Edited by Bill Gibron / Produced by Sarah Zupko
It’s one of those impractical party games, an intellectual puzzle meant to boil down a lifetime of appreciation into a single set of ten (or more) mandatory moments. Though taste grows and changes over a prolonged lifetime, and favorites always fall by the wayside, replaced by the current internal flavor of the month, we still like to gauge our own sense of artistic merit against that of supposedly like minded others with such an overview. That’s why we make lists, and that’s why we love ’em. Call it your “desert island” dozen, or your group of undeniable essentials, but trying to figure out the films (or albums, or books) you would take with you on a forced journey into solitary confinement reflects a great deal on the person making the proposition.
But what if it wasn’t an anthology of titles? What if you were asked to narrow your notions of good and great down to one… single… item? A sole symbol of who you are. This vital item, this more than mandatory media, becomes a vessel for your dreams, a primer for your personality… or maybe it’s just a great way to kill a Saturday night. Whatever the case, we proposed the idea to the PopMatters staff of picking one indispensable DVD, and the resulting 30 responses echo something very private, and very personal, about the writers answering. Among the diverse collection are a couple of TV series, an unusual sports film, more than a few critically acclaimed classics, and an equal number of unusual or downright odd selections. Some seem sane. Others reflect a madness all their own.
Yet the common thread connecting all these entries is the notion of attachment, of how what we watch and how it speaks to us synthesizes with who we are or are becoming. Each entry here — comedy or frightmare, epic or decidedly small in scope — represents a very important part of someone. A shared reminiscence. An untapped resource of insular sense memory. You may not agree with any or all of the selections, and some will have a problem pronouncing the DVD equivalent of same the best way to experience it. But that’s the point in the end. It’s all up to you. The question becomes what to take to some ambiguous exile, the digital psychoanalysis to help you come face to face with your own aesthetic. So here is our staff’s “cinema qua non”, our individual choices for essential discs.
And don’t forget to ask yourself the all important question — what’s yours? You can use the form below to submit your own choice of an indispensable DVD. Include a write-up like the ones here in this section telling why the DVD is closest to your heart. PopMatters will publish a selection of the best submissions in an add-on to this special section in the next few weeks.
— Bill Gibron