MAY 27 — As non-corporate as I’ve stubbornly been in all my years of living so far, the arrival of the Internet and the great many revolutions it brings every few years has made it inevitable that I will, at some point, have to encounter and deal with the word "disruption."
It’s not exactly a new word, as even in the industry that I’ve long been interested in — film-making — disruption has always occurred, which forces people to change their way of working. Adapt, or die, as they say.
It happened quite often in the early days of cinema, as film-makers discovered what were then new tricks, like editing, and how the length of films got longer and finally, sound came in and changed the industry altogether.
Then came television to disrupt the mode of delivery of motion pictures, which led to the industry playing around with 3D and wider and wider screen format to differentiate itself from TV. Let’s not forget colour too!
Even though the advent of home video formats like VHS, LD, DVD and even Blu-ray was in some way a form of disruption, it wasn’t entirely an unwelcome disruption because it merely opens up more ways for the studios to make money after a film’s cinema run has ended.
So it really has been a while since a really scary disruption has happened to the movie industry.
That disruption has finally arrived when Netflix blossomed from its start as a mail order DVD rental company (a mail order version of Blockbuster Video, if you will) into the subscription-based video streaming behemoth that it is today.
It became an even bigger disruption when Netflix began buying and producing their own original content, which means that even Cannes prizewinners like French film Divines gets premiered on Netflix instead of the usual route of opening in cinemas.
It hasn’t gotten too scary yet for Hollywood because right now most of the Netflix Original Films have been indies that usually play at Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca but it will be once that star-studded new Martin Scorsese film gets finished.
For now, fans of non-mainstream films like yours truly can just enjoy not having to wait months after a film’s festival bow to get to watch it.
And when Netflix can premiere a Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner just a few weeks after the festival, or the latest films from US indie stalwarts like Joe Swanberg, E.L. Katz, Pat Healy and many more just at the click of your remote control, you know you’ve got nothing to complain about this disruption.
So what’s new and good on Netflix right now? Well, I’ve done some digging and here are a few titles that might just tickle your fancy.
If you don’t mind your comedies absurd, farcical and ridiculous, then this British comedy from the nonsensical mind of The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt might just be your cup of tea.
Remember Galaxy Quest? Well instead of a bunch of actors put in a real space opera situation like in that movie, Barratt uses the same premise to put in his egomaniacal actor, famous for playing Detective Mindhorn in an 80s TV series, in a real life murder mystery where the actor has to pretend that he really is Mindhorn.
Cue loads of memorable characters acted with supreme glee by a wonderful cast of supporting actors like Steve Coogan and a totally scene-stealing Simon Farnaby as the detective’s stunt double.
Silly, yes. Stupid even, yes. But it’ll take the coldest of hearts not to at least chuckle when watching this infectious little comedy.
Some people groan at the knowledge that Netflix signed a six-film deal with Adam Sandler’s production company. While I didn’t exactly welcome the news, I didn’t really dread it either.
Cut loose from any expectations to secure bums on cinema seats, who knows what might come out of the Adam Sandler dumb comedy factory, right?
Like most of the Netflix Original Films out there, Sandy Wexler is a harmless way to pass the time. If you pay 10 bucks to see this in the cinema, you may think you deserved more, but when it’s just part of a roster of films that you can choose to watch, it’s actually not that bad.
This one’s basically Jerry Maguire set in the entertainment world, with Sandler playing the title character and Jennifer Hudson as the love interest and client, and even though the age gap kind of feels weird, this is still more The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates in terms of screen chemistry instead of Blended.
That should already tell you whether this one’s for you or not.
Win It All
I’ve already written about US indie gems like Small Crimes, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore and Coin Heist, all of them Netflix Original Films, in this column before, so even though Mindhorn and Sandy Wexler have got more of a mainstream feel to them, Win It All is thoroughly indie, both in spirit and execution.
The latest film from the ultra-prolific Joe Swanberg sees him reaching back to his earlier mumblecore days instead of his more recent star studded indie comedies like Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas, and this one’s a character study of a loser who’s addicted to gambling, with the first 30 minutes or so of the film particularly painful to watch as we witness the character’s descent into total failure.
Thank God the title of the film is Win It All, as we’re then on a pretty thrilling emotional rollercoaster ride as the guy tries to get his life together and, ermmm, win it all.
Like Swanberg’s other films, don’t go in expecting any fancy visuals, coups de cinema or anything like that.
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy being in the company of a bunch of affable, believable and very naturally acted characters. That does sound like the very definition of "Netflix and chill", doesn’t it?
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.