Mubi: The Movie Streaming Service Where Less Is More

Everyone knows the Netflix shuffle. That’s when you want to watch a movie, and spend a half hour browsing through the same stuff you’ve been seeing for months, just in new lists, and end up not finding anything to watch. You then go read a book.

While Netflix does have some good content, it, and Amazon Prime Video, and other services, don’t make it easy to find what you want. In fact, it’s extremely difficult to weed out what you don’t want to watch so it doesn’t keep showing up. Netflix, for example, has been changing the graphics for movies and TV shows so you think they’re new. I really wish there was a way to mark something as Don’t Ever Show Me This Again Because There’s No Way In The World That I Would Ever Want To Watch It (ie, The Grand Tour).

Mubi is a movie streaming service that takes a totally different approach. They add one movie a day, and each movie lasts for thirty days, then it’s gone. The films available won’t appeal to everyone – they are art house, festival, and foreign films – but if you like that kind of movie, this carefully-curated selection is what you need.

Recently, Mubi has had several movies by Wim Wenders, two by Spike Lee, a number of films by Korean director Hong Sang-Soo, some interesting French films, and more. I’ve found that I’m watching three or four movies a month, which makes this service more than worthwhile, and the fact that there is only one film a day means that I’m not overwhelmed by the selection. And there are no super hero movies (at least I haven’t seen any yet).

If you’re into this kind of cinema, and want to have a limited selection of interesting movies, check out Mubi.

Optimize Home Viewing Settings – MyRoma

Best Practices for watching ROMA on your TV

You can find these options by accessing your television’s menu, going into picture or image settings, and if you don’t see them there, going into Advanced picture settings.

The people behind the film Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and now on Netflix, have a detailed web page about adjusting your TV’s settings so the film doesn’t look like crap. This covers more than just about the motion smoothing settings that Tom Cruise spoke about recently in a video, discussing his latest film Mission Impossible: Fallout, but with Roma being in black and white, you don’t want your TV to have a warm or cold color profile.

It’s good that people are starting to publicize all the bad settings on today’s TV sets; I’m flummoxed when I look at my settings, and I’ve used this document to tweak them a bit.

Source: Optimize Home Viewing Settings – MyRoma

It sounds like Apple’s original content is going to be really, really bad – TechCrunch

For Apple’s content business, gratuitous profanity, sex or violence are all verboten as the company tries to thread the needle between being a widely beloved producer of high quality consumer goods and purveyor of paid entertainment to a public that’s increasingly enthralled with blood and gore at its circuses.

It’s not just blood and gore; take a show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which brought an Emmy award to Amazon. There is a lot of strong language, and, in the pilot, a scene where there are breasts visible. (And the character gets arrested for flashing in the club where she rants on stage.) Even something like that will not pass muster with the Apple censors.

To be fair, this sort of thing clearly crosses a line:

To set the table, The Journal walked readers through some of the issues Tim Cook apparently had with Vital Signs, a title the company had acquired loosely based on the biography of rap legend (and former head of the billion dollar Apple acquisition, Beats) Dr. Dre.

Reportedly, after Cook saw scenes including a mansion orgy, white lines, and drawn guns the Apple chief put the kibosh on the whole production saying it was too violent and not something that Apple can air.

But this is simply ridiculous:

If Apple’s aversion to potentially scandalous storylines is as extreme as The Wall Street Journal article makes it seem — requesting the removal of crucifixes from a set to avoid offending religious sensibilities in an M. Night Shyamalan drama

It’s funny, because some Apple staff have suggested that Apple’s video offerings would be “expensive NBC,” and even NBC has pretty graphic stuff in its police procedurals.

I highlighted this problem back in February, when I wrote:

[…] there’s no reason why excellent TV can’t be family friendly. But in today’s television climate, it’s difficult. West Wing is one of the best series ever on TV (IMHO), and it was a network show. Friday Night Lights was a brilliant series that ran on a network. And Downton Abbey was far from controversial. There are plenty of comedy series that are family friendly. But to push the envelope, there needs to be daring topics, ones that may have some swear words and some tits, and, well, some violence. Black Mirror, House of Cards, Westworld, Homeland, True Detective; all these current and recent series would not pass on US network TV.

But if Apple draws the line at family friendly TV, they will miss out on the next big series; the next Game of Thrones, True Detective, or Breaking Bad. Let’s face it, Reese Witherspoon will not be part of cutting-edge series drama.

I think all these articles miss the point; the reason why Apple is doing this. It all boils down to one thing: China. Apple wants to sell its service around the world, and in the largest market, where the company is stumbling, they can’t afford for it to be blocked. (There are other large countries that might censor risqué content as well, but none with the buying power of China.)

Source: It sounds like Apple’s original content is going to be really, really bad | TechCrunch

Is There Such a Thing As Too Many Netflix Movies? – The Ringer

Quick, which one of these is your favorite?

The Polka King; 6 Balloons; Amateur; Love Per Square Foot; Game Over, Man!; The Outsider; Come Sunday; Mute; Irreplaceable You; Happy Anniversary; Roxanne Roxanne; Dude; First Blush; Seeing Allred; The Open House; I Am Not an Easy Man; Benji; A Futile and Stupid Gesture; Step Sisters; Take Your Pills; Blockbuster; First Match; When We First Met; Mercury 13; The Cloverfield Paradox; Kodachrome.

Those are the 25 original films released by Netflix in 2018. How many have you seen? How many do you recognize? Can you spot the one I made up?

This article looks at the reasoning behind Netflix’s push to release new, original movies. In many cases, you won’t have seen, or even heard about these movies, unless you diligently pore over the latest releases.

By the end of this year, Netflix will be the single biggest original movie producer in America, far outpacing Disney, Warner Bros., and the rest in terms of sheer quantity. Maybe one will even compete for Best Picture next year. But does it matter if no one has ever heard of most of these movies?

It’s hard to fathom Netflix’s content strategy. Big-name series, like House of Cards, certainly draw viewers, but the days when I would look closely at their “original” movies has long passed into the distance. Many if not most are uninteresting, and I look at them now as I look at any other movie.

One of the examples in this article stands out:

Kodachrome is emblematic of the morass of Netflix movie offerings. Neither comedy nor drama, neither special nor terrible, neither quotable nor truly forgettable, it is the embodiment of so much we consume in 2018; it’s just sort of … there.

Interestingly, I watched Kodachrome the other night, after stumbling on it way down the “Recently Added” section. I quite liked it. It’s part road movie, part rom-com, and, while it’s predictable after a while, I enjoyed Ed Harris’s performance (his grumpy old man persona made me wonder how he would fare as King Lear).

The problem with this article, however, is one of ignorance; not that the author doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but that he’s in the United States, and doesn’t realize how international Netflix’s strategy is. I don’t know if US Netflix viewers can see all the Spanish, French, German, Finnish, and Turkish movies and TV series that I see here in the UK. Netflix’s strategy is global, and while this writer may pooh-pooh a list of movies he doesn’t pay attention to, it’s very possible that in certain markets these movies are popular. I have not noticed all of the 25 movies he lists at the beginning of his article, but I have certainly spotted a number of them (and, in most cases, decided that they are not for me).

While the problem with Netflix may be that there is too much content, but is that everyone’s problem? For many users, they may find just what they want to watch. Remember, Netflix’s algorithm knows what you like, what you’ve watched, and what you’ve finished. So while you may not see all 25 of those movies, Netflix will present to you the ones that it thinks you’ll watch. You’ll watch a couple, and you’ll keep your subscription active.

Source: Is There Such a Thing As Too Many Netflix Movies? – The Ringer

Here’s Why Apple Is Going to Upgrade All Your Movies to 4K for Free

Apple today announced a 4K Apple TV, along with the availability of 4K video content on the iTunes Store. And in a surprising move, they announced that any purchases you have made will be upgraded to 4K for free. I speculated on this earlier today, but did not expect free upgrades.

But I understand why Apple is doing this.

In order to get you to buy a 4K Apple TV, and start buying and renting content in 4K, they’re essentially giving you a lagniappe in providing the free upgrades. If you had to pay, say, a few bucks per movie, and you have a lot of movies, you might not think of buying the new Apple TV, because of the cost of upgrading your library. Now, you’ll see that the new Apple TV not only gives you a new device, but also provides an instant library of movies and TV shows in the better format (assuming you have purchased videos from the iTunes Store, and that these videos are available in 4K, which won’t be the case for everything).

Apple is essentially priming the pump, and probably at their own expense; I’d expect that movie studios probably didn’t agree to this. But you’ll be more likely to buy and rent videos from Apple, because few people have 4K optical disc players, and discs in UHD format are expensive.

This is a savvy move from Apple, who stands to usher users into the world of 4K video, and hold them captive through their existing libraries and new content. You’d probably thought you might like to get 4K versions of your favorite movies, but Apple is giving them to you on the house. So if you were hesitating about buying the new Apple TV, think how much you’re saving by not paying for upgrades to your existing digital video purchases.

The Dark Tower Review Roundup – Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood has been trying to adapt Stephen King’s eight-book saga for well over a decade, but the first film adaptation left the critics underwhelmed.

The Dark Tower reviews are in and the critical consensus can charitably be summed up with one word: meh.

I had been looking forward to this movie, being a big fan of the books, but everything I’ve heard about it has made me want to avoid it. Not only because it may be a truly bad movie, but because seeing it will change the way I see the characters and locations the next time I read the series. This has happened with the Lord of the Rings. I used to reread those books every ten years or so, but the last time I tried, I had too many images from the films – which, in this case, were very good – that ruined the novel.

Source: The Dark Tower Review Roundup | Hollywood Reporter

Why YouTube Switched From 5-Star Ratings to Thumbs Up/Down in 2009 – Daring Fireball

I got a lot of pushback from readers regarding my post yesterday supporting Netflix’s switch from a 5-star rating system to a simple thumbs up/down system. The gist of the complaints is that some people do carefully consider their star ratings, and do value the granularity of being able to say that you like/dislike something a little or a lot. But of course some people take that care. The problem is that most people don’t, and collectively, 5-star rating systems are garbage.

This post from YouTube back in 2009 shows it with data: when they had a 5-star rating system, the overwhelmingly most common rating was 5-stars. The next most common was the lowest, 1-star. 2-, 3-, and 4-star ratings were effectively never used.

For a personally curated collection, 5-star ratings can be meaningful. But for a recommendation service that averages ratings among all users, they are not. It’s the difference between designing for the ideal case of how people should behave versus designing for the practical case of how people actually behave.

John Gruber makes a good point about the difference between binary ratings (thumbs up or thumbs down) and granular ratings (stars). Binary ratings make a lot more sense in certain contexts, and with YouTube, it’s a natural fit. You don’t rate a movie on YouTube; you generally rate a cat video, a TED Talk, or something short.

I disagree that this type of rating will work on Netflix. I sometimes look at ratings when I’m browsing Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. If a movie has a 5-star rating, I’m more likely to check it out. If a movie looks interesting but only has, say, a 2- or 3-star rating, I’ll give it a pass.

On YouTube, you see the number of thumbs up and down, and you have to do the math. (I know, it’s not hard.) I think it would be better if Netflix shows a percentage rating based on the thumbs up and down rather than just the totals for each rating; it’s a more logical way to consider movies, since many people are used to Rotten Tomatoes ratings, which are percentages, or IMDB ratings (which are presented as a number out of 10, such as 8.5/10, which is easy to see as a percentage).

There is a corollary with the ratings available in iTunes. The app long had star ratings, which, as John Gruber says, are good for a personally curated collection. But Apple added Love ratings, so you can help Apple Music’s algorithms. Curiously, the company didn’t add the opposite – Dislike ratings – for some time; I think they truly didn’t see the need. You can use Loves and Dislikes in your own library, if that works for you, but that’s not what they’re really for. Having two different rating systems in an iTunes library makes it all very confusing, especially since Apple Music does not use your star ratings when deciding what to present to you.

Source: Daring Fireball: Why YouTube Switched From 5-Star Ratings to Thumbs Up/Down in 2009

Netflix is testing a button for skipping the opening credits – The Verge

Netflix is testing a button that lets you skip the opening credits on some television shows, the company said. This week some Twitter users spotted a “skip intro” button that appears when you hover over the title sequence for shows including Netflix originals House of Cards and Iron Fist, and Mad Men and The Office (third-party shows). The button works both with shows that begin with the title sequence and those that include one after a cold open.

Yes, please. I’m astounded at how long opening credits can be for some shows. Between the “previously” and credits on a show like Homeland, there’s around three minutes of wastage (though some people may want to see the previously segment). But these long opening credits are just a narcissistic element for some producers. In addition, some shows actually have spoilers in their credits. Again, with Homeland, there are videos in the background which show some elements that haven’t happened yet.

I’d also like to see a way to skip all the production company logos before movies, and long opening credits in movies as well.

Credits are essential; everyone who works on a movie or TV series deserves having their name visible. But put them at the end, where you can see them if you care. Most people outside the industry don’t.

Source: Netflix is testing a button for skipping the opening credits – The Verge