Monday, April 24, 2017

Core Post 4 - Television Outside the Box

Much has been written recently on the collapsing ontologies of television – a topic well covered by Amanda Lotz’s article. And yet, within this increasingly nebulous landscape, there still remain clear markers of division between what we might call “television” and what we might call “cinema.” Following Lotz’s anecdote about how “‘watching television’ became acceptable to those who previously denigrated the device once it could be used to screen the works of master filmmakers” (52), I wish to briefly examine the introduction of the streaming service FilmStruck to elucidate the still tangible distinction between the two forms in the streaming age.

Launched late last year, the streaming service FilmStruck, as a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, establishes itself as a streaming service “for film lovers, by film lovers.” In the crowded landscape of streaming services dominated by Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, FilmStruck is attempting to draw itself along lines of aesthetic and ontological distinction. While certainly not the first cinematically-minded streaming service (MUBI and Fandor were first), FilmStruck’s brand-name recognition between both TCM and Criterion works to establish itself as a major player in the already crowded streaming landscape. The difference being, of course, that FilmStruck is a service for Films (capital F), and not the continually redefined video content of a Netflix Original.

Clearly, our contemporary media landscape is not quite ready to shed the previous ontological divisions of media forms, even as we edge closer to a type of convergence. The question for me is, does the existence of FilmStruck suggest the continuation of formal division, or is it simply an attempt to stave off the inevitable singularity?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Isaac! This is indeed very relevant to the set of questions Lotz touches upon through casually throwing in that comment about her movie lover/snob. (How could that person have any self-respect as a connoisseur of cinema when they were watching versions of great pieces of art that had been dumbed down for the small screen?! oh my oh my :)

    This is the first time I heard about FilmStruck (well, khm, I come from a place where masses of people still rely on torrent sites instead of legal streaming), and reading your post on it made me think this site would likely use buzzwords (or at least, implicitly rely on concepts) such as “curation”, and, perhaps some others along the lines of “critical”, “cult”, “art”, and “independent”. I looked it up and I was not let down :) By the way it looks really great, and seems like it does fill a gap, and caters to a niche that has not been well served by sites like Netflix.

    As for your question, I would think this site exemplifies a general tendency towards hybridization or “singularity” in its digitalization of films, and by offering them for watching on our (more or most) recent devices (that are utterly different, and that enable utterly different viewing contexts and experiences from the original and earlier viewing contexts and experiences of these “classics”)… But surely you are right in pointing out that they not simply just do that, as the site also seems to try and reaffirm certain boundaries and distinctions based on certain, relatively strict criteria of (“cinematic”) quality.

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