A few years ago, San Diego Reader film
critic Duncan Shepherd wrote an editorial lamenting the affect of
home video on the average movie watcher. It should be noted that as far as critics go,
Shepherd’s a picky, old-fashioned kind of guy. I haven’t been able to find the entire article online, except for this one snippet: “The big screen
is for big audiences, the little for little,” he wrote. “In that
respect, the great blessing of DVDs is also the great curse of DVDs.
Their capacity to fill a void inevitably increases the capacity of
The gist seems to be that if you give
people a reason to stay home and watch a movie, people will stay home
and watch movies.* However you feel about Mr. Shepherd’s opinion (and
there’s some truth to it) these days there are more reasons than ever
to stay in and watch a movie – and DVD is among the least of ‘em.
So, the question is: How do you view?
The high-def heir-apparent to the DVD
throne. There are folks round these parts who believe that Blu Ray is
a transient format, and I’m inclined to agree. Mostly. While I’m unlikely
to ever buy another DVD (much in the same way I’ve given up CDs for
MP3s), Blu Rays are the kind of thing I reserve for special
occasions. The first two discs I bought were Speed Racer and The
Watchmen, and both look incredible. Speed Racer is so sharp,
saturated, and filled with detail it almost hurts to look at. I’ll pass on
comedies like Knocked Up or The Hangover and stick to stuff that
actually benefits from being seen in 1080p: Buster Keaton’s The
General, The Wizard of Oz, and then someday, The Red Shoes.
Some thoughts on collecting: Some
people like putting their film collections on display. They think it
says something about them as a person, like a big shelf of books.
Well, the two mediums aren’t interchangeable, and a shelf full of
books says something completely different than a shelf full of
movies. Big collections can be stifling: I got rid of mine (a paltry
300 discs) about three years ago, and without the immediate comfort
of old favorites, I’ve seen more new films than ever before. And
there’s a lot more room in my apartment, too.
Blockbuster recently filed for
bankruptcy. The reason? They’re not making enough money, and they’re
not making enough money because a little more than ten years ago
Netflix took a big wet bite out of their business. About two years
ago, the nail in Big Blue’s coffin was hammered home by the Netflix
Watch Instantly service, which allows you to watch movies at home
through a computer or a third party device, like the
The only people who were surprised by
this development are the people who didn’t think the general public
would be interested in spending two hours in front of a computer
watching something that’s not porn, piano cat, or this:
It was Youtube that helped
streaming content catch on and forced everyone else to start catching
up. That’s why it’s not even worth rushing home at 9pm on a Tuesday
for the next episode of Lost. I just watch it at the ABC website the next
morning. I don’t even know when The Simpsons is on
TV anymore. I just watch a new episode on Hulu every week. Either
streaming media has made me an extremely lazy viewer, or this is the
way things will be from now on.
Here’s what James Cameron has to say to
the people who might want to watch Avatar on a mobile device: “I
don’t feel that I’m making movies for iPhones. If someone wants
to watch it on an iPhone, I’m not going to stop them, especially if
they’re paying for it, but I don’t recommend it. I think it’s
dumb, when you have characters that are so small in the frame that
they’re not visible.”
That’s certainly a valid point, but the
fact is people do watch a lot of content on their smartphones and
laptops. Each morning on the subway in New York City you’re bound to see at least one
or two people engrossed in some kind of show on their phone – I’ve
noticed a lot of animation like South Park and Family Guy being watched. When I travel I almost always use my laptop more for movie watching than reading or surfing the web, and there’s never been a moment where I thought to myself, “Gee I wish
this screen was a lot bigger.”
Tablets (specifically, the iPad) are
poised to become the preeminent platform for mobile entertainment.
Netflix already has an app to stream movies and television right to
your device, and there are other tablets in the works that will more
than likely support Adobe Flash, which opens you up to an even bigger
world of content.
*Also, home video viewing fractures
audiences into smaller groups, but that’s another argument.