Well folks, the dreaded day has come. Your big huge movie collection? The one you’ve spent more than a decade accumulating through impulse-buys and Christmas presents and permanently borrowing from friends? Useless. Paperweights, all of them. Dvds have finally gone and gotten old on us, and now we’ll need to think long and hard about how to rebuild.
I realized the end had come the other day when I got a random hankering to watch the 1993 sci-fi cops n’ robber film Virtuosity, starring a young Denzel Washington and a skinny Russell Crowe. I’d recently re-watched Ridley Scott’s very good American Gangster, starring those same two actors, and this made me curious to see if that same chemistry was alive and present back when they made Virtuosity.
So I ordered the dvd on Netflix and it arrived promptly five weeks later. I’d actually somehow managed to build up quite a bit of excitement to see this film, and when I finally popped it in the player and watched it on my widescreen HD television my jaw literarly dropped to my feet and exploded.
The “Virtuosity” Incident
Where were the glorious pores in Denzel’s face? How come I couldn’t quite get a fix on the grease-levels of young Russell Crowe’s hair? Why did the futuristic police station look like it belonged in some high school theater production?
To be fair, Virtuosity is a terribly lame movie. Hollywood didn’t exactly bring out the big guns for that particular production. I’m pretty sure they shot the whole thing on the home video camera my parents had back in the early 80’s. But still. As I watched that film up-scaled on my blu-ray player I had the distinct impression that I was watching something with hella low resolution. And though I’ve been watching DVDs on HD televisions pretty regularly over the last few years, this was the first time I cringed at the drop in picture quality.
And once the DVD door closes, friends, it stays closed. Suddenly my entire collection of dvds felt like a huge, sleazy waste of shelving space. Obsolete and old and sort of grandfathered in, because however dirty they made me feel I knew I’d have to share my home with them quite some time yet. ‘Cause, not like I can just throw them all out and replace them with blu-ray versions—that would cost a friggin’ fortune!
So yes, these hundreds of DVDs—including such cinema classics as Predator, Aliens, Rosemary’s Baby, Minority Report—were like ancient phone-in schoolteachers who’d earned their tenure and were now just handing out worksheets and collecting big fat checks. Can’t get rid of them. Can’t get much out of them.
DVDs are old. Not dead and buried like VHS, not yet, but old and sad and flea-markety just the same. Ever since the Virtuosity incident, I’ve stopped taking for granted that I actually “own” all those titles in my collection. Now it’s more like I simply have in my possession low-res YouTube versions of those same titles. When I go to Best Buy and I see a blu-ray copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I now feel a pressing need to purchase it, even though I already own the DVD version.
The Harbinger of DVDoom
So what did them in, anyway? What age-related infirmity finally bitch slapped DVDs from old to elderly? At first I thought the obvious: blu-rays. But no. Blu-rays have been around for years and they’re still not the primary way Americans watch their movies. I have no research to back that up, but I’m confident the statement nonetheless. My brain was my research.
Most people watch their movies and shows via their HD cable subscription and/or a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Streaming. There are no flourishing big chain video stores left. No obvious way for movie-fans to rent blu-rays except through that mysterious Redbox kiosk in your supermarket—a good way to rent movies, actually, but one for which many of us are still warming up to.
For most of us movie/television fans, we’re getting our fix through digital HD cable and streaming. That’s what’s on our televisions and laptops. That’s the standard now, and it’s been for a few years. And just about everything worth anything has been remastered and converted to allow for an HD experience. Now the late night movie on your local television broadcast is a much higher resolution than the version you’d gotten for your birthday back in 2004.
Suddenly it’s better to watch a watered down, commercial-ridden, edited-for-time version of 1989’s martial arts/gymnastics hybrid action film Gymkata than the completely untampered-with version sitting on your bookshelf.
That, my friends, is what finally nudged DVDs into the old folks home. Not blu-rays—a format which may never reach the popularity of the DVD at its height—but the simple, inevitable realization that, even though you already own the deluxe DVD edition of Scarface, you’re not going to sit down and watch it until it’s playing on television. Butchered or no.