Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Secret of a Reasonably Priced DVD collection: Don’t buy new releases

I bought my first DVD player in 2002 and have been hooked ever since on the virtues of digitised entertainment. I trashed my old VCR and my tapes and indulged myself in a buying frenzy of titles from every era and every possible genre that had never been released before on video. I revelled in the special features, the audio commentaries, and other ephemera that were used to sell this new-fangled product to the gullible consumer

Still waiting for my Amazon order
I’m straying off-topic to make the observation I know, but as far as music is concerned, it’s well known that CDs have been suffering a slump in sales lately because of the extent to which the web has revolutionised the way we listen to music. I hope that that this is not an indication of the DVD’s death knell, since I feel as though I am the format’s number 1 fan. I am not interested in the technology per se, as much as what the it can do to make my love of movies and old TV shows more affordable and practical for me in my daily life. I can be very stubborn and stick with something until I think I’ve got it figured out which is what I’ve been doing with DVDs for the past nine or so years. So the recent developments in home entertainment of streaming and other innumerable ways of accessing almost anything online have not left much of an impression on me. I don’t see the point in shelling out more money for data for streaming for instance, when I’ve already purchased the titles that are my favourites and are sitting right here on my living room bookshelf.

I do have a reasonable collection of discs, and think I know the secret to buying movies that you can keep for the rest of your life and watch whenever you want. It’s to become more knowledgeable about all of the films that weren’t say, only released on DVD last week thereby minimising your purchase of new releases, that is if you have to buy them at all. This of course points to my obvious bias toward my own tastes and my opinion that what gets released these days is frankly, of inferior quality. I am a nostalgist at heart, and leave it to the Roger Ebert’s of the world to convert the philistine masses to watching movies by virtue of the fact that they have been recently released and have no bearing on what has come before them. To me, films earn their stature within a context of a wider canon which places them in their proper place with the great movies of the past.

Very few of the DVDs that I own have I ever bought as new releases, if any. Always, if I want to see a movie that’s been recently released to the cinemas, I wait for the price of the DVD to go down and then I buy it at the reduced price. I refuse to pay $30 or more for a title when in six to twelve months it may be available for $15 or even less. What I refer to as ‘classic titles’ are those older films that have come and gone, whether its been only relatively recently, or ‘a long time ago.’ Classic titles on first release are in my experience never as expensive in the retail stores as recent films that have just been released on DVD after recently being withdrawn from release in the cinemas.

Joe Kane's superior movie guide for those in the know
I’m sure that there are many more informed consumers than ever before, by virtue of the fact that there is such a wide range of information available about the great movies of the past and other more recent films that are rapidly gaining stature as the new classics. There’s no excuse for not knowing what you may enjoy watching from the voluminous archives of movies gone by. But if like me, you like to have your favourites at your fingertips, there is nothing that compares to buying the DVD and bypassing the alternatives that either may prove to be more expensive in the long run, or not as convenient as you might like them to be for your purposes.

There are also plenty of film guides available and the one I like the best is the Virgin Film Guide. It’s reviews are detailed and well-written and updated every couple of years to include new films. The bible for hard core critics is the Time Out Guide which is a bit too trendy for me but I believe contains good reviews of cult films not endorsed by Leonard Maltin and other mainstream critics. My personal favourite is The Phantom of the Movies Videoscope by Joe Kane, which I found in a second hand bookstore, so it may sadly be hard to find.

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