EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: BLESSED ARE THE CINEPHILES

Film aficionados are living in a wonderful time. High definition televisions, unbelievable sound systems for your home theatre, and DVDs filled with extras like director’s commentaries and alternate endings are the kinds of things film fans used to have wet dreams about. Everyone from gorehounds to art snobs have something to celebrate, and it makes me realize just how lucky I am to be alive at this point in time.
I know it seems odd for me to actually be happy about something. Usually I take an entire column to complain about someone like Sandra Bullock, but not this time. This time I’m going to sing the praises of this wonderful world of film.
If this were 1980 and The Devil’s Rejects (a film I love) had just left the theatres, I’d have to wait for an eternity for it to show up on cable, and then even longer for it to be released on video. And then when I got the video, the picture quality would be passable, but the sound would be worse than anything on network television. Extras? Maybe there’d be a trailer for another movie before the feature began, but it is doubtful. In 2005, however, it’s a different story.
Picture quality is on par with the theatre (and in some cases better). Sound is 5.1 (or better). And those extras? Heck, “The Devil’s Rejects” DVD has a documentary that is longer than the film, and that’s not even counting two different commentary tracks.
How can you be a film lover and not feel like you are in Heaven?
In the old days, people who liked stuff like Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs had to trade third generation copies. You dealt with shady people who were bound by a love of film. Now you can order the DVD off several websites with little hassle. Forgotten classics, cult films, and ultra-independent movies are being released on a weekly basis. The only thing that sucks is you realize you’ll never have enough time to watch them all.
I can bitch and moan about the state of Hollywood until I irritate everyone around me (and I have done this … a lot), but I can’t complain about how lucky we are. Hell, even cable is better now than it was twenty years ago. In just one week I caught “The Flesh and the Fiends” and the end of “The Devil’s Rain,” which I still haven’t seen in its entirety.
At any given moment I have about three stacks of movies I have to watch for either review or personal pleasure. There will be some duds in there, and there will be some gems. There will be some where I just want to see the extra features because I don’t like the film that much (“Cannibal Holocaust” comes to mind), and there will be old favorites given the remastering treatment. It was different when I was a kid. The videos I had were either taped off cable or acquired used at a video store. Most movies weren’t priced to own. And I remember the first video store we rented from had a selection so small that it was typed on one sheet of paper. I didn’t care, though. How else would I see Creepshow?
I remember renting “Re-Animator” and loving it. A year or so later I saw it for sale at a store, and it was priced way out of my budget … so I stole it. Now you can get the DVD with all kinds of goodies cheaper than it originally cost to buy the VHS. (Well, not cheaper for me because I stole it, but you get the idea.)
And let’s not even get into downloading movies off the Internet.
These are good times, and I don’t know if a lot of people realize how lucky we got it. I sure as hell know the younger people don’t get it, but I know most of the writers here remember the dark days. I think they’re pretty grateful, too. How do I know? Because even though we have different opinions, we all share a love of this artistic medium. We write for this site and others because we truly appreciate movies. Chris Gore wears many hats, but the thing that binds all his endeavors is his love of film. The other writers here aren’t much different, and we know we can’t ever go back to the way things used to be.
This golden age has benefited even the most casual fans, too. They have more choices and have become more knowledgeable. Best of all, it has transformed some of them from mere observers to fanatics. You can’t ask for anything more. And what will happen when those kids who are absorbing all this information found on DVDs finally start making their own movies? One can only imagine.
This is a wonderful time, people. We may have to wade through crap like a special edition of White Chicks to get to Wolves in the Snow, but it’s worth it. I wouldn’t give up a second of this to go back to that video store with its sheet of paper that had maybe twenty films on it. It’s just too good now, and I hope we never forget that.

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Posted on December 29, 2005 in Features by
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