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A NEW ONLINE THEATER EXPERIENCE FOR THE HUNGRY COUCH CINEASTES

By T.T. Stern-Enzi

Director & actor Kentucker Audley from 'Christmas, Again' (2015)

Director & actor Kentucker Audley from ‘Christmas, Again’ (2015)

What happens when the revolution is no longer revolutionary, when the heat is not stoked to a fever pitch? We can always continue to feed the fire by supporting the leaders of the new school who have stepped up to the call to hoist the banner and bear it further into the future.

Which leads us to social media and film. It is easier to make movies and distribute them outside the studio system. Hell, you can release it for free. That’s not a better system though. What that amounts to is the nuclear detonation of the floodgates. Damning the dam, if you will.

Thanks to a fortuitous tweet, I happened upon a new service, one of those quietly revolutionary start-ups that boldly defined itself and its aims to change the way we view movies. Welcome to MUBI, which, in its own words, “is a curated online cinema bringing you cult, classic, independent and award-winning movies. Available in over 200 countries around the globe and on multiple devices, a subscription to MUBI is a passport to the world of cinema. Every day, our film experts introduce you to a great film, and you have a whole month to watch it. That’s 365 extraordinary films a year curated by MUBI.”

The key word or idea in that statement of purpose is “curation”—the act of organizing and maintaining a collection of artworks or artifacts. MUBI proudly defines itself through its aim of quality presentation of cinema. This isn’t the typical aggregation of titles spread across categorical or genre-based labels that force us to search endlessly for some Holy Grail. No, MUBI provides heightened specialization, thus narrowing the focus. It, as a service, also understands and appreciates that in order to truly provide “service,” there needs to be a degree of expertise and a desire to share knowledge.

For $4.99 per month (with discounts for six-month and annual subscriptions), MUBI serves up a new film each day and maintains a manageable monthly backlog for subscribers to scroll back through for titles they might have missed. For a culture that has embraced seasonal binge viewing of serialized shows, watching a film a day seems decidedly outdated. Cinema has taken a backseat as a preferred format for the consumption of narrative features. Online forums have replaced the live community (the communal moviegoers), but that virtual collective is no less engaged. There is strength in the numbers accessing and viewing content.

And if that is the case, isn’t it fair to assume people still want informed advice about what they should see. MUBI offers what amounts to the experience of a film festival without the concerns of the overwhelming catalogues of titles, times and locations. Each day, MUBI releases one film for viewing at your convenience. And after each individual screening, MUBI highlights similar titles—usually with trailers to preview—for the more adventurous cineastes to chase down on their own.

A completist may, for instance, catch “Sun Don’t Shine,” the indie release from Amy Seimetz (producer of “Medicine for Melancholy” from Sundance and Steven Soderbergh favorite Barry Jenkins, actress in Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color”) and then discover lead actor Kentucker Audley also has a string of directing projects of his own (“Open Five” and “Holy Land”). What you end up with is a trail of appetizing breadcrumbs, enough to inspire and sustain a communion of likeminded souls.

In addition, MUBI publishes an online magazine, Notebook, dedicated to this specialized world of cinema, featuring more in-depth news, interviews and criticism on films and subjects not readily available to audiences unable to travel to the exclusive festivals in hotspots around the globe. Even for a critic like myself, who ventures out to a couple of festivals a year, MUBI—and its global cinema curators—provides much-needed access to a constantly proliferating art form and links me to an audience that gains tangible power through active viewing experiences.