Quarantine is still ongoing, and we’re all still caught in a haze of confusion, anxiety, and dread. We’ve gone on at length about the importance of art during these times — how music, film, and all kinds of culture can provide a shining light to guide us out of our despair. But how we consume said art is almost as important.
That’s why this month on Off the Marquee we’re going to talk about streaming services. Since we live in Argentina, our options are sort of limited — there’s no Disney+ here yet, and who knows when there will be — so we’re going to go through a list of six notable streaming services; discuss the good and the bad, and hopefully give you some ideas of what to go with. Please note: only four of these are entirely legal.
What more is there to say about Netflix? You know it, you love it, you’ve scoured its depths and found a remarkable number of trash movies you’d never even heard of. Their original content is hit-or-miss (though, on the whole, leaning towards “miss”). There’s a pretty good selection of Argentine content, though; some of the more notable wide-release movies have ended up on the site, and it’s pretty easy to tell the wheat from the chaff when it comes to more recent offerings. Netflix is, and for the time being will remain, on the zeitgeist of audiovisual streaming content. The next time you hear about some show that becomes a crazy viral sensation, it’s very likely that it will be on Netflix. So if you’re interested in staying at the forefront of trash culture (which, no shame — I certainly am!) Netflix is still the way to go, even if the ever-rising dollar means it’s becoming more and more expensive if you earn in pesos.
Feel like lining Jeff Bezos’s pockets? Amazon’s streaming service has recently opened up shop in Argentina, just in time for the quarantine. Its key selling point is pretty simple: it’s cheap! A lot cheaper than Netflix at just over 200 pesos a month at the time of writing. What can you buy for 200 pesos? Not a lot! Not even a single regular-priced ticket at a movie theater. So you immediately want to join, nevermind the fact that this is likely some bait-and-switch and the price will probably double around August.
Having reached the end of my one-week free trial, I’m happy to report that… it’s pretty good! The catalogue has enough oddities in there to keep things interesting, the user interface is slick and straightforward (no auto-playing trailers! Sweet!), and there’s a cool feature called “X-Ray” which allows you to read extra information about each particular scene as it plays, including an ever-updating cast list. So the next time you’re watching a movie and think “man, I love that actor, what’s his name?” you can just press pause and the X Ray tool will show you the names of whomever’s on screen at that particular time. Pretty sweet.
The one drawback I found was that playback got a little choppy when you navigated in and out of full-screen mode, but it may have been a glitch with my particular computer. Overall, if you’re in the market for a cheap streaming service with a good amount of original content (and, seriously, Undone is more than worth the price of admission) and you’re okay with supporting evil billionaires (as if there was any other kind), Prime Video is a good option for you.
MUBI is love. MUBI is life. MUBI is the streaming service for movie snobs. For the kind of geekazoid who loves film festivals, foreign films, and long scenes that makes you scratch your chin in deep contemplation. It’s easily the most curated of the streaming services listed here today, and you get the sense that a lot of care is put into deciding which films make the cut. You’re not going to find the latest cookie-cutter superhero origin story here. But you might find that beautiful, emotional, micro-budgeted documentary on Iranian painter Bahman Mohassess (yes, that’s an actual film, and you should watch it).
Every movie on MUBI exists on the site for a total of 30 days before it is gone completely from the streaming service. This means that you can’t just browse idly by and think “hm, I might watch that someday”– this bad habit (created by other streaming services) is turned on its head because every movie is accompanied by a notification of how many days it has left on the service. The price is very reasonable and the content is more than worth it. Right now, one of the biggest selling points is that it’s the only place where you can watch the gorgeous new Pablo Larraín film Ema, and we highly recommend that you do. MUBI gets an enthusiastic recommendation from this film geek.
We’ve talked at length about Cine.Ar PLAY, which is easily the greatest places to go watch Argentine content. A great mix of classic films, contemporary favorites, and brand new releases. Best of all, a lot of it is free. What’s not free can be streamed for almost nothing. It’s a veritable wonderland of treasures, and instead of repeating ourselves, we’re just going to link you to last month’s article where we talked about the service and provided a list of free recommendations you can stream today. Long story short: we love it.
And so we’ve reached the outer regions of legality. If you have moral or ethical objections to piracy, stay away from the last two options laid out in this article, as they are essentially piracy dressed up in its prettiest Sunday dress. There’s a lot we could talk about here — about the value of art, the skill and effort of crew members whose work is already undervalued by the industry they slavishly toil away for, the problematic notion of taking support away from smaller films whose whole existence is in jeopardy thanks to the ever-increasing monoculture that renders every non-tentpole film but a footnote in our artistic landscape. There are real, tangible drawbacks to piracy in the arts, and to pretend otherwise in pursuit of some libertarian pipe dream is myopic at best.
But, as every online advertisement seems hell-bent on reminding us, “we are in unprecedented times.” There straight-up are no movie theaters right now, and who knows what they will look like in the immediate future. Millions are losing their livelihoods, and we’ve been locked indoors for months. Culture is a comfort, and under these circumstances, I can’t fault anyone for turning to illegal methods to take their mind off the state of the world. Especially when we’re talking about a tool as easy to use as Stremio, a straightforward and intuitive app with a wide catalogue that will have you hopping back and forth between recent Hollywood blockbusters, artsy film-festival fare, blood-and-guts nuttiness, and foreign treasures.
The way it works is remarkably simple: you pick from a number of torrent databases, search for the movie or TV show you want to watch, and the app will simply start streaming the video file off the torrent directly. The playback is simple, straightforward, and clean; subtitles are available, and the video file is stored in your computer’s temporary folders. The one drawback? The site seems very eager for you to create an account, and though there is a “guest login” option, it seems to be purposely obscured in favor of the “log-in through Facebook” and “create account” buttons.
And then there’s good old-fashioned Cuevana, the surprisingly resilient (on its third incarnation after several legal issues) long-standing paragon of piracy. Due to its long history as a go-to for Argentines hungry for content that is either unavailable or way too expensive down here, Cuevana has become a cultural touchstone and even made its way into local slang (meet “Cuevanear,” the best website-as-a-verb neologism since “Googling”).
Instead of Torrents, Cuevana serves as a connective hub that uses plugins to allow users to stream content hosted on third-party sites; it’s a little more direct, but also a lot more prone for errors, glitches, broken links, and — most importantly — shady pop-up ads. Yep, it’s one of those sites, and it connects to a lot of those sites. The worst part is that they’re the kind of Ads that will bypass your ad-blocker. Its catalogue is also pretty scant when it comes to more niche content, focusing more on TV shows and wide-release Hollywood blockbusters. I don’t spend a lot of time on Cuevana, but it’s a quick and easy option if you don’t feel like downloading anything.
Those are six notable streaming sites you can use to fill your days during this quarantine. We’ve probably missed many others, legal or otherwise, so if you have suggestions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s all for this month’s edition of Off the Marquee. We’ll see you next time.