This coming year, I’m going to stand neck-deep against coming tide of internet streaming services. I say “neck-deep,” as it would be completely foolish and naïve to say I’ll cancel my Netflix account or stop streaming altogether. No. But, I am signing a new lease on my own movie-going and re-investing in brick and mortar businesses and tangible film technologies. We all need to right our course and move away from the intangibility of streaming services and back to our beloved neighbourhood video stores and personal movie collections.
Many streaming services want you to believe that there is a lot of thought put into the movies they make available for viewing. Why does Hollow Man “crackle”? Well, it doesn’t. It was just cheap to license and people will watch what you put in front of them. Look at the so-called Classics section of Netflix—by the evident standards, a film automatically qualifies as a classic if it came out before 1968. And looking closer at Canadian Netflix, it appears as though only a couple of dozen films fall into this category.
I live just steps away from the last remaining Film Buff in the city. This past October, the Buff (that’s what we call it) closed its doors for a couple of weeks to renovate and consolidate its holdings. It now shares its space with Local Hero, a family run café, and holds over 40,000 film titles in its collection. I can now station myself in Local Hero, write, sip my Americano and be surrounded by the films I love, and then rent Johnny Guitar, Obvious Child and Laugh, Clown, Laugh on my way out the door. It’s a dream. The folks at Film Buff are committed to an expansive and inclusive film catalogue. They aren’t using metrics reflecting our most base and dispassionate viewing habits to determine what is made available to their customers. They want to be a destination for discovery, inspiration and entertainment. Moreover, the films will remain available as long as the store is there.
The internet is a wonderful thing, but it is a terrible archive. As someone who is passionate about film history and preservation, I want my films to exist somewhere on physical technology, be it celluloid (preferably), VHS, or even DVD or Blu-ray. And since I can’t seem to trust the gatekeepers to do this, then we all must do our part. This is why I will never stop buying and creating physical copies of the films I love, and why I’ll never again toss out antiquated technologies. When I met her, my fiancée was still holding tight to her VCR and VHS collection. Realizing this, two thoughts ran through my head: What a woman and how I wished I had held onto my VHS copy of Star Wars. I trusted the gatekeepers and it bit me in the end. Well, never again. A streaming site is even more precarious than that. I will not empower Netflix as the gatekeeper standing between me and Tokyo Olympiad—that film must be available to watch at any time. It’s only right. And when I see a rare title on YouTube, I will make it my personal mission to burn that title on a disc before it disappears. Who knows, maybe one day the only surviving copy of Denys Arcand’s Gina will be found in my personal archives.
I will be resolute in this film resolution.