Short Clips

February 03, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

This is a new regular (or semi-regular) feature for ReelThoughts that's intended to provide some weekend content as well as more interaction with readers. The idea behind "Short Clips" is for me to reply and react (in general) terms to e-mails from the past week. Since it's my policy not to quote e-mails (except for the occasional "hate mail" columns I post), I'll paraphrase where necessary.

When the week started, I was getting occasional e-mails from HD-DVD supporters railing against my assertion that Blu-Ray has become the dominant high def format. When I look at the numbers - both in terms of January software and hardware sales - it's hard to come to another conclusion. Warner's defection has given Blu Ray control of 70% of content (not that they're being aggressive in terms of releasing desirable titles). It's tough for Paramount and Universal to make a business case for staying HD-DVD exclusive and when they shift, HD-DVD becomes a footnote. It's not a matter of my being a "Sony lover" (in fact, I rejected Sony for both of my new TVs; their quality control isn't what it once was); it's a matter of looking at the landscape and making an informed, rational decision. If you're looking to get into high def DVD, Blu Ray is unquestionably the way to go. As for HD-DVD, I'm holding off on buying any new discs until the inevitable clearance sales. At that time, I should be able to get titles I would pay $25 for now at less than $10.

Advertising was the next big topic after I mentioned my decision to add pop-unders. Several readers advocated becoming an Amazon affiliate. I had decided to go with DVD Planet because they offer better terms, but I'm wondering if Amazon's domination of the market makes them a better choice. Of course, since there doesn't appear to be any exclusivity involved, maybe I'll go with both.

Then there's the question of a main page re-design, which was mentioned in numerous e-mails. The current movies.html is functional but its visual appeal is marginal at best – I'm aware of that. It will have to be reworked. I previously mentioned an idea proposed by one e-mailer about a contest, and this is the direction in which I will proceed. If nothing else, I'm curious to see whether I'll get any submissions and what the ideas will look like. The "prize" will be non-monetary: a prominently placed citation (with or without a link – winner's decision) something along the lines of "This page was designed by xxxxxx." My expectation is that entrants will be those who do this sort of thing either as a hobby or as a second job and are looking for exposure. In 2007, movies.html received 3.6 million visits, so a lot of eyeballs see the page. I'll officially announce the contest (with rules) in about a week (Probably Wednesday, February 20). Entrees will be accepted the first two weeks of March with the eventual goal of having the new page up by mid-April. If I don't get any entrees, I'll have to do the re-design myself, which will take considerably longer.

"The Boob Tube" received some interesting responses. Some were from Christians who believe that nudity such as Charlotte Ross' is at the top of a slippery slope that ends with porn destroying the family structure. I have heard the argument before, usually supported by skewed statistics. (That's the thing about statistics – you need to look not only at the numbers but at the methods used to derive them.) My rebuttal is to point to Europe where nudity is accepted as a natural facet of the human experience and civilization as we know it has not collapsed. Another valid point made by e-mailers is that the U.S. views sex/nudity the way Europe views violence, and vice versa. There might be a column there some day, although I certainly wouldn't be the first person to express an opinion about the issue.

By the way, I want to clarify something that's not apparent in the NYPD Blue YouTube clip (since it's soundless and short). Taken in context (I have seen the entire episode), the scene is supposed to be humorous. Charlotte Ross does not play the kid's mother; she's his father's (Dennis Franz's) girlfriend. Eventually, her character would marry Franz's character, creating the ultimate Beauty and the Beast story. But the fact that a kid sees a naked woman isn't what the FCC has a problem with; it's the "naked woman" part of the equation. Apparently, no one on that board has a sense of humor because the scene is funny.

Finally, it looks like my proposed numbers were very close on the Hannah Montana film. The movie is making a killing at the box office. One wonders if Disney is in the process of striking film prints so they can expand it to 2000 theaters next weekend. I always wondered if the decision to go all-digital was a mistake. I believe the film could have easily pulled in $50-70M if it had opened wider. Then again, there's something to be said for limited distribution and sold-out shows. But, while that did The Blair Witch Project a world of good, I'm not sure it makes any difference here. The audience is built in and sold-out shows merely cause frustration for those who can't get in. And, since girls will want to go back time and time again, there's a goldmine sitting here – as those who paid $1000 to ticket brokers for seats at the concert know.