Friday, 8 February 2013

So, what should I do with my DVD collection?

With the recent closing of HMV stores across Britain - once the entertainment store giant of the high street - as well as me hearing the term 'Blu Ray' increasing in the vocabulary of adverts and people, it has come to my attention that my DVD collection may have been a waste of money.

When I was 14 years old I started to build-up my DVD collection - firstly with chick flicks and films starring Christopher Walken, but once my obsession with old films from the 1930s-60s took hold of me, my collection increased enormously. At its peak, my collection was at around 350 titles, including box sets, Disney, and other genres I had begun to branch out into. Then this Summer I needed to make a little extra money and sold about 40 of my films that I didn't want to watch again in the future. Six months later and again I am having a clear out of films that I don't want in my collection anymore. But whilst I look at the films I have chosen to keep, I am wondering whether it would be worth getting rid of the entire lot. I like having a collection, I am proud of what I have built up, and I like having the option of picking out a film myself. But is it worth all that, especially when one day I may have to replace them all with Blu Ray or whatever else comes after that.

Today we are seeing that the future is all digital. Services which combine television with internet channels like YouTube and 4oD have been invented and are slowly, but very surely, finding their ways into our homes. This is all great, I think having the option to watch iPlayer and other things on my television would be very convenient, especially when I am in a full-time job. But does that mean that having your a film collection will be nothing more than a thing of the past? I really hope that it doesn't. If I'm staying in on a Friday night I don't want to be enjoying a film on television but have to endure the annoyance of adverts and silly commercials every 20minutes. And even more so, I don't want to have to wait for a film to buffer online. Both of these alternatives aren't enjoyable - they make you compromise on at least one of the following things - sound quality, picture quality, interruptions, the film experience. Isn't it better to step up to your shelves of films and pick one out, knowing that it'll give you the best picture and sound quality, without a commercial in sight once you've pressed play and no reliance on internet connection or the fact that you've found a good copy of the film online?

One thing I despise is that now we are relying on the internet or our one computer to hold all of our purchases.  If I want to buy somebody's album, I will buy a physical copy of it, not download it from iTunes straight onto my iPod. iTunes is very handy if you only want one song instead of buying an entire album, but that is all that I will use it for. If I buy something I have to have it physically in my hand and stored in my room. I don't want to have to turn on my computer and log-in to access it, or risk losing it (yes you can back up but that's just another annoyance - it's much easier having the physical thing in your possession). As for films, I feel the same. I have cut down my collection considerably, and am continuing to do so  because some of my films I don't wish to see again. But the collection I keep will stay there, and I won't replace it with any digital copy that I can only access on my computer or any other electronic device. I don't want a film collection that is a digital library on a system. I want each title lined up on shelves. Maybe technology will advance so much that how I feel won't be important - perhaps one day the only way I will be able to watch films is digitally online or something.

But I am not going to give in to technology at the moment. I refuse to buy a Kindle or e-reader until I am older and my eyesight is poorer, and if I want an album I will purchase it and place it on my shelf with the rest of my music. The same applies for my films. Will I give in to BluRay? Possibly. I have never owned The Lord of the Rings Trilogy since my family have had the copies. But if I am to move out soon I will want my own set, and I've heard it's pretty spectacular in Blu Ray. As for the rest of my films, I don't want to replace them, I don't see the need - yet.

Somebody a while back said, you remember the first album that you bought, but you don't remember your first download. Whoever said that has a point. There's no sense of value in what we buy anymore, everything is a quick fix to satisfy our consumerism. The same applies to books and films, the beauty of how we view it has gone. What does it mean for some of us who are into more specialist areas of cinema - not just the latest film releases? Are Netflix, LoveFilm, and other companies going to invest in making an equal amount films from across the world available to their customers? And what about people with DVD collections that include a thousand or more titles? Online there are so many people posing with photos of their collection, how they have stored their collection, what titles are in their collection - a lot of money went into those - are they just going to have to replace it all?

Soon I will live in my own home, and one thing I look forward to is decorating it how I want, and having my possessions stored and displayed as I wish. Displaying my favourite books, albums, and films on nice shelves is something that will give my home identity and mirror my likes/personality. Until the day my DVD player goes bust and there isn't another one to be found in the world, I will keep my DVDs for as long as I can. I will even invest in a Blu-Ray/DVD combined appliance so that I can enjoy both. Technology is advancing so rapidly and people are saying that it's good because we will have less clutter and more convenience in our lives, but I do wonder if we will all realise soon that maybe downloading films, books, and albums isn't the best way forward. I was too young when DVD replaced the VHS cassette - if I remembered perhaps I would know that this was just the same thing happening all over again, of which I have to accept.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Memento: Clever on paper, boring in practice.

BEWARE! SPOILERS! (for films Memento and The Machinist)

Since seeing Memento(2000) ranked highly on's Top 250 list, and having been told by some of my friends to watch it because it was "amazing," I felt that it was a film that I really had to watch. I knew nothing of it, other than it had something to do with memory and that people seemed to really like it...

I was underwhelmed, however, and I felt that that was purely down to the fact that the narrative of the film was in reverse; we see it all in reverse order. The first scene that we see is the last chronological scene in the story, and at the end of each scene we see, we see the start of the previous scene we saw. All quite complicated but if you have seen the film then you'll understand what I have tried (miserably) to describe.

Within the first few minutes of the film, I had no idea what was going on. But by the third scene it finally hit me that the plot was being shown from the end to the beginning. Once I had realised this I was initially transfixed with this idea. I thought wow, this'll be interesting; I've never seen a film like this before. And even though I never quite got used to seeing the beginnings of a scene after I had seen the scene, the film honestly had my full attention.

Now, the picture lasts for just under two hours and perhaps that's why this reverse narrative thing didn't work for me. Maybe a film in reverse narrative shouldn't be over an hour and a half because it gives you a headache. After watching about 45minutes of the film, my attention and focus began to subside quickly. I'm not sure if it was the plot itself that bored me, but I am thinking more that the reversed nature of the narrative was what made me lose interest so quickly. By showing the plot in reverse, the film lost all suspense and intrigue for me. It should have felt like a detective trying to pin the clues together of a case, and the entire way through each new find increases your suspense at what the outcome will be. But this wasn't that at all.

The whole thing seemed very stop and start, it didn't flow at all. The fact that the protagonist Leonard (Guy Pearce) has short-term memory loss and will forget things within a few seconds unless he writes them down actually becomes more of a nuisance rather than a quirky/edgy twist to the tale. His memory began to annoy me because it halted the narrative too much. Pearce acted brilliantly though; I've liked him as an actor in both LA Confidential (1997) and Mildred Pierce (2011) and he performs just as good here in Memento. But not even he can make it work.

Christopher Nolan is a good director and he clearly felt that he was onto something new and fresh here, and he's right - what better way to make a film about a man with short-term memory loss than show the plot reverse so that we have no memory. We are as much in the dark as our protagonist - almost. But for me it didn't work at all. The plot never progressed. There are other ways to show how a story ended - through flashback is usually the most common way of doing so. But a reverse narrative is a somewhat boring alternative.

The only time that I felt it really worked was in the scene where Leonard is in Natalie's (Carrie-Anne Moss) house, and she fails to convince him to kill a man called Dodd. He refuses outright, and they both argue about his condition and his dead wife. Natalie calls him names and insults his wife, meanwhile Leonard is scrambling round the room for a pen so that he can write on his polaroid photograph of Natalie that she hates him and not to trust her. He strikes her across the face (giving her a cut and swollen lip) and continues to search for a pen. Natalie knows that unless he finds a pen and writes that down, he'll forget about the argument in a minute, and be none the wiser of her untrustworthiness. Angry at his violence towards her and aware of her ability to manipulate him to do what she wants, she walks out of the house and sits in her car - staring at him through the window. He still scrambles but fails to find a pen. A few seconds pass, she gets out of the car again and enters the house. By now he has forgotten everything that just happened between them. He sees the cut on her face that he just made when he struck her and asks who did that to her? She tells him that Dodd beat her. Leonard replies that he himself will take care of him. Natalie's plan has worked and now she has gotten revenge on Leonard for his anger and violence by manipulating his condition - she didn't even need to convince him to kill Dodd anymore. She's gotten exactly what she wants. This for me is the only part of the film that works with the reverse narrative. It is sad and cruel how Natalie manipulates his condition, and seeing the seconds tick passed as he tries to look for a pen beore he forgets, is quite tense.

But other than that this film was disappointing for me. I don't know if maybe it was just my personal preference that I didn't enjoy it; perhaps it's more of a boy's film (every friend who recommended it to me was a boy), I'm not sure. By the end of the film I no longer cared for the cause and root of all the events, or for what spurred Leonard onto his wild goose chase.

If there are other films that are better but have still used the reverse narrative - please let me know. Maybe the plot of this film was just boring, and therefore made the narrative device not work, or vice versa. All that I can say about this film is that it's not as clever as it thinks it is, nor as everybody else seems to think it is. What started as an interesting idea, ran out of steam quickly, and made the final half of the film insignificant and dull. This could all be just personal preference, however, and maybe this film works for others better than it did for myself.

Rating: 5/10 - worth a watch but only to see a film shown with a reverse narrative, enjoyable or not.