Friday, February 26, 2010

Your Own Personal Cinema

As a kid who loved independent cinema (yes, I was that kid) the words "now playing in select cities" were pretty disheartening. My city was never, ever going to be selected. It was just too small and the existing movie screens were dedicated to the typical American blockbusters. If I was lucky, we would happen to visit Seattle or Portland and fit a trip to the movies into our schedule to see the costume dramas or British films I loved.

Now, I happen to live in a city that is often one of the select. Even so, there are a limited number of screens for indie movies. And a trip to the movies, let's face it, isn't exactly a green (or cheap) enterprise - there's the gas to get to and from the cinema, printed tickets which end up in the trash, disposable soda cups and popcorn tubs (let's not even talk about the chemical substances in the food-like products we eat for movie snacks - I mean really, what are Dots made of? Anyone?).

But now there's a greener way to watch movies (even greener than DVDs - do you ever think about all the trees that die to become Netflix envelopes? or what kind of petrochemicals can be found in the extreme-packaging that is a DVD box?) and so that people all over America can experience the indie movies that they wouldn't normally get to see.

Through a variety of outlets, including Amazon On Demand and IFC On Demand, you can order movies directly from your TV, using your remote -- movies that are currently in theaters. I know we've been able to do this for awhile, beginning in 2005 with Steven Soderbergh's Bubble. Soderbergh has continued to be a pioneer in the "pre-theatrical release" - using on-demand releases to build buzz -- building to the recent The Girlfriend Experience, which was released first to on-demand before going on to a critically-acclaimed theatrical release. If you don't know if you have one of these services, check out the "On Demand" button on your remote, check the features on your TiVo (you have Amazon and Blockbuster On Demand), your game console (the new ones allow you to download movies) or check out Netflix Instant.

Wily is going to use the remote to download a movie.

IFC On Demand is particularly cool, because it allows those who get the IFC Channel to rent, for about $5.99, movies that will never come to most of their local theaters. And because these movies stream directly to your TV, they put no more strain on the environment than the energy to have your TV on. In addition, you can make yourself healthy organic snacks that are packaging-free, or even a cocktail (try my Honey Lemon Drop a la Gustav or a Blood Orange Martini)

Currently, IFC On Demand is offering the critically-lauded Red Riding Trilogy. I, however, would particularly recommend Andrea Arnold's beautiful British film, Fish Tank. It stars newcomer Katie Jarvis as Mia, a 15-year-old girl who is constantly on the move, blazing around her Essex housing estate in search of ... something. Mia doesn't have the words to articulate what she wants, and there's not a single adult in her life who might help her uncover what it might be. That is, until her mother hooks up with Connor (the red-hot Michael Fassbender, who, like Daniel Craig in his indie days, exudes a charm that will soon be swept into a multiplex near you). While you can anticipate what might happen from that brief description, you also can't. Mia doesn't necessarily behave the way you'd expect, because she's a raw nerve that simply reacts. There is nothing pre-meditated in her attempts at redemption or revenge.

Without IFC On Demand, most Americans would probably have to wait months to see this little poetic gem, and then wait a few more while the few copies Netflix had circulated or the single copy at Blockbuster was constantly rented (indie fans, you know what I mean). Instead, they can watch in the comfort of their own homes without burning up a drop of oil.

Tonight, I'm planning to watch Big Fan, downloaded straight to my TV. Hopefully, you'll bring the cinema into your own home sometime soon.

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