Reviewed June 2014
Ian Roberton, Library Assistant
Morinville Community Library
Online streaming has revolutionized the way we watch videos. We now live in a world of seemingly infinite access. But how do we navigate it all? User reviews and search algorithms help but people likely still find themselves trawling media directories more than actually enjoying the videos they hope to discover.
MUBI aims to help with its carefully curated collection of cult, classic, and critically acclaimed films. Unlike Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Video, where thousands of titles are always available, easy to bookmark, and as easily forgotten about, MUBI offers just thirty titles at any one time, selected by MUBI editors. At the time of writing, one could enjoy the L.A. Noir classic, He Walked By Night (1984), Charlie Chaplin’s The Idle Class (1921), and the proto-action movie, The Most Dangerous Game (1932). MUBI’s ever-changing catalog motivates users to watch a film before it expires, and it also encourages them to return regularly to see what new titles become available. It is a subscription-based service, intended strictly for individual use, with three payment levels, per month ($4.99), every six months ($27.99), and annually ($34.99). One may test out MUBI with a free one-week trial which requires credit or debit card information to establish the trial.
MUBI Profile Page
MUBI features a simple search interface that searches across all of its content, but the emphasis is on browsing. Each film has a profile page that features a synopsis, user reviews, related titles, and an evocative film still. (If one is interested in exploring the profile pages without setting up a trial, he or she may “log in” to Mubi via a Facebook account.) Although previously featured films cannot be streamed, their profile pages remain accessible thereby creating a kind of database or film resource for MUBI members to search and reference. The website and mobile app are a breeze to navigate, making the MUBI content easily portable.
Depending on the film, high-definition streaming is provided; otherwise MUBI streams at standard-definition. One of the drawbacks of video streaming is that it requires large amounts of data and some platforms, such as Netflix, provide a low-quality setting; the image is degraded as less data is transmitted. Unfortunately, MUBI does not provide a similar option, which may be an issue for people with an Internet Service Provider who limits data usage. Moreover, given that MUBI is strictly a streaming platform, content cannot be downloaded. MUBI requires a modern browser, such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari that supports Adobe Flash. For this review, MUBI’s mobile experience was tested on an Apple iPhone 4S running iOS 7 and it performed without issue. As of this writing, MUBI does not provide an app for the Android platform. MUBI is slickly produced but not perfect. It is inconsistent with subtitle availability and alternative language tracks. It also does not provide descriptive audio for the visually impaired. These factors likely limit the accessibility for some people. Hopefully, these options will be implemented in future iterations of the service.
MUBI understands that cinema is a social experience, which accounts for an energetic social network built into the platform, enabling users to create profiles, rate films, and leave comments. And it is this social network where MUBI really shines; one becomes part of a community of passionate cinema devotees. A new member may explore the user-generated film reviews and subsequently receive a crash-course in cinema history, while veteran cinephiles will be able to debate the finer points of film theory with other expert users through MUBI’s forum.
Member Reviews for The Portuguese Nun
MUBI will appeal to filmmakers, film scholars, and art historians who require easy (and legal) access to left-field films. But perhaps more importantly, MUBI provides members passage into a thriving community of cinema fans. And while independent film theaters and video stores struggle to remain relevant, MUBI is ensuring that art house and classic films have a home online.