36. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
So when I first started working on “the list” in October, I was helped immensely by the Calgary Public Library and their rather decent collection of DVDs(including many from the Criterion Collection). I would go there almost daily and grab whatever was on the list and sign it out. Eventually I exhausted that, and started placing DVDs on hold to pick up later. This was a great set-up, because it was cheap and convenient, and despite some notable omissions: they don’t have “Jaws“, I was able to find some obscure things like “Sherman’s March“, and a bunch of Criterion stuff. Eventually I more or less exhausted the DVD collection of the library in regards to the list.
This lead me to try the Rogers Online DVD rental. Because most video stores suck, and I couldn’t bring myself to go downtown to one of the 2 independent video stores in my city, I went with online rentals. I had actually been with them about a year ago, when I was obsessively watching whatever baseball films I could find, and they worked quite well. They have great selection, and the turnover rate was quite good.
But alas the second time around with the Rogers Video Online rental was pretty disappointing. If you have movies in your online queue that are popular, as many of the movies on the list are, you don’t get them right away, you get sent what’s available, so some DVDs you have to wait for. This is pretty bad when renting DVD sets. I got the 2nd DVD of the fabulous French serial “Les Vampires” about a week before the first, so I had to wait until watching. This is problematic because you are only allowed to have a certain amount of DVDs at any given time(depending on the plan you chose, mine was 3 at a time).
So basically I would watch the DVDs quickly and hunger for more. The other significant problem, was that the mailing time seemed to slow dramatically during the 8 months between when I was originally signed up, and when I re-joined. Given that I was unemployed for several months and watching movies from “the list “voraciously, the waiting time really cramped my style.
This leads me to the wonders of region-coded DVDs. In perusing the Rogers Online catalogue, I discovered that many of the films on “the list” were either not on DVD, or not available on DVD in North America(known as Region 1 in DVD lingo). Most famously American classics like “The Magnificent Ambersons“, “The African Queen“, and “Greed” are not available on DVD in North America(Greed is only on VHS). “The African Queen” won best picture at the Oscars and yet still does not have a North American release. That just seems retarded to me. I get why many key foreign films wouldn’t have Region 1 releases, but Hollywood classics? Really?
So this fact put me in a dilemma. Do I buy a bunch of movies in Region 2, 3, 4 without having seen them? Or is there another way. Luckily my brother gave me an all-region DVD player before he moved, so I had some options. But nonetheless I don’t like buying movies without having seen them, because they might suck. Given the significant number of films not easily available, I made the choice to start downloading films and/or watching them online(youtube actually has quite a bit of stuff). It’s convenient and inexpensive and allows me to have a reasonable shot at completing the list.
And the very first film I downloaded was “The Magnificent Ambersons”.
On filmaffinity.com I gave the film a 7/10. It’s got Joe Cotten which is always I plus, and it looks really nice. I just didn’t get what the hub-bub(my new favorite colloquialism) was about. It just didn’t feel all that substantial. Not a bad follow-up to Citizen Kane, but it seemed quite pedestrian in comparison.