'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American
newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
INVENTION: MOVIES ON DVD
No doubt there have been some
remarkable technological advancements in recent years that have greatly
improved our quality of life:
“Smart” phones the size of a deck of
cards that can do hundreds of amazing functions, including the primary
function of a cell phone: disconnect the call whenever we drive under
a highway overpass.
Plasma screens that are ten feet wide
but only two inches thick, which allow us to save money on wall paper
since none of the wall is visible anymore.
MP3 players that can store every song
ever recorded on a device no larger than our thumb, so that whenever
we want to listen to a particular song all we have to do is wander
around the house saying, “Did I lose that darn thing again?!”
The Internet website “YouTube,” which
as we speak is ruining the future political careers of hundreds of
college students whose hilarious “beer and bong and bra” skit won’t
seem nearly as funny when it turns up in an opponent’s campaign
commercial in 20 years.
Chinese buffet restaurants in every
community, which allow us to get a month’s worth of calories in a
Miraculous micro-fibers used to make
comfortable stretch pants (see previous item).
These advancements are terrific, but by
far the best technological development during the past decade has been
the shift from movies on VHS tape to movies on DVD disk. When movies
were first available on VHS tape over 20 years ago, I thought it was the
greatest invention ever. Imagine, being able to watch a film in the
peace and quiet of your living room without unruly youngsters running
around the theatre, or without your feet sticking to the floor, or
without the fear of being hit in the back of the head by flying popcorn
and Raisinettes. Imagine, being able to watch a movie without paying the
outrageous price of $3.25. (Ticket price in 1987. Kind of quaint now.)
When I view some old VHS tapes,
compared to a DVD, it’s like a Model-T Ford compared to a brand new BMW.
The advantages of DVD are numerous:
Optional subtitles. I’m not hearing
impaired—yet. (Although my wife would disagree.) But sometimes the
dialog is delivered while an explosion occurs in the background, like
during the car chase scene in “Mary Poppins.” Or sometimes Mel Gibson
is trying to affect a bad Scottish accent. Being able to read what
he’s trying to say is a major benefit.
Deleted scenes. Sometimes these
deleted scenes fill in some minor gaps in the plot, such as: what the
heck IS the plot anyway?
Commentaries by the director and cast
members, and “how the film was made” documentaries. These bonus
features give us a fascinating behind the scenes look at the magic of
Hollywood. For example, the star of a film will explain that enduring
the heat and humidity of a five-star hotel in Manila for four weeks
really allowed him to “relate to what the G.I.’s experienced in the
jungles of Vietnam.” Yes, I’m sure your experience was exactly like
theirs, Mr. Movie Star—especially the Swedish masseuse. Thank you for
sacrificing so much for the sake of art.
The $5 bargain bin at Walmart, which
gives me the chance to see a lot of films I’ve always wanted to see.
After finally viewing many of these films, I realize always wanting to
see them was a mistake. But at least it’s a low-cost way to fritter
away my life with amusement, which after all is the main purpose of
modern technology, isn’t it?