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P.S. I Love You

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  • Review
  • TAG : All of the DVDs included in the prize are shown below:
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  • As with any sea change in the media landscape, there is always the fear that what we wind up with might be somehow less rewarding than what we currently have. Indeed, consult Lovefilm’s current streaming options and you will discover that it a good deal easier to find a rubbish Hollywood action movie than a brilliant independent or foreign-language film. Before independent, classic and foreign-language films find their way into the cloud there are numerous problems to solve not least the questions of rights and what is to happen to all of the people who currently make their living selling DVDs and Blu-rays. When it comes to larger films, these issues are not that much of a problem but given how many small films find their way to market through boutique DVD labels, there is a real danger that the shift to cloud media will silence some of the most distinctive curatorial voices in contemporary cinephilia.

    The power of the DVD as a symbol of one’s tastes and status has declined by virtue of the fact that nowadays most people have not only a DVD player but also a reasonable collection of DVDs and because all DVDs are equally accessible once one has a region-free player, there is no cachet to be had from owning a particular disc. As the economy grinds its heals and average home sizes shrink year-by-year, the fashion is increasingly for the kind of clutter-free existence facilitated by online streaming and digital media storage. Even the most beautifully designed of DVD cases cannot compete with the elegant minimalism of a TV surrounded by nothing but blank wall and a black box that discretely hums as it disgorges all the wonders of world cinema.

  • To give you some inkling of what we might lose with the end of physical media, I’d like to direct your attentions to three of my favourite boutique DVD labels:

    Best known for their art house multiplex on London’s Southbank, the also operates quite a prominently branded DVD label. Aside from releasing films of historical and academic interest, the BFI’s DVD label clearly also has quite a close relationship with its distribution arm meaning that many of the most interesting films released in cinemas (such as Herbert Pontin’s The Great White Wall and Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins) find their way onto DVD thanks to the BFI. Consistently good, consistently interesting and consistently well supported by essays, commentaries and intriguing on-disc extras, the BFI label really is a mark of quality and a guarantee that the film you are about to purchase is worthy of both your time and your money.

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    Thirdly, like most consumer objects, DVD and Blu-ray discs serve the additional (and occasionally just as important) purpose of allowing their owners to stage-manage their public personas. Just as people would, once upon a time, line their offices with leather-clad books in an effort to appear erudite, people now do much the same with DVDs and Blu-rays. All of those shelves clustered around the TV do not simply place people’s media within easy reach; they also broadcast their tastes to anyone who happens to visit their home. Unfortunately, the shift away from bricks-and-mortar retail towards online retail has robbed consumer items of any cachet they might once have possessed. For example, I can remember when having a good number of Criterion box sets and the region-free DVD player on which to play them marked one out as a serious film fan and Criterion were swift to cash in on this realisation by effectively charging top dollar for luxury re-issues of films that were frequently available elsewhere for a good deal less money.

What a lovely selection of DVDs –

Secondly, much of the force behind the shift away from VHS and towards DVD was provided by the promise that DVD would offer us things that VHS simply could not. Aside from better picture and sound quality, this included extensive commentaries, deleted scenes and short documentaries providing endless amounts of detail on the films that people enjoyed enough to buy. The problem with this promise is that we do not tend to limit ourselves to buying only the films we love. Indeed, while the idea of watching documentaries about the making of The Godfather or Star Wars might be appealing, it is difficult to see much added value in a documentary about the making of The Hangover. As a result, DVD companies have tended not to deliver on their promise to produce extra content and most DVDs come with little more than a few extra trailers and some fluff interviews filmed to help promote the film upon its initial release. To make matters worse, the increased storage capacity of Blu-ray discs has prompted many DVD companies to try this trick again by re-releasing old films with even more extras and even more interviews but already, you can see that most Blu-rays come with little additional content and what content they do include tends to be worthless rubbish that serves no purpose other than to allow retailers to mention the extra content on the cover. The result is a situation whereby DVD and Blu-ray retailers are trying to sell their discs on the understanding that they contain loads of content that few people actually want to watch and nobody really wanted to produce in the first place. Blu-ray’s promise of all new content has only served to remind us of how much of a wasted opportunity DVD extras have become. No wonder people are increasingly failing to see the value in so-called ‘Extras’ and are opting instead for streaming media that gives them the film they want right now at a reasonable price.