3. You've developed into a pretty major expert on movies and DVDs, and this may be tough to answer, but exactly what drove you to acquire this knowledge? What about the movies appealed to you as a kid to make you want to make it your career?
When I was a kid, I saw The Wizard of Oz in a theater. It completely knocked me out. Even before I started reviewing professionally, I was one of those guys who went to at least a couple of movies a week. I'm always looking for something new, something outside of the boring mainstream, something I haven't seen before. I still believe that the moving picture is the most powerful artistic medium we have ever created.
4. What makes a great DVD? What kind of extras and features- feel free to give examples- are worth owning?
First, a great DVD has to be a great movie. As for the extras, I think that good behind-the-scenes making-of documentaries are generally more valuable than commentary tracks. Overall, the James Bond DVDs are very well done with lots of extras. More recently, I liked what they did with Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. But the real value of DVDs is not so much in the big-budget studio releases. It's a more important medium for the smaller films that will find their largest audience on disc. I'm thinking about movies like Garden State, The Cooler, Napoleon Dynamite and The Station Agent, for example.
5. What would be your five desert island DVDs (assuming that one of the items you had was a DVD player and an energy source, of course)?
1) The Godfather trilogy
2) Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy (Red, White, Blue)
3) The Best Years of Our Lives
4) National Lampoon's Animal House
5) Blade Runner
(O.K., I know that, technically, those are nine movies, but, well, that's my list and I'm sticking to it.)
6. Best and worst is easy, but what's the single most surprising movie you've ever seen, a movie that absolutely blew away any expectations you may have entered the theater with?
Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw it at an impromptu late-night screening, a couple of months before its national release. The theater manager was a pal and she had invited a few people over. Remember, that in those days, Spielberg was not yet a brand name. I had a vague idea that the movie was science fiction. Really knew nothing about the plot or the setting. Thought that the ark might be a spaceship. Again, I was knocked out by the action, the imagination, the pace. Wow! It made me remember how much pure fun movies can be.
7. We've seen box office drop off in 2005, and after some blamed home theater, there seems to be a consensus that the problem was that the movies were either lousy or just didn't reach their intended target. What do you think accounts for the dropoff? Do you see the boom in big widescreen high def Dolby 7.1 home systems as threatening the traditional movie theater industry?
The drop off is a combination of three factors:
1) Unimaginative movies in the theaters.
2) The increasing popularity (and decreasing price) of home theater systems.
3) The rise in TV series on DVD. Those long-form narratives keep more people at home on more evenings watching and re-watching episodes of their favorite shows on those home theater systems.
Home systems are not a big threat to theatrical distribution yet. They will be soon. In a few years, when theatrical films are distributed and projected digitally, the market will change dramatically. It is not inconceivable that by the time Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is released in three or four years you will have a choice of going to a theater, watching it on HD pay-per-view cable or satellite, or downloading it to your computer.
8. What do you do for fun?
Play racquetball. Watch football. Cook on the grill.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _____________.
...orange juice and bigboys.com (a guilty pleasure).
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst?
Best: "Let Max be Max."
Worst: "Trust me."