Hello, lovelies. Beau here responding to the overwhelming drought of lists in the world with one of his own. For me, one of the saddest casualties of the past decade since the advent and adoption of the internet as our main communications device and home entertainment center is that of the video store.
You think of it... ten years ago, no one knew about Hulu or Netflix or GreenCine or anything of the sort. You wanted a movie? You loaded up the minivan with the kiddies, got in a truck with your friends, rolled across town and scoured for minutes, hours, looking for anything that might interest you. Different genres like subsets of diversity in suburbia. Different outlooks, thoughts. Discovering something you literally thought no one else had ever heard of.
It was an adventure.
Childhood haunts define not only a period in our lives, but who we were then. For some, it was Tower Records. For others, a baseball diamond. For me, and a lot of budding young cineastes, I’d argue it was a video store.
Recently, I’ve managed to do something I never thought I’d do, and I wrote my first play. One of those dreams you always had but you never thought you’d pursue. I did, and I have. Written in six days, and three weeks to mull over, it made me consider my time spent as a kid roaming around my hometown video store.
So, in honor of this shameless self-plugging (sweet!) and bout of nostalgia, I decided to roam through the memory banks for my ten favorite scenes set in a video store. These are the ones that leapt to mind but I trust you'll add to the list in the comments!
10: Yes Man
Carrey is an obvious talent whose career has run into pitfalls in the last ten years. Damn shame. This two minute introduction to the beginning of a subpar comedy showcases that talent. And it has Bradley Cooper.
...okay, yeah. The only reason why this ranks is that it has Bradley Cooper.
I’ll say it again: Bradley Cooper.
9: Last Action Hero
Arnold at the height of being Arnold. Overtaken by those CGI-Dinosaurs at the box office, Last Action Hero disappeared into obscurity shortly thereafter, but remains an incredibly interesting mainstream release. A Meta-Summer Blockbuster Tentpole Featuring a Cameo by Ian McKellen in Seventh Seal Death Garb?
It’s true. It exists. The video store scene in question is not terribly exciting, but it does provide a few winking nods to the attractiveness of the female clerks and a rather frightening look into an alternate reality featuring Stallone as the Terminator. (shudder).
Say what you will about Arnold, but his innate natural charisma and brave willingness to parody himself bests Stallone by miles and miles and miles. He’s always been a more interesting screen presence.
8: Be Kind Rewind
A film with massive potential that for whatever reason didn’t hit the chords it could have (banking on nostalgia), Be Kind Rewind is one of those interesting failures (like For Your Consideration) that make efforts to capture the magic of moviemaking (while slightly, lovingly skewering it) that don’t quite succeed. That being said, the welcome presence of Mos Def (so good in The Woodsman) and infectious energy of Jack Black made it worthwhile for me.
And plus: who doesn’t love seeing Mia Farrow onscreen again?
7: The Lost Boys
The Lost Boys is one of those films you love to love. It’s just so gleefully filled with abandon and energy, macabre and otherwise, that you embrace it knowingly, fangs and all. With a cast like that, (Jason Patric as cute, the Corey’s as teens, Dianne Weist returning to her role as Screen Goddess) and eighties hair, you love it as much for its decadence as you do for its deliberate timeliness.
In the film, Weist plays single mother to Corey Haim and Patric, and finds flirtation (and a job) at a video store in fictional Santa Carla, California. (The film is actually shot in and around scenic Santa Cruz, CA - an old haunt of mine and my friends). Here in this scene, her flighty but firm characteristics endear us to her, as they do Max (Edward Herrmann). What’s incredible about this scene is not what happens in it, but more what Weist does with it. The definition of a professional actress, she carves out a life and a personality and registers in a way that is all at once maternal and giddy like a schoolgirl. I love watching her laugh.
6: Kicking And Screaming
As writers, you’re taught to embrace originality and strive for it, while also being reminded that everything has already been done. While I reject the latter (evidence: Holy Motors) I know that nothing I ever make won’t be without influence from something I admire. Noah Baumbach is a fascinating director for me, having liked The Squid and the Whale, tolerated Greenberg and LOVED Margot at the Wedding. His first feature, Kicking and Screaming, deals with twentysomethings after college who have no idea what to do with their lives. Two of them work in a video store. So while the premise bears a slight resemblence to Video Joint and Clerks before it, Baumbach’s acidic humor and distant empathy provide enough of a signature touch to make it uniquely his own. They radiate throughout. It’s a pleasure to watch.
5: The Holiday
Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday is architectural porn masquerading as a romantic fairy tale. Cameron Diaz is insufferable in this, and the spark between Winslet and Black makes you wish that the film were more a May-late December love story between her and Eli Wallach. (How’s that for an unconventional romance?) Law is effortlessly charming, walking away with the film, but the entire thing has the depth and dimensions of a wafer bar. Her follow-up to the exquisite Something’s Gotta Give should have offered more.
That being said, there’s a treasure mid-way through depending on your tolerance of Jack Black. Going through classic film scores, singing them proudly in a Blockbuster as Winslet sips on her Starbucks, you live vicariously through her discovery, his pride, the laughter and an unexpected welcome cameo. It’s one of my favorite things about the film.
*click on these two for the video*
Another concern I had writing this damned play was, Fuck. Everyone is going to read this and think Clerks. Making this observation after completing it, I hurriedly rushed to the Apple TV and turned it on. It’s been years since I’ve seen Kevin Smith’s debut picture (almost twenty years old!), having always preferred Dogma’s willingness and daring and Mallrats’ infantile slapstick humor. That being said, Smith’s talents and obvious intelligence radiates through this, and while budgetary constrictions are obvious, clothes and tendencies dated and stilted, inorganic dialogue is littered throughout, there’s such a joy of the process, a joy in discovering ones self as an artist, that the film is weirdly endearing in spite of (or perhaps, because of) its limitations. It’s a boy (twenty-three) discovering the man he wants to be. I love it for that recklessness alone.
3: The Fisher King
When I told Nathaniel about my idea for a list, he inquired quickly “You’re including The Fisher King in there, right?” And then I had to admit my ultimate shortcoming, a damning indictment of my limitations as a resident of Western Civilization:
No. I’d never seen The Fisher King.
The audible gasp that resonated from the state of New York could be heard as far as the West Coast, where the fault line shuddered at the impending doom that might result from my ignoring said film.
At that moment, I rushed to YouTube as quickly as I could to see this scene, this prime example of the magisterial resonance that comes from an Academy Award winning film by Terry Gilliam.
Naw, but seriously, this is a remarkable film, and the scene in the video store is indicative of what a masterful hold Gilliam and his contributors have on the admittedly difficult material. What we’re watching here is a quartet of actors playing different notes seamlessly, dancing around the other, professional, intelligent, and subtle. Plummer’s icy diffidence, Bridges’ determined arousal of passion from Williams’ feverish timidity, set off by Mercedes Ruehl with pitch-perfect comic acidity. It’s one of those scenes you just have to let speak for itself. It’s a scene with spoken words that resonate like a song.
2: I Am Legend
I’m as surprised as you are, but hear me out: I don’t much care for I Am Legend. It’s a film heavy on atmosphere that has a great opening act, but comes apart at the seams at the revelation of the creatures hiding in the dark. It has, and I don’t say this to be cruel or obnoxiously discordant, some of the worst computer-generated imagery I have ever seen in a motion picture released by a major studio. The scenes of a deserted New York are remarkable, but the rabid citizens in the dark are shoddy, incongruous and pitifully designed.
However, I Am Legend does succeed in one area I was not expecting: it features a magnificent performance from Will Smith, as towering and commanding a screen presence as Tom Hanks in Cast Away and no less remarkable. He allows himself to run the gamut of emotions with great ease, a spectrum haunted by ghosts, sins, loneliness and imagination. It culminates in a scene in a video store that features the actor’s best work ever, a quiet mesmerizing moment offset by an all-too-understandable despair. Smith has never been better, and watching a moment like this makes you wish he’d have taken a chance and explored with Tarantino rather than sink into the doldrums with Shyamalan. Such is life.
Duh. How could it not be? Continuing the meta- theme from earlier on, Wes Craven’s Scream was a bold, brazen adrenaline shot to the dying (no pun intended) genre, a postmodern pastiche of humor, knowing, and terror. It’s like playing with your archetypal Barbie and Ken for so many years only to wake up one morning finding out they’ve amassed self-awareness simply through bodily reflex. The characters were so tired of being characters, Craven and Williamson set them loose to their own devices. With one of the best performances ever given in a horror film (Barrymore’s opening scene is a fuckin’ knockout) and a whip-smart back-and-forth between characters we actually grow to like (gasp!) Craven and company set out to do the impossible: make something resonant, insightful and entertaining. They sure don’t make them like they used to.
This is as loving an ode to the atmosphere, energy and zeitgeist that permeated through these relics. A few still exist. If you find them? Walk in. Regale. Enjoy.
Everything changes. It’s only natural.
But, shit. This place sure was great.
So, tell me readers: What was your favorite memory in a video store? What do we think of these scenes? Why weren't there more set in video stores? Are there any I in my infinite wisdom neglected or forgot?
Let me know.
Oh. And shameless self-promotion dictates that I urge all of you to buy Video Joint. All the cool kids are doing it. And for a twenty-five year old cineaste smart ass? I’m pretty damn proud of it. :)
Beau McCoy is a published playwright. He loves saying that, so he’ll say it again. Beau McCoy is a published playwright. He is currently continuing work on his series which he lovingly calls The Lesser Plays. The second entry, I Ain’t About To Go Straight, will be published on October 31st. He is grateful for this moment. Now all he needs is a guy bearing an eerie resemblance to Michael Fassbender, and he’ll be set.