Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arguing, so what of it?

I should be responding to Jeff's Rohmer thoughts. Instead, I'm distracted away by a fight. That's what you get for agreeing with me, Jeff. It's hard to muster up the energy to write a long, "oh yes, I agree, very well said" post. It was hard enough to care about this fight and I suppose it's better if everyone just ignores all of these ravings as the delusional scrawls of a man who watched two Val Lewton productions back-to-back and can't quite find his way back from the shadows. By the way, the Lewton double feature was screened from a DVD that I picked up at a yard sale last summer. I think that it was $2.50.

[slightly edited for clarity. I told you these were mad ravings.]

I can't totally agree with you, Ben, that "access trumps ownership." (though I'm not denying that the model of access that you describe works for you).

Ownership is still the best form of access.

One needs Internet “access” first in order to take advantage of these other kinds of “access.” Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime. Internet access these days typically costs about $50 a month (for a Cable or DSL connection that can handle streaming). Maybe less if you bundle it with a Cable package, but then we're still talking $80 or so a month for entertainment. Add on top of that the fees from the various streaming services. If you stop paying, you lose access. With DVDs, you only lose access if your equipment fails or if you stop paying the electric bill. Even so, I managed to find ways to watch DVDs when I had no electricity for an entire summer (I charged a portable DVD player while I was at work and had enough juice for any 3 hour or less movie when I got home. A 7” screen wasn't ideal, but it worked and it was cheap).

I'm still a fan of Netflix-by-mail (Qwikster from now on no matter what they say). It does seem to continue to be the best value in town with the absolute best selection. No home Internet connection required. Still, a semi-luddite like me has to worry when this service becomes devalued. Qwikster may be extinct in several years (whenever Qwikster decides it isn't making enough money). Where does access go then? There will be a lot less access. One would have to pay for Web service if he wants any kind of selection at all. Again, we're talking about lots of money.

It is because of DVD technology and because of Netflix's making most DVDs available cheaply to rent that we are currently in a “Golden Era” of “access.” TCM arriving on the scene in the mid to late '90s was another key boon to Movie lovers' gaining “access,” but again, this requires a Cable hookup. Renewed interest in classic titles built a market for classic titles on DVD. Access has opened up remarkably in the past decade. Only a 15 years or so ago, it was really tough to find any classic films outside of a University setting. What was available was often either butchered or cost a fortune (anyone here remember laserdiscs? Oh, how I lusted after laserdiscs!). Streaming is typically a downgrade in quality and necessarily comes with all of the monetary baggage that I've already outlined.

Redbox? Redbox is fine for what it is. It's not much. It's fine for catching up with recent Hollywood releases (and a tiny smattering of the indie and foreign releases that break through commercially), but it's worthless for anything else.

I'm not arguing that the forms of “access” that you list aren't great in their own ways. I'm only trying to suggest reasons why these don't work for me and why I can't quite be as enthusiastic about all of this so-called “access.”

All the above said, I've also become much, much more selective in my DVD purchases. It is so incredibly great that I can try an older movie by renting it and not having to blindly purchase it. There are plenty of classics that I'm glad I've seen (His Girl Friday springs to mind), but that I'm glad I haven't purchased. A couple of years ago, I blindly bought the Facets DVD version of Tarr's Satantango because it was the only way to see it. I still haven't watched it because it's so dang long and because I'm afraid that I won't like it after all. (It was worth the purchase, though, just for Tarr's Macbeth).

I bought a handful of Westerns around my birthday and I bought a couple of Chaplin movies and the Olivier Shakespeare set during the B&N Criterion 50% off sale. I probably bought a couple more DVDs earlier in the year, but that's all I can remember right now.

I've pretty much stopped buying contemporary movies.

I try to buy movies that I can watch with the girls now or that I can watch with them when they get a little older. Mostly “classic” movies. It's a good thing that these classic movies happen to be so good.

The entire family watched Modern Times tonight. Talk about a masterpiece. The gags at the beginning are stronger than at the end, but still a masterpiece and the ending is perfect. The Eating Machine scene and the subsequent chase out of the factory leave me crying each time I see them.

Generally, I'll only buy something if:
1) I've already seen it (with some exceptions)
2) I'm fairly confident that it will get watched a lot.

In the end, ownership is often the most convenient and affordable form of access, but only if one knows that he'd like to access the same movie over and over again. Otherwise, DVD rental-by-mail currently trumps all other forms of access. There's always the dreaded red envelope laying around for a month unwatched, but that's not nearly as bad as spending time frozen in front of a panel of Instant movies, unable to click on any of them, overwhelmed by limited choices that are available "instantly."

I'm firmly in the Qwikster camp. You streamers can shove it up your USB ports.

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