The word “binge” means indulging to excess – it’s classically associated with eating and contemporarily associated with watching TV, and it almost always gets phrased in the pejorative. But why does binge-watching have to be a bad word? After all, aren’t intensive athletic programs like SoulCycle just a form of binge-exercising? And you’re not a nincompoop for binge-reading the novels of William Faulkner. Binge-watching King of Queens won’t provide much cultural or intellectual nourishment, but there are all sorts of ways you can spend the entire weekend on your couch, and still feel good about it.
Out 1 on Netflix // Jacques Rivette originally divided his 13-hour opus Out 1, a series of diversions loosely centered on French acting troupes, into eight contiguous “episodes.” When the restored 1971 film hit Netflix last year, the streaming service literalized this narrative device by carving the film into eight binge-able pieces. Out 1 might be work compared to the eagerness of western cinema, but try to force down a couple episodes of French vegetables in between mainlining full seasons of Charmed.
O.J.: Made in America on Hulu Plus // One of the most riveting cinematic events of 2016 was technically an eight-hour, five-episode television show. Originally airing on ESPN but also released to theaters in order to qualify for year-end movie awards, Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America offers one of the most complex portraits of race, class and celebrity in America ever put on screen. Divided back into episodes on Hulu Plus, the rich detail and irresistible pull of O.J.: Made in America has arguably found its ideal home in the binge-watching world.
The New Yorker Presents on Amazon Prime // An audiovisual analogue of the exquisitely tasteful name-dropper The New Yorker, with documentaries, short films, animation, poetry and more formed into a full season of weekly episodes. The first season includes work from acclaimed directors like Alex Gibney, Steve James, Jonathan Demme, Eugene Jarecki and Dawn Porter, and appearances from Paul Giamatti, Courtney Barnett and Alan Cumming.
The Criterion Collection on Film Struck // Created by Turner Classic Movies in collaboration with The Criterion Collection, the upstart Film Struck is the answer for film fans unimpressed by the offerings on Netflix and Amazon. It’s the sole streaming home of The Criterion Collection, which the site has formed into ready-made binge-fests in categories such as Circus Acts (including La Strada and Freaks) and Existentialism in Film (including Le Samourai and Seconds).
Mini-film festivals on MUBI and Fandor // MUBI offers thirty films at a time, with a new selection added every day, so there is always something new and unusual. The selection is all over the map, but they tend to program around themes – right now, they are showing several Marcel Pagnol movie adaptations, including dueling 1961 and 2013 versions of Fanny. If you want a wider selection than the MUBI model allows, check out the foreign and independent-minded Fandor, which programs mini-film festivals such as their Directed by Women series, featuring works from Agnes Varda, Kelly Reichardt and Maren Ade.