A few nights ago, after downing some tacos and watching an episode (or two) of House, I settled on my couch, turned out the lights, clicked the On Demand button on my remote, and ordered myself up a gosh-darnit, honest-to-goodness new release straight from its festival premiere at SXSW for the low-low price of $5.99. A few years ago, this would have been an impossible scenario, now each week brings word of fresh platforms for distribution and new configurations of traditional release windows, while theatrical exhibitors sit on the sidelines and wonder if their trade may well heading for extinction. Who said the revolution wouldn’t be televised?
The film I spent six bucks on was Paste magazine cover boy Joe Swanberg’s hotly anticipated (by some, if not me) fifth feature, Alexander the Last, which recently premiered in that mumblecore hotbed of Austin, TX, and is now available exclusively via your teevee. Marginally a story of two sisters, Alex (Jess Weixler of Teeth), a married actress, and Hellen (Amy Seimetz of various sub-indie fare), a photographer who makes pathologically poor relationship choices, and Jamie, the man they dually romance (Barlow Jacobs, also a face you may vaguely recognize), Alexander builds itself around rehearsals for a play starring Alex and Jamie, but is generally most concerned with those fleeting moments of interaction between the trio that happen outside the theater. If it sounds like a work unlikely to spark a sea change in how we watch movies, it is. Yet, if it registers as a success, you can bet more and more filmmakers (especially young Americans) will sign on to bypass theatrical releases entirely.