Kanbar (The Tragedy of Moses, 2016, etc.), a film-industry consultant, offers a short guide to the ever expanding world of online streaming.
Streaming platforms have transformed the way that people watch movies, causing theater attendance to dip, ticket prices to rise, and Hollywood to generally panic, according to the author. The upside? It’s never been easier to watch movies from the comfort of one’s own home. For cinephiles who want to take advantage of the new abundance but don’t know where to start, Kanbar offers this slim book on all things streaming. He begins with a comprehensive breakdown of the necessary hardware—televisions, sound bars, media streamers, routers, and modems—complete with rundowns of options in each category and recommendations of the best products. The author also introduces the various streaming—aka video on demand—formats. These include transactional (specifically, rental) VOD, such as iTunes, Fandango Now, or Redbox On Demand; subscription services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and HBO Now; and advertising-supported VOD, such as Crackle, Roku Channel, and, in part, Vudu. Kanbar makes special mention of services catering to specific genre tastes, providing lists of those that stream public-domain films, documentaries, classics, horror, noir, and Bollywood movies. There are helpful hints, including tech troubleshooting tips (“An Ethernet connector will often produce better results than a wireless connector”) and a glossary of streaming-specific terms: “HFR (high frame rate). Refers to a frame rate higher than the usual 24-frames-per-second rate, resulting in a smoother playback.” It’s all accompanied by numerous interstitial photographs from classic Hollywood movies.
Kanbar’s guide is compact and practical, fitting a large amount of information into just over 100 pages. The prose often takes the form of lists or boilerplate descriptions, but it occasionally gets across the warmth of the author’s personality, as when he describes public-domain films: “Most were released prior to 1960 and some may even go back to the days before sound. But they are free, so what the heck!” There’s also a list of Kanbar’s personal streaming-series recommendations, including Netflix’s Ozark and HBO’s The Night Of. The book appears to be aimed at older readers, who may be just taking their first steps into the world of streaming, but there’s relevant information here for viewers at every experience level. In addition to explaining the basics of how streaming works, the author goes far beyond the obvious options of Netflix and Amazon Prime, alerting readers to boutique services, such as BritBox (which focuses on TV shows of the United Kingdom) or Uncle Earl’s Classic Television (for public-domain films). The book is specific to 2019, and some of the details regarding subscription rates and streaming technology will no doubt continue to change as time goes by; hopefully, the author will provide updated editions in the future. With so much available out there to watch, any bit of direction is welcome, and Kanbar is thankfully willing to be an enthusiastic tour guide.
A cheerful, functional reference work that will appeal to film and television fans.