Joe Shearer

A few months back, I remember anticipating the DVD release of director Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood.” Unfortunately, I’d missed it in theaters, and being someone who is accustomed to purchasing movies he hasn’t seen, this was an obvious gimme. Forget the meaningless Best Picture nomination, this was P.T. Anderson, the guy who brought us “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” How could I not get it?

Then I remembered it like a vivid, horrible dream – the kind you wake up from in cold sweats. The only problem was it wasn’t a dream. I was working at Borders the week of its release when I saw the abomination. (Like those horrible dreams where you forget certain specs, I can’t remember if I unboxed the DVDs, or if I was mere witness to the spectacle on the shelf. No matter. Bear with me here.) Yes, there it was: Both the one-disc version and the two-disc special edition of the film in flimsy, quarter-of-an-inch, “eco-friendly” packaging.

If you’re paying attention to the CDs and DVDs you purchase, you’ve noticed while the presentation gets cheaper and cheaper, the prices are either staying the same or increasing. What the hell kind of deal is that?

“Oh, woe is us,” we hear all the time from these cheap bastards. “No one is buying our discs. What are we to do?” Well, I can tell them one thing not to do: Stop being held hostage by Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change! Is it too much to ask for adequate protection and representation of $15-20 investment? It’s becoming easier to wait for these things to hit the $5 bin at the Exchange.

Also, have you seen these greatest hits, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection CDs? The ones with the uniform gray box at the top? Not only do they usually contain a measly 12 songs by the artist, they now sport quite possibly the cheapest cases you’ll ever see. It’s like holding air as they don’t even contain a plastic tray. Universal Music Enterprises is so proud of this achievement that they advertise it with glee on the shrink-wrap of every crappy product.

While there remains several more questionable offenses – slim-line DVD cases, tray-less CD cases, no DVD inserts – I wouldn’t be a good journalist if I didn’t mention some of the recent successes. Before knowing anything about the show, the cool metal, Zippo-styled enclosing of the first season of “Mad Men” intrigued me. The new “Casino Royale” release is also great quality. You almost wonder if the hard-boxed case is bullet-proof. The problem is the music industry is hurting worse, and more and more CDs are going the cardboard, digipak route, which is fine as long as they don’t get as cheap as the Millennium Collection.

Bottom line: There are still those of us who want “official” representation of multimedia product on our shelves instead of a burned, homemade deal. Yes, we’re a shrinking minority, but why should we be punished? If they keep at this pace, everyone will move to downloading, burning, renting, buying used, etc. Honestly, I never thought packaging would ever factor into whether I’d buy a movie or album I wanted. But, crazy as some of you might think I and others reading this may be, here we are.

Going back to the original reason for this outcry, I still have yet to buy or see “There Will Be Blood,” but I’ve got my eye out for the two-disc special edition. I’m just banking on that $5 bin steal.