There’s an unspoken contract whenever Cale and I get together, and that is to stoke the flames of each other’s passion – or more like addiction – to collecting movies. There’s been many times where I’ve fallen out of step, weaning myself off collecting; when I visit Cale, it’s akin to staring into the abyss, except in this case, the abyss stares back with a deluge of physical format movies. With my wallet propped open for the long fingers of bluray and UHD discs, I found myself riding shotgun in Cale’s SUV – fueled unquestioningly by nothing less than the extinguished souls of demons – barreling towards the mall through a labyrinth of one-way streets and multiple cities. I couldn’t tell which direction we were moving at any time, nor which boundary we passed through, as I bore witness to impossible city limits and a cacophony of roundabouts that would leave the head of any sane person spinning.
He parked the car just as the clouds parted, and we headed in to this archaic store; indeed, any store dedicated to the sale of movies and music on physical media must surely be run by crazed cultists who refuse to bow down before the might of a new god: digital media. What does that say about us who continue to build out collections, expand our shelves, and revel in the shiny coated plastic of these discs? With all these questions in mind, I approached the UHD section with confidence. Or so I thought: scanning the shelves quickly for any standout titles, I was promptly overwhelmed by the variety, in awe of the titles that I’d never seen in my local shops. My eyes were drawn immediately up and to the right, my gaze resting upon a spine that shone like a beacon and simply read: Hellboy.
Robocop will always hold a special place for me in the hallowed halls of cinema. Not only is it one of my favourite movies from one of my favourite directors, it was also one of the first R-rated films I ever saw. Watching in wide-eyed fascination as a mutilated, reconstructed cyborg shot a rapist criminal in the dick to save a hostage was what Obi-Wan Kenobi might have called my first step into a larger world. Paul Verhoeven's social satire laced with a touch of religious allegory immediately caught my attention captured my imagination and caused this tingling sensation down in the depths of me. In short, I was hooked almost immediately, and over the years, my appreciation for and enjoyment of Robocop has only grown. So when the good folks over at Arrow announced a new release of this iconic action/sci-fi masterpiece, I knew instantly that my wallet was going to get a little lighter.
For me, this was the year of Arrow. Criterion is still the king of the boutique labels, and for good reason; they've set the standard for quality releases of significant films both on and off the beaten trail. Arrow, though, has made a name for itself with quality releases of films that Criterion likely wouldn't ever release (or ever release again; I've still also got my Criterion DVD of Robocop). Arrow's focus on horror and cult movies feels like it complements Criterion's specialization in more arthouse fare pretty well. In fact, for the most part, a lot of the boutique movie labels/distributors seem to work well in concert, carving out their own niches, with a little friendly overlap, like Arrow and Scream Factory in the horror genre, for instance. As a consumer, I get the sense that even though these businesses are technically competitors, there seems to be unity overall guided by a shared love of cinema. (Except for Twilight Time, who can go screw themselves with their incredibly limited releases. I've never forgiven them for forever denying me access to a high def version of Enemy Mine, and I never will.) Arrow seems to have made a concerted effort to grow their brand by focusing on the quality of their release, which in my mind puts them up there in the same league as Criterion, setting a clear example as an industry leader.
Almost since the beginning, Terry Gilliam has been a mainstay in my movie collection, and my DVD copy of 12 Monkeys has been around since university. It easily claimed a spot on the list of Essential Cinema that my friends and I hashed out over countless drunken nights and weekend marathon gaming sessions of SSX Tricky. So I was super stoked to upgrade to the Arrow release of 12 Monkeys a couple weeks back when Ryebone and I made our annual pilgrimage to FAN EXPO, it being a staple of my cinematic diet for so long.
And also a little sad.
Not at the superior visual and audio quality of the new Blu-ray version, which is awesome, but at the replacement of the specific DVD copy that has been a part of my life, literally for decades now. For some, sentimentality over a particular copy of a particular movie that was mass-produced around the world may be difficult to grasp. It's the same basic drive that fuels all sentimental connections, I suppose; that particular thing is associated in one's brain with another thing that occurred in temporal proximity as that brain tries to make sense of all this data. With 12 Monkeys it's not as visceral as some other films--I remember I bought it at the local CD Plus back when that chain still existed in Canada--but I can't narrow down the exact time. But I still remember that in my budding collection of maybe a couple of dozen films, 12 Monkeys made that early cut of essential films I had to have at my fingertips at all times.
John Carpenter. When you absolutely, positively have to scare every last bubble-gum chewer in the room, accept no substitute. Some people live with no regrets; regretting stuff is pretty much all I do. With regards to my video library, one of my current regrets is the lack of John Carpenter films, which I've started to remedy with my recent acquisition of Prince of Darkness, an integral entry in his self-described "Apocalypse Trilogy" alongside The Thing and In The Mouth of Madness. In this company, Prince of Darkness is the weakest entry, but it's also a great entry. Any time you can get Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, and Alice Cooper in the same film about an ultimate evil force trying to bring about the end of days, you can't go wrong.
The Second Era of movie collecting for me would be marked by the wrap up of The Great DVD Purge, which began in 2005 and ended a short year later in 2006. For the record, the First Era would be everything before DVD technology, so all those VHS movies I bought and movies that were crudely recorded off television. It could also be marked by a shift in the rules of buying. I developed a DVD Counting Standard before, but the rules of acquisition were never clearly defined, nor would they be. But there would be - and has been - a value in placing, at least, some loose guidelines to my own buying habits.
I wouldn't say that I was out of control with DVDs. Financially, it was difficult to do so. Today, with a decent amount of disposable income, combined with easier access and an abundance of special editions create a perfect recipe to get carried away. I tried putting some limitations on myself.
Now that a bit of the history of my collecting has been recounted, I want to share with you the collection itself. I'll start with the DVDs - the last remaining greats of the Great DVD Purge.
Many of you may remember the high definition format war that occured between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. It was a confusing time that I would equate to Betamax and VHS (although my family had plenty of both) back in the eighties but not something that I had to deal with directly; I was a child, after all. The high definition wars had me at my prime: I had money, I had knowledge, and I had a love for movies. So which one do I go with?
It came down to dollars, initially. Since I had an Xbox 360 it was cheapest for me to get the HD-DVD add on, and with it, I bought a slew of movies. Many of them were upgrades of DVDs, so I was able to continue to get rid of the original DVD collection. One of the first movies I recall playing was TRAINING DAY. The scene I remember as a standout of high definition was an interior shot of a car driving in the rain; the rain drops collected on the window, while the actors inside remained sharp. The detail throughout was amazing, and you could see the depth of the picture: the actors, the window and the world outside. HD-DVD really impressed me, especially on the 50 inch DLP television I was able to pick up around the same time, which was a set that would last me years and never failed to impress with quality. It was very sad to let go of.
In 2005, everything changed.
I finished school: four years of university and an additional year of college. I quickly moved back to my home town and was living in my friend's basement trying to find a job. Four long months went by with nothing. To say that times were tough is an understatement, but I had supportive parents who kept me afloat. Unfortunately it meant a complete stoppage of luxury items, which included DVDs. The collecting had come to a crashing halt, to which it has never recovered. When I did get a job, I went out looking for a movie to buy, but couldn't pull the trigger on anything. THE AVIATOR had just come out - a movie I thoroughly enjoyed - but I couldn't justify the cost. Bills were in the way, including car payments, rent and groceries.