Entertainment

For $5.99 or less, you can see Oscar nominees online

LOS ANGELES—For just $5.99, you can catch up with Oscar-nominated films like A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, on TV this weekend, via online streaming services. 

But first, you’ll have to dive into an odd variety of different video formats and device rules – and you better watch fast. Your $5.99 buys you just 48 hours to start the movie and finish it. (So if you’re the type who likes to stretch out the viewing, you’re out of luck.)

Most of the movies are all available on video on demand, via YouTube (which offers movies for a fee, beyond all those free video clips), Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, FandangoNOW and Google Play. But not all. More on that in a minute. 

The Oscars ceremony airs Sunday on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and is also available via the ABC app, or cable alternative services like YouTube TV, DirecTV Now and SlingTV. 

—Netflix, the No. 1 subscription service, has four of the Oscar-nominated films available to members without paying an additional fee: Roma, Black Panther, the Ballad of Buster Scruggs and The Incredibles 2. (Netflix could become the first streamer to win an Oscar for best picture for Roma, which would be quite a dramatic shift in Hollywood.)

—Amazon Video, which is the chief streaming rival to Netflix, has none of the 2019 Academy Award contenders available for streaming to members of its $119 yearly Prime service-yet. Cold War, which is up for best foreign film, will be on the service beginning March 22. 

Amazon does, however, offer many of the top nominated films, for a fee. The going rate is $5.99 for many of the contenders. Some are even more expensive. Amazon charges  $19.99 to watch animation nominee Ralph Breaks the Internet, but has First Reformed, which is up for best original screenplay, for just 99 cents.

Look out for odd rules.  

Bohemian Rhapsody, for instance, is available in HD on YouTube. However, if you’d like to see the story of the rock band Queen in 4K ultra-high-definition, you don’t have a lot of choices. You’ll need to be watching on recent Sony or Samsung 4K TVs, or you’ll need to spring for Google’s under-the-radar $69.99 Chromecast Ultra streaming device and watch it that way. The Ultra connects to the TV and asks you to watch via a smartphone app to “cast” the movie wirelessly to the TV.  

VUDU, the service owned by Walmart, offers films in HD, “HDX,” which is slightly higher resolution, and UHD 4K. But on VUDU, A Star is Born is available in just HDX, while Rhapsody streams in HD, HDX and UHD, all for $5.99. 

FandangoNOW, the service from the company that sells online tickets, does offer Born in 4K, as does Apple–but only if you own the Apple TV 4K $179.99 set-top box, the model that costs $30 more than the entry-level Apple TV box. If you watch the film on your iPhone or iPad, Cooper and Gaga are in 1080p HD.  

And on Amazon, which has tons of movies available for video on-demand, there’s no A Star is Born. However, it does offer Oscar-nominated films at various prices: RBG (best documentary contender, about Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,) for $2.99, The Wife (best actress nominee Glenn Close) for $4.99 and best picture nominee The Favourite for $14.99.

We don’t mind paying to watch the films, especially when the fees are so much more reasonable than what’s being charged at the theaters. But the usage rules are ripe for changing. The studios shouldn’t make us jump through hoops to see the films in 4K. How hard would it be to have a uniform viewing policy? 

Happy viewing, and good luck Oscar winners. 

 

Other tech stories this week

Samsung unfolds a $2,000 phone. The new Samsung Fold is the most expensive smartphone ever. It opens as a standard 4.6-inch screen smartphone, and then unfolds to display a 7.3-inch tablet “with enough screen real estate to display and use three apps at once,” notes USA TODAY’s Edward C. Baig. But it still starts at an opening price of $1,980. Ask Apple how sporting the world’s most expensive iPhone turned out for the company. 

Google put a mic in the Nest security system and forgot to tell people. “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs. That was an error on our part,” Google told USA TODAY. Oops!

What new features do people really want from their new smartphones? The same one Talking Tech has been asking for, for years: all-day battery life. That’s a key takeaway from a survey of 1,303 smartphone buyers in the U.S., conducted this month on USA TODAY’S behalf by SurveyMonkey Audience. May we add an unbreakable screen to the list as well, please?

Apple may be in for a very busy 2019. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of TF International Securities, has released his predictions for the iPhone-maker’s 2019 plans and he says Apple’s three new iPhones will have the same size screens as the current iPhone XR (6.1 inches), XS (5.8 inches) and XS Max (6.5 inches). The phones are expected to have bigger batteries and will keep the Lightning port. The larger batteries could help with one new feature Kuo expects the company to add: the ability to wirelessly charge other devices off of the iPhone by placing those devices on top of the phone – a feature announced in Samsung’s new S10 lineup. Apple is expected to release its new phones in September. 

 

This week’s Talking Tech podcasts

VR like, but without a headset. CREATV’s Peter Csathy explains. 

We crossed 2,000 episodes of Talking Tech this week. Thanks, listeners!

The joy of photographing in the rain. (For more context, check out my video and gallery. 

Why TVs have gotten so cheap – they’re snooping on you and making some extra change on the side. 

The new communication rules – forget about those one-word texts!

Speaking of the Oscars, a bonus for Talking Tech fans. Selfie alert! I went around Hollywood recently documenting locations from classic films from La La Land to Sunset Blvd. Check it out and let me know what you think. 

 

And that’s it for this week’s Talking Tech wrap. Thanks again for reading. (Rena, Suzie and other dedicated fans – we have long way to catch up to 2K podcasts, right? The newsletter has barely cracked 100 issues.)

Please subscribe to the newsletter, http://technewsletter.usatoday.com Be sure to listen to the daily Talking Tech podcasts on Apple Podcasts and follow me (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 

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