Martin Scorsese is one of the world's greatest film-makers, possibly the finest of his generation, and if you want someone to tell a story about people who make other people sleep with fishes, he's your man. But I wouldn't pay much attention to his soothsaying about the future of the movie business.
Last week, the Oscar-winning director was the star turn at a Hollywood conference promoting Blu-ray, the snazzy home entertainment format that's supposed to catch on this Christmas and fill a gaping hole being left by haemorrhaging DVD sales, which in the US have fallen almost 40 per cent from their peak.
He waxed lyrical about the new technology and its wonderful picture quality, saying he was "excited and optimistic" about it. At one point, in his eagerly reported speech, he went so far as to claim that watching a movie in Blu-ray was "like experiencing the film for the first time all over again".
To which my considered response, to use the vernacular of Mr Scorsese's trademark mobsters, is: "Get outta here!" From where I'm sitting, the entire Blu-ray concept shows every sign of turning into an expensive consumer flop. The reason is simple: the general public isn't stupid. Or at least, it's not stupid enough to get its fingers burned three times in quick succession.
Film-lovers spent the 1990s building up vast VHS collections. Then videos became obsolete, so they threw them out and re-invested in DVDs. Now they're being told to junk DVD and dig into their generous pockets all over again. And I just don't think it'll wash.
In all spheres of entertainment, from literature, with its e-books, and music, with its MP3s, tectonic plates are shifting. The entire concept of "owning" a physical recording of a film seems almost outdated. Blu-ray discs are expensive. They'll clutter up your house. And in five years' time, if history is any guide, people will sell them for tuppence at car boot sales.
One day soon, Hollywood will create an iTunes for movies that lets you download and store films online. Until then, the number of punters who want to buy and own flicks, in any format, willl continue to dwindle – a fact that Scorsese, whose new film Shutter Island was recently delayed by studio cashflow problems, may be quietly aware of.
Spare us touchy-feely cops
Los Angeles got a new police chief this week. His name is Charlie Beck, and at the press conference announcing his appointment he broke down in tears. I'm all for touchy-feeling policing, but rather doubt this gesture will unnerve my city's famous, gun-toting criminal class.Reuse content