Monday, December 27, 2010

2001: A Media Purchasing Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is still, and always has been, my favorite film. So naturally I always want a copy of it on-hand so I can enjoy the transcendent experience of viewing it when the spirit moves me. Changing technologies being what they are, to have this convenience meant I have had to purchase this film over and over and over. This is a rough timeline of my technological and financial relationship with Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece:

1968: Seen for the first time, when I was about five years old. My dad and his friend went to see 2001 in it's roadshow Cinerama release at the Century 21 in San Jose. They took me along, stuffing me in the back of a VW bug and telling me we were going to the dump ("We're getting close. Can you smell it?") I was absolutely transfixed by the film and it's message: My Dad told me, years later, I spent the trip back over the hill explaining the film to him. He also admitted that he and his buddy saw it in his generation's preferred mode: getting high and "tripping on the groovy colors." This is the likely reason I "blew his mind" with the explanation. Cost: Free.

After the movie Dad bought me the roadshow program for 2001. I was five, so it's likely I ate it, but I wish I still had it: beautifully printed, with vellum inserts, and worth a mint now.

1970-2005: saw 2001 twenty-three more times in theatres. This includes every opportunity to see it a 70mm revival. The last time I saw 2001 on a big screen was back in 2005, when the Castro threw a 70mm film festival. Cost: I don't know what the tickets added up to, but I'm sure it was considerable.

1984: Videotaped a letterboxed screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey on AMC, which was commercial-free back then. Minus overture and entr'acte, it just fit on a T-160 tape. Cost: $6 for the tape.

1990: Bought the standard-release Laserdisc of 2001, letterboxed and CLV. Laserdisc was the bomb for cinephiles back them, but Laserdisc was still an analog NTSC format, less detailed than a standard DVD. Cost: about $30.

1996: The Deluxe Edition of 2001, a four-disc CAV Laserdisc boxed set. This is still one of the most substantial versions of the movie I bought: It had a nice, big booklet, and the extras are pretty much the same ones you can get today. The box weighs over two pounds! Cost: $80.

2000: The Standard "Kubrick Collection" Letterboxed DVD. The video quality was actually a bit subpar for DVDs of this era, with expanded blacks and a bit too much compression. Still, the 5.1 audio was a revelation-- and I could watch it on my computer! Cost: $21.95.

2004: The Limited-Edition Commemorative version of 2001: a two-disc DVD set, included a booklet, the soundtrack CD, a frame of 70mm film, and a mail-in offer for a free one-sheet. The absolute best, even though the visual quality of the actual film was little improved from the "Kubrick Collection" DVD. Cost: $65.00.

2007: 2001: A Space Odyssey on HD-DVD. My company was betting heavily on Toshiba's authoring-friendly HD format prevailing over Blu-Ray in the HD Format Wars. We lost that bet, and now I have a disc that will play on only one orphaned player. Still, it's in 1080 HD, and for the first time I could get a a decent approximation of the theatrical version at home. Cost: $19.95 -- at this point, 2001 is becoming a loss-leader title, and usually grouped with the cheaper discs.

2010: The Blu-ray version. It's identical in visual quality, navigation and extras to the HD-DVD version, but it's a Blu-ray, so it works in my Blu-ray player. Cost: $12.

Warner Home Video has not yet announced the limited-edition Blu-ray version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I imagine it will be digitized at 25 MB/sec from a brand-new 4K scan of the original 65mm internegative and will feature amazing new interactive features-- including the long-lost scenes from the original director's cut. It's just a matter of time, really. I suppose I should start saving up now.

(p.s. You might be wondering how many copies of the sequel 2010 (1984) I have purchased. That number would be zero. I'm not saying that 2010 was a colossal misfire: I'm just saying that the exec who hired Peter Hyams to direct it should be beaten unconscious with a robot arm from one of Discovery's space pods.)


  1. You know what isn't on BD yet? LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. What the hell are they waiting for?

  2. And O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? No Blu-ray! I really wanted to buy it yesterday.