CineSavant Column

Saturday August 31, 2019


Gary Teetzel points us to yet another authoritative Bill Hunt article at The Digital Bits that makes a lot of sense — three makers of TV monitors are planning to include a ‘Filmmaker Mode’ button on new 4K equipment, that skips the manufacturer’s settings of ‘motion smoothing’ and other extra processing, to simply display the image as registered on the source. Why this hasn’t always been standard slays me — when I get a new monitor, I usually avail myself of a better remote control wrangler to help me with the setup to remove that bad processing — keeping everything as neutral as I can in other departments, so as not to suddenly start reporting that all discs seem to be ‘a little green this week.’ The article is called The UHD Alliance Unveils the Filmmaker Mode Initiative to Ensure 4K TVS Display Movies Properly at Home. I hope the initiative does the same for ordinary Blu-ray signals, too.

I like all this attention to getting the equipment right, but I still gripe that I can no longer buy a reasonable monitor that displays the incredibly good Blu-ray 3-D format, the kind that uses ordinary passive glasses. The ‘industry’ decided not to support it here, although passive 3-D monitors are reportedly still made for overseas distribution. I really hope that that form of 3-D comes back by the time my present LG monitor dies. I already bought a smaller monitor to review discs on, to cut down on the wear and tear on the big, expensive set. I almost elected to buy my daughter’s 3-D capable set, because she doesn’t use the feature. Then I found out that her 3-D is the inferior kind with battery powered ‘active’ glasses. Fudge.

And more distressing rumors are afoot. There were more merger-related layoffs at 20th Fox just a day or so ago, many from their home video department. The word online is that repertory theaters are being told that Fox titles will no longer be made available to them. And just yesterday I heard from a European home video executive, that Fox is no longer licensing its films to him. Is that policy the same for other vendors? Placing paranoia aside, we can figure out for ourselves that Disney isn’t plotting to rake in millions by making Sonja Henie musicals and other Fox oldies only available via its streaming site. The launch of Disney’s streaming platform is revolving around its new Marvel and Star Wars TV series.

Just the same, this might indeed be the beginning of the strangling of hard media, which the big companies have been treating like a necessary irritant for at least ten years. An unanswered question here is, how will this impact MGM discs, when Disney inherits Fox’s home video distribution contract? Already we have Netflix, that seems to purposely not make discs of many of its shows. The choice seems to be hit and miss. The first seasons of the Netflix Marvel shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage eventually made it to Blu-ray in the U.S., but no sign of the second or third seasons, and no sign of Iron Fist, The Punisher or The Defenders. (Some of these have been released on disc overseas.) The Netflix Lost in Space reboot has also appeared on disc. But no sign whatsoever of Roma, The Ballad of Buster Skruggs, Okja, etc. on disc.

I think this is definitely the ‘disruptive’ mode of marketing that happens when a broad field of providers dwindles down to a few behemoth companies — the biggest power no longer just competes on the level of products, it uses its heft to demolish all other competing delivery systems. The idea is to make theaters kowtow to studio demands, and to eliminate most discs. Why go to all the trouble of making a product, when you can instead sell limited access from the web?  For the consumer, it may eventually come down to a choice of subscribing to ten different streaming companies, or nothing. What’s available will be at the whim of corporate overseers.

We used to say that movies have lives of their own, but the streaming model may make most of them less accessible than ever. Netflix wiped out Blockbuster with its mail-rent system, and then dropped all but a few of its deep library, both for hard rental, and then on its streaming site. Just think, it will be just like before home video: movies will distributed or withheld, and changed as deemed fit — without our being informed. Hundreds of Fox movies from the 1930s that are already difficult to see, will be shoved deeper into storage, because the corporate committees will deem them to have insufficient profitability to be made available. And since we’ll have nothing permanent in our hands with which to compare an altered presentation, we’ll have to accept the ‘intellectual rights holder’s’ version of the truth.  You know, like the ‘rumor’ that there ever was a movie simply called Star Wars, without the ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’ alterations.

With that in mind, the CineSavant office contains twenty years’ worth of older Fox DVDs and Blu-rays of variable quality. They may suddenly jump in value!

But I’d rather that those discs were not about to become rare, that they will instead continue to be readily available to be owned.

Thanks for your reportage Mr. Hunt.

And thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson