When you’re a kid, it’s perfectly fine to partake in an array of bizarre or grotesque behaviors. Whether you’ve decided to chop your own hair off, get married to a stuffed animal, or just to scribble nonsense all over the walls, you are set—this is the only time in your life when adults might even mistake those behaviors for being cute, even if they come at the expense of damaging the home you’ll inhabit for the early part of your life.
My toddler quirks didn’t tend towards property damage, but there was a time when I slept with VHS tapes. Not like in my bed, but in the years before I knew how to spell my own name I’d set my precious videos where books are supposed to go on the bedside table. There’s a story about my parents swiping the Toy Story tape out of its box while I was asleep, and me waking up late by toddler standards to discover it missing, then walking downstairs and finding them watching the movie. Physical media is important to me, and I believe it should never die.
I don’t have most of those VHS tapes anymore because they gave way to DVDs and Blu-rays, which may in turn give way to 4K technology. But for the moment, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which I get rid of any of my discs or stop expanding my collection, even as physical media’s death rattle echoes louder. This is both because streaming culture sucks far worse than most of us would like to admit, and because DVDs are cooler than anyone remembers.
We’ve all found ourselves on either side of this sort of bleak interaction: “Have you seen Paddington 2?” “No, I’m waiting until it comes to Netflix.” “Sick.” (The first Paddington is currently streaming on Netflix, so get to it, you psycho.) Given that everything seems free or close to free, I can’t blame the impulse to wait everything out. With movies and TV shows coming and going from streaming services so often that there’s a cottage industry for “what’s new to/leaving Netflix” posts in the online content biz, your favorites are almost guaranteed to disappear at some point. And that’s not to mention Netflix’s piss-poor selection of films made before 1970—someday we’ll be as far removed from 1997 as we are from 1967, and Face/Off won’t be streaming.
My advice to you is this: just buy the movies you want to watch.
There’s really no good reason why DVD ownership isn’t in vogue in the same way that owning records is. (Maybe your dipshit college freshman roommate who insisted on calling them “films” and chronologically shelved his Criterion Collection ruined it for the rest of us?) On a practical level, DVDs are much easier to box up and move than vinyl, and you can even get one of those big leather-bound CD cases if the boxes are too much.
Streaming may seem more convenient, but that perspective vastly overlooks the benefits of DVDs: the boxes are fun as hell to open, and the gaudy menu screens can serve as a backdrop to some nervous, third-date post-movie makeout sessions. And there are bonus features! Commentary! I’m not saying anyone has time to explore every making-of featurette, but yes, I would like to hear a maybe-hammered Ben Affleck mercilessly roast his own movie, while watching said movie.
The best part might be that you don’t have to scroll through endless screens of middling content for something to watch if you already own, say, 50 of your favorites. You just walk over and put your selection into your DVD or Blu-ray player. (If you don’t have one of those, they now cost like $40.)
Streaming’s main appeal is convenience, but there’s nothing great about relying on Netflix to determine what movies you could and should watch on a given night. As streaming services shift further and further toward original content—Netflix intends to release somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 original creations this year—it’s a safe bet that they’ll feel less invested in the 30 Rocks and Godfathers of their catalogue.
There is something stable about physical media—not just because it can be held in your hands, but because your copy belongs to you. A streaming platform needs to churn and grow and add and add again, sometimes you just need to watch a movie that you like, and that’s much easier to do when it’s right there in your home. Just don’t let your rowdy kid smear peanut butter on the disc tray.