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DID YOU READ

What happened to DVD special features?

What happened to DVD special features? (photo)

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Brian Collins over at Badass Digest has written a good piece about a subject that’s been troubling me lately: disappearing DVD special features. His “The Slow Death Of DVD Special Editions” identifies the recent lack of quality and depth in DVD and Blu-ray releases. And he’s absolutely right when he says:

“Nowadays, beyond the occasional big ticket item like the ‘LOTR’ or ‘Star Wars’ films, you almost never see these sort of mammoth sets anymore, particularly for horror movies. Most of them don’t even have actual special editions — as terrible as it was, ‘Nightmare On Elm Street’ was one of the bigger hit horror films of 2010, yet its DVD only has a few deleted scenes and a generic making of along with Blu-ray exclusive features (brief interview/behind the scenes snippets). No commentary, no in-depth documentary, etc. Compare that to the special edition DVD of Platinum Dunes’ equally successful ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ from six years before, which had three commentaries and hours of material (spread across two discs), including a documentary about Ed Gein! For twenty bucks, you got a set that would take nearly a full day to go through in its entirety, plus crime scene photos and things like that. Now, you can be done with the (disc-only) ‘Nightmare’ set in about three hours or so, which costs the same amount.”

Collins identifies the rise of online movie streaming through services like Netflix as the leading factor in the death of DVD special editions. Unquestionably, it’s an important one. Wonderfully convenient as they are, streaming video sites like Netflix don’t offer special features. There are a few exceptions: you can follow your Netflix Instant viewing of “The Expendables” with “Inferno: The Making of ‘The Expendables,'” for example. But those exceptions are few and far between. If you want to watch “Insidious” — one of the best horror movies of the year — on Netflix, you’ll have to do so at the sake of missing its DVD special features. Then again, those special features are so paltry (a Horror 101 seminar with the filmmakers, a brief behind-the-scenes documentary, and a featurette about the film’s ghosts) it might be a sacrifice worth making. The same goes for Amazon Prime. Ditto iTunes movie rentals.

If you’re still using Netflix’s DVD rental business, you’ve no doubt noticed the disappearance of special features there as well. Most Netflix discs of major new releases no longer include the supplements; clicking on them in the onscreen menus brings you to a disclaimer instructing you to buy the film for the full experience. Given that sort of teasing marketing technique, you’d think it would be in the studios’ best interests to continue to deliver high-end supplements to encourage purchases. But as Collins notes, that just isn’t the case.

The bad economy and the decline of the DVD and Blu-ray markets, probably have as much to do with the problem as people’s streaming habits. Companies are cutting back wherever they can, and I suspect smaller rosters of supplements and fewer 2 or 3 disc DVDs and Blus are a direct result. Factor in the nature of online viewing and the fact that less and less people have the opportunity to consume special features, and you’re left with an artform in decline.

It’s particularly a shame because of the potential for new and innovative supplements on Blu-ray. Just a few years ago, as Hollywood embraced this format, we got some very creative special features. For example, I love the “Crank’d Out” mode on the “Crank: High Voltage” Blu-ray, which gives you a video commentary by the filmmakers which you can put either full-screen or picture-in-picture with the movie and includes mini making-of documentaries that branch out from the main feature. Zack Snyder made some interesting video commentaries as well. Lately, when we do get special features on Blu-rays, they seem far more pedestrian.

Experimentation apparently isn’t considered a good investment anymore. That’s a shame. Even though they’re getting rarer and rarer, special features just don’t feel as special anymore.

Do you miss the heyday of DVD special editions? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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