Filmism.net Dispatch June 26, 2019

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Barring streaming movies from theatres to tweak awards contendership as a way of punishing a distributor is like civil, gay or gender rights.

How? Forcing blacks to use separate restrooms, having 'husband' or 'wife' instead of 'spouse' or 'partner' on official forms or not paying women the same money for the same work have all – or will all – change, as surely as gravity brings water down a mountain.

Old, prejudiced views will die out and one day we'll be bemused that women were ever paid 80 percent of what we paid men for the same jobs the way we are today about those 'No Coloreds' signs in shop windows in photos of the 40s and 50s.

In the same way, it doesn't matter what kind of business model you have to protect, people today have been conditioned to consume media when and where they want it. Trying to force them to go to a cinema to watch a movie will ultimately backfire. The latest kick-up was when the three biggest theatre chains in the US refused to play Netflix production Roma, from director Alfonso Cuaron, in Oscar showcases.

Their gripe, as always, is that movies are available to viewers on their phones and laptops too fast for theatre chains to get the first and best bite of the cherry. They're finding it hard enough to get punters in the door even with their recliners, full bars and chicken strips instead of stale old popcorn. If the movies they're playing are available on streaming services at the same time they know they have no hope.

Even a luminary like Steven Spielberg weighed in and seemed to be dissing Netflix, Amazon, etc. Of course, it turned out the media was only doing what it does best and trying to invent conflict where there isn't any, and Spielberg's frustration was with the way exhibitors handle release windows.

But it shone a light on an interesting dimension in the way the moviegoing public thinks about it. Reacting with a knee-jerk lack of finesse to what Spielberg said or didn't say, many people dismissed him as an out of touch dinosaur, an old man reminiscing about the days where the cinema screen was where all the magic happened, not realising the world had moved on.

So many voices and opinions (both eloquent and hysterical) exist on both sides of the argument, you can't help but be reminded of similar debates that affect us all on racism and the gender wage gap. From where I sit, the world of movie exhibition is going inexorably in a specific direction thanks to an unstoppable force straight out of Newtonian physics.

That force is the way consumers want things to be. We want to watch a movie when, where and under the circumstances we want right then and there and we don't want to be dictated to by territorial licensing agreements, release windows, exhibitors who can't figure out how to make money or anything else. That horse has bolted, and it's a huge part of the reason piracy was so widespread in the Web 1.0 days and still exists (if you're a fan of esoterica or arthouse, there are still plenty of movies you can't get anywhere legally).

Trying to hold that back nowadays, no matter how much you have to lose, is like smacking your secretary on the butt and calling her 'dollface' or putting a 'No Coloreds' sign in your drugstore window.

Very little has impressed me much on screens big or small lately, although I'm pretty far behind in writing reviews for everything I've seen over the last few weeks. I've already talked about the moody and tragic The Haunting of Sharon Tate, and another Manson project, Charlie Says, would make a great double bill with it.

Also no doubt hoping to capitalise capitalise on the upcoming Tarantino jam Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it depicts one of the Manson family clan, examining how a good natured teenage girl in the late 60s can be remoulded into a blood-slicked banshee at the hands of a charming sociopath like Charles Manson (Matt Smith).

Also in horror, the remake of 70s exploitation shocker Maniac , starring Elijah Wood, didn't get much love in cinemas. But it's actually a far superior effort than the plodding and kind of pointless original, leaning into the horror concepts the original established and doing them better, and also plumbing a bit more believably into the make-up of the psycho.

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