Is Tarantino wrong about digital film media?
“I like something hard and tangible in my hand. And I can’t watch a movie on a laptop.” This is a quote from Quentin Tarantino, voicing an opinion in opposition to the digital age of films. I disagree with Tarantino, because I believe that he is stuck in an iron cage of sentimentality, preventing him from seeing the ease and simplicity of modern day film platforms.
The last time I used VHS was in 2004—to watch Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, which is a very sentimental memory. One thing that definitely comes across from Tarantino is his saccharine affection for using VHS, which is known to be a huge influence on his film career. But I doubt anyone else aged 20-something remembers using VHS. It is outdated, clunky and painful to use. On the flip-side, digital copies of films are extremely convenient. With one legally-purchased download of Legally Blonde, I can watch it on my laptop in bed. I can watch it on my phone in the walk-in centre whilst waiting for treatment. I can start watching it in bed, load it up on my phone and continue watching while cooking.
Why go through the effort to watch something for its sentimentality when the alternative is so much simpler? On the one hand, one may comment that this is evidence of modern day youth being glued to their screens. They are unable to do the most mundane tasks with nothing but their thoughts. On the other hand, one may also comment about how this seems to be a futuristic lifestyle in our time, so why not embrace it? The image is crisp, and rewinding to watch a character’s line in a previous scene doesn’t take 14 minutes and you don’t have to commit to one location to watch a film.
Who knows, maybe in a couple of years, people will go on about how “cool” VHS films are, just like with film cameras and typewriters today. But, right now, unfortunately not everyone currently agrees.
Or does he raise an important point?
I’m hardly qualified to agree wholeheartedly with Tarantino—as a regular user of Netflix and an enthusiast for digital film-making, it would be difficult (as well as a tad hypocritical) for me to say that we should all abandon the use of internet streaming, DVD and Blu-Ray and go back to recording our evening’s entertainment on clunky VHS tapes. As far as home media goes, I cannot foresee any way in which digital is not the future.
This is not to say that Quentin doesn’t raise an important point, though. As great as it is to be able to watch a film at the click of a mouse (and a £5.99 per month subscription fee), it is nothing when compared to the experience of watching a movie projected on the ‘big screen’. As everyone knows, it is easily possible to view the very latest cinematic releases for free on various streaming sites. With cinema ticket prices soaring to outrageous highs in recent years, it is understandable that so many people resort to this option.
These people are missing out, including those who are watching these films legally on Netflix and Amazon Prime. If I were to appeal to cliché, I would say they are losing the ‘magic’ of cinema. Try watching Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi masterpiece Gravity on your laptop. You’re not going to come close to the raw physical experience of seeing it as intended: On the big screen, in breathtaking IMAX 3D. There’s simply no comparison.
This is where Tarantino and I see eye to eye—both people who care about movies, as well as casual film-goers, should get out here and support their local cinema. Perhaps they could start with Tarantino’s upcoming feature The Hateful Eight, which is due to be shown in beautiful 70mm film in cinemas everywhere. Digital home media is a no-brainer, yes, but it cannot come at the expense of the true cinematic experience.