Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Why I Am Blue About Blu-ray

As a person who loves to watch movies, people are often perplexed to find out that I have not yet upgraded to a Blu-ray player. I am still rocking the standard DVD format, and to be honest, I am quite fine with that. While I love the idea of having a much crisper image to look at, the idea of re-stocking my shelf with the same films I already have just does not sit well with me.

A week or so ago I indulged a little by stopping by the closing sale at my local Blockbuster. Although I only intended to browse, I ended up picking up 15 DVDs by time I was ready to leave; and that was after I had to discarded another 10 just based on wallet constraints. The thing that my wife found shocking about the 15 titles I picked up where that bulk of them were not “new” titles. I had picked up: The first two Godfather films, The Indiana Jones Trilogy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the first two Alien films, The Great Escape, There Will Be Blood, Volver, The Lives of Others, Grindhouse, Sin City, and This Is Spinal Tap. Many of these films I already had on VHS.

Yes, VHS, that archaic format that helped to shape my, and many other movie lovers that are part of my generation, cinematic taste. In fact I still have my two VHS holder towers, and countless other storage accessories, in my mother’s basement. I even still have a working TV/VHS combo player down there hooked up to my old PlayStation 2. Whenever my mother holds a family dinner, and my younger cousins are pounding away on PS2, I cannot help but peruse my old VHS collection. About 40% of those movies are now staples in my DVD collection but there are some, such as a few of the films listed above, that I held out on upgrading to DVD for one main reason...repackaging.

Part of my resistance to upgrading to Blu-ray is directly related to that fact that I got fed up with studios releasing numerous versions of the same film on standard DVD. It is bad enough that I own two different copies of Donnie Darko, not to mention my wife’s three different copies of Dirty Dancing, but look at how many copies of both the Alien films and The Godfather films have been released over the years? I could not justify buying a film I already had on VHS on DVD at full price only to find out yet another “special edition” or “director’s final cut” version has hit the market. By upgrading to Blu-ray, I would in a sense be subjecting myself to the same financial punishment I had already endured with standard DVD.

I am not opposed to the technical advantages of the Blu-ray format, I am merely against the way studios are trying to drain every last dollar from me. Sure getting The Indiana Jones trilogy on Blu-Ray seems exciting now, but will you be jumping for joy when the Blu-ray, which you spent $50 on, is now being sold for $5 because a newer edition has become available. I am aware that with the advancement of technology, it is only a matter of time before I am forced to succumb to the power of Blu-ray. If I am lucky, I can skip the format altogether and just jump straight to the next big DVD format that is decided on by the folks at either Mircrosoft or Sony when they release their next incarnations of the Xbox and PlayStation systems. Until then, I am happy to be called a grumpy old man for sticking with my standard DVD format. Now where did I put that walker?


  1. Not as crumudgeonly a rant as you might think good sir, and an attitude I began adopting a while back.

    Six months into my bluray-collecting habits, I still hold fast to one cardinal rule: "No upgrades". Just by virtue of adding an HDMI cabel, the blu-ray player makes the dvd's I already own look glorious. Thus rebuying for better image is a relative non-factor.

    As for better packaging, I started becoming wary of that seven or eight years ago. I adopted a see-saw logic of asking myself if I really needed whatever new features were being offered (thus no GODFATHER double-dip), and likewise if the release seemed so bare bones that a special edition was inevitable (thus, no buy-in where BLADE RUNNER was concerned).

    Course, the dumb thing is it can leave you waiting a long-ass time on occasion (ask me about GRINDHOUSE...I dare ya).

    Spending the loot on collecting is all about balance right? We already fork over too much cash on theatrical need to grab our ankles again for the at-home experience.

    Good post!

  2. Not that I disagree particularly with anything you say (in fact, in some respects, I applaud a lot of it) but surely there's no real *need* to go back and purchase things you already own on DVD/VHS?

    I brought a Blu-ray player about two years ago and so far I haven't brought any film that I already own on another format: just classics that I've never owned before or new films as and when I've decided I want to own them. Not to mention that with Lovefilm (Netflix over there?) you can rent Blu-rays at no extra cost, so you enjoy the higher resolution without forking out.

    And there's Hatter's point: the HDMI input and the upscaling functionality of most Blu-ray players does improve your DVDs, so your existing collection will look better into the bargain.

    I certainly wouldn't hold Blu-ray up as a revolution (the difference is small, but noticeable) but to my mind it's a worthy addition to a home entertainment system.

  3. Been there done that. When I bought a Blu-ray player, I decided to stop buying DVDs and joined Netflix. So far, I have only purchased a few major blockbuster titles on Blu-ray, like Avatar, The Hangover, The Dark Knight, and The Human Centipede. I also sold all of my old movies at a recent garage sale and made enough money to buy a brand new #2 at McDonalds, which is nice. But I hear ya, tough to keep up with the technology.

  4. While I certainly understand your predicament, I'm very particular about what I pick up on bluray. Given that, like you, I've already got a good number of DVDs.

    The first question is does this film demand that high image quality? Something like Wayne's World is a film I don't need in bluray, while a film like Apocalypse Now is made much richer with a bluray transfer.

    The only exception is if I can pick up the bluray for around the same price as the DVD.

    The second question is do I already own this film? If I do, would I watch the bluray enough times to justify upgrading? Even though I owned The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven, I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would watch those films enough times to justify upgrading to bluray.

    The last, and perhaps the most important question is that if I buy this bluray, will I watch it within the next month? If not, I'd just as soon rent it from netflix when I get the desire. I recently bought Once Upon a Time in the West on bluray and while I haven't watched it yet, I plan on getting to it before the weeks end.

    But yes, paying again and again for the same film can be a drag, but for a small segment of movies it's worth it to me. I've bought The New World three times, and each time I bought it, I watched it as soon as I could and have no regrets shelling out the money for the next incremental version.

  5. As much I would love to own a Blu-Ray player and Blu-Ray DVDS.

    Among the reasons I haven't upgraded are financial reasons. I can't afford a Blu-Ray player or a Blu-Ray DVD. Plus, I have enough titles that I'm satisfied with although some I wouldn't mind trading for its Blu-Ray counterpart because of more extra features.

    It's just that it's not enough for me to convert and there's titles that aren't available on Blu-Ray at the moment.

    Plus, I'm still content with just being on DVD for the moment.

  6. @Hatter – I broke down and bought the Grindhouse disc because it had both films and all of the trailers. I refused to buy the films when they were being sold separately. I am still holding out on buying Kill Bill and Inglorious Basterds though. I figure a director’s cut/ special edition version of Kill Bill will probably hit once Kill Bill 3 starts shooting.

    @Film Intel – For DVD no, but some of the VHS films (i.e. Godfather, Aliens, Indy) I had no choice but to get them again…especially at the low prices they were being sold at. I am aware that at some point my VHS player is going to finally breakdown. Frankly I am surprised it has held up as long as it did.

    While Netflix has been a great addition to my overall movie watching experience, the selection for Netflix Canada is still not at the level it should be. I do see your point though about only buying the stuff that you don’t have though.

    @Sean – Were you able to upsize the fries at least? LOL. The only thing with Netflix up here is that they do not ship out DVDs, everything is streaming. If they did ship out DVDs then I would probably follow your lead.

    @Cinema Sight – I still need to see Days of Heaven. It has been on the “must-see” list for a while now. I do agree that films like Apocalypse Now and The Thin Red Line (which I did not like, but is beautiful to look at) are what blu-ray is really intended for. It annoys me to see films like Pall Blart: Mall Cop get the “buy it on blu-ray” treatment in advertisements. Still, you make a good point that we each have are small group of films, which we love to death, that are worth getting again and again.

    @thevoid – Cost is another deterrent for me as well. Similar to 3D movies, I would really have to love the film to pay the initial blu-ray prices. Especially when I know that the price will drop drastically in a few years when another blu-ray version of the same film is released.

  7. DVD, VHS, Bluray, any which way, I'm just glad to hear you're still collecting movies in any format. I have a couple friends who have sold their collections because they can stream anything they want whenever they want on Netflix. We must keep movie collections alive! Good post.

  8. @Nicholas - While it may not be as large as before, I still feel the need to keep a collection going. Not just for myself, but also for my son. I think it will be cool to show him, when he is the appropriate age, some of the films that I have loved over the years.

  9. 100% with you, Courtney - I'm planning on skipping the format altogether, unless on the off chance I happen to get a PS3 (or PS4?) or something, in which case I might buy new titles in a newer format.

    I haven't upgraded all of my VHS tapes, but I got rid of every VHS tape - some I can just live without a DVD copy of, and I keep a list just in case I run into a DVD bargain.

    And you touch on another pet peeve of mine with the multiple versions of films. George Lucas is the king of this shit - or is it Apocalypse Now? Either way, outside of a the VHS-to-DVD upgrades, I don't buy multiple versions of anything, and I'm philosophically against the idea of Director's Cuts, even if I'm also in favor of them. Confusing? Well, of course I'm in favor of directors getting their final cut, but I believe that once a film is put in theaters, that's the only version that really matters. I'll do an editorial about this some day.

  10. @Dylan – I blame Lucas for starting the multiple release trend. Studios saw how much money he was making and they decided to jump on board by releasing bare-bones version first and then special editions later.

    You definitely need to write an article on Director’s Cut. While I also agree that directors should have the final cut. I find that I tend to watch the original theatrically released version more than the director’s cut. Blade Runner is the only real exception to this.

  11. I bought a Blu-ray player primarily because it did streaming movies from Netflix and my DVD player was getting old.

    As for purchasing disks, I mostly buy new movies on BD, but still pick up a few on DVD if they are good deals. I only replace DVDs with BDs for those few movies that have great visuals, and even then I buy the BDs used, not new.

  12. @Chip – Sometime you have no choice but to upgrade players especially if the previous one is just too old. Buying used is a great way to cut cost though.


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