If you are a film lover like I am, you envision yourself attending film festivals and special events at shrines to cinema such as New York's Film Forum, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood or, closer to home for me, the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre in Washington, D.C.
But somehow, I rarely make it. Something always comes up. The good news is that Net-based movie services let curate your own virtual film festival in the privacy of your own home.
Everyone knows about the most popular services such as Amazon and Netflix. Well, each has plenty of art house films and classics. Then there's Hulu, which has 800 films from the Criterion Collection on board, including 2014 Oscar-winning foreign filmThe Great Beauty. You could host your own samurai film festival with several Akira Kurosawa films — Seven Samurai,Throne of Blood and Yojimbo among them — and other classics such as Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin.
But here's an outlet that you might be less familiar with: Fandor. And it has a ready-made at-home festival for you to screen, a collection of films from German-born director Werner Herzog.
Through July, Fandor is making a new Herzog movie available weekly with 16 total planned, including all those starring the filmmaker's longtime on-screen collaborator, the late German actor Klaus Kinski. Already available: Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu the Vampyre and Aguirre, the Wrath of God. On the way: The Enigma of Kasper Hauser(June 10), Land of Silence and Darkness (June 17) and Where the Green Ants Dream (June 24).
If you have yet to be introduced to Herzog, I would relate to you that Roger Ebert in his book The Great Movies described him as "the most visionary and the most obsessed with great themes" of modern filmmakers. And Ebert called Aguirre, the Wrath of God "one of the great haunting visions of cinema."
If Herzog is not your style, no worries, Fandor has a seemingly endless library of animation, silent, cult, indie and foreign films, both full-length and shorts. Here's a few: D.W. Griffith's The Birth of A Nation, Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu and Mario Bava's Black Sabbath.
And next week, Fandor will debut Burning Bush, a new film by Europa, Europadirector Agnieszka Holland on Wednesday, the same day of its U.S. premiere at the Film Forum in New York.
This new film and Herzog's works are examples of films that deserve to be seen by as wide an audience as possible, says Fandor CEO Ted Hope. "Each of their work captures eras gone by in a manner that makes it entirely applicable today. The stories may be historic, but the emotions and actions are timeless," he says. "It's the kind of work I don't think any of us can put off watching any longer. Delivering such work at the moment it is most fresh, or in need of rediscovery, is what Fandor is all about."
Fandor offers many other entry points for film exploration. Within its Festivals section you can peruse films that played at past fests. And its wheel of chance-like Discover function on iPhone and iPad recommends films for you, letting you set time period, genre and length of film.
And the Journey into Film online seminars plot out a timeline of cinematic developments for specific genres including scenes from selections across decades. "The Romance of the American West" has clips of Buster Keaton in 1925's Go Westand Barbara Stanwyck with Ronald Reagan in 1954's Cattle Queen of Montana. and Fred Williamson in 1975's Boss. Or you can just watch The Fandor Channel, which constantly streams movies and shorts from the catalog.
Fandor, which currently has about 5,000 films available, launched a Roku channel in late 2011 and recently became available for Chromecast users. Other devices include Sony smart TVs and Blu-ray Disc players, the Kindle Fire, as well as Android and iOS devices, too. New users can check out the service with a free two-week trial; after that, it's $10 monthly or $90 annually.
So if you are looking to take your movie-watching beyond the mainstream, Fandor is just the ticket.