New Year's Resolutions

Here’s a list of resolutions I intend to break at some point over the next year:

1. I will not get annoyed about PAL speed-up.
I hate the fact PAL speed-up exists. It really annoys me. I find it highly unfair we have to choose between a lower picture quality or a 4% speed increase in the film. I only very occasionally notice it – most recently comparing the soundtrack of Buffy’s Once More With Feeling to the episode itself – but the sheer knowledge it’s there is enough to really aggravate me. Telling myself that by watching my Region 2 Lord of the Rings I’m saving thirty odd minutes of my life or whatever it is does not cheer me one bit. Up until now I’ve managed to filter the knowledge out most of the time, only remembering the fact once in about ten releases, but when I do remember it really grates and I spend roughly 4% of the remaining viewing time in a huff. One day all players will have something like WinDVD’s compensator built in (although even that’s far from an ideal solution) but until that day comes I resolve never again to fume through my slightly-speeded up viewing experience. See also: Giving Up Trying To Explain PAL Speed-up to Relatives Who Don’t Give a Toss.

2. I will be able to visit Popular High Street Stores and resist the temptations within.
Like Oscar Wilde, I can resist everything except temptation and this is never more apparent than when I visit town and start browsing in the DVD sections of any of the shops therein. Standing in front of the latest appetising release, I become like a purchasing Gollum, split into two personalities, torn between instant gratification and pecuniary sense. “Look at it there, all shiny and sparkly,” I say to myself. “But do I really want it? It looks good now but am I going to wake up in the morning and stare at it, wondering what the hell I was thinking?” “Of course you do. You like DVDs, and this is a very special DVD. Look, it has the words Collector’s Edition on the box.” “Yes, but that’s just a marketing ploy. Look, the second disk is taken up entirely with Inside Looks.” “Yes, but it has the word Collector’s Edition on the box.” I begin to crack. “Say I do get it, I could easily get it for five pound cheaper on the internet.” “But you can have it right now. Reach out and touch it.” I do so. It feels nice and real. Accessible. Available. Seductive. “But wouldn’t it be more sensible to wait a couple of days and save some money?” “No.” I stumble against the ropes “I don’t know…” before being knocked out by the clincher: “If you buy it now, it can be on your shelf within half an hour. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” That’s the thing. I’m almost more obsessed with the very fact of ownership as of actually sitting down and watching the thing, the pleasure of ownership almost as great as enjoying it for what it is. A product of this generation’s inability to wait more than four nanoseconds for its every whim to be satisfied (I blame broadband), I am helpless before the shop’s clever tactics of displaying their wares in front of me. But no more, I say! From now on, I will grit my teeth and become a modern-day Orpheus, turning my back firmly on this week’s must-have and walking firmly away, not looking back once and so saving my bank balance from descending deeper into the underworld of debt. Before heading home as quickly as possible to order it online.

3. I will not give up hope of getting Season Two of Twin Peaks on DVD this year
Or a proper release of Blade Runner. Or finding a whole batch of missing Doctor Who episodes necessiting Lost in Time 2 next Christmas. But mainly Twin Peaks Season Two.

4. I will watch more silent movies on DVD
There’s one area of film that I have particularly ignored on DVD and that is those that used to be introduced with Wurlitzers and have captions such as “Time passes…” This isn’t because I have a problem with silent movies – indeed, I revel in the feelings of nostalgia and the magic of seeing an artform slowly coming to life before our eyes – but I’ve always found the watching of them on a digital format paradoxical, a oxymoronic fusion of past and present that feels wrong somehow. When I want to watch these things, I want to see them as my grandfather did, down at a nickelodeon or in one of those cinemas that aspired to being a Victorian theatre, complete with red upholstery, impressive architecture and smoky atmosphere. I want to see the actual prints flickering up there on the screen, not some twenty-first century digital representation of same. It seems to take the magic away from it somehow. (I would also like to be able to find Charlie Chaplin funny, as opposed to just appreciating his artistry, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen). Locally there used to be a cinema that ran a club that got a hold of old prints which were superb but unfortunately it is no more, and the DVD versions just don’t have the same feeling, that visceral connection with the birth of cinema I want from such viewings. However, this is a silly attitude and one this year I resolve to get over. For too long have I denied myself the pleasures of Battleship Potemkin (yes, I know I should have seen it) or squirmed uncomfortably during Birth of a Nation, or laughed at Silent Movie… wait, scratch that last one. This year I resolve to immerse myself as never before in the legacy of the first thirty years of cinema and no longer have to bluff my way through conversations about the incredible contributions that Eisenstein, Griffith et al made. But I still bet I don’t find Charlie Chaplin funny.

and finally...

5. I will put disks in their correct boxes.
This is easily my worst DVD-related habit. Picture the following fictitious but entirely plausible scenario. It’s Christmas night. The family are sitting round crossly, stuffed to the gills with mother’s turkey and glaring at each other. The twins are lazily having a sprout fight on the hearth rug, Auntie Mavis is furious with Uncle Cedric for saying her gravy was a bit watery, and Grandpa Alfred is about to tell us about something that happened to him in 1912. Desperate for some distraction, and finding nothing worth watching on the TV (Harry Potter got 7.9 million this year) I scan the disk shelves, searching for that elusive title that will unite the family and remind them about the spirit of Christmas. Passing by White Christmas (Grandpa will start singing along) and skipping over Home Alone (don’t want to give the twins any ideas) I finally select Scrooged, another favourite that will cheer everyone up. I announce what we’re going to watch and gather the family around for this festive treat. Only problem is, when I open the box, it’s not one Bill Murray I find within, but Tera Patrick, star of perennial DVDTimes Review Chart Top Ten. That’s not the sort of thing to cheer Auntie Mavis up. I reach for the Tera Patrick box and find in it Bambi, which won’t do either as it upsets Grandma. I reach for Bambi and find Austin Powers… and so on and so on. By the time I finally locate the modern-day Christmas Carol the twins have fallen asleep, Auntie Mavis and Uncle Cedric have departed and Grandpa is well into his anecdote, and another Christmas Day’s unity disappears forever, all because of my slovenly attitude to putting things in the right box. My DVD collection is not so much a neat, easily accessible library of popular titles as it is a treasure hunt, akin to a Gumpian box of chocolates in that you never know what you’re going to get when you open a case. But in the new year it won’t be so. I resolve to put the DVDs in the right boxes from now on, whatever the cost. I really don’t want to risk opening another box and finding that dreadful Tera Patrick in it again.

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