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.
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 Amazon.com and maybe at your favorite bookstore or library. If it’s not there, ask for it!