One of my most anticipated movies of the summer is coming out next month – and I'm kind of bummed about it.
The film is "Okja," a fable, directed by Bong Joon-Ho of "Snowpiercer" and "The Host," about a young girl, a huge adorable pig beast and a corporation that wants to turn it into delicious steaks, run by an evil Tilda Swinton. Literally every part of that sentence sounds terrific – and it premiered just this month to equally terrific reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival in France.
The big story out of its Cannes screening, though, wasn't the reviews at the end but the chaos that happened at the beginning – a crowd of angry boos before the movie even started, all because of a logo.
The Netflix logo.
See, "Okja" is a Netflix original film, which means this Cannes screening is one of the only times it will see a big screen. Bong's film will receive a small day-and-date theatrical release – the first for the streaming company since 2015's "Beasts of No Nation" – but for 99 percent of the globe (almost certainly including Milwaukee) it'll be restricted to people's TVs at home or cell phone screens on the road. The ugly moment – unfortunately exacerbated when the film was projected incorrectly – was a massive flareup in a debate that's heated up considerably over the past several months, with thinkpieces on both sides either claiming Netflix as the savior of entertainment or decrying it as the death of cinema, asking if a movie never goes to a movie theater, does it even count as a movie?
So which one is it?
It's hard to argue that a company offering a platform for movies like "Okja" and the most recent Sundance audience award winner "I Don't Want To Live In This World Anymore" is a BAD thing for art. After all, somebody's giving Martin Scorsese a place to make his next movie, "The Irishman," after one of the biggest flops of his career – and it's not Hollywood. Netflix is giving filmmakers the freedom – almost every director raves about his or her experience with the company – to take the kind of risks Hollywood might not make anymore (in the name of making another "King Arthur" or "Pirates") and get them to viewers. Most of these movies might not make it to Milwaukee in the first place, while Netflix presents them with an instant, global platform.
In theory, at least.
See, while Netflix makes these movies happen, it doesn't do much to help them out after. Yes, they're available instantly, but Netflix has a habit of burying its original films, released without much hubbub and instantly dropped into an overwhelming flood of content. After all, Netflix doesn't make money off ad revenue or ticket sales. Its money is in subscribers, so it doesn't care if you're actually watching this content; it just wants to have the biggest selection. The result paints Netflix as less of a glowing platform for new movies and artists, and more of a wealthy dude buying up all sorts of one-of-a-kind cars only to tuck them away in his garage and let them gather dust instead of stretching their legs and taking them for a drive.
And if Netflix behaves like it doesn't care about these films, why should anyone else? Did you know a Sundance award winner was available right now? Or that a new Brad Pitt war movie came out today as we speak? Netflix is great at getting these movies, but infinitely less great at getting viewers to notice them – with little to show that the company wants them to.
Then there's the theatrical experience aspect, which the company's abandoned completely since "Beasts of No Nation" bombed at the box office and with prestige. It's hard not to sound like a dreamy idealist around this point, but watching a movie in the theater is a special, sacred and immersive experience – and for Netflix to negate that, especially with big cinematic movies like "Okja" or even a Will Smith fantasy actioner coming later this year, feels like a sad waste. It feels even more that way when its rival, Amazon Studios, has successfully found a system for getting its films (the Oscar-winning "Manchester By the Sea," for instance) into theaters while still drawing people to the streaming service. We don't have to abandon the beauty of the communal theatrical experience, however flawed it is today.
That being said, the communal theatrical experience is flawed today. MASSIVELY flawed. It's theaters' fault for rarely caring about projecting a film well onscreen as much as they care about sweet chairs and overpriced food options – as well as refusing to meet Netflix halfway, rejecting day-and-date releases. It's Hollywood's fault for abandoning smaller, riskier films in the name of bloated universe or franchise building much to the audience's yawning indifference. And its our fault for not being able to shut up during movies or turn off our cell phones, making an irritation-free night as rare as an original Hollywood production (that general audiences will likely ignore in the name of spending $10 on a ticket to "BvS: Dawn of Justice" again).
If Netflix is killing the theatrical experience, it's far from the only guilty party.
So is Netflix the savior of film or is its signature red color the blood of the art of cinema? Bad news, hot take artists: The answer is both and neither. One thing it certainly is? The future – it's just maybe not getting there gracefully right now.
In the meantime, watch "Okja" – and watch some of the great movies it's getting in June, including comedy classics ("Young Frankenstein"), modern masterpieces ("Zodiac"), animated delights ("Moana") and much more. That's right; somewhere in this rant about Netflix is the actual reason you came here. You're welcome!
For the movies leaving Netflix in June, click here.
"1 Night" (2016)
"13 Going on 30" (2004)
"Arrow" season 5
"Chingo Bling: They Can't Deport Us All"
"Days of Grace" (2011)
"Devil's Bride" (2016)
"Full Metal Jacket" (1987)
"How to Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000)
"Intersection" season 2
"Kardashian: The Man Who Saved OJ Simpson" (2016)
"Little Boxes" (2016)
"Mutant Busters" season 2
"My Left Foot" (1989)
"Off Camera with Sam Jones" season 3
"Playing It Cool" (2014)
"Spring (Primavera)" (2016)
"The 100" season 4
"The Ant Bully" (2006)
"The Bucket List" (2007)
"The Queen" (2006)
"The Sixth Sense" (1999)
"West Coast Customs" season 3
"Young Frankenstein" (1974)
"Comedy Bang! Bang!" season 5, part 2
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Flaked" season 2
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Inspector Gadget" season 3
"Los Ultimas de Filipinas" (2016)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Lucid Dream"
"Saving Banksy" (2014)
"The Homecoming" collection
"Acapulco La vida va" (2017)
"Blue Gold: American Jeans" (2017)
"War on Everyone" (2016)
"TURN: Washington's Spies" season 3
"Suite Française" (2014)
"Disturbing the Peace" (2016)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "My Only Love Song" season 1
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Orange Is the New Black" season 5
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Shimmer Lake"
"Black Snow (Nieve Negra)" (2017)
"Daughters of the Dust" (1991)
"Sword Master" (2016)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Oh, Hello on Broadway"
"Quantico" season 2
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Marco Luque: Tamo Junto"
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." season 4
"Mr. Gaga: A True Story of Love and Dance" (2015)
"Aquarius" season 2
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Counterpunch"
"El Chapo" season 1
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "The Ranch" season 3
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "World of Winx" season 2
"Grey's Anatomy" season 13
"Scandal" season 6
"The Stanford Prison Experiment" (2015)
"Shooter" season 1
"Amar Akbar & Tony" (2015)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For The First Time"
"Baby Daddy" season 6
"Young & Hungry" season 5
"American Anarchist" (2016)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Free Rein" season 1
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "GLOW" season 1
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press"
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "You Get Me"
"No Escape" (2015)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Chris D'Elia: Man on Fire"
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Okja"
"Chef & My Fridge" collection (2014)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Gypsy" season 1
"It's Only the End of the World" (2016)
NETFLIX ORIGINAL: "Little Witch Academia" season 1
"The Weekend" (2016)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.