The Video Revolution

22 Jan

I have a LOT of DVDs. I worked for Sam Goody/Suncoast twice over the years, and just plain tend to accumulate video. There are “Great” movies that I love, but most of what I watch is fun junk, and some of it actually qualifies as guilty pleasures. I own a copy of THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE, a movie so vulgar that it achieves a kind of perfection. I regularly watch S.O.B., which is the bad temper tantrum that Blake Edwards pitched when the world reacted to another one of his bad films by staying away in droves (that film is DARLING LILLY; if you get a chance to see it, don’t.).

I love Godzilla movies. I love cheeseball Kung Fu films. I love comic book films; not just the ones everybody else likes, but most of the others too. Every year, decade after decade, serious films come out that people attend in droves and which critics shower with praise, and for the most part they leave me cold. I see (usually under protest) a movie like RAIN MAN or THE SCENT OF A WOMAN, and I understand perfectly why the actors took part (money aside). I can see why the challenge of being those people, and putting across those performances would appeal. But I don’t want to watch the result. There are actors (Dustin Hoffman springs to mind) who have had long and successful careers playing people with whom I do not WANT to spend two hours.
I also don’t subscribe to the “they just don’t make movies like that anymore’ narrative. I’ve seen a lot of films from the silent era on, and I think I can say with conviction that the reason we remember of the films of eras past so fondly is that, mercifully, we don’t remember most of them. We revere CASABLANCA as a classic, and tell ourselves that 1942 was a good year for film. We have forgotten the many, many absolute dogs that came out that year. For which we should thank a kindly Providence.
The video revolution – the invention and spread of home recording and playing devices – changed the landscape of film appreciation. Time was when, to see old movies, you had to depend on what was released for television, what was playing in your local art-house or art museum, or plunk your money down for tuition for a course in film. Video lowered the bar. We, the rank and file, could actually get our paws on the movies the self-styled intellectuals rave about, and watch them. And many of them are absolutely terrific. Others turn out to be intellectual shell-games that don’t stand up to scrutiny.
The revolution has settled some other things. For instance; whatever Desi Arnaz was getting paid to put up with that sniveling redhead, it wasn’t enough. I have always LOATHED “Lucy”. I just don’t understand why anybody thinks she’s funny. I also don’t appreciate the “genius” of Charlie Chaplan; he strikes me as a mean sonovabitch. I much prefer Buster Keaton.
And the reason I feel I can express these heretical opinions, is that the video revolution leveled the playing field.  I don’t have to watch what everyone else watches. I don’t have to watch what my ‘betters’ think is good. The whole of film history, at least all of it that survives, is open to me. To all of us.

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