VOD Views – August 2, 2015

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One of the biggest bugbears facing internet and cable TV consumers throughout the world has been the bundling of channels together in packs in a way that suits the cable company’s bottom line rather than viewer tastes.

Of course we expect to pay more if we select AMC and FX than if we select AMC and The Cookie Baking Channel (apologies to any fans if that’s a real thing), but from a technical perspective it must be easy for them to let us choose the individual channels we want instead of having dozens we don’t. Now, Verizon is the first company in the US to offer customised packs of channels you can design yourself from across genres.

The reason it’s been so long coming is because there’s an inherent tension between these giant providers protecting turf from each other and the new consumer who wants to watch what we want when we want on the device we want, and the Verizon move is an example of the balance tipping further in the consumers’ favour.

But some interesting anti-VOD comments have emerged from unlikely sources. First is actress Julianne Moore, who talked at a recent film conference about the important link between independent films and the theatrical experience, saying that any movie should be seen first and foremost in a theatre. “We work very hard as creators in creating a theatrical experience… and a movie never looks the same on television,” the recent Oscar winner told the crowd.

Spike Lee agrees, calling the watching of movies on digital platforms ‘heartbreaking’. Lee adds that he’s a ‘dinosaur’, but the dude has a point that’s not often commented on. Filmmakers – as Lee also put it – ‘kill themselves’ with lighting, editing and sound, designing it all for optimum effect in a huge dark room with a controlled aural and visual environment. Watch a movie on a tablet or a smartphone surrounded by ambient noise and you completely chance the experience the filmmaker intended.

Maybe one of the conversations we’ll start having in coming years – rather than trying to encourage people to keep going to the cinema – is broadening the moviemakers’ remit to craft and curate projects knowing they can’t control the viewing experience as much. Just look at former Fast and the Furious helmsman Justin Lin’s project Help. Made to be viewed by pointing a mobile at the action, it’s a VR-like five minute short film about an alien attack in Los Angeles, and you can point your phone in any direction to see what’s going on, the film playing out all around you.

In other news of online video encroaching on the hallowed ground of serious movies, Jenna Marbles has signed with venerated Hollywood agency CAA. 15 million people follow her career and work, all of whom have viewed her products 1.7 billion times – that’s about 425 times the number of people who’ve paid to see Adam Sandler’s recent flop Pixels. The difference? Jenna Marbles, aka 29-year-old Jenna Mourey, is a YouTube star. She runs the platform’s seventh most popular channel and the top channel operated by a woman.

Now on VOD screens everywhere, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, the sequel to the Shailene Woodley dystopian YA starrer that sees revolutionary hero Tris (Woodley) continue her battle against the oppressive regime that rules her world.

Also out, i-Lived, the story of a guy going nowhere in life but whose fortunes are turned around when he downloads an app promising to make life better. When things turn great and he figures he doesn’t need it anymore, he attempts to erase it, but the app – and its apparently supernatural creator – have other ideas.

Legends of the Knight is a unique documentary looking at the enduring appeal of the Batman character and the real people inspired to do amazing things in life because of the mythology and legacy surrounding him.