Requiem For FilmStruck

Don’t Take Away Our Beloved Classics!

When I “cut the cord” and started streaming my entertainment, I missed Turner Classic Movies most of all. Then, one day, FilmStruck arrived out of thin air and completely redeemed me.  For $6.99 a month, I could watch as many art films and classics as I could stand. For four dollars more, I could chew on The Criterion Collection. When I wander through the FilmStruck app, I’m aware of how much passion and style has gone into creating the platform. The people who work there were my first thought when I learned of AT&T was shutting down FilmStruck. Then I wondered: What will I do without it?

In those expensive days of basic cable, I used to lie on my couch in my sunglasses like a bygone diva watching old “black-and-whites” for hours at a time.  I still can’t believe it took me so long to realize I was depressed.  I lounged in a self-imposed sunny Los Angeles crypt with all of my friends:  Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn, Federico Fellini, and Jean-Luc Godard.  When some of my real-life friends would stop by to check on me, they might accidentally catch a quick glimpse of The Philadelphia Story out of the corner of their eye. “What is that?”, they’d ask, with a look of pity on their faces.  They couldn’t understand why I’d shut myself into my house with people who were dead.

A search for beauty and elegance brought me to these films during my depression. I look to old movies for glamour and class.  Having not lived during the 1950’s and ’60’s, I can only gather my information from history books, my grandparents, or classic movies.  During this time, according to the history books (and sometimes my grandparents) things were wonderful and then things were terrible. While women and people of color “behaved”, everything went swell. Once we started to fall out of line it wasn’t groovy anymore.  The movies, on the other hand, portray the struggles of the time as heroic. Unlike now, our country pursued justice, equality, and marrying up. FilmStruck was my Calgon. Now they’ve taken it away, and I wonder how it can be replaced.

We are bereft

We can’t go back to the way things were before. In my Oklahoma high school, I grew up on a diet of teen ’90’s films or blockbusters.  We didn’t have a cinema in my small hometown until I moved to the big city of Ponca City where we had two:  One for the movies that are out now and one for the movies that were out a month before. There were no art films, no European nuggets and only Oscar contenders that made over 20 million bucks.  One day, while looking for a movie at Hastings I came across a film called Through a Glass Darkly, directed by Ingmar Bergman. I was intrigued, as I’d read a book with a similar name and wondered if they had anything to do with one another. They did not.

What happened to me over the course of watching that film is still with me. I learned about timeless beauty and the sophistication of negative space.  As an avid reader and an American this was an entirely new concept to me. Though visual representation and stark dialog I found grace and trust. I’d like to be able to continue to have access to that discovery.

AT&T gave a reason for shuttering FilmStruck that’s just as depressing as the closing itself. They said they have no use for “niche service business.” That’s what art films and timeless classics represent to the corporate mind. In a time when everything is available to nearly everyone,  you’d think that “niche” would be a valuable asset. But maybe I need to go back and watch those 1980’s coke-filled workaholic movies for some insight.

With an embarrassment of FilmStruck riches, I’ve had a difficult time narrowing down what I want to watch, so I load things into my “Watchlist” and forget about them there only to add more and more each time I visit the app.  Well, now, clear my calendar. Hold my calls.  I’ve got one hundred years of cinema to binge until November 29th. Unless Guillermo Del Toro brings it back.

Tehra Turnbaugh Thorp

Tehra Turnbaugh Thorp made her parents crazy when she dropped out of college and moved away with no plan in mind. They don’t mind so much now. She lives in the Hudson Valley with a dog and roughly 10 outdoor feral cats. She’s doing her best to stop this verdant species from world domination.

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