Thursday, 19 May 2016

Forget Netflix, MUBI is the future of cinema...

Imagine a Netflix-type film streaming service with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. That's exactly what MUBI is, and if you've never heard of it or tried it, I think it's a far more interesting proposition for film aficionados, cinephiles and general movie viewers than the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime (which are both currently being filled by an unprecedented level of awfulness).

Now I hope this doesn't come across as an advert, it's merely my own recommendation of a service I've subscribed to for just short of two years. I was initially going to do a big comparison of all the streaming sites, similar to my previous post on DVD rental providers, but then I realised that no-one on earth could possibly read it and go “well that Netflix thing sounds interesting, I must find out more” (there are undiscovered tribes in the Amazon rainforest who know what just happened in House of Cards season 3). Unlike those bigger players, MUBI isn't filled to the rafters with movie dross, and operates in a very different way. Now children, if we're all sitting comfortably, let's begin...


MUBI is a film streaming service that deliberately limits it's offering to a rotating collection of 30 films, with the idea being that it's much easier and quicker to find something decent to watch. It does this by adding a new film each day, and you then have 30 days to watch before it expires. So every day at midnight the film that's been there for 30 days disappears, and a new one pops up in it's place. I swear the first thing I do each morning is open the MUBI app on my iPad to see what the new film is for that day, it has become a troubling obsession. I love the randomness of not knowing what's going to appear, like Russian Roulette but with movies and a smidgen less chance of death. Their countdown system is a kick up the movie-watching backside too, it's surprising how effective the "expiring in 2 days, 1 day, 8 hours..." message is at finally helping you find time for that movie you'd never gotten around to seeing. You can also rate, review, discuss and make film lists on their website, similar to Letterboxd and IMDb.

Another plus is that MUBI thankfully doesn’t do that stupid Netflix and Amazon thing of cutting off the end credits to promote another film or show that is entirely unrelated and unwelcomed - you already have my money, stop promoting at me and let me enjoy the music and credits please. I remember when I was young I used to watch Dawson’s Creek, mainly for little Joey Potter, but also because the main character (Dawson, obviously) was obsessed with movies. He would insist on watching through the entire end credits of every film out of respect for everyone involved in it’s making, it’s almost worth bringing the show back just to see his response to Netflix’s shenanigans.


I guess you could call it the arthouse cinema of online movie streaming services, the focus is firmly on independent films, hidden gems, award winners and classics, though they do throw in a mainstream release or two as well. I haven't picked up on any obvious favouring in terms of movie era, there are as many recent releases as older ones, and sometimes they host new movie exclusives and tie-ins with film festivals. To give some idea of the variation on offer, at the time of writing they are showing films by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kramer, Jacques Rivettes, Sean Penn, Sidney Lumet, Jim Jarmusch, Ridley Scott, Werner Herzog, Todd Field, Stanley Kubrick, Wim Wenders, and a host of lesser known names who receive equal billing. That's actually one of the things I most like about their system, you get exposed to films and directors you probably would otherwise never hear of, and every film receives the same space and time to be found by viewers. Imagine being a first-time director of a tiny budget movie that gets little attention anywhere, and then it gets onto MUBI sat alongside a Hitchcock or Kubrick or Spielberg.


You can access MUBI in over 200 countries around the world, and because of cultural differences and licensing, each country gets a different selection of films. A nice touch is that when you go on holiday you can continue to use it, and you'll have access to the films available in the country you're visiting rather than the ones you'd see at home. I mostly use the pre-installed app on my Sony TV, but there's all sorts of TVs, Playstations, phones (though surely no-one watches films on a telephone?), tablets and streaming dongle thingys that offer it too. You can also watch on the website, and the iPad app very usefully allows you to download the films for offline viewing (which you can then airplay to an Apple TV box). The streaming quality is excellent, most films are shown in HD and to my untrained eye the pictures are as good as Blu-ray unless it's a particularly old release.


As much as I've sung it's praises, the positives could also be negatives for some folk. Only having access to 30 films at any one time probably on the face of it seems stingy for £5.99 a month, after all Netflix UK has 2000 films to choose from and isn't much more expensive. Again that comes down to whether you’re looking for quality or quantity. And given that you probably spend twice that for a single film screening at the cinema, it seems a relative bargain. With such a small selection of such varied and often unusual or obscure pictures, there are inevitably periods when there's little appearing that I'm especially keen to watch, but at a minimum there’s usually at least one or two of interest. If MUBI was the only place I was using to watch films I would probably find it too restrictive, yet if I could only choose one movie streaming site I’d definitely ditch Netflix before I’d ditch MUBI. Add it to a DVD rental service and I can’t see any need to ever visit the cinema again; the popcorn munchers, sweetie packet rustlers, giant Coke gurglers and mobile phone fiddlers can enjoy their half-hour of pre-film adverts and continue chatting away to their hearts' content right the way through the movie. Because I won't be there to hear it...


If you fancy giving it a go, here's a link for a 1 MONTH FREE TRIAL. This is my personal tell-a-friend link, if you sign up through that I also get a free month, even if you decide not to continue after the trial. Which would be jolly nice of you and them. Everyone loves free movies after all, especially when they're half decent. 



I think that'll do for my season of movies about the movies and posts about ways of watching movies, time for something different. I'm almost done with part 2 of my Scorsese marathon, and I've recently been enjoying Aaron Sorkin's series The Newsroom, so my next film theme after that will be television network news.


I should also mention that after months of trying and giving up, I finally worked out how to set up my own domain on here, Blogger doesn't half make it complicated. Anyway this blog is now hosted at, though any old links will hopefully still redirect to the correct place. 

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