Good news for the handful of you that subscribe to Hulu Plus (and live in the US): there are now over 150 pristinely restored, culturally important Criterion films now available on the subscription service, with over 800 titles - everything in Criterion's library - slated to appear exclusively on Hulu in the next few months. That's actually pretty damn incredible.
The Criterion Collection, for those who aren't familiar, is an ever-expanding set of films both old and new, lovingly restored to the most pristine condition possible and presented with rich supplementary material. Basically: it's the best movies ever, presented in the best quality. The DVDs - gorgeous objects that they are - aren't cheap, and gaining access to masterpieces from cinematic luminaries like Kurosawa, Bergman and Hitchcock to contemporary greats like Linklater, Fassbinder and Cassavetes for just $US8 a month is staggering value. Just scroll through this list and let your eyes glaze over. Criterion says that supplementary materials will be coming to Hulu soon, and at this point, thanks to sponsors, all ads are up front so you can enjoy the movie without interruptions. It's sounding pretty sweet, and it might be just the content Hulu needs to stay relevant.
A year ago, say, when people were devouring episodes 30 Rock and The Daily Show like sumo wrestlers at an all-you-can eat buffet, Hulu seemed like an inevitably major player in the future of digital video. The prospect of a glorious, all-encompassing Hulu subscription service hung in the horizon. They had that funny superbowl commercial with Alec Baldwin. Times were good.
But since then Hulu's faltered a bit. Some favourite titles were yanked from the offerings. The subscription service was too expensive and not expansive enough. And all the while, Netflix doggedly expanded their Instant Watch library, quietly but significantly restructuring themselves as a streaming video powerhouse who also would mail you a DVD or Blu-ray if you wanted them to.
For people who love movies, though, the complete Criterion Collection is reason enough to reconsider Hulu. It's a gamble - it remains to be seen if the draw of some 800 cinematic masterpieces is enough to get people to join on - but in terms of bringing great works of art into the digital age, it's certainly an admirable start. [Criterion]