Hang on! Let’s back up a bit.
VOD stands for Video on Demand, which is currently how Amazon is marketing its streaming and downloadable video service through their website. It has gone by other names in the past, but this is what the channel shows up as in my Roku box, so that’s how I’m going to talk about it.
There are several video on demand services out there right now, Netflix is the most ubiquitously talked about but obviously there is now the Apple Store, which can deliver to your iDevices, Hulu, of course, if you’re into TV shows, there are also a plethora of smaller video services like VUDU and specific studio stores like the one ABC manages, and, there is Amazon. If you’re looking for new content, close to release, with some flexibility, you can’t beat Amazon. Unlike Netflix, who cannot reliably get new content close to release, and the Apple Store, which ONLY EVER WITHOUT EXECPTION interacts with Apple devices, Amazon has both a subscription option for its back catalog (free for Amazon Prime subscribers like myself) as well as a thriving new releases per-diem option for things like recent TV shows and new movies. Also, Amazon isn’t picky about where you view your content. I can watch it on my Roku box (obviously), on any computer with a browser (and flash), on my phone, on the new Kindle Fire, and on my Boxee / XBMC machine. It doesn’t quite do the Xbox 360 thing, which is a total drag, but understandable seeing as there is also the Zune store on the 360 that also offers new content on a per-diem basis. There are also boatloads of internet-enabled TVs that have Amazon VOD support as well.
Overall, I think Amazon’s offering is the best, which shouldn’t be too surprising. Amazon has made a fortune through consolidation. Don’t want to look through a billion bookstores to find what you want? Well, Amazon circa late 1990s is there for you. Don’t want to look at a dozen DVD stores to find the best deal and selection? Well, Amazon early 2000s has the biggest selection at the lowest price. Want to find the one of the best electronics retailers in the world? Amazon today can give you that, even if you find a better price somewhere else, they’ll match it. And now, if you’re sick of searching through a tone of video stores for the movie or TV show you want to watch right now, then Amazon VOD can help you.
Amazon is the Walmart of our generation. It’s odd when I think back when it used to be just a place for books.
Okay, we can get back to the review now.
Review (for real):
Beginners is a story about two men, a father and son, who are trying to find their way through new relationships. The movie is told in a stream-of-consciousness style, following the thoughts of Oliver, played by Ewan McGregor (who, again, I’ll note, is someone I’ll watch in just about any movie), just after the funeral of his father, Hal. He frequently flashes back to the last five years (and occasionally to his childhood) during which he learns that Hal was gay, and had known he was so since before he married Oliver’s mother. Oliver himself, in the grip of depression, meets someone new, the French actress Anna, and thus two love stories slowly unfold over the films 105 minute running time.
The movie is touching, and feel very genuine, probably helped along by the out of order storytelling as well as the touch of humor included in almost every scene. Life, Beginners asserts, is like this. You don’t always think of things in chronological order, and you don’t always remember to laugh when you’re supposed to. Many of us are cynics, but it’s that lightness that comes from turning your dire situation into a joke that makes that dire moment endurable.
Hal learns, soon after coming out to his son and finding a boyfriend, that he is dying of cancer. There are several months of painful hiding and careful manipulation of sentences to skirt the issue, and then there is the moment where Hal decides there is no shame in living the lie. Oliver struggles with this, because it’s always hard to see someone’s pain from the outside, but Hal is right. His life is rapidly drawing to a close, why fill it full of stress and ‘preparation’ for the end when he should be out there, living his life just as he always enjoyed it. The end doesn’t have to be gentle, it can be a sudden stop at the end of a party. And while Oliver may bear the brunt of Hal’s decision to be brave, it’s Hal’s life in the end.
And so it does end, and Oliver does get hurt by it, so much so it interferes with the beginnings of a romance with Anna. So the film merges the two and helps us see how these two romances intertwine and risk dissolving at different moments. In the end, we’re not really sure what is to become of Oliver and Anna, but that’s sort of how it should be. Right now, Hal reminds us, is where we live. We can’t look too far into tomorrow or we’ll drag ourselves into a depression. Find the joy in everyday life and don’t let it go.
As you can tell, I really liked this movie, though it’s hard to articulate why in this review without simply going blow by blow through the film. If you like funny relationship stories, but not “Romantic Comedies” then you’ll love Beginners. Check it out. Highly Recommended.