Wow me don’t involve me?

Reading various forums, hardware and disc reviews over the past few weeks as part of my research regards buying a new (4K) television, has resulted in some troubling observations. I watch movies because, well, I love movies- good, bad, indifferent, I enjoy watching them, experiencing them, being uplifted, frustrated, awed by them. I enjoy the art and craft of them. Sure, some might turnout to be stinkers but its extremely rare that I ever stop a film mid-way. When I start watching a movie I’m making an effort, a statement of intent,  an investment of my time and I’ll see it through no matter what. I love movies, just as  I love books.

But I don’t choose to watch particular movies because they look good, or show off the hardware I’m watching them on. I watch them because I enjoy them or want to experience something new, perhaps be enlightened or surprised.

I have discovered the rather troubling trend of many enthusiasts who watch particular films just because they look great. Regardless of how good a movie it actually is, if the film has a brilliant image quality and ‘wow’ credentials, it gets praised/highly rated and bought and watched if only to justify the expense of that high-end screen sitting in the corner/on the wall.  Films are actually rated not by credentials like story, acting, drama, craft, but rather by superficial nonsense such as moments of impressive HDR or Dolby Atmos sound-staging, as if the films are simply multi-million tech demos and not creative pieces of art.

Surely these home cinema enthusiasts are simply missing the point?

I loved Blade Runner at the cinema, and I enjoyed it on a pirate-copy VHS that I was gifted at Christmas in 1983, grainy and fuzzy and mono and replete with blooming colours as it was, it was still a great movie. I am certain that it will look great someday when I watch it in 4K on a new television, but it has always been a great movie and while it would not be ideal, if I had to watch it on an ancient b&w portable because that was the only way to re-watch it, then I probably would. The movie is the thing, not the bells and whistles of the hardware I’d be watching it on.

But this does make me wonder if this trend is indicative of why films are so often all visuals and spectacle and little substance now. Are people so obsessed with the size of their screens and all the bells and whistles of modern hardware that elements like script and drama seem antiquated and immaterial? Wow me don’t involve me?

7 thoughts on “Wow me don’t involve me?

    1. I do think this is a very odd position to be in, but thanks for your comment . It suggests you enjoy film for its escapism or the ‘virtual worlds’ it can offer than for any dramatic content. That said, I lean towards the sci-fi genre because of escapism myself but also much prefer those sci-fi films that also engage me intellectually or emotionally. I’m wondering what you thought of that recent Valerian movie, which to me was certainly very pretty to look at, but the film itself said very little, if anything. All very vacuous to me but perhaps it was everything you wanted to idle a few hours by?.

  1. EditMSM

    I’m often puzzled by comment on forthcoming release news (on, generally) where people say things like ‘no Atmos track, no purchase!’ Weird subculture.

    1. Yeah its so bizarre. I’m sure some bought BR2049 on disc simply because of the ‘wow’ factor of its cinematography rather than its qualities as a narrative work. People buy films because they look pretty or sound loud/have a fancy sound stage that zips things from speaker to speaker.

  2. I can understand reviewing/assessing picture quality from the perspective of wanting a good / the best quality version of the work, and even from the point of view of wanting to have a “demo disc” to show off your new tech with, but watching a film just because it looks good? Well, I think it’s possible for style to be substance in the right circumstances, and there are certainly films I’ve watched where the only thing I’ve appreciated is the visuals, for one reason or another, but making that your only criteria for watching a film? Eesh…

    re: Atmos, I really don’t understand some of the hardcore’s devotion to that, especially those who express a blanket “no Atmos, no sale” attitude. I can understand it on a new release that was primarily mixed for Atmos — it’s not really different to wanting a film in its correct aspect ratio, say — but why are they so desperate for it on a catalogue release that wasn’t originally designed for it? It’s not even like its the first uncompressed audio format, which would at least be a valid reason. Some people are batty.

    1. We live in such an obsessive world. Whilst researching LED/OLED etc, I was told about the next tech, micro-LED, which as the name suggests is millions of microscopic LEDs assembled in precise rows smaller than any eye could ever see. It would look as good as OLED but last much longer (organic LEDs have a shelf-life, apparently so the panels won’t last forever). The tech is proven but yes, incredibly expensive and years away from mass production on the scale of a 55″ or 65″ panel. So the advice I was being given was, get this, keep my current HD screen for another 5 years, or buy a cheaper 4K LED now, and wait 5 -8 years for when the micro-LED screens become affordable. Seriously, wait that long to buy a better television because it will be the best.

      I’m a patient guy but if you keep on waiting for better tech, in this world you’d be waiting forever and never buying a screen to enjoy 4K with.But some people are that obsessed with (eventually) owning the best and feeling short-changed by tech that is old-hat, that some will possibly wait that long. It’ll be holograms, mind, at some point anyway, so why bother with panels at all?

      1. If you keep waiting like that then, yep, you never buy anything. Every time I get a new phone I’m thinking “but how long until they announce NEW ones?”, but unless you buy in the first month or two (when they’re hard to come by because of all the “must buy it now” types), you’re always going to have that thought.

        And sometimes better never comes: I remember when Masters of Cinema released Fritz Lang’s The Tiger of Eschnapur & The Indian Tomb on DVD, they nearly didn’t bother because an HD restoration was underway, but they figured they may as well get some sales from the DVD version. I bought it back then for a similar reason — if I liked it, I’d upgrade later. It’s now 7 years on and I don’t know what happened about that HD version, but MoC certainly haven’t released it (and I’ve not watched the DVDs either, but that’s my problem!)

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