Saturday, 26 January 2008

The end of an era

Back on Friday I posted the last of my laserdiscs away. I doubt I will ever touch a laserdisc again.
In retrospect, my entire laserdisc adventure, consisting mainly of the purchase of a hundred of them at a cost that now seems outrageous and at a time in which I didn't earn much, seems quite futile. However, I think looking at it now and saying it was futile is the stupid thing to do; at the time, laserdiscs definitely seemed the right thing for me to do, and in doing them they shaped me into the person I am today, for better or worse.

Laserdiscs came into my life in 1992. My brother told me of his adventures in the field of home theater, and it made me think: there was this movie called Terminator II that I liked so much and which boasts superior technical prowess; what can I do to enable me to watch it the way it should be watched whenever I want to watch it?
Laserdiscs were the answer. Quickly enough, and with the aid of all the money I didn't really have at the time because I was a soldier, I got myself a home theater system (whose core still serves me now) and a laserdisc player. At first discs were hard to come by and watching Terminator II, Hook and Basic Instinct again and again was all I could do. Indeed, those were the times before Blockbuster, times in which acquiring films to watch was not something to be taken for granted. Especially if, like me, you did not consider VHS an option.
Things changes quickly enough when laserdisc rental facilities became available. I would rent a film, watch it two or three times over three nights, and return it. Trouble was, I would easily fall for films or for their hype, so I ended up buying more than a third of the films I would rent. I also bought certain films based purely on people's recommendation, which usually turned out to be a mistake; but I was too much of a fanatic back then.
Thing is, through watching the same films again and again - I didn't really have much of a choice because there weren't that many films available - my taste in films has changed. When I went into the world of lasers it was all to do with special effects and good sound; a few years later I was asking for much more. You see, when you watch the same film numerous times, you stop caring about the effects, but you do notice things like composition and camera placement and editing. Listen to a few good director's commentaries, such as the ones from The Usual Suspects, and you really do learn something about cinema.
With time, DVD's threw laserdiscs down the gutter, the internet came along, and I had no more time to watch the old films again. To be honest, there is no justification for laserdiscs anymore in a world of high definition widescreen TV's of the size of a mammoth.
This, however, does not mean that I should not keep a warm place in my head for the laserdiscs that got me through many years of entertainment. It was, after all, a good laser watch that I looked up to after every university test; and it was Andy Dufresne that entertained me on laser over the night of the millennium. Today I rent and watch more new films than I ever did before; today I consider collecting films to be a waste of space. But I would never be able to get to where I am now if it wasn't for my laserdisc collection.

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