I know. Usually my “It’s New to You!” movie column is about cool finds on Netflix, but I sometimes do dabble in other second-run mediums.
Recently, I read how Redbox has grown. You know, those kiosks in grocery stores and outside 7-Elevens that dispense DVD movies? With over 43,000 kiosks, 68 percent of Americans live within 5 minutes of a Redbox, it is reported.
While I’ve been pretty loyal to streaming Netflix, considering how easy it is to just watch films over the Wii, I did notice that the Redboxes now have the recent Oscar “Best Picture” nominees (and the winner). I’d bet Netflix won’t get these for at least a year.
Now, DVD sales are shrinking. It may be a dying medium. The actual video stores, like Blockbuster, are almost all gone. But considering that DVDs are just $1.20 per day to rent via Redbox, maybe it is worth hanging on to your DVD player (my family uses an otherwise obsolete PlayStation 2 to play DVDs).
In any case, I chose the Oscar winner, “Argo,” and one of the Best Picture runner ups, “Django Unchained,” for this month’s review. I did not rent “Lincoln,” which was the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, as the only version available in my local Redbox was in Blu-ray, and we don’t have one of those players (like DVDs aren’t good enough? The picture quality is surely better than Netflix streaming!).
First, let’s compare the Redbox experience to streaming Netflix. While the picture is surely better with a DVD and the movies are newer, for many it may be inconvenient to have to drive to a kiosk and back. Normally, I can find something “new to me” that’s four stars or better pretty easily on Netflix, especially in the documentary or independent film categories. And at $8 a month, Netflix is still the better bargain, though both services are very affordable.
Now, let’s compare “Argo” to “Django Unchained.”
It is not hard to see why “Argo” beat out the Quentin Tarantino film after watching them back to back. “Argo” is well told, with lots of tension and intrigue. Sure, it helped its Oscar voting in that the movie positively portrays Hollywood and the voters are largely Hollywood types – it is about a true American/Canadian scheme to get six Americans out of Iran during the 1979 Hostage Crisis by faking the shooting of a film in Tehran – but the film is also expertly acted and riveting throughout.
It is a great movie – though how stupid were the Iranian authorities to allow a Western film crew in during such tumult? – and it is a movie I will never watch again. I enjoyed it. It was thought provoking. But I feel satisfied with having watched “Argo” once.
Now, with Tarantino, sometimes I watch his movies over and over – “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglorious Basterds” come to mind – and see something different with each viewing. Such movies can be watched in 10 minutes clips and just enjoyed for their uniqueness and direction. For example, the scene in “Pulp Fiction” where Butch (Bruce Willis) has to go back for his watch, or in “Basterds” where the group, posing as Nazis, come across a real Nazi officer in a French basement bar.
Over time, I bet “Django” will fall into this category. I will come across it on cable, on Netflix … and watch a scene here and there. The real stars are Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, who won Best Supporting Actor and also played the Jew Hunter in “Basterds”). Schultz frees slave Django and they become bounty hunters, eventually searching for Django’s slave wife.
Sure, like “Basterds,” it’s revisionist history, and some scenes are just tongue-in-cheek, purposely goofy, but it’s also a bizarre take on America’s slavery period – and, from a big-picture perspective, likely mostly true to a degree.
So, “Argo” will be like so many Oscar winners that we never really think about a year or so from now, while “Django” will have a long life ahead.