommendations based on what I had watched and what is in my watchlist (which I set aside and never watch) seem to be completely misguided. Sometimes I felt like I was lost in their recommendations. Yes, I may have watched a number of ninja movies and a documentary on UFOs, but I don’t want to always bask in my worst cinematic predilections. Maybe I feel like a big dumb Hollywood comedy for a change. Maybe I’m tired of the crap I watch. Maybe they need a counter-intuitive search results section in the same way that a Thesaurus will have antonym suggestions.
- I’ve been accused of being a contrarian which is a nice way of saying old crank, but I just did not like Stranger Things. I watched the first season and enjoyed the cast of kids particularly Millie Bobby Brown who was extraordinary and I knew perfectly well it was a blending of E.T., Explorers, My Science Project, Goonies and practically every other fantasy movie that came out in the 1980s. The season draws to a close as expected without a complete resolution so something can be left for the second season which doubles down on the ’80s nostalgia so hard you can taste the hair gel. It felt like they don’t have any place they particularly want to go other than having kids endlessly playing Dungeons and Dragons and video games while MTV’s top ten plays in the background. Meanwhile something spooky is going on. I was wondering why they didn’t just call it That ’80s Show.
- Another thing that bothered me about Stranger Things is that all the kids had a growth spurt and they let Millie Bobby Brown’s hair grow out. I kept seeing Kristy McNichol every time I saw her. It bugged me. Did they mean to do that? Why? I couldn’t get past it. I hated Family.
- Kristy McNichol was terrific in Little Darlings.
- I also wondered if we will ever get past the ’80s. For every generation waxing nostalgic about their particular era, there is a younger generation rolling their eyes. Will there be a show looking back fondly at the ’90s or the early 21st century? I’m not sure what that entails because that’s when I feel I became unplugged from popular culture not having a cable television subscription.
- Does it all have to be nostalgia or will something new come along? Black Mirror seems to fit that bill, but it can all be uneven. I binged on the current season before my Netflix subscription lapsed because I’ve enjoyed the three other seasons on there. This one had compelling ideas, but it was more miss than hit.
- Is a classics section too much to ask for from Netflix? Old black and white films are like comfort food to me, but there are not many and they are spread all over Netflix’s categories such as drama or comedy.
- If Turner Classic Movies offered a standalone streaming channel, I would be on it like white on rice. I know they have a package that rides along with Sling TV, but it ends up being $25. There are a number of other basic cable channels packaged with Sling, but I just want the old movies. Keep the other crap. No thanks.
- I wondered why the Netflix series based on Marvel Comics were getting worse and worse. I couldn’t get all the way through The Punisher. I wondered if Netflix knew that Disney was going to swallow up Fox. I don’t think something like that is an impulse buy. Rumors were probably circulating around Hollywood for a while. Disney wants to go up against Netflix with their own streaming channel. They need the content. Netflix knew all of the Marvel properties would be taken from them eventually. Why put effort or money into a show that Disney will possibly put on their own channel?
- My guess is that Disney will bury the little pocket universe of Netflix series based on Marvel properties. They are just too different tonally from the Marvel movies and the programs produced for the Disney-owned ABC network. The characters may be rebooted somewhere down the line and will look nothing like the Netflix productions.
I was recently asked for a list of suggestions of websites that offer streaming movies for free. Most of these are ad supported meaning that you may be watching the same three commercial repeatedly, but (and this is the BIG but) unlike broadcast television the movies are uncut. This is not an exhaustive list. It’s just some of the channels or sites I check out on a regular basis.
- Crackle Sony owns this site and it’s been a reliable place for action films, but it seems that they have upped their game recently. A couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find the recent Hobbit movie playing there although it seems to have been rotated off. During the prolonged cold snap the American Northeast has been experiencing I found Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining playing. I was also very happy that Crackle ran the longer print of the film. I only recently found out that there are a few cuts of the film floating around when I came across a truncated version on a pay streaming channel. Another nice thing is that the commercials on Crackle aren’t that obtrusive. Nothing like broadcast TV!
- VUDU Walmart-owned VUDU is a movie rental and purchase website that recently added a Movies On Us section which offers a surprisingly decent selection of ad supported streaming movies and television programs. Right now they have one of my very favorite movies True Confessions. It’s based on the novel by John Gregory Dunne, and it’s about Los Angeles, brothers, forgiveness, the Catholic Church, the police and the Black Dahlia murder. Yes, there are commercials, but they are not that obtrusive. It’s got Robert Duvall and Robert DeNiro! Stop reading, and go watch it NOW!
- Shout Factory TV This is an interesting if oddball collection of cult film and TV programs. Shout Factory is a video label that sells definitive versions of genre movies on disk. The website overlaps and promotes their disk offerings and they are rotating content on and off all of the time. It’s worth checking in often.
- TubiTV This is another solid website full of entirely watchable, surprisingly recent Hollywood fare and a lot of oddball and direct-to-video trash that we have all passed by a million times in video stores when they still existed. I’ve watched a number of movies on the Roku channel version of this site, and it’s all right. If I had to cut all expenses and get rid of all of the pay sites and channels like Netflix, it wouldn’t be too bad with sites like TubiTV. In checking back on this site, I found some items of interest to me such as Invasion:UFO which is a movie compiled from episodes of Gerry Anderson’s UFO tv series. I have to watch that! They even have a CLASSICS section!
- Popcornflix Another streaming site with a fairly decent selection of movies and television programs. There is also a lot of crappy movies to sift through, but I had to do that every time I went to my local Hollywood Video which is now an Advance Auto Parts.
- Viewster This one is similar to Popcornflix above, but it’s a little more towards the bottom of the barrel. There seems to be a lot of Japanese animation if you’re a fan, but it feels like a lot of direct-to-video. It’s an option, and you may find something watchable.
- The Internet Archive The Internet Archive is an unbelievable treasure trove of media in the public domain. There is audio, video, images and scans from printed material that are all free to view or download. The link I provided is for their video section and it’s got a number of treats in store for you. The nice thing is that it is ad free. Well worth your time!
I was going to recommend PlutoTV, but it seems that you can no longer view it through a simple web browser. People asking me about Netflix alternatives were asking about stuff they can watch on their computers. It seems that Pluto wants to push you to their standalone application (I hate the term app.) The PlutoTV application is available for Mac and PC as well as a number of phones and tablets. PlutoTV is sort of like having a cable TV subscription but not real cable TV channels. There is an assortment of entertainment, news and music channels that are found by scrolling through a grid. I like it on my Roku set top box and check it out quite a bit. There is a lot of content there so you may want to download their software. Make sure your computer can run it first!
As time goes on, I hope to further my list of Netflix alternatives. As the media companies wake up and realize that they are sitting on huge libraries of content. Why not dust it off and try making some advertising revenue. Somebody wants to watch that stuff. I can’t get enough of Celebrity Bowling, for instance. Of course, that’s me. Your mileage may vary.