Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You know what's a good movie? (Part 10) Memento

Welcome back to the You know what's a good movie? column. It's when I talk about movies that are connected in some way.  Maybe they share a director, maybe they share a starring actor or actress, or maybe there is a common theme?  Let's review:

Part 1: Forrest Gump

Connection: Tom Hanks

Part 2: Toy Story

Connection: Pixar

Part 3: The Incredibles

Connection: Superhero Films

Part 4: Batman (1989)

Connection: Jack Nicholson

Part 5: The Departed

Connection: Matt Damon

Part 6: Good Will Hunting

Connection: Robin Williams

Part 7: Mrs. Doubtfire

Connection: Chris Columbus

Part 8: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Connection: Richard Harris

Part 9: The Count of Monte Cristo

Connection: Guy Pierce

Part 9: Memento

At this point, it should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever read a post on this blog, that I am a total Nolanite.  Don't know what a Nolanite is?  Well let me explain.  It's a biased, illogical, one-sided fan of one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema, Christopher Nolan.  Ok, now that we've got that out of the way, let me tell you why Memento is a good movie.

Memento is most recognized for it's non-linear approach to storytelling.  The movie is told, simultaneously, in a straight forward narrative, but backwards.  What does that mean?  Well, we're shown the ending of the story at the beginning of the film.  And we're left in utter shock by watching the beginning of the story, at the end of the film.  It was revolutionary at the time, and something so different, and so creative, Hollywood quickly took notice.  We know Christopher Nolan went on to direct other high-profile, big-budget films; but it was his work on Memento that really catapulted him into the ranks of the Hollywood elites.

Other than the way in which the story is told, it's an actually engrossing premise.  What would you do if you had no short-term memory?  I mean really think about this.  You couldn't remember the TV show you just watched.  You couldn't remember a phone number someone read to you.  Or the directions to the location you're going to.  It would totally and completely paralyze people.  Yet, the Guy Pierce character of Leonard, is trying to find his wife's murderer with this debilitation.  It's unique, and thought provoking.

Speaking of Pierce, he nails it.  He just owns the roll of Leonard, and the emotional struggle that comes with his debilitation.  He balances an angry undertone that expresses to the audience his thirst for vengeance, while keeping him vulnerable, because of his condition.  Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano play terrific supporting characters that help round out the 'world'.

From simply an aesthetic perspective, the movie is ugly.  It's washed out and distorted; it's sort of a neo-noir film meets Training Day.  It's tough and gritty; and paints the picture of a life none of us want to live.  I love that about the movie.  It uses the various settings, that would otherwise have been throw-away locations, to further the story.

I obviously won't spoil the ending.  But you have to see it for yourself, and hopefully enjoy the pay-off as much as I did.  Nolan and company made a film that is still talked about until this day.  Want to hear something horrible?  About a year ago, there was talk of re-making this cult classic.  Hopefully those rumors are all false, and we can watch more creative works, rather than run of the mill remakes.  Either way, I highly recommend you check out this film and let me know what you think.  Tweet me, or Instagram-me.  Is that a thing?  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I'm Slowly Making the Switch to Digital Copies of Films

This is the year.  This is the year that I officially bought my first digital copy of a film, versus a physical Blu-Ray copy.  How did this happen?  The answer to that question will require a little bit of context, and a look at the past.

People have been switching to digital content for the better part of a decade at this point.  iTunes revolutionized the music industry by allowing people to legally purchase copyrighted music, at an affordable price.  Mind you, this was at the peak of music piracy.  In a time when people were illegally downloading thousands of songs A DAY, iTunes offered a simple, and legal, alternative.  People were actually willing to spend money on digital copies of CDs, rather than pirate the music for free.

If iTunes was the pioneer of this massive shift in consumer spending; what does that make Hollywood?  Old dogs.  For years, the major studios made it nearly impossible, and incredibly expensive to legally purchase Digital Copies of films.  They were so hung up on their physical media, they refused to acknowledge the shift in their consumer's spending habits.  Hollywood resisted the inevitable; I did too I'm afraid.  Then came Live Free or Die Hard.  Yes, Die Hard 4 completely changed the game.  It was the first wide-release DVD to include, for 'free', a digital copy of the film.  Hollywood decided, 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'

I own close to 1,500 legally purchased DVDs and Blu-Rays.  I would buy movie after movie; COMPLETELY ignoring the free digital copy that came with them.  Then something happened.  My wife and I began to travel quite a bit.  And we realized, all the DVDs and Blu-Rays in the world weren't going to help us 30,000 feet in the air, if all we carried were our iPads.  So I slowly but surely (and reluctantly) began redeeming the digital copies, enclosed in the physical discs I was buying.

I used to argue that I would continue to purchase physical media for a few reasons.  First, Blu-Ray combo packs often included a high definition Blu-Ray copy of the film, a DVD copy of the film, and a Digital Copy of the film.  I have a DVD player in my car, that believe it or not, I use quite a bit.  So Blu-Rays for the house, DVDs for the car, and Digital for the planes.  Great.  But secondly, and I believe more importantly; I was paying the same price for all three version of a movie (Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital), as I would for JUST the digital copy of the film through various services.  That just doesn't make any sense to me.

And let's get into why streaming digital copies of movies is so great.  To me, the most obvious is the convenience of it all.  My wife and I can sit on the couch, browse my digital movie collection in a matter of minutes; pick a movie and start streaming it in high-def (720p), in just a few seconds.  Let us not make it out to be some sort of a marathon to go get a Blu-Ray from the movie collection and pop it into the player.  But there is something to be said about having everything available to us in one convenient location.  And to be used across multiple devices too.

Beyond the convenience, it's a huge space saver.  My movie collection is, admittedly, outrageous.  The amount of room it takes up in our home is just plain stupid.  We have a three bedroom house and one entire room is dedicated to a computer desk and my movies.  Along with some collectibles that we wont discuss right now.

If you're curious, the digital streaming service of choice for me is Vudu.  I've tried them all, and Vudu, to me, is the best.  They support Disney films and their digital copies, as well as a number of television shows that are not compatible with other streaming services.  Remember, Blu-Ray combo packs cost about the same as a digital copy would on Vudu.  But, they often have flash sales where regularly priced movies ($14.99 and higher), are on sale for only $7.99.  Black Friday was a great example of the perfect time to buy digital copies on Vudu.  Disney's Beauty and the Beast Blu-Ray combo pack was on sale in most retailers for $17.99.  Vudu offered the digital copy on Cyber Monday for only $7.99.  A significant savings.

So let's close the loop on this totally non-linear post of my thoughts.  This year I bought multiple movies on Vudu, without worrying about the physical disc copy of the movie.  Earlier this year I bought the criminally underrated Celeste & Jesse Forever.  I think I paid $7.99 for it, and it was worth every penny.  It's smart, it has a ton of heart, and features some amazing performances by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg.  I doubt I would have ever found this movie at a conventional retailer.  Amazon is offering the Blu-Ray for $10.99, in similar quality to that of Vudu.  But I was able to purchase and view the movie in seconds.  There's just nothing else like that right now in the way of physical media.

To me, I still love the physical copies of movies.  The ability to 'show off' the collection, the special features offered on the discs vs. the digital copies, the ability to play DVDs in my car; all of these play a part in why I buy physical copies of movies.  But there is something to be said when an old dog like me starts to purchase digital copies of movies, vs. their disc counterparts.  I realize I'm behind the 8-ball here; but at least I'm rolling with it now.