Reader feedback: Why not DVDs?

Reader Derry Ledoux of Cohasset -- see? local audience -- responded to my previous post with a long, thoughtful email about the changes cinema's undergoing and our duty to keep pace. Some excerpts:

"It's the DVD thatÂ’s changing everything. Critics really need to stop and take notice that today people are building film collections rather than libraries of books. In the past your business may have been limited to the going-out crowd but times are changing...

Your business embraces far more than whatÂ’s new. Technology has just opened the past. Criterion is planning to release an edition of TarkovskyÂ’s film "My Name is Ivan," or as it is also known "IvanÂ’s Childhood." So what are you planning to do? Old films need reviewing too... What makes you think that I wouldnÂ’t be interested in the ideas and the people that have been shaping cinema over the past century?... ThereÂ’s an enormous amount of work before you: the development of a market with all its nuances. The DVD player has made every home a theatre with different tastes. Where do you start?"

Excellent point: The wall between the theatrical experience and the home experience -- and thus between new films and the vast back catalogue -- has dissolved. Big media, by contrast, still plays the new-release game because the studios still need theatrical to plant the seed. More and more, a movie's appearance in theaters functions as an ad for the eventual DVD release, and that's necessary. Case in point: One of the best movies I've seen this year so far is "Longford," a British true-crime-and-punishment story starring Jim Broadbent and Samantha Morton (and Andy "Gollum" Serkis as a most evil man). It was released in England last year and only played on HBO here; it'll be on DVD soon. If it had come out on the big screen, there'd be Oscar talk, and rightfully so. But because it was on TV only, you probably haven't heard of it. It's our job to let you know about it, but theatrical movies still get the most attention from readers -- if nothing else, they act as a filter that helps make sense of an unending barrage of media.

We cover DVD at the Globe, obviously. Our Sunday Home Entertainment page features the writing of the estimable Tom Russo, as well as Wesley, myself, and others. That's the pattern most papers follow, and you could argue it marginalizes the format that has become the mainstream. (Indeed, why does the arts page not have a dedicated, searchable DVD section?) The Times, by contrast, has Dave Kehr, easily the best working critic covering DVD, and his must-read weekly column and blog point the way toward the big picture Ledoux writes about.

A primary reason most film critics don't cover the DVD world in proper depth is that there just aren't enough hours in the day. Not that I'm complaining, but I have my hands full seeing new releases (400 or so a year for me and Wesley and Janice Page to divvy up), writing reviews, and keeping up this blog. (Oh, and the wife and kids. Fact is, movie critics should never have families -- they just get in the way of watching that Rohmer boxed set in one sitting. On the plus side, they keep us from being snotty pasty-boys with no lives.)

Most of us have the same time-crunch issue. Except Tony Scott at the Times, who I'm convinced has a clone (or two) stuck in a closet with a word processor.

Still, Derry, you're on to something. The daily paper is one thing, but it behooves a critic's website -- whether it's a personal blog or an official corporate site -- to make not just an entire body of criticism as porous and accessible as possible, but the entire history of cinema. Because that's what's available to be seen and that's increasingly how people are seeing it.

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