Believe it or not—and I know you want to believe it, really I do—I'm not too often prone to professional jealousy. My dislikes and resentments, and I admit, they are many, generally stem from who people are and what they do, what they stand for and what they don't, rather than any position they hold relative to my own. On the occasions when I do feel a pang of "I can't believe they gave him/her that job"-ness, I try to keep it to myself. But I have to admit I felt a bit of a twinge when I read earlier in the week that Michael Atkinson was taking the position of DVD reviewer at Movieline.
Now Michael's been reviewing DVDs for the IFC Independent Eye website for a while, I know. Hell, I even made fun of one of his DVD reviews there a couple of weeks ago. And while he and I have had our tussles on the internet (Jesus God almighty, is there anyone I haven't had a tussle with on the internet?), when all is said and done I consider Michael a fine fellow and a distinctive writer. A little blustery at times, for sure, but you know, he owns his bluster, much as I own my...raging dickheadedness? No, it shouldn't be that. It's something. But I'm not sure. But anyway. The point is that it really caused me no pain to learn that Movieline now wants to pay the guy to compose prose poems on Marlon Brando's jawline as said jawline is rendered in a leading home theater format. No, this was the sentence in the announcement that irritated me: "Michael will provide excellent reconnaissance from the DVD/Blu-ray front several times per week."
Blu-ray? Really? Goddamnit, I didn't write the book on Blu-ray (now that I think of it, that might not be such a bad idea), but I did write the Popular Mechanics article on it (the entirety of which appears to no longer be online, but here's the first page), and I made only one mistake in it, mixing up Super Technirama with VistaVision, which given the technical similarities of the format, could have happened to anybody!!!! Also: I started my career at a magazine named Video Review. Editing the Test Reports. You know, the ones with the luminance numbers and the signal-to-noise ratios and the goddamn footcandles/footlamberts. I've forgotten more about this technology than most of these schmucks who yammer on about this and that but probably couldn't set a goddamn clock on a VCR back in the day to save their life ever even learned. I was IN JAPAN to see the very first demonstrations of the MPEG video compression format that wound up MAKING DVD AND BLU-RAY EVEN POSSIBLE! ("This will never work," I said at the time, so crappy did the results look back then.)
Back when I was running the Home Guide at Premiere, I rather developed a horror of DVD reviews that functioned as de facto late critiques of contemporary pictures. My perspective was, well, the film critics have had their say, and if you're reviewing the disc version of the movie, then review that. (Although I recall that when Christopher Kelly was writing most of the reviews for the section, his perspectives could yield some interestingly counterintuitive results; a positive notice for The Other Sister, for instance.) Now obviously it's a whole other kettle of fish when you're dealing with classic or repertory fare on disc. Dave Kehr, who's completely The Man in this department, is invariably brilliant when discussing both the films in question themselves, and also how they've fared in the transit from celluloid to the digital domain. This issue is, I think, particularly crucial when you're discussing Blu-ray. I don't mean to sound rude or anything (well, maybe I do), but with rare exceptions I've got to say that unless you are Dave Kehr, I really don't give a shit what you think of any given movie on Blu-ray. I just want to know how it looks and why it looks the way it does. (See DVD Beaver...and even they can get it wrong, as they did here, a review that needs updating since the recent correctly remastered version.) The rest I can figure out myself. Whether Michael Atkinson's gonna talk about that in his Blu-ray writeups remains to be seen—I haven't seen him tackle a title in that format yet from his Movieline perch. But I wish him all good fortune in the gig in any event.
All this is also by way of guiding you to this week's topics, questions, and exercises at The Auteurs' Notebook, which contains a chat with Warner Home Video's Vice President of mastering Ned Price, about the gorgeous new Blu-ray of Doctor Zhivago (not depicted above, in case you were wondering) and the upcoming digital rethink of Citizen Kane, and a bit more. All very wonky and technical...just the way I like it when we're talking film preservation and Blu-ray and stuff.