Sunday, March 27, 2011

Netflix Streaming

I recently traveled to New Orleans to attend the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) for the first time. It was a great thrill to meet and have conversations with numerous scholars and critics I've only known through books and essays. In addition, I attended about 30 paper presentations, most of them fascinating. The conference was massive (up to 25 panels taking place simultaneously); I gravitated to the panels which focused on cinephilia, film style, sound and music, genres, and philosophy. The complete conference program is available at this page. The venue for next year's conference is Boston; I'm looking forward to returning.

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Dave Kehr has a very interesting piece in the New York Times on the rise of streaming and the decline of the DVD. He refers to a post by Eric A. Taub at the Times' Gadgetwise blog, which reports on the less-than-desirable quality of Netflix streaming. My own experience often corroborates this: I've found Netflix streaming to be of variable, and frequently sub-DVD quality. Occasionally I'll encounter a title of superb quality (a recent example: Mad Max), but just as frequently the films seem to suffer from compression-related quality loss. For the record, I almost never have "buffering" issues, and no other devices are using bandwidth in my home when I'm streaming a film on the TV.

I'd love to know what others think of Netflix streaming: Do you find it to be of good quality? Would you say that your Netflix streaming experience is comparable to DVD? I'm curious to know if streaming quality issues are widespread or if they only affect a certain section of the Netflix population. I've also been keeping an eye on the Hacking Netflix blog to see if these issues get taken up there.

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A few links to recent reading:

-- Great news: the first issue of Lumen, a new journal founded by Edwin Mak and Matthew Flanagan.

-- A terrific interview by Michael Guillen: "The Politics and Poetics of Obsolescence: Brunch With Thomas Elsaesser."

-- (via Cinetrix) Each post on the blog Movies in Frames contains 4 frames from a film.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum: On Jean Renoir; and Mark Rappaport.

-- At The Guardian: "Asha Bhosle: The Voice of Bollywood".

-- At Sight & Sound, three women film critics share their inspirations; and Hannah Gill wonders about why film criticism is a male-dominated profession.

-- David Hudson rounds up the new issues of Cinema Scope, Cineaste, Film Comment, and Offscreen.

-- Michael Sicinski's essay on Kiarostami's Certified Copy.

-- Scott Foundas on Serge Bozon and other contemporary filmmakers who started out as critics on La Lettre du cinéma.

-- Amy Taubin interviews Todd Haynes on Mildred Pierce.

-- At Cinema Scope Online: Max Goldberg interviews Nathaniel Dorsky.

-- At 99%: An interview with the Brothers Dardenne.

-- The 2011 World Picture conference will be held in Toronto.

pic: Film critic Dilys Powell