Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Love You, Amazon Prime

OK, well, this is a film blog, and not a Digital Media blog (although I have had occasion to post about that topic as well). But can I just say how in love I am with Amazon Prime? I went through one day to test how many "free" movies I had with my Prime subscription, and the answer is...well, I haven't answered the question yet. Apparently it is hundreds. Now, of course, if you have looked at online streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu you probably have come to the same conclusion I have - with regards to film, great, but no cigar. I mean Hulu has the very awesome Criterion Collection, but also has every film ever made by Casper Van Dein. And the collected later works of Rutger Hauer. Not so much...

Amazon Prime by contrast seems to have primarily decent, if not outstanding films included for the Prime subscription. I mean, they had Billy Wilder's perennially excellent "Sunset Boulevard". Need I say more?

I am a bit of a snob when it comes to the quality and format of the films I watch on my home screen, and I must comment that the print, and transfer used for this digital streaming version of Sunset was absolutely exceptional. It actually said it was in Hi-Def, which I understand for streaming services usually means 1080i, not 1080p but still, as the Aussies might say, "good on ya, Amazon".

One reason Prime is the answer to my prayers is that I had been looking for a copy of this film in my local Blockbuster, and through other means and had no luck finding a physical copy. Of course I could buy one online at Amazon, but in this case I just wanted to watch the movie, not buy it. Why did I lust for it? Because Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Eric Von Stroheim (Eric Von Stroheim?) and crew left an indelible mark on my cine-phile's counciousness when I first encountered them lo these many years past.

For some reason this film haunts me. Perhaps it is because I grew up not a couple of miles away from where it was filmed (albeit I grew up a couple of decades after it was filmed), and I think if it as a kind of 'local' story. Perhaps it is because the story is so creepy and romantic, in a postmodern way - I mean what could deconstruct romantic love more than an aging Hollywood starlet keeping a 'boy toy' in her hideway of a mansion, right on one of the most expensive streets in the world - the eponymous Sunset Boulevard. And that touches on one of the interesting aspects of this film for me - Sunset Boulevard is kind of a shadow character in the film. The fact that the street name is also the title of the film creates a sort of urban geography that circumscribes the action, as well as the moral issues the film seems to touch upon.

Having seen this film now three, or maybe four times, I am as convinced as ever that Billy Wilder was, hands-down, one of the greatest directors of Hollywood's Golden Age, or any other age; that Gloria Swanson was an excellent actress, and that Bill Holden, the lush that he was, could hold his own on the scren with just about anyone. The script, lighting, set design, everything about Sunset Boulevard is not just high quality, but exceptional.

May I be unironic for a moment and say that - unlike Norman Desmond -- Wilder's classic has aged well?

See you on Amazon Prime...

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