Sunday, February 25, 2007

Marty, how could you?

Who isn't pulling for Martin Scorsese tonight? By now we've all agreed that he's our greatest living director without an Oscar. He's in good company of course. Alfred Hitchcock never won Best Director, and neither did Robert Altman, David Lynch, or Stanley Kubrick among several others. But tonight we're all pulling for Martin Scorsese.

I'm not the traditional Scorsese apologist, not that he needs one. I acknowledge the artistic greatness of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, yet I don't like either movie (I chalk this up to a case of aesthetic taste gone awry -- I'm also apparently the only person I know who finds Bjork nauseating). I also, somewhat shamefully, prefer Kevin Costner's Oscar-winning Dances with Wolves to Scorsese's Goodfellas. In fact, my favorite Scorsese films have been After Hours, King of Comedy, Casino, Aviator, and now The Departed, all of which are considered his lesser works next to Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. But never mind. You have your Scorsese and I have mine, but we both agree that he deserves an Academy Award as our greatest living director without an Oscar.

Tonight, however, I almost want to withdraw my vote. Almost. My moral dilemma arrives after having purchased The Departed on DVD last night for $19.99 from the Virgin Megastore, only to get home and discover not a single special feature. Unaware that The Departed has been released in three separate editions (full screen, wide screen, and special), I accidentally purchased the version targeted at the enormous sector of the DVD-buying public that doesn't enjoy special features.

It used to be that a DVD was a DVD. For the same price as a VHS, you'd get the movie plus a bunch of fun extras. Sure, occasionally studios would rush out old films from their library in stripped DVD versions only to rerelease them in special editions later, but when it came to new releases of recent features, all DVDs were created equal. That's because the whole point to purchasing DVDs is owning the special features. If all I wanted was higher image quality and the ability to skip through chapters, I'd rent my damn DVDs, and sometimes I do just that. However, if I'm going to lay down $20 for a DVD, I'm not looking to buy the movie. I'm looking to buy the 6 hours of bonus materials I couldn't possibly find time to watch if I'd just rented the damn thing. Martin Scorsese should know this and act accordingly.

Do you know anyone who doesn't like special features? Do you know a single idiotic soul who doesn't finish watching a movie and immediately say to the person sitting next to him, "What are the special features?" These people do not exist! The brilliant studios, however, have invented a way to make you pay extra for the extras, something that was once assumed in the price of a normal DVD.

Admittedly, Marty probably had very little to do with this travesty of media marketing, and in fact, I should really blame the Virgin Megastore for not displaying the special edition of The Departed right next to the sucker's edition. I still hate this practice of multiple DVD editions. It is just another case of the studios trying to bleed the public of its every last nickel and dime.

An illustrated point of caution:

The special edition looks like this:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

My retarded edition looks like this:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


  1. I am always superkeenly aware of every edition that comes out of a movie I like, and I never buy bare bones editions of movies without heavily considering whether or not there will ever be a more stocked edition. This comes from life lessons similar to your Departed incident.

    I once gave in and bought a bare bones Titanic only to have the unexpected special edition subsequently debut, which made me feel like an ass. Perhaps this specific incident is what gave me the extrasensory ability to detect that when Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had its release, it would not be its last. But sometimes, there are no ways to avoid being blindsided. Chicago was one of my first DVDs ever, and it HAD LOTS OF EXTRAS. But then they came out with an extra special edition anyway. Don't even get me started on all the Terminator 2s.

    Then there's the crazy big releases, like Superman Returns, which came with different STORE-SPECIFIC extras, such as comic books or lithographs or bonus discs-- each of them with a different slipcase for the movie.

    Anyway, my point is that today, buying a DVD without exhaustively researching the different versions offered by different stores would be like putting something in my mouth without first confirming that it's food. I just can't imagine not doing it. So I was really floored by your observation that we didn't ALWAYS have to "pay extra for extras." I thought about it, and you're absolutely right. This practice of putting out infinite versions of movies made me completely forget about the early days of DVDs.

    I remember the first movie I ever saw on DVD. It was The Matrix, at my dad's friend's house. DVDs were a magical and frightening thing back then. And if you wanted to buy The Matrix on DVD, you went out, and you bought The Matrix on DVD. That's it. I look around today and I see chaos. Bare bones editions that exist just to create demand for extras. But we are slowly adapting to this modern day battlefield. And we have to make stupid mistakes to do it. I am filled with shame to admit this, but in tagging along with a friend on a shopping trip for my brother's birthday present, I once accidentally helped pick out a FULLSCREEN VERSION OF JAWS. I think that was probably when I hit bottom. And you know what? We all gotta get there sometime. So that we can someday prepare our children for it.

    I don't know if this trend of disposable DVD editions will ever end, but I am here with you, and we will weather this storm together.


  2. I also bought the "retarded" version and wasted $20 bucks. They completely tricked me. Oh well, it still has Leonardo DiCaprio in it!! :)