Video Rental Stores: Long Live the New Flesh
Fri, Apr 3 2015 11:41
I didn’t come to love movies in the theater. After the first memorable experience I had in the theater (seeing “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”), I was hooked and couldn’t wait to go back. But, it was at home, like so many kids who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, where the love story between film and me began.
Sometimes I describe my dad as an early adopter, but in retrospect I think he was a bit of a collector/hoarder of new technology. When most people were waiting for VHS (or Betamax) to drop to a somewhat affordable price, my dad brought home the RCA Video Disc Player. Here is a fun commercial for the device:
Now that isn’t a Laser Disc player. That’s an actual analog home video player, not all that different than vinyl records. The discs could only hold an hour’s worth of a movie on each side, so either the discs had to be edited or they had to be put on multiple discs. I still remember walking around my house with the double disc set of “The Ten Commandments,” holding them like the title tablets. Sometimes there was a title card to flip the disc at the halfway point of movie, sometimes the film just stopped mid-scene.
The video discs weren’t available at many stores, so often I had to hunt for them with my dad, who would take me in the backroom of electronic stores (this was before Best Buy or even when other department stores started carrying tech products), where either a haphazard display space was made, or there would be a sort of swap meet with other cinephiles, trading and selling their favorite movies on the off chance you happened to have a copy of the second disc of “The Godfather.”
My mind goes straight back to those places if I get a whiff of ozone bouncing off of a concrete floor. Or if I come across a really interesting DVD stand at a flea market.
Eventually, the home video wars were won, for a time, with VHS beating both the limited Video Disc and the superior Betamax. The portability and affordability of VHS created a whole new industry, home video, and soon every film release was sold in stores months after it left the theater, creating a whole secondary market for film exhibition.
It didn’t take long for trips to the video rental store (another new phenomenon made possible because of VHS), to become a favorite activity of mine. When my dad and I went to electronic stores to scavenge, buy or barter Video Discs, it was sometimes a bit of a dark and dingy experience, but our video rental store, Video Stop on Hobson Road off of East State, was bright and filled with covers on the video tape boxes jammed with images and colors.
And there were the cardboard displays. They were so cool. So many kids I grew up with did not become acquainted with Freddy Krueger from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films, our parents would never allow us to watch them, but we learned about him from the larger than life displays in the horror section of the rental store. I’m pretty sure the stories we made up in our heads were far scarier than the movies turned out to be.
Recently on the public radio magazine show “Here & Now,” a film historian was describing a program at the Yale University library where a massive archival project is underway of VHS tapes. Are they archiving forgotten silent films or something from the French New Wave only available in VHS? Heck, no. They are preserving grindhouse horror and exploitation films with titles like “Cellar Dweller” and “Shock ‘Em Dead.” You can hear the story and learn about the project here:
Horror films typified the VHS format, and also gave rise to the new distribution system – straight to video. Grabbing attention with scandalous cover that had off kilter fonts and bold colors, the video rental store was the last stop for many of these straight to video films. These were movies that many artists had poured their soul and creativity into, spending countless hours in production, and were not given a chance in theaters because of marketability concerns or budget restraints.
But they found new life in the video rental stores. I remember being at Delmar Video, which is still in operation in Fort Wayne, and stopping cold in my pre-kindergarten tracks at a huge display that mimicked the cover of the horror film “Ghoulies,” complete with an enormous toilet and the ghoulie sticking its head out. It was both shocking and funny, and I am sure that one image has embedded itself into my psyche and planted the seed that would eventually turn into my sense of humor.
Even though the home video market as a whole is waning, and the video rental store is all but extinct, it always makes me smile when I see how all the ways it stills has an impact on other film lovers.
Just look at the poster for the critically lauded horror film “It Follows,” which Cinema Center is opening at 11:59pm tonight.
It's perfect. This is just the kind of poster that would be up at the register at Video Stop, or there would be a mini postcard size version given to customers with their receipt. Sure the film itself was influenced by great horror films from the ‘70s and ‘80s, but it also evokes that feeling of joyous discovery, looking at something that you might not understand and are probably too young to see, and to want to take it home even more because of that. VHS gave me that feeling, and I am forever trying to recapture it. At least I can look at this poster and delight in the fact that it appears David Robert Mitchell, the director of “It Follows,” is doing the same thing.
Jonah Crismore is Cinema Center’s executive director and battles an addiction to physical media.
Upcoming Cinema Center Films – February 2015
Fri, Jan 30 2015 01:09
Oscar fever is spreading now that the nominations have been announced, and it is only going to get worse in February. All the films nominated for Academy Awards can be found here: http://oscar.go.com/nominees.
Here is what we have scheduled for February, and don’t forget to go to the Future page for additions:
Starting January 30th, in partnership with the IPFW Women’s Studies Program, we are having a 3-day, free film festival highlighting movies from all around the globe about women, made by women filmmakers. For a complete “Women Make Movies” line-up, check out the Events page.
Opens January 30th-February 1st
Two Days, One Night
Marion Cotillard was a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Actress this year for her portrayal of a woman desperate to regain employment in this French film. The film created a lot of buzz and garnered praise at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Opens February 13th
On February 20th, come celebrate the movies with Cinema Center at our annual Oscar Party fundraiser. Food will be provided by JK O’Donnell’s, beer and wine will be available for sale, and excellent local selections for the silent auction will ready for your bids! The night will conclude with a special screening of Oscar favorite “Boyhood.”
Oscar Pary – February 20th, starts at 6pm
In honor of its recognition by the Academy, we are bringing back “Boyhood” for a special limited engagement. The film screens as part of the Oscar Party on February 20th, and will continue through Oscar night on February 22nd.
Opens February 20thand plays through February 22nd
...and don't forget Inherent Vice is opening tonight!
Film Nexus Vol. 9: Force Majeure
Fri, Jan 9 2015 08:41
Quite a bit has been written regarding the supposed death of the foreign language film market. The reasoning behind this is very complex, with those singing dirges for foreign film pointing out everything from the American audience doesn’t like to read subtitles, to countries that were once movie-rich like France and Italy, have stopped rolling camera because generous government subsidies have dried up leaving many projects unfunded.
Since it is true that foreign language films are having a harder time getting on screens in the United States, I am really excited that Cinema Center is premiering the Swedish black comedy “Force Majeure,” starting today.
As a film community, we must come out and support movies from all over the globe, it not only makes us more film literate, but also allows for us to see stories and issues from wholly new perspectives.
In honor of tonight’s opening of “Force Majeure,” I have put together a short list of fairly recent foreign language films that everyone should check out on Netflix, where anyone can see that foreign film is very much alive and well:
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
This Mexican film about two young men who go on a road trip with an older woman helped usher in a renaissance of Latin American filmmakers, as well as explode the careers of director Alfonso Cuaron, and star Gael Garcia Bernal.
City of God (2002)
Growing up as a quiet, creative individual has the potential to make anyone an outsider, but in this film, it can be dangerous. Rocket is an aspiring photographer in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous slums and is surprised as anyone when he discovers his camera is both a salvation from the drug lords, and his possible escape from poverty.
Fallen Angels (1995)/ Days of Being Wild (1990)
Three words: Wong Kar Wai. In 2001, he directed one of the greatest films of all time – “In the Mood for Love.” These earlier films are both beautiful, and extremely original, in their own right, and show off a talent that was just on the cusp of his greatest masterpiece.
Jonah’s Best Films of 2014
Mon, Dec 29 2014 01:17
If you read other film writers’ Best Films of the Year lists, they usually start with an apology about 2014 not being a particularly good year in film. I disagree with this immensely, even though the usual crop of late year Oscar-hopeful releases have been a bit lackluster, there are still quite a few great films that came out earlier in the year.
For my list, I included any films that I felt like writing a sentence or two about, so my list forgoes the monolithic top 10, and is a top 13 instead.
Also, putting these films in any order according to quality, taste or personal preference turned into a Sisyphean task, where the list would self-destruct once a new entry was made, and I was forced to start over. For this reason, the films are in alphabetical order.
One caveat, I have not seen every film that has been released this year, and being located in a relatively small film market, I will most likely have to catch up with many titles after the beginning of 2015.
This horror film injected pure emotion into a genre that has become so focused on lame jump scares and shallow characters. Jennifer Kent directed a scary film in the vein of “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” where the real horror is what has been lurking within a family the whole time.
Remember the name Jeremy Saulnier because it is going to be everywhere soon. Saulnier directed a revenge film that transforms into a family drama, and back again, more than a few times. Comparisons to early Coen brothers’ films are spot on and accurate. On its own, this film is just as exciting as the new talent it showcases.
Call it a stunt, a gimmick or anything else you want, the truth of the matter is that there has never been a film captured like “Boyhood.” This coming of age story took director Richard Linklater and cast twelve years to realize, allowing audiences to literally watch star Ellar Coltrane grow up before our eyes.
2014 was full of films that explored big themes. In “Calvary”, an Irish priest played by Brendan Gleeson, is told in the opening scene that he will be murdered in one week to atone for the sins of another long-gone priest . Instead of running away from his fate, Gleeson’s character decides to stand up to it, all the while maintaining hope that his future killer will see that murder and vengeance are not going to bring the solace he seeks.
Justin Simien’s debut feature film, based on a Twitter account of the same name, is a satire that is just as calculated in the prejudices and systematic racism it exposes, as it is hilarious. Have that annoying friend who just doesn’t seem to understand white privilege? Make sure they see this film.
The allure of the enigmatic genius Frank (played by Michael Fassbender, covered by a giant paper-mache head) is so strong that Domhnall Gleeson’s Jon quits his job and moves to the country with Frank’s band Soronprfbs (not a misspelling) to record a groundbreaking new album. The band’s final performance of the song “I Love You All” is in a tie for the best scene of the year.
This movie was so much more than the toy commercial I was expecting. To great effect it shows that a world where everything is awesome is not an awesome world, after all. This film plays with alternate dimensions in time and space more effectively than even the labored “Interstellar.”
The life of Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke falls apart during a car ride. This film resembles a one-person play, but in the best possible way, and director Steven Knight takes every opportunity to make the commute visually interesting. “Locke” demonstrates that Hardy is not the next De Niro, as that is being too generous to De Niro.
Not much can, or should, be said about the plot of this film. Every plot development needs to be experienced with as little knowledge as possible. Suffice it to say, in this film Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play a struggling couple that go to an unusual retreat. This film has stayed with me long after my initial viewing.
Jim Jarmusch directing Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as two deeply in love, centuries old, vampires living in Detroit, is pretty much just as cool as you would expect it to be. Leaving behind pretty much every vampire film cliché and trapping, Jarmusch uses his immortal couple, named Adam and Eve, to examine how far humanity has come, and their fear the end of the species will arrive all too soon.
What makes a human? Is it something that can be observed and learned? This sci-fi film asks that and many other questions, (remember this is the year of big questions) but provides no answers. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien (maybe) who seduces men in a strange lair where they are used for…something. “Under the Skin,” as a viewing experience, moves over you in waves, first in curiosity, then horror, and eventually, a weird hope. One scene from this film is tied with “Frank’s” ending as being the best of the year, it involves a deformed man, and what his encounter with Johansson suggests about body image, compassion and empathy.
We are the Best!
We are the Best!
Three middle school misfits won’t let punk rock die in Sweden. When three friends in 1980s Stockholm decide to start an all-girl punk band they can’t let things get in their way like not being able to play instruments, or even never attempting to write songs. The energy of this film is so infectious the title should have three exclamation marks, and the lessons learned by the characters are applicable far beyond middle school.
Here is another music film that delves into the idea of what makes a genius (another big question), this time in the world of collegiate jazz. J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher, a music instructor at a distinguished performing arts college, who expects nothing less than perfection from his students. Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman is a freshman drummer, whose life is made miserable by the intense demands from Fletcher, all in the effort to bring out genius. Growing up in Indiana, the parallels in Fletcher and famed coach Bobby Knight are hard to miss, but it is the footage of the musical performances that make this film such a kinetic experience.
The Rest of the Best
Here are some films I greatly enjoyed and almost made my list: “Birdman,” “The Double,” “Gone Girl,” “Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Mistaken for Strangers,” “Obvious Child,” “The Skeleton Twins” and “The Unknown Known.”
Upcoming Cinema Center Films - January 2015
Thu, Dec 18 2014 03:35
January is shaping up to be an exciting month. We have two foreign-language films slated to open, as well as a gritty crime thriller from down under. Be sure to always check the Future page for additions and changes to the schedule.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature has been marketed as “the first Iranian vampire western ever made”, we are likely to believe that. The gorgeous black and white cinematography is worth the price of admission.
Opens January 2nd, 2015
This Swedish film became a word-of-mouth darling at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of a family unraveling during an avalanche in the Alps. Words like wickedand funny have been used numerous times to describe this potential Best Foreign Language Film nominee.
Opens January 9th, 2015
Son of a Gun
Ewan McGregor stars in this Australian thriller as a career criminal who takes a recently released young ex-con under his wing. For the past ten years or so, a whole crop of high quality crime films have come from Australia, this film does not look to be an exception.
Opens January 23rd, 2015