In the book world, things got a lot better for collections of the rare and arcane; suddenly you could get hold of the most obscure out-of-print editions for mere pence. But the pleasure of finding a favourite edition is mitigated by the feeling that we’re in an endgame for paperbacks in particular, killed off by Kindle.
A few of my fellow writers gather once every couple of months to bemoan the disappearance of collectable items, but when I look at us I see the past; a bunch of sad old white guys discussing utterly random objects – we might as well be talking about the care and maintenance of Edwardian bow-tie presses.
Film was different – everything had become available through the medium of DVD. Suddenly we’re told that physical items are dead and we’ll now all switch to streaming whether we like it or not. I made a half-hearted effort to switch but hung onto my ridiculously vast collection of rare discs because streaming seemed impermanent and physical copies could be protected and reproduced.
It turns out I was right to do so. Several of my streaming platforms have already gone bust or have been swallowed up by other media companies. ‘Your films have now been transferred to a new site – click on link below’ has started appearing on screens, and sure enough, when you try to get back your beloved films from an Indian or Chinese corporation, they’ve gone.
Worse, they can’t even be repurchased. The market is now being dictated by what sells, so obscure slasher flicks like ‘Happy Birthday To Me’ get the Blu-Ray treatment while the output of Bunuel and Fellini remains unavailable in high quality formats. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ sequels will appear in 4K, while world cinema slips away and anything Hollywood deems uninteresting (ie intelligent and from the rest of the world) gets binned.
Hollywood has a long, ugly history of censoring, mutilating and dumping films it feels won’t play well domestically, and as it controls so many of the streaming platforms you’ll simply find yourself offered endless Jurassic World sequels over quality films.
For me, the most impressive film I’ve seen so far this year has been ‘Capernaum’, set in Beirut. According to Hollywood the lead hit is something with their highest-paid star, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. It doesn’t matter who chooses to watch what, but when the avenues of choice start shutting off, entertainment has a problem.