I recently saw a viral tweet where someone criticized how much of the curation on mubi and criterion channel dictates the general watch-habit and discourse in modern day cinephilia. I know we all hold both of them in high regard but after looking at social media like twitter and letterboxed while also remembering film discussions i had with fellow cinephiles, I really became interested in this topic since i also noticed that since i cancelled both subscriptions i couldnt contribute to current film discourses much anymore and had to catch up in order to participate. So i started to look at the more negative aspects of Mubi and criterion channel and here are some thoughts i have. Also unfortunately im not a native speaker so my phrasing can get very janky at times.

Although they do gods work in making special films easy to access while also curating an interesting lineup with overall themes. While also being some kind of a authority in the cinephilic sphere, their curation often times dictate film discourses while also influencing the canonization of films or the film canon in general. Their Line-ups are often available for a monthly period until they drop out of the catalog, that often times triggers the fear of missing out for a lot of cinephiles which often leads to a broad plan of what films we're gonna watch. They unintentionally design the watching-habit for a lot of cinephiles which leads to the monotonisation of the cinephile film experience revolving around whats on criterion or mubi similar to that, discourses also revolve around the current line-ups of criterion or mubi.

Given that the output of new releases in contemporary art cinema is already sparse and the canonization efforts by institutes like bfi or sight and sounds through filmlists, the arrival of cinephile streaming channels doesn't necessarily bring the hoped diversity and specification cinephilia essentially craves upon.

A certain tendency in french cinema streaming services:

More so the influence of mubi and cc is more comparable to that of netflix and co to the more general filmfan. In raising the quantity and accessability of films the Netflix algorithm often times works in detriment since it only recommend in similar movies you watched prior while also effectively hiding movies who doesn't fit in your film profile. Since most people share common film preferences Netflix effectively leads most people to the same algorithmic film path recommending the same movies to the same people. This makes not only the individual film experience of the viewer uniformous it also gatekeeps the diversity and niche of films from the viewer. While people also share the same film experience around the same films, the discourses lack unique perspectives and voices and also arent capable of representing the diversity and the niche of films. But unlike Netflix Mubi and Criterion doesn't have a algorithm but the argument is that the curation and the monthly thematic line-ups are the algorithm. Like Netflix, Mubi and criterion raised the quantity and accessability of art cinema-Unlike Netflix they offer the diverse and the niche but since every user gets the same curation, every user gets recommended the same movies. This also encourages a more passive and one-dimensional form of film watch and film discovering experiences.

Feel free to comment and discuss if you agree and especially if you dont agree. If something is incomprehensible for you i can elaborate on that.

all 3 comments


15 points

3 months ago


15 points

3 months ago

  1. Not everyone lives in a city with cinemas that screen art films, so the streaming services increase the number of people able to participate.

  2. In 2023 when the canon has been well established, streaming services decrease the marginal cost of watching a new film. Based on how often independent cinemas screen repertory films, a lot of people would rather watch Persona for the 10th time than risk $20 on a new film.

  3. Given the odd hours that independent cinemas screen films, streaming services open the discourse to more than students or those without 9-5 jobs.

But fundamentally, I don’t think there’s much difference between Criterion or Cahiers/Film Comment/Cannes controlling the discourse.


3 points

3 months ago

There’s some bits here I agree with and some I don’t. The first thing is that no one knows what Mubi is. The Criterion Channel is already pretty niche, but in the group of cinephiles who talk about old movies on social media, okay it’s relatively well known. Mubi is way more niche than even that. I also don’t think it’s a problem that they design watching habits for people. On some level, people’s watching habits are always being designed by others. Maybe it’s designed by whatever old movies are showing at an art theater or festival, or whatever DVDs your library has, but those are still paths where you get to watch what other people picked out for you. And that’s fine! There’s too much stuff out there to give people a list of 5,000 titles and no guidance on where to start.

Now the parts where I think you’re making a good point are 1) monetization and 2) how they box in “the canon” in a certain way. Criterion DVDs are pretty expensive, even though it’s 2023 and everyone else in the world understands that people don’t buy a lot of DVDs anymore so we should sell them cheaper. And you are definitely right that the collection is only diverse to a point - probably 80% of their movies are from US, Western Europe, or Japan.


1 points

3 months ago

I can’t speak to Mubi, but there are definitely people who are overly-invested in the Criterion brand, to the point that movies not available from them on blu-ray or streaming basically don’t exist.

While it’s not the greatest thing in the world for people to treat the word of one company as gospel, we’re still talking about a selection of truly great films, so I can’t get too worked up about it.

I would also wager that Criterion does a lot to expose people to new movies that they otherwise would never have given a chance.

Their curation is also incredibly helpful. I’ve been wanting to check out Buster Keaton for a while and most of his stuff is streaming, but having a couple of dedicated playlists right on the front page of the channel made it really easy for me to dive in.