Volume CCCXIX- Everyone Says I C.H.U.D. You
For the Week of 9/27/11
Videoport, unlike a certain online rental company, hasn’t recently raised its prices by 60% and then tried to pretend it didn’t by lying to you in a fake apology letter. Videoport won’t treat you like an idiot, in other words. Here, take a free movie every day…
Middle Aisle Monday. (Get one free rental from the Sci-Fi, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Mystery/Thriller, Animation or Staff Picks sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests ‘Doctor Who’ (in Sci Fi/Fantasy.) “Doctor Who” is a weird mix: it’s a venerable institution to those who grew up with it, but to those who didn’t, it can look like an obviously silly and gimcrack production. Here’s what I say: just give in. Let it wash over you for a couple of episodes, which is how long it will take to get to the heart of the show. And I say “heart” advisedly, because — unlike so much sci-fi, which can be remorselessly cold or clinical — “Doctor Who” is all about heart. Get acquainted with the characters, really warm up to them, and you’ll see what I mean. However much he rambles around the universe of space and time, The Doctor (not that kind of doctor!) keeps coming back to Earth, looking after us, looking over us — loving us. It’s deeply reassuring, really. “But where do I start?” you might ask, and a reasonable question it is; after all, “Doctor Who” is among the longest-running shows, y’know, ever. Can you just jump in? YUP. You can. Season 1 of the reboot, the Christopher Eccleston era, is designed as a jumping-in point, in fact! Long-time fans have their favorite Doctors, of course, and who am I to argue? But as an introduction to The Doctor, Eccleston is inspired: a really unsettling combination of approachability, intelligence, humor, and an underlying edge of something that might be malice or might be madness and you just can’t know which. He’s marvelous. Enjoy.
Tough and Triassic Tuesday. (Get one free rental from the Action or Classics sections with your paid rental.)
>>> Elsa S. Customer suggests The Book of Eli (in Action/Adventure.) Before we get into this, let’s be clear: as the title suggests, the chief character in Book of Eli is on a religious quest. Tonally, Book of Elifeels less like a Bible tale and more like a sci-fi western: after the blast that destroyed society, a lone man (Denzel
Washington) treks through a lawless post-apocalyptic landscape, keeping his mind on his mission and his mission on his mind. And I tell ya what: if you’re taking bets on movie stars in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I’ll put my money on Denzel Washington every time. His persona is tough but thoughtful with a deep calm intelligence. Washington radiates assurance in that old-school movie-star way. Like Cary Grant or Gregory Peck, when Denzel Washington surveys a scene, he knows it’s his — and he lets us know it, too. There’s no bluster or bravado in him, just a well-earned self-possession that you ignore at your peril. He’s the only star I can think of who could carry this film so effortlessly; he imbues the character with a humanity and a gravity that doesn’t come from the script, and that grounds the religious message of the character in something more universal. The movie itself may be espousing a specific religious message, but it’s hard to tell whether that message is consciously subverted or just unintentionally muddied by the complicated mesh of motivations given to the characters, particularly the ad hoc mayor (Gary Oldman, chewing it up as he loves to do) of the frontier town where Eli beds down for a night. Indeed, there are hints that Eli’s religious identity is more complicated than it seems. (Since those hints are spoiler-y, I’ll leave them for the curious to ferret out.) It’s not a great film or a sci-fi classic-to-be, but it is enjoyable, largely thanks to the performances.
Wacky and Worldly Wednesday. (Get one free rental from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with your paid rental…OR…get 4 movies for 7 days for 7 bucks!)
>>> Dennis suggests a strategy for film-geekery. So you wanna be a film geek, huh? Good- the outside is for jerks anyway. Well, one strategy to build up your film geek cred is to pick an obscure director/actor/key grip and the devour all of his/her movies until you become the unquestioned expert on that tiny sliver of film knowledge. This week, howsabout using the super-enormous Wednesday special to become the only expert on a couple of really excellent indie filmmakers in your immediate circle of friends. (Don’t be daunted- as you become more of a film geek, that circle of friends will shrink appreciably, making your job that much easier.) First up, we’ve got Tom McCarthy. Never heard of him? Great! That’s make this that much more
impressive to the handful of people who’ll still talk to you! You might recognize McCarthy’s mug as an actor- he’s best known for playing the weaselly reporter in season 5 of ‘The Wire.’ But he’s gradually cementing his place as an up-and-coming purveyor of quiet, soulful, funny, and all-around easy-to-love indie dramedies. His most recent film is Win Win with Paul Giammatti which is currently a new release, but why not grab his two previous directorial efforts, the truly-excellent The Station Agent and The Visitor as part of the Wednesday deal; they’re both beautifully-acted, incredibly-winning stories destined to become the kind of sleeper favorites which are the film geek’s stock-in-trade when asked for a recommendation. (Also, he wrote the story for the Pixar film Up, which is equally-delightful, and the sort of trivia that’ll really annoy people that you know.) After that, why not grab some films by director Kelly Reichardt who has quietly been building her reputation among film geeks, nerds, and snobs everywhere over the past few years. Her newest film, Meek’s Cutoff, about beleaguered pioneers in Oregon in the 19th century just came out, and is on every critic’s ‘best of 2011’ list already, so why not delve deeper into her filmography for the Wednesday special and make your smarty-pants journey really come alive. There’s her first feature River of
Grass (which I am geekily-ashamed to admit I haven’t seen yet), and the indie drama Old Joy (where two old friends go for a hike in the woods…and that’s it) and Wendy and Lucy (about a rootless woman who loses her beloved dog when her car/home breaks down…and that’s almost it.) They’re the sort of exquisitely-realized, minutely-observed little films that film geeks worship…and which drive all others away in droves. So rent any four of these on Wednesday (for a week for 7 bucks), and make your first step into a lonelier, less-outdoorsy world of film geekery!
Thrifty Thursday. (Get one free movie from any section with your paid rental.)
>>>Dennis suggests C.H.U.D. (in Horror!) It’s here! Maybe it was all of the incessant badgering from his beloved staff and customers, or the endless parade of lame, C.H.U.D.– related movie title puns in this here newsletter, but Videoport’s benevolent owner and grand poo-bah Bill has finally broken down and purchased us a brand new DVD copy of this semi-notorious 1984 horror not-classic! So, was all our they-have-waaay-too-much-time-on-their-hands efforts worth it? Well… The tale of a suitably-grimy NYC suddenly besieged by a rash of grab ’em from the sewers abduction/chompings, C.H.U.D.does have some nicely-creepy atmosphere (and very authentically-crappy
New York dinginess), the monsters (for the C.H.U.D.s be monsters, yea verily) are nice ‘n’ slimy and toothy, and the cast is way, way overqualified for this type of thing, with actual decent actors (they were even popular then, too) John Heard (Cutter’s Way) and Daniel Stern (Diner) slumming it entertainingly. And the titular acronym (spelled out on the DVD box as “cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers”) even contains a nifty little twist, if you keep your eyes on the screen at the climax. All in all, not a bad way to get your disreputable horror ya-ya’s out. Some more trivia to sway you into renting C.H.U.D.: 1. In the great ‘Simpsons’ episode ‘Homer vs. NYC’, Homer, relating his one ill-fated trip to the Big Apple, finishes with him falling down a manhole and saying, “and that’s when the C.H.U.D.s came at me…” to which Marge replies, “Oh Homer, of course you’ll have a negative opinion of New York if all you focus on is the pimps and the C.H.U.D.s.” Classic- and absolutely as obscure a reference then as it is now. 2. This past April Fools Day, those movie geek kooks at the Criterion Collection announced that C.H.U.D. would get the full deluxe Criterion treatment. They made up authentic box art, liner notes, and everything! 3. Typing ‘C.H.U.D.‘s alternating uppercase-and-periods structure is a real pain in the C.H.U.D. Viva C.H.U.D.!
Free Kids Friday. (Get one free rental from the Children’s or Family sections, no other rental necessary).
>>>Free kids movie on Friday. Make a kid happy, for cryin’ out loud…
Having a Wild Weekend. (Rent two, get your third movie for free from any section on Saturday and Sunday.)
>>>For Saturday, Dennis suggests The Wild One (in Classics.) I finally got around to seeing this Marlon Brando motorcycle delinquent classic and I gotta say- kinda poky, kinda hokey, but not bad. There’s Lee Marvin, hilarious as rival gang leader Chino, slobbily, drunkenly stealing every scene he’s in. There’s the charmingly-dated 1950s panic about the ‘youth running wild’ idea running through the whole thing (especially since Brando’s gang, for the most part, seem about as threatening as a community theater West Side Story chorus.) And then, of course, there’s Brando. Scowling, stuffed into his too-tight leathers, trying out an inconsistent southern accent, and generally being all Method all over the place. It’s entertaining to watch, and I can only imagine that my favorite line of his was improvised; when nice girl waitress Mary Murphy (in a gravity-defying brassiere) dares to question why he’s being so mean, he crowds up next to her and demands, “What are you, some kind o’ girl that makes sandwiches or somethin?” Well, yeah…
>>>For Sunday, Regan suggests ‘Sensitive Skin’ (in British Comedy.) This lovely Videoport customer recommended this to me, and it’s the best show I’ve seen lately. Joanna Lumley from ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ is one hot momma, but she’s not quite satisfied with her life. Every bit of this show is perfect- the music, the locations. And there’s references to movies in every episode (“The Spartacus of cell phones.”) If you like dryly funny beautiful things, the rent ‘Sensitive Skin.’
New Releases this week at Videoport: ‘How I Met Your Mother’- season 6 (this sitcom is one of those shows that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does; kind of a dull central gimmick, a genuinely dull main character and female lead- but it’s actually very funnily, and cleverly, written, and has three outstanding supporting characters in Allyson Hannigan, Jason Segel, and the ever-money Neil Patrick Harris), ‘CSI’- season 11 (Laurence Fishburne valiantly attempts to step into a beloved character’s shoes in this undying detective series; oh, and he also solves crimes and stuff…), ‘Hung’- season 2 (I think former Videoporter and comedy god Jeremy said it best when he advised that “I heard Thomas Jane is pretty good in that HBO show where he has a big dink…”), ‘How to Make it in America’- season 1 (another HBO series, this time sort of an Entourage-y deal about some guys trying to make it [and make it with the ladies] in New York City), L’Amour Fou (acclaimed documentary about the life and loves of famed fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent), 3 by Theo: Blind Date, Interview, and 1-900 (Dutch director Theo Van Gogh was assassinated by a religious nutbag for making movies; here’s a set of three of his best known films (two of which have already been remade in America)- Blind Date is the story of a grieving man and wife whose romantic role-playing serves to hide dark secrets [it was remade with Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson- in Feature Drama], Interview is a dialogue between a contemptuous political reporter and the seemingly-vapid actress he’s assigned to interview [look for the American version starring Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller in Feature Drama], and 1-900 is about a young woman whose refuge from lonliness through anonymous phone sex turns stalker-y), The Ledge (a cop tries to talk a seemingly-suicidal man off the titular ledge, and finds out there’s some seriously twisted reasons he’s up there in this thriller starring Terrance Howard), American Mystic (documentary about three members of fringe religious sects), Angel of Evil (biopic about a notorious Milanese bankrobber, kidnapper, and all-around scoundrel), My Run (physically-impossible-seeming true story about a widowed single dad who, at 57, decided to run 75 marathons in 75 days[!?!?] to bring attention to the plight of single parents; ow), Going Postal (from cult fantasy author Terry Pratchett [The Hogfather] comes this darkly comic tale of a con artist being forced to take over a very dangerous position in the underworld’s postal system), Up Up Down Down (from former Videoporter/current local filmmaker Allen Baldwin [Damnationland, Twelve Steps Outside] comes this shot-in-Portland comedy about young, mostly-happy couple whose relationship is tested when an unexpected pregnancy intrudes), Eat the Sun (remember when your mom tld you that staring directly at the sun would burn your eyes out? Well, this documentary follows the journey of a guy who sets out to challenge your mom’s wisdom by engaging in the apparently-real practice of ‘sungazing’ where you, yup, just stare right into the sun for a variety of spiritual reasons; does he still have corneas? Rent it and see…)
New Arrivals this week at Videoport: C.H.U.D. (see Thursday’s review…if you dare!!), Cannery Row(Nick Nolte and Debra Winger starred in this 1982 adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel about a marine biologist/former baseball player and an unsuccessful prostitute whose romantic entanglements are overcome
through the guardian angelship of the titular skid row’s coterie of helpful bums), Heavy Metal Parking Lot (the legendary, much-bootlegged 1986 documentary interviewing the delightfully, horrifyingly-clueless fans of the band Judas Priest in the titular parking lot before a concert has finally been made official on DVD!; also, filmmakers Keff Krulik and John Heyn have added similar dope-in-the-lot docs at both Neil Diamond and Harry Potter events.)
Videoport presents…ZOMBIE NIGHT!!
What are you doin’ Halloween night? Well, all the cool kids are coming out to the State Theatre for this Videoport-sponsored zombie double feature of the original Dawn of the Dead and the zombedy neo-classic Shaun of the Dead. There’ll be a zombie costume contest where you can win Videoport gift certificates, and the local zombie short Last Call by Christian and Sarah Matzke as a palate cleanser in-between. Tickets are only $6 from Videoport ahead of time, and $8 on the night at the door. So zombie yourself up and shamble over to the State for the greatest night of zombie fun ever zombied!