Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All I want for Christmas

I've got to stop looking at the price of DVDs.

It may have happened in past years, but this year, I really noticed the price of DVDs come crashing through the floor. This probably explains why I've bought four DVDs on the cheap -- for myself, not as presents -- since Friday afternoon. I saw three I couldn't resist for $3.99 on Friday (Henry Poole is Here, Watchmen and Cube) and one I couldn't resist for $5 on Saturday (The Shawshank Redemption). In fact, the additions to my movie collection have gotten so out of control recently that I actually received one of the movies (Watchmen) on BluRay, as an early Christmas present, only two days after I picked it up on DVD.

And so it was yesterday that I simply had to turn down a handful of great $4.99 deals on movies I normally would have walked away with, such as Romancing the Stone and Married to the Mob, as well as a $9.99 copy of A Clockwork Orange on BluRay. Whether these movies fit your description of a bargain is not the point -- they fit mine. I informally walk around with a price in my head I will pay for every movie I love, and if the price is low enough, I will usually buy it, regardless of my financial circumstances or my expectations for how soon I might watch it. This was a safe policy when only bad movies could be found in the bargain bin, but now that good movies can be found there too, I might have to revise my outlook.

So, what did I tell my family I wanted for Christmas?


This was before the recent explosion of DVDs to my collection. In addition to the four purchases over the last four days, the three BluRays I got as my gift, and a couple movies I picked up a few weeks ago, I also got those 11 movies in that poker game. So yeah, this was before I added those 20 more movies to my collection.

See, my family has a tradition of giving each other Christmas lists -- a tradition that my sister and I have participated in more than our parents, but our parents have participated too. When I was younger, I was the subject of much teasing inside the family for having a list that was twice as long as anyone else's. What came across to them as greed -- or, at least for the purposes of teasing me, they played it that way -- was actually something else: I wanted to be surprised. The more options I presented, the more I'd be surprised about what I actually ended up getting. When my sister listed only five relatively inexpensive things, there was a reasonable expectation that she would end up with most if not all of them. I didn't want that kind of absolute certainty.

We're all adults, the youngest of whom is 34, but we do still drop each other hints, in order to take some of the guesswork out of buying Christmas presents. As we've gotten older and more pragmatic, we've also realized that a lot of good money is thrown away on presents that end up being total mismatches for the recipient. The best thing is to find a happy medium between surprise presents and presents that were specifically requested.

And so I submitted a Christmas list this year. But because I couldn't get that giddy excitement over listing the practical things I needed, I gave my family a list of 12 DVDs or BluRays that I wanted. The theory being that it would be fun to see which three or so they ended up getting me.

This is my long build-up to giving you that list:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The Iron Giant
Jacob's Ladder
A Simple Plan
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Starship Troopers
Three Kings
Time Bandits

I'm surprised I haven't been tempted by a great deal on any of these titles in the days since.

I chose Time Bandits as the art for this post because that's the one I'm most likely to get. In her response to my email, my mom said she was glad that Time Bandits still held such a place in my heart all these years later. I wore out our VHS copy of it back in the 1980s, and though I don't remember watching it with her very often, neither does it surprise me that she loved it too.

Whether I'll get any others, it's hard to say. My dad doesn't usually think too much of getting me any kind of media (CDs, DVDs, etc.) as presents, so he's probably out. My sister will probably also get me a movie, because it was her who came through with two DVDs that she had to guess on last year -- Inglourious Basterds and Up. In fact, it may have been those presents that inspired me to provide a list this year, because the first was a hit, but the second was something of a miss -- Up is not one of my favorite Pixar movies. (Though I did like it better on the second viewing than I had on the first.) Guessing on movies can be hard -- you want the person to like the movie, but not so much that they already own it. A tough balance to find, especially if you aren't familiar with what they're buying. However, because she got me two DVDs last year, my sister may not want to repeat that type of gift this year.

But the project of coming up with those 12 titles -- from a list of maybe 40 possible contenders -- reminded me again of the strange dichotomy between movies we love, and movies we want to own. Consulting my Flickchart rankings to come up with these films, I found myself skipping over a lot of titles I like better than the movies I've listed here. In some cases it was because I'd seen the movie in question fairly recently. But then there were other cases where no recent viewing was informing the omission. I love the movie but simply don't want to own it.

One good example was the Star Wars movies. Why wouldn't I want to own Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi? I've said I don't need a specific plan for when I'd like to watch a movie again, upon acquiring it, so the fact that we saw these four years ago is irrelevant -- and for most Star Wars fans would probably seem like an eternity. With movies like these, just having them available to pop in, should the urge strike you, should be reason enough. But I held off. Instead, I asked for Star Trek II, Star Trek IV and Starship Troopers. For some reason, I want to own those three movies about space battles, and not the other three -- even though I'm sure I would rank at least Star Wars and Empire higher than these other three films. Odd, right? But at the same time, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The love of a movie and the desire to watch it repeatedly don't necessarily correspond.

I could cite other examples, but I've already rambled enough. Can you tell that I jammed about three different concepts into this post? What can I say -- it's the holidays. My thoughts are pretty jumbled right now, especially as I try to make an end-of-the-week deadline for our presents to ship to Australia, to reach my in-laws before Christmas.

To wrap up with a more concise thought, however, I'll say this: Regardless of what I do or don't receive for Christmas, I've got to chill out on the movie acquisitions in 2011. I should probably start realizing that physical copies of movies are becoming artifacts, in all their forms -- why else should they be able to tempt me so with these low low prices? I have successfully addressed the perceived embarrassment that my library was under 100 titles, and so it'll be good just to sit back and re-acquaint myself with the 25 new movies I will, by then, own.

To say nothing of watching all those movies I haven't seen.

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