September 26, 2011

Judging DVDs by their covers

I've been told that I know a LOT about movies for someone who doesn't watch them. This can partly be attributed to the fact that I once had a student job working in the university media library, in the basement where the DVDs (and VHS, Laserdiscs, microfilm, and microfiche) were stored.

Let's pause for some fond memories:
Me, to a young man checking out all 7 seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation: "You know that these are due in 2 days, right?"
Trekkie: "No problem."

Or, all the times people have gotten upset with me after they hand me a slip of paper with the call number of an item they are really eager to watch, and I emerge from the depths of the back room with a Laserdisc. (At this point, I have to show them the call number to prove that's what they asked for. Then, unless they were really rude, I help them locate a DVD of the same film, if it exists. I have never brought out a Laserdisc and had the patron remain happy.)

Or, the time I scanned a young woman's ID to check her items out to her, and the name on her ID was Selina Kyle. A real life catwoman!

But the best part was when I got to check in all the returned items. Here, I could closely examine each DVD: look at the front cover, guess at the story, read the back (was I right?), see who acted and directed, what awards it won, or what critics said (and file such un-useful information away in my brain for ready retrieval).

I loved seeing the variety of DVD cover designs, and I noticed that there were some that really appealed to me visually. Many of these, it turned out, were part of The Criterion Collection, whose films you can browse by cover/title/decade/country.

Sometimes when I'm out of ideas, I find it helpful to go to a bookstore, music store, or video library to just look at the moods created by different covers. It helps to look at them in person, instead of online. I always come home with more ideas than when I left.

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