The Talkies

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’ve actually seen – and heard – many of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies. Including the ones in English.

food snack popcorn movie theater
Photo by Pixabay on

What made this possible? The oft-deplored trend to streaming video.

When the Oscar nominations came out earlier this week, the news media focused on the showdown between “old and new Hollywood,” as the New York Times put it, with new Hollywood producer Netflix getting 24 nominations, more than any other studio.

Nobody wants movie theaters to go away. There’s nothing like immersing yourself in the big screen. But for people with hearing loss that immersion may be a visual pleasure but it’s not always an aural one.

Thanks primarily to streaming services (and one extraordinary theater), I’ve seen five of this year’s nine best-picture nominees. “The Irishman” streamed on Netflix at the same time that it played in selected theaters. It’s a long movie and my husband and I broke it up over three nights. “Marriage Story” was also a Netflix production. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” was available for $3.99 on Amazon Prime and is available on other streaming sites. I saw “Parasite” in a theater, but it’s in Korean, so it was captioned. It is now streaming on various outlets including Amazon, iTunes and Hulu. “Little Women,” a Sony Pictures (old Hollywood) production, showed at New York’s Landmark at West 57, which not only has hearing loops but excellent captioning devices that actually fit into the cup holders. I didn’t see “1917″ or “Joker” but the latter is available on iTunes, Amazon and other sites. “Ford v Ferrari” and “JoJo Rabbit” are not yet available on your home screen. Not nominated but a favorite in our house was “The Two Popes,” another Netflix production. The Times ran a good summary of where to stream different movies.

In our house, the TV is always set to captions, so i don’t need to do anything to hear these streaming videos with the help of captions across the bottom of the screen.

Movie chains and many independents provide caption devices, as I’ve written before, most recently in “Movie-Goer’s Lament.” But they can be tricky and are prone to error. Sometimes they are synced to the wrong movie. Sometimes they just don’t work once you get them set up. Sometimes there aren’t enough devices to go around. Lots of us with hearing loss would like to see open-captioned movies, with subtitles similar to those you’d see on a foreign film. A pilot program in Washington D.C. has been offering that option at selected performances. It faces a lot of opposition. One D.C. legislator commented, “People don’t like to go to movies with captions, period.”

So thank you Netflix and Amazon Prime, among others, for making movies accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. One additional benefit of watching a movie on Amazon Prime is the ability to create an Amazon Smile account, which donates a small portion of every purchase to the charity of your choice. Mine is the Hearing Loss Association of America. So I can do good while having fun.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books, available at and maybe at your favorite bookstore or library. If it’s not there, ask for it!

Smart Hearing Cover final





13 thoughts on “The Talkies

  1. The Landmark is a gem and we’ve been there many times, used the devices, and applaud the caring staff. For streaming we also praise Hulu, Mhz and Acorn. Many foreign selections w subtitles or you can use cc on your smart TV.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the extra streaming suggestions. Going to the Landmark is kind of an event, not least because it’s so far away from everything. But I’m always amazed at the ritzy new buildings that have sprung over near the West Side Highway. It’s fun. Thanks for wriiting.


  2. Yes, I totally agree on going wrong regarding movie theaters providing closed caption device in a cup holder because it did happen once at one of my favorite movie theaters to see “Star Wars” with my son on Christmas Day 2019 (anyway, I did not miss it one bit due to not liking the movie – too much commotion and lots of NOISES) which was a SURPRISE! Think we are heading towards streaming through Netflix, Amazon and etc. even though we have to pay, but the advantages are being in a comfort home and not dealing with other annoyances and etc. Perhaps, movie theaters will be extinct in the future due to streaming options…?

    Thank you for sharing this post!


    • Despite having to pay, it’s usually cheaper overall than going to the movie theater — especially if you like popcorn with your movie. You were brave to go to Star Wars. Talk about noisy! Thanks for writing.


  3. Good for Katherine to call attention to streaming. Home movie streaming includes high-quality audio that goes wirelessly into your hearing aid or cochlear implant. Those devices need aids that work with these Made for iPhone/Android. I assume theaters are soon to follow. Also note, the streaming producers e.g. Netflix, Amazon are beginning to do high-quality dubbing of foreign language streaming movies that otherwise would need captioning.

    (2) Android 10 services e.g. Pixel will AI caption on a phone anything streamed. If you need captions on a movie or Video that was not captioned when created. Your Android device with 10 will now caption that program. This feature is now is only available on Android devices, but Apple should follow. Because of differences in technology, I use a Pixel phone but also have an inexpensive iPod that only uses the Internet for videos and even phone calls on FaceTime.

    Paul Lurie


    • Thanks for the comment and for the additional information. Dubbing wouldn’t be much help for me unless I could also see the speakers’ faces and speech read. I really need captions. For foreign movies dubbing would be impossible because there would be no recourse to speech reading as a supplement.


  4. I’m pretty sure that all of the movies that you mention being able to see in the quiet of your den or living room also can be viewed at home with English subtitles. A prominent NYC audiologist with very good hearing told me today that he watches TV with subtitles so as not to miss any key dialogue. Parents have told me they turn on the TV subtitles to help their young children improve their reading comprehension.

    And for the record, the DC legislator whom you quote in opposition to captioning, changed his view. See this correction by the Washington Post:

    “Since making the comment that ‘People don’t like to go to movies with captions, period,’ council member Jack Evans has subsequently declared his support for the Open Movie Captioning Requirement Act.” Our NYC hearing loss community is working to have such a bill introduced in the City Council and enacted into law.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to hear that Jack Evans came to his senses — even if it was just because he got slammed for his original comment.
      I’m not sure what you’re saying about watching movies on TV with subtitles — that’s exactly what I’m saying in this post. I saw all these movies at home on TV with subtitles, thanks to streaming. Can you clarify?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, good observation about Hollywood moving towards streaming services and therefore being easier for those who need captions. I made that connection too. I talk about a variety of things on my personal blog (including movies and the Oscars). I also write and run the blog for my local HLAA chapter and a few months ago wrote about captions in movie theaters:
    In that post I mention a theater chain that offers open captioned movies on new releases twice a week. It’s called Emagine and they have locations here in Minnesota but also Michigan (still limited, I know).


  6. To clarify, you didn’t specifically mention that you saw the movies with captions on your TV screen — only that it was a joy to see the films at home. If that win;t clear to me, I just thought the point might be missed by other readers.


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