The Thing About Streaming

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“Marty, I’ve got to tell you I love the first season of ‘The Irishman,’” Chris Rock quipped from the Oscar-night stage last month. His comment was ostensibly aimed at director Martin Scorsese, who from the audience good-naturedly accepted the ribbing of his 3½-hour gangster epic.

“The Irishman” was highly anticipated, with stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, and it generally pays off. But it is way too long – as I watched it, I began to imagine which scenes I might have excised. Scorsese designed it less as a theatrical film – it played only a limited run in theaters to become Oscar-eligible – than as a Netflix attraction. So most folks (me, too) could stream it in multiple sections, as if viewing a season of a serialized television series. There was a point to Rock’s quip.

As “The Irishman” was a feature film and not a TV show, you could argue it was trying to have it both ways. As someone who operates a series of theatrically presented films in an art museum, I’m not sure I like the trend toward streaming new Oscar-eligible films. But as a subscriber to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime (among others), I might be protesting too much.

A similar issue came up a year ago when “Roma,” an acclaimed drama from Mexico, was heavily streamed on Netflix rather than shown in theaters. “The Irishman” dustup only increases the concerns of theatrical folks that there may be a trend toward them losing their traditional window in which to show movies before they go to streaming.

If “The Irishman” had been made for conventional release, it would have been a little leaner, and at least a little better. Scorsese would have been under some pressure to be more disciplined in the editing process.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the motion-picture academy deals with the streaming-vs.-theatrical issue in the future. The industry is changing.

Meanwhile, the Flint Institute of Arts’ Friends of Modern Art film series has scheduled a couple of other best picture Oscar nominees – one of which won the top academy honor – to begin its March schedule.

“Jojo Rabbit,” slated for March 6-8, came up short for best picture but won for director Taika Waititi’s adapted screenplay set during World War II. Humor and pathos intersect as the world view of a lonely Jewish boy is jolted when he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is harboring a secret.

On March 13-15, the best picture winner, “Parasite,” is scheduled to return to the FIA theater. If you missed it the first time at the museum, don’t miss this inventive, genre-bending thriller about the entangled lives of two South Korean families – one affluent, one not.

On March 19-22, the FIA will show three programs of Academy Award nominated short films – live action, animation and documentaries. (Visit FlintArts.org for a list of times and programs.) The schedule wraps on March 27-29 with “The Lighthouse,” a moody tale concerning the sanity of two distant lighthouse keepers, played by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.

 

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