…will soon be available at the click of a mouse. At least according to NYT movie reviewer Tony Scott. Scott speculates that you, the film viewer or internet user (or whatever you are), “will be able to watch whatever you want whenever you want in the setting of your choice. The handful of Web sites that now offer streaming or downloadable feature films, along with wider video on demand through the cable box or satellite dish, offer a glimpse of what is to come.” Consider me more than a little skeptical. Because Kristin Thompson has already ripped apart most of Scott’s claims, I won’t bother (Karina also has a nice summary of Thompson’s post). But I am fascinated by Scott’s desire for access to “the entire surviving history of movies,” even if he ignores the very technological, social, and institutional barriers that make such access virtually impossible.
Scott’s article is part of a series of NYT articles focusing on the brave new media world, with Manohla Dargis offering both praise and blame for the new video service, Jaman, which claims to be “pioneering social cinema.” Jaman offers a number of ultra-indie films for download and allows viewers to comment on films as they watch, creating their own virtual commentary tracks. I haven’t had time to explore Jaman’s offerings that closely, but my guess is that the longer features will continue to struggle to find an audience. Noah Robischon is somewhat more enthusiastic, pointing out that the films on Jaman “are the antithesis of mainstream,” and adding that the social networking features on Jaman and Joost will help viewers find new content. Robischon does acknowledge that most filmmakers are still going to see digital distribution as “a last resort,” but again, the article conjures up the image of an unlimited digital library available at the click of a mouse.
I may return to these articles in further detail in the next few days, if only because they are caught up in some of the same questions about the status and definition of cinema that appeared in the far gloomier articles by David Denby and Neal Gabler and because I’ll be addressing similar issues in my talk at the Media in Transition conference at the end of April.