Movie collectors are a dying breed

Movie collectors are a weird bunch.

Most collectors of other items know the materials they’re collecting are pretty dorky, so they don’t tell anyone about it. Stamp collectors don’t walk up to you and say, “Guess what? I just found a 1937 2-cent Pony Express limited edition!” because they know you’ll look at them like they’ve just come out of a Star Trek convention and forgot to take off their Spock ears.

Movie collectors, on the other hand, think everyone should be interested in their movie collections, which is why every Gen-X-er clearly displays their DVD collections in their living rooms right next to the TV (or somewhere close). Lucky for the rest of the world, the days of movie collecting are just about over since it’s such an easy thing to do now. But man, was it fun while it lasted.

now that's cover art

now that's cover art

In 1996, my local independent video store — yeah, they used to have those — was going out of business and was selling all of its VHS tapes — they used to have those too — for $1 each. I used to go there so much one of the clerks called to tell me about the liquidation so that I could be one of the first ones there for best selection. It was a cult movie lover’s dream come true. I bought about 30 movies, which was just about the only $30 I had to my name at the time. When I brought them home, my parents thankfully decided against calling a shrink.

There were some mainstream hits — Ace Ventura, Airplane — but for the most part, it was cult all the way. Blue Velvet. Real Genius. One Crazy Summer. Get on the Bus. Bound. When I started selling some of them on eBay a couple years ago, the one that brought in the most money was Cool Surface, famous for Teri Hatcher’s only on-screen sex scene. Heaven’s Prisoners does not count. Someone paid like $27 for it. Even if you don’t want to watch the whole movie or buy it — and for the record, you DO NOT want to watch or buy the whole movie — there are roughly 7,427,811 Web sites where you can view the one-minute scene.

Back in 2002, I found Midnight Madness on VHS at a Suncoast in the Menlo Park Mall in New Jersey and nearly wet myself. A couple aisles over I found Striking Distance on DVD and seriously thought I was being filmed for a hidden camera show where I would get to the register, neither movie would actually be in its case and I’d predictably flip out. Or start crying, one or the other. When they were both in there, I started referring to that day as the greatest shopping experience of my life.

Now? Stuff like that can happen all the time thanks to eBay or Amazon. And Midnight Madness is on YouTube.

It’s just not fun anymore. There are good points to it, since we have what amounts to unlimited access to things like rare music and wrestling footage, but those days of cult movies are done for.

Alice in Wonderland continued dominating at the box office, not even making it close for a third weekend in a row. It tallied another $34.5 million to hit $265 million in North America, but it continues to puzzle me. Doesn’t this movie look a little scary? Of all the directors in mainstream Hollywood, isn’t Tim Burton kind of the anti-box office champ, save for the first two Batman movies? Isn’t Alice in Wonderland kind of an old story that people aren’t really that interested in anymore? Weird. This is why you’re going to see every movie start coming out in 3-D, because you can charge so much more to see it.

Here’s the Associated Press headline on — “Filmmaker Del Toro to give ‘Hobbit’ new look.” So when you click on it, you’re expecting to see an interview with Guillermo del Toro. Nope, it’s from the Peter Jackson side about why the Lord of the Rings trilogy director decided to cede control of the franchise to del Toro. OK, so it must be an interview with Jackson, right? No! It’s with some dude that does set direction for Jackson that no one has ever heard of. Bang-up job, AP! The dateline on it is Hong Kong, so if they sent someone from the US to Hong Kong to interview this guy at the expense of the news services that pay for the AP, I’ll be pretty angry. Jackson isn’t big enough that we have to read stories from his friends about what he thinks. The only way we should be hearing from people like this would be for headlines like “Longtime Jackson collaborator says director has gonorrhea” or “Jackson friend says LOTR director was high for the entire trilogy shoot.” Otherwise, art director Richard Taylor should only be heard from on a Blu-ray making-of featurette.

Edward Norton has certainly earned himself a reputation for being a meddler on a movie set, and with good reason. The director of American History X wanted to take his name off the final cut because of Norton’s interference, and the production of Norton’s version of The Incredible Hulk nearly ended up costing Marvel one of its bigger characters. Then you hear about stuff like this, where you can almost feel his passion for Hulk coming through the interview, and you start to think it was his passion for the character that made him fight with the studio to make sure his version got made. You can easily understand why Marvel was gun-shy to release two-hour, 15-minute version of the movie, since the length of the Eric Bana version was one of the things that turned so many people off (including me). But you certainly get the feeling that Norton really was trying to get the better version released into theaters. That’s not say he might not be a big jerk in the end, but he certainly has passion for Hulk, and it would be interesting to see him get another shot at him.

Some paper towels to wipe that egg off your face, 20th Century Fox? Just a couple of days after the Los Angeles Times ran an article about Bryan Singer coming back to direct the X-Men: First Class prequel and how everyone is back to being a happy family, now news is starting to surface that the studio may not be able to pair up Singer and X-Men after all. Ouch. Somewhere on the Fox lot, a PR flack is cleaning out their office this morning. On the other hand, it could be the ultimate publicity stunt: Get fanboys all riled up and happy about the new X-Men because Singer is coming back, then pull the rug out from under them after they’ve already gone all in. This is too much of a disaster to think it could be something sneaky, this just looks like terrible luck.

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