but the actual results they produce aren't really "true to life" as regards to what we actually see or anything.
Bacterius has produced a much more realistic seeming result. Anyway, I've concluded that per-pixel flares should definitely operate in an HDR process, a deeper color space, or even a spectral process.
but really by that time it would just be easier to get a screen with a huge contrast ratio of 50,000:1 or something and so not have to do HDR in software at all.
Guess what monitor manufactures are thinking... 50,000:1? Really, by that time it would just be easier to do it in software. Also, I think you're completely wrong about this. To say the least, I'm quite happy my monitor doesn't pain me with those numbers. Then there's other important technical issues you're forgetting...