Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stealing from Jonathan - DVD Edition

As I have nothing original or even really personal to offer any of you today, I am going to blatantly and remorselessly steal the topic of purchasing DVDs from Jonathan Lapper. He and I seem to run into similar obstacles, largely self-imposed, when it comes to building our DVD libraries, and both of us have gone through periods of not feeling especially proud of our collections -- for instance, I own a lot of horror movies that I don't like, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, because I want to have a good collection of that genre (the same goes for my books, but that's another topic). I bought it because of its place in horror film history, as sad a statement as that may be, and because it had good extras. Or perhaps it should be "good" extras, because given that I don't like the film, why would I give a shit about the making of it, or its history, or any of that noise? (The original isn't as bad as any of the sequels I've seen -- in other words, Freddy Krueger never pokes anyone's eyes out and says "I'll be seeing you!" -- but it's still poorly acted, and I also think it's high time horror fans admitted that Wes Craven isn't any good. Outside of the Scream movies, all his stuff is unbearably clumsy, sometimes to the point of being painfully awkward. And the Scream films aren't any good anyhow. I know that many people long for the return to form of John Carpenter, a wish I understand, but a fair number of those same people are also eagerly awaiting Wes Craven to stage his own comeback. What would a Wes Craven comeback look like? The Last House on the Left? Spare me). I also recently bought Stuart Gordon's Dagon because it didn't cost very much, despite the fact that I'd never seen it before, and I don't like Stuart Gordon, outside of Edmond and about 45% of King of the Ants (I'll say this, though: It's better than A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Why do I do these things? Because watching Dagon or Walk Hard on a Sunday afternoon when I'm starting to completely feel the tension of the coming work-week is an idea that's a lot easier to get behind than watching 8 1/2. That's why. Pretty simple, really. And probably not worth its own blog post.

But on Friday night, I was browsing in my favorite local DVD store (which I won't name, for fear of being labeled a sell-out and losing any street cred), and after checking to see if they had any used Criterion DVDs (they do, sometimes), I alternated between browsing the horror section and the "classics" wall. I was seriously considering picking up a used copy of Sunshine, the Danny Boyle and Alex Garland SF/horror movie, and I actually was in this store specifically to pick up Angel Heart (they were out), but when I checked out the classic DVDs I realized that the money I'd set aside for this outing would have to go elsewhere, because there, in rapid succession, I found My Darling Clementine, How Green Was My Valley (which I haven't seen) and the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, all for prices it would have been ludicrous to turn my back on. Sunshine is a perfectly decent film, but it would not lend the air of genuineness and sincerity to my ever-growing DVD library that those three would. All of which begs the question: What, exactly, does it mean to be proud of one's DVD collection? They're just DVDs, they're just movies, and I had nothing to do with the making of any of them. What do I have to be proud of? I don't know, but I've been proud of making good menu choices at restaurants before, so I don't see why I should be so surprised.

Epilogue:

That was Friday night, and I didn't have time to watch any of my new DVDs that night. The next morning, my wife and I headed out of town to see my family. We came back this afternoon, and on the way, at a gas station, my wife picked up Sunshine for me. So everybody wins. And then when we got home earlier today, we watched Friday the 13th on cable. Sometimes, I really don't understand what it is I think I'm doing with my life.

23 comments:

Bob Turnbull said...

"Sometimes, I really don't understand what it is I think I'm doing with my life."

Sounds like you're busy enjoying it...

I dig all three Scream film actually - yeah, they became slightly more pointless, but still enjoyable. And i thought "Sunshine" was terrific - even the end of it that so many people hate.

"Nightmare On Elm Street" just doesn't cut it though. however, I saw it for the first time years after it first came out, so maybe it would've been more impressive at the time. But somehow I doubt it...

bill r. said...

I'm actually rewatching Sunshine right now. It is pretty good, all right. I think I short changed it in my post.

I can understand enjoying the Scream films, and honestly I think they're fine, Sunday afternoon kinda films, but if that's the best that Wes Craven can do -- and I think that it is -- then why does anyone give him any credit?

Jonathan Lapper said...

but it's still poorly acted, and I also think it's high time horror fans admitted that Wes Craven isn't any good.


Ha, it's about somebody said that. As I said during Killfest, I went into a latency period (I think Arbo first used that term for himself) with horror due to slasher films and crap like Elm Street. I remember my girlfriend in 84 telling me it was better than The Exorcist and I just got infuriated. I was livid by that remark. Anyway, she dumped me after a couple more weeks anyway. According to her note, it was her not me. Whew, that's a relief.

And I still haven't seen Sunshine. I'll get it soon I promise.

bill r. said...

I remember my girlfriend in 84 telling me it was better than The Exorcist

Um...why didn't you just murder her? Clearly she had it coming.

Jonathan Lapper said...

why didn't you just murder her?

The blow jobs were amazing.

bill r. said...

I see. Fox, quit stealing Jonathan's name!

Rick Olson said...

What, exactly, does it mean to be proud of one's DVD collection?

There are at least two boards devoted to Criterion DVDs (criterionforum.org and criterionforum.com) which apparently were created when they suffered an acrimonious split, and on one they all list the Criterion titles they own at the bottom of each of their posts, in the signature section.

My collection is bigger than yours ...

bill r. said...

Rick, I've seen those signatures on the Criterion board. To be honest, some of them are, er, impressive. And as I said in the post, I'm susceptible to that sort of thinking myself, but even if you feel pride over something like that, you should probably keep quiet about it.

Jonathan Lapper said...

...and on one they all list the Criterion titles they own at the bottom of each of their posts, in the signature section.

That's one of the saddest things I've ever read. I mean, wow, why don't they change the name of the forum to I'm Insecure.org. Besides, couldn't you just copy and paste all the titles and claim to own them. I mean, unless somebody stops by your house how are they to know? All the features are listed right there on the website so you could easily fake knowledge of each DVD.

bill r. said...

I own every DVD and laserdisc and Blu-Ray that Criterion has ever put out. Prove me wrong.

I remember reading those forums once, after a new slate of releases was announced, and some guy bitched that those new titles proved that Criterion had devolved into self-parody. How a DVD company can achieve "self-parody" I don't know, but among the titles he was bitching about were two Jean-Pierre Melville films. But I guess you can't please everybody.

Jonathan Lapper said...

some guy bitched that those new titles proved that Criterion had devolved into self-parody.

Talk about taking something waaaaay too seriously. And, yes, how exactly does a DVD company devolve into self-parody? And if it were possible would it not be more likely to come with the inclusion of something like Not Another Teen Movie than the works of Melville?

bill r. said...

No, if Criterion chose to release Not Another Teen Movie, that would be a "betrayal". I'm at a complete loss as to how they could reach self-parody. Maybe if they continued to release classic and important films to an absolutely ridiculous degree?

Jonathan Lapper said...

Maybe if they continued to release classic and important films to an absolutely ridiculous degree?

That would be funny! They should do that.

Krauthammer said...

Do you know what has always rubbed me the wrong way about A Nightmare on Elm Street? That it is a pretty great concept. We're taught from our first nightmares that "it's only a dream" so that this kind of brutal realization that it's not is inherently chilling (at least to me). The only thing in that movie that even approaches what the idea deserves is that one shot with Freddie elongates his arms to scratch both sides of an alleyway...

The rest of it is junk though, I agree, Wes Craven has a completely unwarranted reputation. Scream is okay I guess, but that's really more of a screenwriter's film, isn't it?

bill r. said...

Krauthammer - I agree, the premise of Elm Street could have been made to work, but for one thing -- and this may just be my own taste -- the nightmares would need to be a lot more bizarre than the ones we end up getting. I guess the elongated arms come close, but Craven needed to go a lot further than that (I may have just inadvertantly made a pun on "elongated arms" in that last sentence. I apologize).

I would say that the success of the Scream films (you know, I don't think I've ever seen the first one all the way through) has more to do with the writing, but I remember the directing being a lot smoother than I'm used to from Craven. Not that he suddenly turned into Hitchock or anything (or even Carpenter), but there's a polish to it, at least.

Anyway, The Last House on the Left may actually be the worst "classic" horror film I've ever seen. God, I hate that movie.

Brian Doan said...

I own every DVD and laserdisc and Blu-Ray that Criterion has ever put out.

I own everything Troma has ever released. And the collected works of Dakota Fanning, Rob Schneider, and Alan Smithee.

Wait, it's not cool to admit that? B-b-but...B-b-but...

*Hangs head in shame*

Somehow the whole notion of those dueling Criterion boards reminds me of that SEINFELD where Elaine is the only person in NYC who hates THE ENGLISH PATIENT, and the entire city shuns her: "Enjoy Sack Lunch, Elaine!," one sneers as she walks into a trashy comedy.

BTW, good steal from Jonathan, Bill. J-Lapp stole his blog topic from The Beatles, and you're stealing it back.

Fox said...

I agree with ya that Wes Craven is sloppy, and may agree that he mayb not be very good, but I really like some of his lesser films b/c I think they work as pretty good-to-great B-movies.

Stuff like Shocker, The People Under The Stairs, Red Eye, and Cursed are stuff I would watch again. I like him when he doesn't try so hard. Like, remember when he tried REALLY hard in The New Nightmare and it sucked super duper bad?!?

bill r. said...

Man, Brian, Dakota Fanning's just a kid! Lay off her, why don't you!

And Fox, okay, Red Eye isn't bad. People Under the Stairs is crazy, and maybe gets a point or two for that, and for Everett McGill's performance, but it's still pretty terrible. And Cursed is just flat-out painful. Man, you and horror movies...you and I just don't match up at all in that area, do we?

Bob Turnbull said...

I have to agree with Fox (trust me, it's not that I want to...) that "Cursed" was very much a fun time - not a great film, but it seemed to know how to just keep things moving. I'm a sucker for Christina Ricci though, so take that for what it's worth.

Couldn't stand "Shocker" though. Just an ugly film all around and Peter Berg ruins everything he touches as an actor.

bill r. said...

Well, I don't know what to say about all this Cursed love. I mean, I'm a sucker for Ricci (I'm a man, after all), but that thing looked like a music video from the late 80s. By, like, the Bangles, or something. Only with werewolves. Werewolves with bat ears, if I'm remembering it correctly.

Krauthammer said...

Werewolves with bat ears, if I'm remembering it correctly.

I was going to say "that sounds like a recommendation" but then I remembered that it is Wes Craven, and Wes Craven sucks, so I'm going to retract that thing I never said.

bill r. said...

Wise move, my friend. Wise move.

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