An inconvenient truth about convenience

I have always been picky about when to buy and when not to buy a copy of a film. In the days before Netflix streaming, before Redbox and OnDemand, I would be so bold as to pick up a bargain bin film that I had never seen, but looked interesting. I am so old as to admit that that bargain bin film was probably on VHS, at least in the early goings. I lined my shelves. I bought previously-viewed films from the likes of Blockbuster and, showing my age even more, Mammoth video. Not only did I need to see everything, but I needed to display what I had seen like trophies.

Those days are long gone. Not solely because of the aforementioned home viewing options, but because I no longer have anything to prove. Recently, my wife even convinced me to put some of my DVDs away. Like, actually away. As in no longer in the line of sight. Growth is hard; growth is good.  My wife’s insistence that I stop burdening all of our living room shelves with my nerdom notwithstanding, I continued to purchase films, but with much more discernment. Instead of grabbing anything (and everything) I could, I made a point of only picking up films that inspired me, films with legitimate replay value, even if only in part. (I have been known to throw in a film just to watch one scene.) This new approach has made for a smaller, more purposeful collection. It’s also served to highlight my now seemingly archaic need to have something physical to reference.

In the age of streaming films and E-readers I still have shelves lined with DVDs and books. I had an easier time, I think, transitioning to an exclusively digital music collection because of my desire to have music with me at all times. CDs are cumbersome, an iPod is not. It’s been harder to make the transition elsewhere because, at least for me, the experience is as important as the thing itself. Books have a smell, a texture. In the completion of a page there is progress and physical evidence of it. I love bookstores. Love them. I could spend hours wandering the aisles of one, and have. Honestly, an E-reader just lacks character.

The same is true of film. Watching a movie that you chose (or in my case, settled on, watching only the first few minutes before wondering if I’d made a mistake, then choosing to give up on the idea all together) from an online menu isn’t anything. Busting out a copy of Magnolia intending to display and share in its brilliance, but instead ruining a party? Now that’s something. Going to a theatre? Now that’s even something-er. That’s an event. Even going to one of those dinosaur video rental places has got more going for it. At least you got off of the couch.

So I still have a ton of DVDs that I can’t yet bear to part with, even though some of them could surely go. I don’t really need an excuse to be lazy. I should get up and go to the movies, right? When I was a kid we used to walk ten miles through fifty feet of snow just to see a movie! Sometimes I feel old. Other times I worry that convenience will do away with the theatre experience the way that digital music has destroyed the album.

Kevin Mattison is co-editor of The Idler, and a filmmaker and videographer. You can follow him on Twitter at @kmmattison.

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