After enjoying a Spaced marathon a few days ago, I remarked to my friend, “That was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made”. And it’s true. I bought the entire series- two seasons of Daisy and Tim and Mike and Marsha and Brian and Twit… er, Twist- less than 12 months ago. I’ve already re-watched it twice. On top of that, I’ll be loaning it to a friend and fellow Edgar Wright fan within the next few months. I look forward to helping someone else turn on and tune in.
Hearing the comment come out of my mouth made me wonder just what exactly inspires me to buy the movies (and TV shows) that I buy? If you grew up in the 1980’s or 1990’s, it’s a very different movie-watching world from the one you called home as a child. Movies are found everywhere. You can watch them at home via instant streaming through any number of outlets- everything from gaming systems to your phone. You can visit places like Amazon.com or iTunes and rent movies. Every cable provider has some sort of way that you can watch thousands of movies on any given night. So what is it, exactly, that inspires someone to spend $15 or $20? What is it that inspires someone to spend $5 for a used copy of Polanski’s Knife in the Water like I did a few months ago?
The cost of DVDs is bottoming out because the market has been flooded with billions of ways to watch movies. I’m perfectly content to swoop in to augment my collection. Obviously, I’d prefer Blu-Ray copies of certain films. But when I can spend $4 in a used bin and have Scorsese’s The Aviator at my disposal any time I want, how can I say no to that? It’s currently not available on Netflix Instant and a rental from Amazon is $1.99. I’ve already watched it twice since I bought it, thereby giving me the full value. The next time I watch it (or the next time I loan it to anyone else), the viewing will be free.
If you are a quick and dirty viewer like the overwhelming majority of film viewers, then this probably doesn’t apply to you. But if you are a film buff or have any intellectual curiosity about the medium, DVD/Blu-Ray extras are a treasure trove that offer astute viewers a pocket film degree of sorts. Criterion is notorious for loading up their releases with an incredible amount of extras. Frequent Criterion contributor Peter Cowie has morphed into some sort of goofy film professor to me. Wright loads up his films with an homage-o-meter, which has prompted me to check out countless other films that I never would’ve dreamed of watching otherwise.
In the case of There Will be Blood, the “Collector’s Edition” has a 25-minute silent movie from the 1920’s called The Story of Petroleum. Tack on a Johnny Greenwood soundtrack and an otherwise educational film becomes borderline horrifying in a really fascinating way. The Universal Legacy Collection edition of The Wolf Man (1941) has an in-depth documentary, aptly hosted by John Landis. It’s where I first discovered that Curt Siodmak, the film’s screenwriter, buried a Holocaust metaphor into the film.
There are some movies that are made to be watched and quoted again and again and again. For me? I have no clue where I’d be without my copies of Animal House or The Dark Knight. What would Halloween be without Frankenstein and his grisly bride? Once a year, purely in the interests of my own mental health, I’ll pour a couple of caucasians and roll out The Big Lebowski. The truly magical films, the films that really resonate with you, never get old and it’s best to have them on hand when you get the itch.
It makes me happy to be able to share the love when it comes to films. If someone tells me that they’ve never seen Vertigo, I go into Johnny Appleseed mode and insist upon germinating their movie viewing experience with my library. The more obscure you can make your collection, the better. I once loaned my copy of Last Year at Marienbad to a friend because he works in the printing industry and wanted to see the blind emboss on the Criterion artwork. He has very conventional tastes in movies- good taste in my opinion, but conventional all the same. And he would never would have stumbled upon Last Year at Marienbad in a million years without the assist on my end.
I own 31 Ingmar Bergman films, many which can’t even be found in this DVD region. I own more than half of Kino’s The Art of Buster Keaton Box Set. I’ve even got a copy of the ill-fated Star Wars Holiday Special. I have 10 Scorsese films, 5 Buñuel films, 5 Kurosawa films, and 6 from Louis Malle. I try to let my DVD/Blu-Ray collection say something about me, like a teeny tiny slice of my own personal zeitgeist. I take it as a badge of honor to own many of the films that I own.
And then there’s the Bergman obsession. It started harmlessly enough a Seventh Seal here, a Persona there. And then people started buying me Bergman gifts (which I asked for, if we’re being completely honest). Now, it’s reached a point where there are holes in my Bergman collection and it’s going to bother me until I fill them. But again- it says something about me, it says something about who I am.
So, gentle readers, what prompts you to buy the movies that you buy?