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Video On Demand…yea or nay?

Anthony Lane of The New Yorker doesn’t feel I should watch premiering films on VOD(Video On Demand). And I think he should stick his elitist attitude where the sun don’t shine. Certain big city critics(despite the periodical he writes for, I hear he lives near London), with almost unlimited access to viewings on “real” movie screens, obviously don’t understand the constant dilemma of cinephiles that don’t have access to a metropolis. For the record, I live in suburban New Jersey, about 10 miles from the George Washington Bridge. Can I get to NYC to catch a brand new film? Yes, and I occasionally do. Is it practical on a regular basis? Of course not! I’m a married working father raising two young boys. Plus, have you seen weekend evening traffic at the GWB? Do you know how much it costs to park in Manhattan if you’re not lucky enough to happen upon a street space after circling the area for 45 minutes? ALL of the artier films play in the Big Apple, but only a select few make that “long haul” to the Garden State. Just last week I vociferously vented about the 7 day window I had to experience “Cosmopolis” in an actual theater at the only place that was showing it within a 20-mile radius of my home…and I STILL had to cross the border into New York State. Would I have ordered it on VOD if that was an alternative to locating it at a reachable venue? Without question! Btw, this smaller town exclusion practice hasn’t always been the case. I saw MOST of David Cronenberg’s gooiest, most avant-garde stuff of the last 25 years at the local multiplex. This includes “Dead Ringers”, “eXistenZ” and his uber-controversial “Crash”. But audience tastes have plummeted in the last decade, and it’s nothing short of a minor “miracle” if such fare finds its way to the ‘burbs these days. So, getting back to Mr. Lane, while I agree with him in principle when he talks about fighting the urge to press a button and watch a masterpiece(my assessment)like “Melancholia” in your living room—I would argue that most of us don’t have any other feasible option. It would’ve been awesome to absorb Lars Von Trier’s end-of-the-world meditation at the glorious Landmark Sunshine on the Lower East Side. But since I couldn’t, why should I avoid watching it for about ten bucks comfortably in front of my fireplace on my wall-mounted HDTV? Besides, my dear friend Richard, a University professor of film and the arts, assures me that you are most likely getting a higher picture quality at home anyway. So take that, Mr. Lane. A list of good-to-great films that have been available on VOD at the same time that they are available in select theaters: “Certified Copy”, “13 Assassins”, the current “2 Days in New York”, “The Girlfriend Experience” and the wonderfully overwrought “Hobo with a Shotgun”. I first saw some of these, plus quite a few others, by pressing “Select” and settling into my sofa with a glass of Cabernet. Is it the ideal way to treasure cinema? Probably not. But for those of us in the attention-starved suburbs, it’s a vastly appreciated option. And better than nothin’, Anthony. So, please make room in your heart to take pity on us poor wayward souls!

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