Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saying goodbye to an old friend


In my years on the Internet, I can say that there have been probably three Web sites I have visited regularly, without interruption: ESPN.com, Amazon.com and DVDJournal.com. As of today, one of them is ceasing publication, and I think you can guess which.

Monday and Tuesday mornings have been very similar for me for the past eight years: read the Disc of the Week and see what new reviews are posted (Monday) and read about the latest DVD news (Tuesday). For its entire 9-year run, DVD Journal has kept the same basic look and adhered to the above schedule. There have been almost no changes to the excellent Web site in nearly a decade, and no one was never calling for them -- because it was that good. With a corps of about 10 West Coast-based writers, DVD Journal was impeccable at shining the spotlight on the important releases, keeping you up-to-date on the industry and never letting you down. Since it was based in my hometown of Portland, I had always felt kind of a personal connection to the site, especially since some of the writers (Dawn Taylor, D.K. Holm, Kim Morgan) were connected to other Rose City media. They were all great, but collectively they had a similar style: speaking as wordsmith film fans, but never veering from a high standard of professionalism.

Of course, there were exceptions to this rule, namely the inimitable and mysterious Alexandra DuPont. I think in my early days of reading DVD Journal, DuPont was the first film writer on the Internet I noticed who had an anti-print style to her writing -- the Internet was the only medium where it could exist. Often written in exhaustive length (and appearing sporadically on the site), DuPont's expansive reviews of The Indiana Jones Collection and The Lord of the Rings remain favorites, and her early early theatrical review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is that of Internet fan boy legend. Her bibliography was one of the first links I added to this blog.

DVD Journal proved that there's a place on the Net for simplicity. As stated in its About section, it's "typeset in a simple word processing program because we can't find any HTML software that doesn't piss us off." In light of this, there were never any flashy graphics, frames or even much in the way of advertising. This last bit was something that fascinated some of us: just how was it able to exist? With a great stable of writers and remarkable consistency, DVD Journal obviously wasn't out there to be a cash cow. Even though many Web sites of this ilk aren't raking in the profits, they at least try.

Great reviews are one thing, but DVD Journal was able to attract a loyal following because it payed close attention to that first word in its title. In addition to being one of the best places to find news of upcoming DVDs, the site offered an always updated Editor's Top 25, an expansive list of DVD MIA movies, a history of DIVX and even a handy guide to all those DVD terms you may not understand. With big DVD releases, the Journal always had detailed reviews of not just the movie, but also the extras (even breaking down multiple commentary tracks).

So why am I telling you all this just when DVD Journal is calling it quits? Well, it's not going to stay online forever, so go check out some of their 4,000 reviews and find out what you were missing.

Selected favorites from the DVD Journal archives:

Alien Quadrilogy by Clarence Beaks

Heavy Metal by Gregory P. Dorr

Mulholland Dr. by Damon Houx

The Searchers by D.K. Holm

Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Mark Bourne (Mark's reviews of the entire series are all exceptional)

THX 1138 by Alexandra DuPont

The Wild Bunch by Dawn Taylor

Ed Wood by Mark Bourne

3 comments:

powerful5 said...

i am fan of your site. waiting for updates.

merlynridinger said...

Another fan here, please update
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Christopher Meade said...

Great post. And I love the website even though a few of its reviewers (namely Gregory P.Dorr.) rub me the wrong way but still.