Hi there! Welcome to Off the Marquee, a monthly column that is purportedly about film events in the city of Buenos Aires. But it’s Covid season! There are no film events in the city of Buenos Aires. And for this reason, the column has essentially turned into an increasingly depressing spiral into ennui and anxiety, with a little bit of film talk thrown in. Because although we may not be able to physically sit in a movie theater right now, film still surrounds us. There’s still stuff to see. It’s fine. We’re fine! It’s gonna be just fine.
A few weeks ago, said anxiety and ennui manifested as a deep dive into the world of streaming platforms, tackling some of the big ones (Netflix, Prime Video) as well as a couple smaller and less-legal ones (like Stremio! We love Stremio). Of course, this is all from the point of view of a person based in Argentina, so some options are just straight-up not available yet — that means no Disney Plus, no Hulu, no HBO Max, etc. So what is left?
The internet is a vast and rapidly expanding thing, and as it turns out, so is the world of streaming apps. We took a tour of Android TV and came up with a list of some slightly more obscure streaming choices, some of which get pretty weird and out-there, some of which are definitely worth your time. We can’t vouch for the availability of these apps on all devices — again, we tested this on Android TV — but most of them have a desktop access so you can watch on your computer. Also, most of these are completely free! And some are super strange! Strange and free is a good combination!
Wait, what? We’re starting our list off with a blatant double-dip? That’s right, we did extoll the virtues of Mubi last time, but to be entirely honest, we’re not sure you paid enough attention. Long story short: Mubi is the mission statement of La La Lista distilled into a movie streaming app. They want to shine a spotlight on the type of movies that get sidestepped in most of the bigger streaming services. A carefully curated selection of prestige indie, foreign, and festival films, the kind of app you can dive into a find a strange new wonder every time.
The reason we are highlighting Mubi again is that, truth be told, its current selection is an embarrassment of riches: the new Xavier Dolan film Matthias et Maxime, the gorgeous documentary Fifi Howls From Happiness, Larrain’s stunning Ema, an awesome collection of classics by auteurs like Jarmusch and Godard… it’s probably the best streaming app around right now. Plus, this list is about to get real silly, and we wanted to start off with something genuinely great, so go get a membership. We are not sponsored by Mubi, but we’d really like to be.
Most everyone who is a film obsessive already knows about Mubi. Now we dive into the more obscure part of the app list. No, “Tubi” is not the sequel to “Mubi”. What it is, though, is a film and TV streaming app that is completely free. It is a mystery to me how Tubi generates any kind of revenue — there were no ads that I noticed. They offer a free membership, but you are also welcome to use the app as a Guest.
So what can we find in Tubi? Well, honestly, it is kind of a weird hodgepodge of styles and genres. It is positively crowded with obscure films and television, but we’re not talking about the kind of obscure you’re likely to find in Mubi — rather, you get stuff like Nakia T. Hamilton’s Quarantine Relationship, an independent thriller set during, you guessed it, Covid-induced quarantine. In fact, there’s quite a bit of independent Black cinema in Tubi — most of the “featured” films have all-Black casts and creators. This is certainly a refreshing and welcome change, but the overall quality of the content is truly all over the place. Weirdly, they also have the entire run of Degrassi: The Next Generation (if teen Canadian melodrama is your thing), as well as a pretty robust catalog of standup specials.
Some of the gems that I found through my Tubi deep dive include Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, the proto-punk documentary A Band Called Death, the early-to-mid-90s grunge snapshot Hype!, a documentary series about the intricacies of lesbian sex, and a treasure trove of Johnny Carson material. Truly all over the place, but more than worth checking out. And hey, it’s free!
Vix is another mysterious free film-and-TV streaming app that doesn’t require any membership, doesn’t feature ads (that I could see), and hosts a bizarre array of obscure content. The very first thing that caught my attention as I started making my way through its menu was a film titled Arañas Asesinas (Terry Windsor’s 2007 made-for-TV monster movie In the Spider’s Web) which revealed not only the type of unrelenting strangeness one could expect from the Vix catalogue, but also the fact that a huge chunk of its content is dubbed to Spanish, with no option to switch back to the original language.
Stumbling onto a familiar face in an app like this is always a pleasant surprise, so I was stoked to see they also have the odd mainstream hit like Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (clearly the superior entry in the Ace Ventura franchise) and Blackhawk Down. Vix also seems to cater to a few very specific niches, with a huge amount of Christian content as well as an impressive array of telenovelas. What did give me pause was their original content Vix Explora, which at first glance feels a little bit like finding yourself in the bad part of Youtube — rows and rows of 20-minute episodes about vaccines, 9/11 truther nonsense, and Covid-related paranoia. I hesitantly clicked on them, expecting to cringe hard at unhinged conspiracy theories, but was relieved to find that these videos are largely dedicated to debunking crackpot nonsense. Whew.
Is Vix worth downloading? Look, for these free apps, the answer is almost invariably going to be “sure”. There’s bound to be something worthwhile in the heap. But the fact that you are forced into watching dubbed versions of movies is a big bummer.
This is something a bit different. Teatrix is a streaming app, yes, but as the name implies, it’s not for movies and television, but for live theater. That’s right! If you’re the kind of person who is head-over-heels in love with the art of live performance, then this is the app for you. It’s also an Argentine app, which means the bulk of the content is the stuff you would see on a marquee on avenida Corrientes in a pre-Covid world. The quality is great, the content is varied, and it helps directly support an industry that was in a precarious state to begin with and is now basically at death’s door.
Teatrix also features a Broadway section, where you can watch a small selection of plays from the live theater capital of the world. Unlike most of the apps featured on this list, it’s not free — each title carries a cost to access, which, y’know, fair enough. But it is affordable, and the overall value in keeping these productions alive is more than worth the money. Give Teatrix a shot and wax nostalgic about floorboards and curtains and costumes and whatever else it is that people love about live theater.
Yep. That’s the name of the app. Just… “Old Movies”. I just love the bluntness of it. No beating around the bush. No cutesy app name like “Oldzie” or “Oldr”. Just… OLD MOVIES. It’s in the title!
This is another free app, and it’s one that the Android store aggressively pushed pretty much from the first moment I started browsing their selection. What does it contain? What exactly qualifies as an “old movie”? You’re looking at content released between 1910 and 1960, the very early days of Hollywood. It is a trip scrolling through the different thumbnails and finding a veritable panoply of obscure golden-age productions, some of which are vaguely familiar and others that seem completely foreign.
One thing struck me as soon as I clicked play on a title, though — the screen I was taken to seemed awfully familiar, as well as the playback controls. Scrolling down slightly revealed a bunch of anachronistic thumbnails. And that’s when I realized I was on Youtube! That’s right, the Old Movies app is simply an index of thumbnails and synopses — the films themselves are hosted on the Old Movies Youtube channel. This has me questioning the legality and legitimacy of the whole thing, and makes the app feel flimsy if not outright dishonest. Poor form, Old Movies!
PelículasManiac has easily the worst title and logo combination in this entire list. You couldn’t get more generic if you tried. Not only that, but I was actually unable to get this app to work on my Android TV — it downloaded and installed without a hitch, but then when I tried to boot it up it got stuck on an ad loading screen. Can you believe that? A loading screen. For an ad. Outrageous.
Thankfully, PelículasManiac also has a desktop version which I was able to access using my browser. It’s another free service, and like Old Movies, it is filled to the brim with forgotten golden-age films. Unlike Old Movies, however, there’s also a smattering of more modern fare thrown in, seemingly haphazardly; from forgotten gems like Sebastian Gutierrez’s porn-star comedy Elektra Luxx (starring Carla Gugino and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to indie darlings such as Edward Bush’s romantic comedy Nice Guy Johnny. I was also able to find the animated Fleischer Superman shorts from the 1940s, in all their Rotoscoped glory (though, unfortunately, dubbed to Spanish, with no option to listen to the original language track).
The selection is… kind of paltry. Like a lot of these free apps, it feels like a random grab-bag of cheaply accessible content. And the quality only seems to go up to 720p HD resolution much of the time, if not 480p outright. But what really makes this one a no-go, aside from the previously mentioned boot-up issues, is the fact that a majority of the movies I streamed — I think all the ones with a stereo audio track — feature a bizarre audio mix, where dialogue is hard-panned to the right speaker and music is hard-panned to the left. This, of course, makes for a hellish movie-watching experience. I don’t understand why this happened, but it needs to be fixed ASAP. Get your shit together, PelículasManiac!
I like Filmzie. And I’ll be honest: the main reason I like Filmzie is because their logo is absolutely adorable. When you open the app, the first thing you’re greeted with is that little logo guy winking at you. It’s so cute.
The other reason I like Filmzie is because it’s a free app with a personality. In some ways, it feels like Mubi’s baby brother. The selection is varied, yes, but it’s not a crazy hodgepodge like Tubi or Vix. Instead, there is a prevailing site identity, with the focus being on very cheap (but often very skillfully made) independent movies. You’re not going to stumble onto a random Hollywood hit like you’re bound to on some of the other websites. Instead, you’re going to find an unknown gem, possibly something highly idiosyncratic, possibly something very good, possibly something interesting. It also features an international selection, whereas a lot of the other apps are very American-focused.
There are quite a bit of short films featured in Filmzie, which also reminds me of Mubi. There’s a French short called The Testicle that had me laughing really hard at 3 AM. There is a lot of animation and a lot of slacker indie comedies. The production values may be low, but these are hungry filmmakers with something to prove, and in my experience that almost always results in something worthwhile. Not to mention the adorable little logo that winks at you. He’s so cute!
Finally, we have FilmRise, yet another free app that is a random assortment of weirdness. This particular app has the distinction of being the only one to host the entire Ernest film series, which is probably exciting to someone somewhere. This is also the only streaming service on this list brave enough to admit that their sources are crappy, as a huge chunk of their streaming selection carries the disclaimer “Note: this content might be of older film quality”.
Unlike Filmzie, FilmRise has neither a unified site-wide identity nor an adorable mascot logo that winks at you. Instead, it is bottom-of-the-barrel randomness, including shows like 21 Jump Street as well as films like Bunny the Killer Thing and Monster in the Closet. Featuring a rather annoying user interface and an absolutely shrugworthy selection of films, I’d say pass on this one. Yes, it’s free, and yes, there is bound to be something worthwhile buried in the mountain of trash (one show called Women of the Occult seemed somewhat promising), but honestly, why bother scouring for it when there are better options out there?
That’s all for now. Of course, we’re not nearly done — there are a lot of other, incredibly random, incredibly specific streaming apps that we will certainly explore in future installments, but that’s just about all the scrolling I can stand for today. Keep your chin up, and keep watching movies.