Sunday, October 01, 2006

Grab bag

One distinct pleasure for a certain stripe of DVD collector (myself included) is a trip to the local used DVD seller. Sure, nowadays one can find just about any DVD of note at Best Buy or Borders, or failing that Amazon and eBay should carry it. But used DVD shopping isn't about looking for something in particular; it's about discoveries. It's about finding a $5 copy of THEY LIVE or THE 4TH MAN- both awesome movies, but neither at the top of my shopping list. It's like when grandma used to cart you along to thrift stores and flea markets, only not so much of that mothball smell. Back in Akron, there were several CD Exchange stores that stocked a fairly impressive array of DVDs as well as CDs and even LPs. I haven't found something comparable yet since moving back to Columbus, although if anybody has any recommendations I'm all ears.

The downside to buying used DVDs, of course, is that quality can be an issue. Most stores of this kind have some degree of quality control, but occasionally a scratched DVD will end up on the shelf. And in general, the better the perceived value, the sketchier the quality. As the old saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. I was reminded of this after I came home from the annual Big Book Sale at the Columbus Main Library, where a stack of their old DVDs were also being sold for $2. A few of them caught my eye so I grabbed them, but the room was pretty packed and I didn't have the luxury of inspecting any of them before making my purchase. When I got home, I popped in my newly-bought copy of MALICE (a quintessential used-DVD-store movie if there ever was one), and about five minutes in, around the time Baldwin starts dressing down the doctor who questioned his judgment in the O.R, the picture starts jumping. Figures, I thought. I took the DVD out of the player and inspected it only to find a pretty intimidating-looking scratch. Then, to be on the safe side, I inspected one of my other purchases, Sam Peckinpah's CROSS OF IRON, only to discover that the hole in the center was cracked.

It all comes down to one thing- there are far too goddamn many people out there who have no idea how to take care of DVDs. As fragile as videos are, as long as your VCR is in good working order and you don't leave a video in a hot car you're not likely to damage the tape without putting forth a little effort. But DVDs, like CDs and LPs before them, are at the mercy of their handlers. The playable surface is there for all the world to see. It only needs to be dropped once to land on the wrong side and damage the viewing experience. But there's a big difference between the damage of accidentally dropping a DVD on the floor and repeated, negigent mishandling of your DVDs. Negligence is a whole bunch of greasy fingerprints on the playable surface, or cracked center holes from incorrectly removing the disc from the case, or giant scratches from doing who knows what (ultimate Frisbee? Skeet shooting?).

I worked one summer in a video store when I was in college, and I was shocked by how little people care for the movies they rent. I suppose they figure that since it's not their property they don't have to take care of it. I can only imagine how much worse it is for public libraries, who don't charge patrons to borrow movies. I do know that, having seen how crappy some people treat DVDs, I would never want to work at a video store now. And the sad thing is that it's not hard to keep DVDs in reasonably good condition. There are exactly four things to remember to keep your DVDs nice: remove carefully from the case, hold the DVD using only the edge and the center hole, place the DVD gently in the center of the DVD tray before closing your DVD player, and store the DVD inside the case when you're not playing it. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

It's clear to see why DVD sales have exceeded all expectations. To begin with, they're cheap to buy right off the bat, as compared to VHS tapes, which were almost always priced-to-rent for several month before the prices were lowered for the buyers' market. In addition, if DVDs are cared for, there's no degradation of quality after multiple viewings as there is with VHS. And DVD appeals in particular to people with enough money to afford fancy televisions and home theatre systems, since DVDs allow for multiple sound formats and greater picture clarity than videos ever gave. It's too bad, then, that too many of the people who have embraced the DVD revolution fail to think about keeping their purchases in good, playable condition. They need to realize that neglecting their DVDs that they're turning a disc that can in theory stay playable for years and years into a worthless drink coaster. In addition, people who do care about DVDs- not just new ones, but used ones- lose out on the deal too, since if the quality of secondhand DVDs decline so will the market for them, and a fugitive pleasure of the DVD enthusiast will become a thing of the past.


- I recently overhauled my yearly list page. I guess the impetus first came when I decided it was high time to post a list of my favorite films of the silent (pre-1930) era, which I've neglected to do for far too long. While I was compiling this list, I decided to just go ahead and make lists for every subsequent decade as well. And when it came time to post the lists on my site, the idea struck me to divide my lists up by decade, with the decade best-of list at the top of its page and the list for each year of the decade listed underneath. The result is that the lists should be more browsable for visitors to my site, since rather than scrollingscrollingscrolling down to a particular year one can find it within its respective decade. Anyway, enjoy!

- I also finally went and acknowledged that PLAY TIME is one of the greatest films ever made, and one of my favorites as well. In other News of the Obvious, the Beatles are awesome, picking your nose on a date is a bad idea, and babies are really adorable provided they aren't yours.


M. Lieberman said...

I bought a "pristine" copy (as the video clerk said, as I asked him to inspect prior to purchase) of THE NEW WORLD, and low and behold, once Wagner sets in within the first ten minutes, I see a pixelated metropolis!

Same goes with my copy of LAST DAYS...the last half hour was un-skippable and I had to return it. Mucho pissed off.

Also, how the heck are ya?

Paul C. said...

I'm doing OK right now. Holding my own at a 9-to-5 job, and I'm finally getting used to waking up early for work. Other than that, just watching movies and occasionally writing, although I don't have nearly enough time to do both. How are you?

As for previously-viewed DVDs, in lieu of a really good used-DVD store in the area, I've taken to making most of my used purchases through rental places, and I've had surprisingly good luck thusfar. The key is that you can't just take the quality on faith. You need to inspect the DVD while you're in the store, or failing that as soon as you get home. And then make sure to watch it before the return/exchange period is over.

To be honest I've only had one problem with a previously-viewed DVD purchase since I've come back to Columbus, and it wasn't even a skipping DVD. Instead, the idiot clerk behind the counter got the bright idea to remove the barcode stickers from the DVD, so that after I took it home and watched it, it got stuck in the player and scratched when I tried to remove it. Ah well- at least it was only 6 bucks.