Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: "Cleanflix"

There is a great website with a great community of video editors called They encourage the re-imagining, re-organizing and re-editing of popular movies and TV shows - like, for example, a Grindhouse style version of "Star Wars".

To avoid any legal troubles, the site makes it clear that edits using sources not legally obtained will not be allowed. Of course, they mean torrents and bootlegs, but even software that rips video off of DVD's can be attacked. If I pay $20 for a Julia Roberts film, I should be able to remove her from it, right?

We own it, so why can't we change it?

Hollywood and major music labels are so far behind the times. As proof, all you have to do is watch "Cleanflix". In this documentary, we witness the rise and fall of video stores in Utah (and a few other states) that offered rentals for movies that have been edited for family viewing. If you wanted to see "Titanic" minus Kate Winslets' nude body, they had a copy.

I remember reading about Ted Turner wanting to colorize "King Kong", and I'm very familiar with George Lucas constantly changing "Star Wars" while holding back the theatrical versions. There is a difference between those actions and the ones in "Cleanflix". It's called demand. People actually wanted slightly censored versions of popular movies, and they were willing to pay money for them. They weren't owners of those properties like Turner and Lucas, meaning that the original films with their original intent would remain intact for other people to view.

The customers just wanted another option, is all. It's interesting how this battle could be boiled down to self censoring repressive customers vs. oppressive rights holders and artists. Which side does one take, huh? The store owners just wanted to sell a product. No ideological agenda necessary for them, just the joy of providing a service and giving people movies (even if watered down). The legal challenges from California and the religious beliefs of the local community would take such a toll on this niche market that chain stores would close and owners would struggle and crumble under the pressure of it all. That such drama could come from video rentals is amazing.

Now, most stores have been replaced by kiosks and on demand services. It's funny watching someone outside of a grocery, trying to rent a movie while blocking out the glare from the sun to see the screen. Digital downloads are more my thing, but some come encoded to avoid "piracy". What if I wanted to make an amusing youtube clip? To those that break on through and make re-purposed videos, I salute you.

4/5 *s

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