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November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change" 
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Post November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
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Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:45 pm
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
My hope is that we'll get a repeat of what happened with Clinton whereby the upturn in the economy also signaled an upturn in the quality of films and music. To wit, the Clinton era brought us, amongst other things, the 1990's independent cinema boom (which gave us Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater amongst others) as well as one of the most influential movements in rock music: the Seattle grunge scene - which, whether one likes it or not, did definitely influence even a lot of what is still popular even today. Now, granted the seeds were planted for both of these phenomena a few years before Clinton took office but they arguably reached maturation during his two terms in office (especially his first one). I could list many examples here to support my claim but I imagine that enough people on this board are savvy enough to come up with their own (or to come up with potential counterpoints to this claim) so I 'm gonna leave it at that...


Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:12 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Interesting post. Are you seeing rising gas prices on the east coast? I guess they've slowly been creeping up here in WA, but they've been fairly stable for a while.

Also, I'm curious about your inability to spell "Barack"? [EDIT:] You also spelled "Reagan" wrong in the first sentence of para 3, so maybe you were just having a really bad spelling day. :)


Last edited by moldonmysoles on Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:39 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Hi James

You have mentioned before a desire to conceal your political allegiances as you feel it is irrelevant to your views as a film critic. Do you think that if you were to openly support a party it could affect your readership?


Sun Nov 22, 2009 6:42 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
I certainly understand the desperation for studios to push us towards Blu-Ray and while the jump to a high definition format is certainly inevitable for movie lovers, that doesn't mean we have to like the obvious manipulative pushiness we see from the major studios. Well, one studio in particular.

Back in 1998, we fans who had been buying laserdiscs for the better part of the previous decade were faced with a choice. We could buy THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE on laserdisc presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (which, for most laserdisc buyers was the one special feature that would make or break our purchase back then) or spring for that new fangled dvd which featured a commentary by director, Taylor Hackford (which was actually a rather dry and boring one) and deleted scenes (which, in addition to not being very substantial, could only be viewed with dry and boring commentary by Hackford).

Regardless of the paltry nature of the supplements, Warner Brothers made the situation very clear. If fans of THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE wanted anything resembling a special edition of the film, they were going to have to switch over to the new format.

Jump ahead to 2009. Straight-to-video release, TRICK 'R TREAT has generated quite a bit of buzz even if it's received mixed reviews and word-of-mouth. It's still a film of interest to fans of old school anthology genre films, but wait. The standard definition dvd only features as an extra the short animated film which inspired the feature. If you want to hear the director's commentary (which I understand is pretty good) and see deleted scenes, you're going to have to get the Blu-Ray.

Well, okay. That's a niche film and not a big deal, BUT it's hard for former laserdisc afficianadoes to miss the similarities of Warner's push to force discerning consumers into the next format.

And now there's TERMINATOR: SALVATION. If I understand correctly, we can now see an alternate cut of the film (which may or may not be substantial) and hear a director's commentary from McG, but ONLY if we get the Blu-Ray. The standard definition dvd release has nothing except the theatrical cut of the movie. Nothing, nada, zip!

And if I understand correctly, the standard def dvd release of THE DARK KNIGHT was plagued with mastering issues that were surprisingly sloppy given how anticipated a home video release it was. Not so with the Blu-Ray. One would almost think that a conscious move was made to create as clear a visual contrast between the two formats on the highest profile release possible.

The DvdTalk review posted this weekend encourages fans to speak with their wallets with regards to TERMINATOR: SALVATION. I totally agree. It's a shame, because I fully intend to make the switch to Blu-Ray and really am doubly motivated to get the type of supplemental goodies that I long, long ago had to depend on laserdisc for. But this type of transparent manipulation does a pretty damned good job of encouraging me to drag my feet.

And besides, times are tough. I love collecting movies and digging into supplementary (or "added value") material, but I'm now old enough to know that I'd rather pay my bills, fill my gas tank and feed myself through the week than to pounce on an attactive new home video release on the day or even the week that it hits the market.


Last edited by Tom Kessler on Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:50 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
I have no intention of switching to Blu-Ray until DVDs are completely phased out, as I simply don't have the money to invest in Blu-Ray and even if I did, Blu-Ray dosen't really have much of anything substantial on it, none of those Blu-Ray only special features interest me much, i never noticed any mastering on the standard DVD of The Dark Knight, and most of those so-called "alternate cuts" turn it to be rip-offs nd I rarely listen to commentaries, though it still does feel pretty cheap. So i'm not being swayed towards Blu-Ray, And not all Blu-Ray films have more special features then regular DVDs, in fact some have absolutely no special features whatsoever! And from what i've heard, some films on Blu-Ray had such abysmal transfering that they actually looked worse then a standard DVD, that type of laziness tells me is that not all movie companies are embracing Blu-Ray, and I certainly have no intention of embracing it until DVD becomes completely defunct, and I don't see that happening for another decade or so.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:27 am
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Tom Kessler wrote:
And if I understand correctly, the standard def dvd release of THE DARK KNIGHT was plagued with mastering issues that were surprisingly sloppy given how anticipated a home video release it was. Not so with the Blu-Ray. One would almost think that a conscious move was made to create as clear a visual contrast between the two formats on the highest profile release possible.


I never noticed the lackluster nature of the transfer on The Dark Knight, but I have noticed a decrease in quality on the later Harry Potter dvds. The first three films on DVD has excellent transfers. Then came Goblet of Fire, which is quite possibly the worst modern DVD transfer I've ever seen. Order of the Phoenix was better, but not up to par with what Warner Brothers delivered on the first three. I'm worried Half-Blood Prince (which I've already pre-ordered on Amazon) will be the same.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:39 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Blu-Ray will become the DVDs of the next 10-12 years. People will still buy DVDs and its system.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 12:40 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
sclark78 wrote:
Hi James

You have mentioned before a desire to conceal your political allegiances as you feel it is irrelevant to your views as a film critic. Do you think that if you were to openly support a party it could affect your readership?


He didn't declare any particular political allegiance here. That wasn't even the point of the essay. It is possible to write a brief overview of the past 6 presidencies from a historical perspective and postulate what we might be up against in the future without it being partisan.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:38 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Tronam wrote:
sclark78 wrote:
Hi James

You have mentioned before a desire to conceal your political allegiances as you feel it is irrelevant to your views as a film critic. Do you think that if you were to openly support a party it could affect your readership?


He didn't declare any particular political allegiance here. That wasn't even the point of the essay. It is possible to write a brief overview of the past 6 presidencies from a historical perspective and postulate what we might be up against in the future without it being partisan.


Which is why sclark said "Do you think that IF you were to openly support a party it could affect your readership?" I think you misread.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 3:24 am
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
I'm actually in the process of selling off most of my DVD's (and CD's too, for that matter) while they still have value. I don't want what happened to me with my laserdiscs to happen again - I have a big stack of LD's I can't even give away. I can't see bothering to upgrade to Blu-Ray since streaming of digital media is what's coming next. Why buy shiny discs anymore when I can just stream content to my TV? Sure, streams aren't yet of the same quality as Blu-Ray, but how long before that's possible? For me, Blu-Ray quality isn't even necessary, since I still have a 1997-era TV, whose highest quality input is S-Video. I'd kinda like to replace it, but... it still WORKS, and still looks GOOD.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:52 am
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Quote:
It really took until FDR's third term before things were properly turned around, and he was aided by a world war.


I realise this wasn't central to your overall point, so I do apologise in advance for the pedantry.

But nevertheless, the idea that war can lift an economy out of a depression is an example of Frédéric Bastiat's broken window fallacy.

As economist Robert Higgs argues in Depression, War, and Cold War, private GDP plummeted throughout WWII and did not recover until afterwards when, by virtue of the war being over, government spending was drastically reduced. Of course, unemployment was lower during the war, but what meaning do such figures have when mass conscription is in place?

The curious might like to listen to Higgs discussing this with Dennis Prager.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:31 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
moldonmysoles wrote:
Interesting post. Are you seeing rising gas prices on the east coast? I guess they've slowly been creeping up here in WA, but they've been fairly stable for a while.

Also, I'm curious about your inability to spell "Barack"? [EDIT:] You also spelled "Reagan" wrong in the first sentence of para 3, so maybe you were just having a really bad spelling day. :)


At least I can't be accused of partisan misspellings. :)

I'm actually a terrible speller. Always have been. Large vocabulary, but I can't spell half the words correctly.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:55 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
sclark78 wrote:
Hi James

You have mentioned before a desire to conceal your political allegiances as you feel it is irrelevant to your views as a film critic. Do you think that if you were to openly support a party it could affect your readership?


I'd love to know where I wrote that, because I don't agree with it.

On the contrary, political opinions inform reviews. I can't review any movie with even a slight political agenda without exposing my own feelings.

Having said that, I do not openly support either party. When it comes down to it, I have a strong distrust for both Democrats and Republicans. Their philosophies may be very different but when it comes to practicality, the delta is much smaller. Politicians of all stripes are beholden to special interest groups and, for the most part, they're the ones who run the country.

My philosophy, to the extent that it is a philosophy, is that the best thing is for the leadership to change as frequently as possible. Corruption requires a little time to take root and breed so the more often things change, the greater the potential for stagnation to be avoided (or at least minimized).


Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:00 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Vexer wrote:
I have no intention of switching to Blu-Ray until DVDs are completely phased out, as I simply don't have the money to invest in Blu-Ray ... I certainly have no intention of embracing it until DVD becomes completely defunct, and I don't see that happening for another decade or so.


My best guess is that you will not be joining the Blu-Ray crowd at all. It will never replace DVD. It will likely exist side-by-side for a while then, at some point, both will give way to downloading/streaming. I don't foresee any point at which titles will be released only in Blu-Ray and not in standard DVD, unless we're talking about a time way down the road when discs are a minority/niche product (that would be when most people have converted to downloaded versions).


Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:06 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
rworsnop wrote:
Quote:
It really took until FDR's third term before things were properly turned around, and he was aided by a world war.


I realise this wasn't central to your overall point, so I do apologise in advance for the pedantry.

But nevertheless, the idea that war can lift an economy out of a depression is an example of Frédéric Bastiat's broken window fallacy.

As economist Robert Higgs argues in Depression, War, and Cold War, private GDP plummeted throughout WWII and did not recover until afterwards when, by virtue of the war being over, government spending was drastically reduced. Of course, unemployment was lower during the war, but what meaning do such figures have when mass conscription is in place?


World War II started several years before the United States became involved. Those pre-war years, when Europe was embroiled in war and the United States was not, were key to the final revival of the economy. Yes, post-Pearl Harbor, productivity plummeted in many sectors with all the shift toward producing for the war (not the most profitable business model).


Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:10 am
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Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Quote:


sclark78 wrote:
Hi James

You have mentioned before a desire to conceal your political allegiances as you feel it is irrelevant to your views as a film critic. Do you think that if you were to openly support a party it could affect your readership?




I'd love to know where I wrote that, because I don't agree with it.

On the contrary, political opinions inform reviews. I can't review any movie with even a slight political agenda without exposing my own feelings.

Having said that, I do not openly support either party. When it comes down to it, I have a strong distrust for both Democrats and Republicans. Their philosophies may be very different but when it comes to practicality, the delta is much smaller. Politicians of all stripes are beholden to special interest groups and, for the most part, they're the ones who run the country.

My philosophy, to the extent that it is a philosophy, is that the best thing is for the leadership to change as frequently as possible. Corruption requires a little time to take root and breed so the more often things change, the greater the potential for stagnation to be avoided (or at least minimized).

Sorry about that. It was a mistake on my part from thinking back to how you did not mention who you would vote for in the 2008 election.

Also found this which makes my post even more irrelevant from your interview with Dan Schneider.

"I think it's impossible for a person's experiences, philosophy, politics, and religion not to impact what they write. Those components are critical to an individual's personality and experience, so they will inevitably influence how a critic views a movie. If I was to employ labels, I would consider myself an agnostic, a libertarian, and a cynic. I think we as a society have become increasingly disinclined to accept contrarian viewpoints. It's not just a matter of disagreeing with those who think differently, but not being willing to listen to them. We saw this is in the 2008 Presidential race. This makes me pessimistic about the future. If we aren't willing to listen to those who don't agree with us, how can any sort of lasting peace be possible on a planet where there are so many conflicting viewpoints about everything?"

Will have to make sure I do my homework next time. :oops:


Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:12 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Interesting post, James. As far as gas prices go, I expect the Peak Oil phenomenon to raise prices high enough to completely undermine not only movie prices, but industrial civilization as a whole. (If that seems like apocalyptic hyperbole, think about how much gas it takes to transport massive quantities of medicine and foods across the country to your local grocers, or for suburbanites to drive 30 minutes to work every day) My best estimate for when this will happen will be 16-20 years from now, and if we wait until then to begin implementing alternative fuel technology, government analysts estimate about 20 years of liquid fuel deficit.

Hopefully your instincts are correct, and rising gas prices becomes the administration's chief concern very soon.

P.S. - Not to hassle you or anything, but when are we going to see the review of All Quiet on the Western Front? ;)


Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:50 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Quote:
The economy will probably recover because the media is making a pronouncement that it will. The more news programs report about the recovery, the more it fuels the engine. Perception is reality. It's actually a little unnerving. I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but if all the major news outlets got together and decided to focus on economic negatives, they could probably plunge the country into a double-dip recession.


I couldn’t agree more, especially the ‘unnerving’ part. Sometimes it truly seems like the (frustratingly fickle) collective sentiment is the singular dictator of the macroeconomic course, and that sentiment can clearly be swayed by everything from the “free” press, to popular commercial media, to cults of personality. It’s amazing how powerful the effect can be, and it’s actually almost made me cringe sometimes when yet another negative piece about the economy comes down the pike, potentially making everyone gloomy again. The quicker everyone gets with the program, jumps on the team and comes on in for the big win (by believing the recovery hype) the quicker we can all get to the really important stuff, like upgrading our home theaters! ;)


Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:58 pm
Post Re: November 22, 2009: "Permutations of Change"
Jim, gas prices in America are inordinately low compared to most of the rest of the world. Do movies do considerably better in america compared to other first world countries, population percentage-wise?

I think movies do as well everywhere there is relative wealth, and people, after the endless bitching, figure out a way to get used to the price of gas, and change their lives accordingly. Movies prices remaining low might mean that world series prices could conceivably come down, when people TRULY arent willing to pay $2000 to see a Yankee game, per se, but $12 - $15 to see a movie is ok.


Mon Nov 23, 2009 7:37 pm
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