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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

streaming sucks (which is why you need my help)

Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times explains why a recent app that was actually useful for fans of streaming movies has disappeared:

A team of web designers recently released an astonishingly innovative app for streaming movies online. The program, Popcorn Time, worked a bit like Netflix, except it had one unusual, killer feature. It was full of movies you’d want to watch.

When you loaded Popcorn Time, you were presented with a menu of recent Hollywood releases: “American Hustle,” “Gravity,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “12 Years A Slave” and hundreds of other acclaimed films were all right there, available for instant streaming at the click of a button.

If Popcorn Time sounds too good to be true, that’s because it was. The app was illegal — a well-designed, easy-to-use interface for the movie-pirating services that have long ruled the Internet’s underbelly. Shortly after the app went public, its creators faced a barrage of legal notices, and they pulled it down.

But like Napster in the late 1990s, Popcorn Time offered a glimpse of what seemed like the future, a model for how painless it should be to stream movies and TV shows online. The app also highlighted something we’ve all felt when settling in for a night with today’s popular streaming services, whether Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, or Google or Microsoft’s media stores: They just aren’t good enough.

Manjoo then goes on to explain such mysteries as why Netflix never has new movies to stream and other conundrums. (It’s all about rights and licensing and everyone jealously hanging on to their exclusive ability to do something with a movie for as long as possible.) Apparently, this situation isn’t going to change anytime soon.

But there are good movies on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. You just need someone like me to point them out to you…

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