You let Videoport croak—here’s how you can atone

Bart & Greg's. Brunswick. Go there.

Bart & Greg’s. Brunswick. Go there.

There’s another, equally-outstanding video store still hanging on up in Brunswick, people. Here’s an interview with the owner by a former Videoporter. Read it. Then take a little drive.

“It boils down to one thing – if you want it, we’ve got it.” So says Bart D’Alauro, owner and co-founder of Brunswick video store Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion, and he’s not wrong. “At this point, we have about 35,000 discs, which translates to about 26,000 individual movies and TV series,” he said, explaining that his store, housed since 2002 in the Tontine Mall on Maine Street in Brunswick, quickly moved into a large space in the mall, at first doubling and then tripling in size.

If only the same could be said of Bart & Greg’s customer base. Subject to the same forces (Netflix, mainly) which finally, in August, choked the life from Portland’s own movie rental institution, Videoport, the store finds itself looking for new ways to convince people that the local, indie video store model still has value. Having worked right ’til the end at Videoport (and with Bart at another indie video store decades ago), I had a lot to ask him about.

People think “well, Netflix has everything.” But that’s not true, right?

Except for “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” Pixar, the Disney classics, “Indiana Jones” – all pretty glaring omissions. There’s this idea, too, that, except for those few things, they have just about everything else. There are about 7,500 titles to stream in a given month, compared to our 26,000. Plus, every title in my store has been hand-picked because someone will want to see it. Netflix is filled with movies no one wants because they’re part of a package licensing deal – studios say, “If you want this movie that people care about, you have to take the junk along with it.” You could subscribe to 20 different streaming services and maybe get access to everything we’ve got.

Apart from the fact that it’s killing off video stores, what’s do you see as the worst thing about people watching movies online?

Netflix affects the way people watch movies. They watch 10 minutes and, if they’re not into it, they flip to the next movie. With a video store, there’s the fact that they’ve paid their $3.50, they’re going to give this a shot – you’re watching more challenging movies for that reason. The Netflix effect means people are only watching things in their comfort zone, genres they’re comfortable with. Movies that give them all the info they need in the first 10 minutes when part of the fun of watching movies is trying to figure out who these people are, why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a variation on cable – you take what you’re given. Netflix is cable with a few more options.

Just a portion of Bart & Greg’s extensive inventory.

What’s lost when a community loses its last video store?

It’s a community spot, a gathering place. I enjoy that most people who return a movie want to have a short movie discussion, some analysis, some criticism – they’re not just zoning out to what’s on their screen. They’re actually thinking about it. We’ll get just about anything that’s requested, we pretty much get every new move people will have interest in – foreign films, foreign TV series, we get ’em all. I think the biggest loss is that without video stores you can’t go through Danny Peary’s “Guide for the Film Fanatic” and watch any of those movies – nothing on that checklist (of 1,600 essential films and cult classics) is going to be on Netflix. I have almost all of them.

Bart & Greg’s is a great video store (easily as good as Videoport was), so I urge anyone still smarting over Videoport’s demise, or anyone who values movies, to make the trip. Check out their website Like Bart & Greg’s on Facebook.

Independent Video Stores & You—Sending Some Love To A Fellow Movie Store

From Dennis’ recent article in the Portland Press Herald about the challenges facing a Bath indie video store:

As for River Bottom Video, Goad said, well, all the things I’ve always wanted to say in this column. “Heartwarming is not a strong enough word,” said Goad. “It’s humbling. And I like to think that people get something out of the video store experience that they don’t get from Netflix or cable or Redbox. You’re not just a number here, you’re a person. We video stores are like the dodo, but we have a lot to offer. That’s the appeal of our shop – it’s not just a dispensary of movies, it’s an experience. And these days, even one person choosing to spend their money with us can make a huge difference.”  (Read the whole article here: As for River Bottom, Goad said, well, all the things I’ve always wanted to say in this column. “Heartwarming is not a strong enough word,” said Goad. “It’s humbling. And I like to think that people get something out of the video store experience that they don’t get from Netflix or cable or Redbox. You’re not just a number here, you’re a person. We video stores are like the dodo, but we have a lot to offer. That’s the appeal of our shop – it’s not just a dispensary of movies, it’s an experience. And these days, even one person choosing to spend their money with us can make a huge difference.” (Red the whole article HERE.) (Dontae to River Bottom HERE.)

We’re still out here, people. And indie video stores all need your support. The best thing about that, is that it’s easy for an individual to make a difference—just by choosing to spend a few bucks a week with us rather than some big corporation, you can help stores like Videoport and River Bottom stay alive.

Published in: on December 16, 2014 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hell On Earth: A World Without Video Stores

Life without Videoport would be even scarier...

Life without Videoport would be even scarier…

A Videoporter writes this in an article on the AV Club:

The worst thing about my personal hell is that it’s inevitable—a world without video stores. Sure, since I still work in a video store (when not working here), that may seem self-serving. But the point is, I’ve worked in video stores my entire adult life because video stores are the places where people like me feel at home. Leaving the house, walking the aisles, fingering dusty, obscure cases (once VHS, now DVD), and actually making movie choices deliberately, thoughtfully—even lovingly. Talking to like-minded cinephiles who love nothing more than sharing the love of movies. When all of recorded entertainment is a (buffering, glitchy) click away, movies and TV shows become disposable, just one more ephemeral, disregarded rectangle on electronic devices, fighting for attention with celebrity sex videos and mindless click bait. Windswept, garbage-strewn empty storefronts whose lovingly curated collections of Criterion and Something Weird Video DVDs exist only in the dank basements of pale, scrabbling collectors whose devotion to film as art and plentiful extra features mark them as outcast mole people. The whole of cinematic history in the hands of media conglomerates deciding what is worthwhile and what is to be discarded. That’s hell.

Don’t let it happen, people. Rent local. Rent Videoport.

A Life In Indie Video Stores

By Dennis.

In my life I’ve worked in two video stores for a total of nearly twenty years. One for about seven years just out of college and the other for the last dozen or so. There was a gap in between, so you do the math. (I may not be young.) Apart from, one might realistically speculate, a singular lack of career ambition, there’s a simple reason why I’ve chosen that particular employment for so long. I’m good at it, and I’m at home there. For as long as I can remember anything about myself, I’ve been drawn to movies. I don’t have any unique insight into why that is—it’s just a fact. And so, like the kid who, for whatever reason, discovers he likes to read early and therefore is afforded undue praise for having read more books than his peers, I’ve always been one or more steps ahead of everyone else I knew when it came to movies. I’d seen more, read more, and spent more time thinking about them.
And so I fit right in when the two brothers who, despite seeing their startup Maine video store as more of a business opportunity (not a crazy idea in the early 90s) than any labor of their collective love of cinema, saw me renting more movies than anyone else in the first year they were open, it was only natural that they’d ask me to be their first employee. And only natural that, newly-minted English degree aside, I would leave my chain bookstore job to work the counter for them. As I worked there, they gradually ceded much of the ordering for the store to my advice, especially when it came to the indie/foreign/weirdo stuff that was my passion (and their calling card in a decade packed with nondescript chain stores all trying to pull in customers with nothing but the newest-latest). It was a good time, even if I (and another, younger movie geek they hired) cajoled them into never selling off a single title even as the already cramped store became clogged with never-rented VHS copies of Rainer Werner Fassbender films and obscure 70s forgettables (the James Caan/Sally Kellerman flick Slither, “from the writer of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension!” somehow sticks in my mind). It was less good when business began to slow (largely due to the chain store glut), and devastating (at least to me and the other film geek) when the brothers announced they’d accepted an offer to sell out to the truly second-rate Video Galaxy chain (of the Minnesota Vikings formica color scheme and the notoriously huge porn room) when representatives told them that, buyout or no, the chain was opening a branch in an abandoned restaurant a block away. Rather than risking their kids’ college funds on a business already in decline, and for which they never had the passion of their employees anyway, they moved over, managing the shiny, garish new chain store and convincing us to come along with vague promises that we could still do things they way we always had.

Of course, that wasn’t how things were. I remember us faxing page after handwritten page of title info to Video Galaxy HQ because fully 50% of our library titles were unknown to the hundreds of stores in the chain, our heretofore beloved library of movies mouldering in the boxes we’d mournfully packed them in months before until someone, somewhere, did the data entry to make them rentable again.
I lasted a few months, studiously not wearing the embarrassing yellow-with-checkered-flag polo shirt uniform (and no doubt costing our bosses countless secret shopper demerits in the process) and trying to convince our wary erstwhile customers that we were still us, even as we clearly, and increasingly obviously weren’t. (I remember getting into a screaming fight with some guy who dared to suggest that we’d sold out, chasing him out of the store with my defiant words even as I knew he was right—if an asshole-about it.) When I couldn’t take it any more, I gave my notice, hid some huge, fancy beers in the soda cooler on my last night, and tried to leave a parting message (carefully considered for maximum snottiness) on the stupid letter-board under the stupid glowing neon store sign in the parking lot. Except that I, never adept at using the extendable pole-and-suction-cup thingy to change the sign, was unable to spell out “MOVIES STILL MATTER,” before the cup broke off, leaving an even more meaningless, vowel-less Scrabble rack of nonsense to confuse passers-by the next day.
Years went by, with a marriage, a teaching gig, a divorce, the dissolution of the experimental school I’d given my all to (anyone sensing a pattern here would not be inaccurate), until I found myself, post-divorce and post another almost-marriage, cast, bewildered, broke, and shattered, personally and professionally down the coast in Portland, Maine.
Where, inevitably, I found work at another video store. Videoport. It was the larger, more-established, and all-around more respected granddaddy of the startup I’d worked at before and I saw myself, as much experience as I’d had in other areas of my life, like an aging prospect finally being called up from the minors into The Show. With literally nothing else going on and my confidence and self-worth down to fumes, I threw myself into my new job with renewed enthusiasm, and optimism. I loved and looked up to my new coworkers (even though most were younger than I) and felt, for the first time since everything’d fallen apart, at home again.
I still work there, some decade or more later (I’m not good with time). And sure, many of those initial peers have left, although a surprising number remain—it really is a good gig. And yes, most definitely, I had (and have, to a lesser extent as time goes on) the occasional, if figurative, head-butt with customers I feel insufficiently respect what I feel we’re trying to do here. And certainly business is not remotely what it once was, when the guidelines for getting hours was so magnanimous that it could be summed up as, “if you want hours, just come in as long as you’re actually doing some real work” to a rigidly micromanaged skeleton roster ever redesigned by The Boss to squeeze every necessary buck by never having a superfluous body, ever.
We’re battling against Netflix, Redbox, cable, streaming on the internet—who knows, probably some other alternative methods of entertainment I don’t even know about yet, but we’re hanging tough. The Boss, steering the ship from his office sanctum in the back, has been doing this for more than a quarter-century, and we are at his mercy. A carefully cultivated remove discourages direct queries about the store’s future, and, frankly, I think we remaining employees are okay with that. We just keep our eyes forward, work our asses off, and generally try to make the whole enterprise as successful and sustainable as possible, hoping that our efforts will overachieve enough each day to keep our store viable—for at least another year. We like The Boss, although his signature combination of toothy cheeriness, aloofness, and inscrutability is, by design or not, a perfect recipe for keeping us all on edge. The Boss is a weird guy (and yes, I know he’ll eventually read this), but he’s been doing this a long, long time, our fate is in his hands, and, for as much as it can be a daily challenge to guess what the hell he’s thinking, we trust him.
For, as much as it’s clearly and indisputably a labor of love to keep an independent video store (“DVD store” just doesn’t have the same ring) afloat these days, it’s also a business, the primary source of income for him and his family. And The Boss, for all his indisputable, if largely unexpressed, movie love, is a f***ing shark when it comes to business ruthlessness.
I look at it like the Faulkner quote: The Boss is prepared to kill his darlings. And while we of the clerkish unwashed might imagine that his hour-and-paycheck shrinking means we’re his darlings, what that really means is that The Boss is willing to let some movies go. While co-clerk and bully and I successfully kept the brothers from ever selling off a single title ever (“But someone is gonna come in looking for Three the Hard Way and we’re not gonna have it and then they’re gonna think we suck”) even thought he shelves were packed to groaning, I was aghast at the beginning of my tenure in the major leagues when I saw the sale bin peppered with titles that meant that the store didn’t own them any more!? Sure, most of them were marginal-to-negligible (I remember marveling that the store had ever owned that Woody Allen/Mia Farrow TV biopic in the first place), but occasionally there would turn up something I saw, in my never-diminished movie absolutism, as indispensable. I vividly remember being in the throes of a full-fledged anxiety episode when I saw a few shabbily-packaged (possibly of shady origin) Mike Leigh TV movies go into the bin not long after starting there and asking a coworker, shakily, if “this sort of thing happens all the time.” Said coworker (who’d briefly worked in the brothers’ store years before, and knew my feeling on the subject) said, with admirably concealed pity, “You know—this store is never going to have the sort of collection you want.” I, perhaps not at my best (my life being shattered as it was), took this gentle reminder of the way the world works absurdly hard. I remember actually thinking about quitting. (Again- Dennis not in a good place.) But gradually I came to understand the way the world, or at least The Store, worked, and still survives to this day.
Now it’s not that The Boss was thoughtless about letting movies go from his collection. It’s just that, well, there are a number of factors that a hard-headed video store boss learned to deal with over the years, which is why The Store is literally (apart from a tiny concern that’s also an ice cream parlor and a post office—and no, I’m not kidding) the only video store, chain or otherwise, left in the not inconsiderable city of Portland.
One is, of course, a matter of space. The Store is big enough-a cramped and dusty basement, sure, but ample shelf space for some 40,000 movies (at least since the mercifully thinner DVDs have supplanted bulky VHS). But, well, they keep making more movies, (and TV shows, the long-running of which can take up the space of 50 or more movies), and some stuff has just got to make way. Sure, The Boss, for an admirably long time, kept an ever-growing stockpile of never-renting obscure VHS in the back room, unseen and waiting for that one customer to request it like the one-eared puppy at the pound. (For

We have it on Criterion now.

We have it on Criterion now.

some reason this time it’s Shohei Imamura’s The Insect Woman, of the terrible VHS transfer and nigh-unreadable white-on-black-and-white subtitles, that sticks in mind.) But fester they did in the small storeroom until even that unused space was filled up and they, at least those who never even got a single pity-rent, hit the sale bin (from which I, literally, averted my eyes on bad days). Eventually the practice ended, without a word from The Boss, entirely. His motto, let loose on a rare occasion, was that “a movie has to pay its rent.” Those that didn’t found their way onto the shelves of nostalgic, or delighted, cinemaphiles. Where they gathered dust.
As The Store has marched (and eventually limped) on, the pattern has continued, and we of the front counter have developed our own strategies to cope with it. Every once in a while, according to an irregular schedule only The Boss knows, a printed list shows up out front. Marked “pull list,” causing us (well, me definitely) to clench up and peer ruefully at the names of the damned. It’s unclenching all around when we see that it’s just time to cull extra copies of the last year’s declining multiples (adios all but two copies of Pirates of the Caribbean 4!), but glances askance when we see the dreaded real title pulls, which mean that that’s the last we’ll see of some things. Such a task was anathema to me when I first started, but as I became used to the rhythms of The Store and The Boss, I’ve come to accept these cleansing rituals as a part of life.
Not that we don’t have our own little schemes to undermine the process should the need arise, of course. At first I was surreptitiously fanatical about subverting this (as I saw it) outrage: I’d deliberately overlook some titles I wanted to spare and then, when that didn’t work, I’d just cross out titles directly on the list itself, thinking The Boss would think he’d done so. When that didn’t work either, sometimes I’d just slip the recently shrink-wrapped tapes off the sale rack, unwrap ‘em and put them back out to rent, assuming he’d never notice, at least until the next batch of underachievers was up for the chop. That worked better, but eventually I came to concede the point and pick my battles. Simply put, there was no place to save every movie The Store had ever stocked and, as I grew older and theoretically wiser (and perhaps wasn’t any longer tying my sense of self worth into a video store as my post-life-annihilation me had done) I came to, still ruefully, accept the fact that, perhaps heretically, some movies just don’t deserve to be saved. (We’re currently lock in an unspoken war over Love Jones, one of the only decent black-cast romantic comedy/dramas—I’ve unwrapped and snuck it twice. We’ll see how it goes…)
(And of course The Boss knew what we were doing: the guy has been intimately involved in every aspect of his business for 26 years—you think he’s not going to notice that this is the third time he’s seen The Black Marble turn up on a list because it hasn’t rented in two years? I remember when our inventory guy, a backroom-only little troll about whom there are way too many stories to go into here, had himself pulled two VHS-only Robert Altman films [Come Back To The Five And Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean being one, as I recall] and Altman disciple I, thinking that The Boss had ordered the outrage, asked him directly to spare them. He said to me, with that unreadably toothy smile, “I assumed you’ll just do what you always do” before striding back to his office again.)
As reserved and, yeah odd, as he can be, The Boss is no dummy. He knows that his loyal customer base is that loyal through the years because they respect the selection and look for the different. So when it’s time to let things go, he, as unsentimental as he may seem, will inexplicably allow a few complete under-performers to escape the shrink-wrapper. We of the front will see something like Out Of The Blue disappear out back with a box full of crappily-packaged foreign nonentities (goodbye, The Wounds) only to see it reappear on the shelf sans explanation in a week or so. Sometimes he’ll shift it, if remotely applicable, to another section to try its luck there: a nonstarter in the “Assorted Asian Exploitation” section like The Demon might get a reprieve in the Foreign section proper. Or Bury Me An Angel (with Joe Bob Briggs commentary track!) might shift from standard “Action” to our “Incredibly Strange Section,” at least for another year. Sometimes The Boss’ decisions seem to have no reason behind them: Then we wonder if that seeming VHS bootleg of Zontar: The Thing From Venus has some secret sentimental value to the man, or if its just escaped his notice for a decade. He’s that kind of guy.

And so we of the front make our little stands and sneak our little schemes according to our own soft spots, our own personal reasons. I’ve saved Manny and Lo (a lightly charming if forgettable indie starring a young ScarJo) more than once because it’s included in Kenneth Turan’s book Never Coming To A Theater Near You and I want us to have it in case someone else reads that (very good) book of overlooked movies and asks for it. Because they’ll be impressed, and they’ll become a loyal customer. And my friends and I can keep on working with each other in this weird, increasingly-anachronistic store until we want to leave, and not because some goddamned vending machine in a convenience store parking lot finally saps away that last customer that breaks The Boss’ spirit. That’s why.
It’s a unique function of the lowly video clerk (we’ll never be “DVD clerks”) to determine what entertainment lives and what dies. Sure, it’s only on the smallest of scales on the surface of things, but if you’ve been around this world as long as I have it’s not hard to see our deceptive impact. Of course we recommend movies. As customers get to know us, or even if they don’t, we have a surprising amount of sway over what people take home. What they come to love, and tell their friends about. And then they come back to us for more. Any video geek worth his free rentals is adept at delving—at gleaning just enough information about what exactly a customer is in the mood for—that we can shape the course of not only their evening but their developing movie taste. It’s a delicate art, and not everyone is good at it—just imposing your own taste on someone guarantees disillusionment and eventual averted glances.
I’m great at it. It’s not that hard: You just have to listen to the operative words and often implied sentiments in the customer’s descriptions and then you let your knowledge open doors that they haven’t seen before. You know, because they don’t spend every damned day of their lives thinking about movies almost to the exclusion of all else. Match your tone to theirs, really listen to what they’re asking for, and then start recommending things that match those criteria, even if only at right angles. They’ll love you for it, and they’ll come back. To you, and The Store, forever. When that happens, it’s like ink dropped on tissue paper: You can actually feel your influence ensuring some films remain in the public consciousness while others, unloved by those out front, sink into oblivion, and eventually that bargain bin from whence no copy of Kickin’ It Old School returns. For insignificant lowest cogs in the vast entertainment machine, ours is a stealthy, gradual, grassroots marketing influence, but as the years pass by and some films and TV shows fade in the public consciousness, it’s our collective (if disappearing) hectoring, cajoling (and don’t forget simple “facing out”) that makes the difference for the marginal. When a video clerk vanishes, so does his/her championed arsenal of those “interesting, little indie movies” that, when people are looking for things of that description, he/she always has at the ready.
I’m why we still carry Police Beat. That’s why Choose Me goes out, I’ m guessing, more at The Store than at any (remaining) video store in the world. That’s why we carry two copies of Local Hero, because when people ask me what my favorite movie of all time is, I hand one to them and just say “Trust me.” I’ve been thanked for introducing couples to The Wire like I’d delivered their first baby in the back of a cab, and my colleague Regan*, hater of all sport, but especially football, leverages that fact to twist people’s arms into watching Friday Night Lights (for which they are, ultimately and effusively, grateful).
If I were an indie filmmaker, I’d cultivate relationships with stores like ours. Okay- maybe a bunch of opinionated wage slaves (note: The Boss actually pays us quite well) isn’t going to make any difference to money machines like James Cameron, but I know for a fact that Andy** talks to people about Sisters more than Brian DePalma does at this point. There was a time when we were the only store in the Northeast that carried all of Russ Meyer’s movies, and Meyer, since he distributed most of his films himself, would regularly call and make sure that we had them all in stock. (They lived, and live, happily disreputable still, in that Incredibly Strange section.) We of the independent video store continue to care, continue to champion. We love what we love, from that ubiquitous billion dollar smash to that straight-to-DVD sleeper that, somehow, sometime, maybe inexplicably moved us, touched us, made us feel all funny in our swimsuit area at just the right time, and we can keep those movies alive. We pass them on, our secret loves, our secret shames, the scruffy little underdogs that, sometimes just for a brief, flickering moment, made us feel in a way that only a movie can do.
And so we hang on, hoping against hope that the inexorable march of technology will spare us for yet one more year. We watch, we talk, we laugh and write and recommend, and sometimes we just say, “trust me—this one will change your life.”
For all it’s silliness, it’s mundanity, and people who just won’t stop touching the shiny side of a goddamned DVD…
It’s not a bad way to make a living. You should come and check us out sometime.

*Regan doesn’t work here anymore because you didn’t rent here enough.

**Andy hardly works here anymore because you didn’t rent here enough.

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 3:07 am  Comments (4)  
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VideoReport #463

Volume CDLXIII- Videoport: The Revenge

For the Week of 7/1/14


Videoport gives you a free movie every single day. We just thought that was worth mentioning…


Middle Aisle Monday! Take a free rental from the Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

"Who needs this piece of crap?"—Netfl*x

“Who needs this piece of crap?”—Netfl*x

>>> Dennis suggests that, perhaps, a certain internet movie streaming service doesn’t give a damn about what you want. I know, it’s a shocking claim to make about one of the worst companies in the world, but hear me out. See, said internet conglomerate has, once again, decided that there are a lot of great movies you just don’t need to see any more. They do this all the time. I know—that’s BS, right? I might point out at this point that Videoport never does that—we have lovingly collected our library of great films for decades. They’re here, they’re never going away, and, frankly, we here at Videoport think it’s something akin to a crime against movies and people who love movies. Maybe against humanity—I’m not a lawyer. So, just so you know how evil said heartless internet corporation is and how little they care about what you want, here are just some of the movies they’re like, “Eh, those chumps don’t need to watch these—plus we hate our customers anyway.”

The African Queen

Angel Heart

As Good As It Gets

Bang the Drum Slowly


Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Death Wish movies

Desert Fox


Dr. Strangelove

Event Horizon

Evil Dead II

For Your Eyes Only

From Russia With Love



Hotel Rwanda

Killing Zoe

Lars and the Real Girl

Less Than Zero

Look Who’s Talking

The Living Daylights


Never Say Never Again

Night Of The Living Dead

The Odd Couple

Point Blank

Poolhall Junkies

Resident Evil

Robinson Crusoe On Mars


Rocky II

Rocky III

Rocky IV

Roger Dodger


The Running Man

Same Time, Next Year


Taxi Driver

The Terminator

Tokyo Godfathers

If you’re like me, then your blood starting boiling about three movies in. Not to beat a dead, evil horse, but that list is one of the many reasons why you need an independent video store in your life. Videoport gets more movies for you to enjoy. Netfl*x takes movies away from you on a damned whim. Rent Videoport.

Tough and Triassic Tuesday! Give yourself a free rental from the Action or Classics section with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!

>>> Dennis suggests The Ballad Of Cable Hogue (in Classics.) Noted tough guy director legend Sam Peckinpah claimed this elegiac Western as his all-time favorite (over the likes of The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, Straw Dogs, or Cross Of Iron), so who am I to argue. It’s a gentler film for Peckinpah (sure, some guys get shot, but only a few), and is home to a truly lovely, funny performance from fellow screen legend Jason Robards. Playing Cable Hogue, a garrulous Western drifter, Robards’ Cable gets double crossed and left to die of thirst in the desert by his traveling companions. Making deals with God (Cable’s running commentary is sweet and weird), he discovers an undiscovered water hole right between two distant towns and scrapes together a tiny settlement to make a home (and semi-lucrative business) and falls in love with local prostitute Stella Stevens. The rambunctious courtship of the two is genuinely funny and sweet, with Stevens being warily smitten by the courtly Cable’s respectful treatment. Throw in the ever-welcome David Warner as a lecherous, self-ordained priest as Cable’s unlikely pal, and the film is almost pure entertainment. And, since we’re up on Independence Day and all, it’s also an eccentrically patriotic film, with Cable raising himself up from nothing and creating his own slice of the Old West dream; look at Cable’s face when he’s given a gift of an American flag to raise over his new homestead, and the way he appeals to the town’s banker, saying, “Well, I’m worth something, ain’t I?” with sadness in his eyes. The dialogue throughout has a strange, spiky rhythm, and Robards walks away with it.

Wacky and Worldly Wednesday! You’ve got a free rental coming from the Comedy or Foreign Language sections with any other paid rental! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!                                                        

>>> Videoport customer Kevin H. suggests The Lifeguard (in Feature Drama). “This Summer Growing Up is Optional” states the cover box. That – and maybe the prominent placement of a swimsuit-clad Kristen Bell – might lead one to expect some sort of off-color comedy. Which is unfortunate. While there are some light touches of humor throughout the movie, the core story is about a young woman’s emotional response to falling apart. Bell’s character, Leigh, has always been a smart and driven high achiever. At 29, she’s a journalist in New York, by outward appearances a success. Inside, she’s unhappy, emotionally drained, and unsure of herself. In a moment of despairing inspiration, she decides to ditch it all and retreat – back to her parents’ house, her hometown, her old friends. Her attempt to reset the clock only provides a temporary comfort, though; she’s still someone who has gone from success story to being completely lost and adrift, and bad choice upon bad choice follows. Bell does a very good job of conveying, in little subtle ways, how frightening that must feel. Seeing her character struggle with the pressure of failed expectations (her own and those of others), with trying to recover a sense of herself – that’s where this movie really succeeds. I’m not going to claim that, on the whole, it’s a great movie, but it’s certainly better than the packaging might indicate, so…give it a try, maybe.

Thursday! Rent one, get a free rental from any other section in the store! OR Get any three non-new releases for seven days for seven bucks!                                        

>>>Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (in Classics.) It is an absolute tragedy that this movie is showed in government classes in high school because high school students are a bunch of unappreciative tw*ts. I include myself in that! If it hadn’t been for a stellar older brother I would have harbored a wellspring of inaccurate distaste for this movie. Just to be spiteful. Allow me to be the stellar older brother to your Michelle. This movie rocks! It gets better every time I watch it! Fourth of July is always a swell time for some patriotism and this movie is patriotic in spades. Take a break from feeling desolate and jaded about our country. Let your heart skip a beat in joy as you watch corruption defeated. “I suppose when a fella bucks up against a big organization like that, one man by himself can’t get very far can he?” At least he can in the movies. And Frank Capra knows all the right beats to hit to make it the most satisfying experience it can be.

Free Kids Friday! One free rental from the Kids section, no other rental necessary!            

>>> It’s free! It’s for kids! Awwww—we’re so nice!

Having a Wild Weekend! Rent two movies, and get a third one for free from any section!                                                    

>>>For Saturday, Former Videoporter Stockman suggests Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (in Classics.) Wait! There’s more! Did you know that Frank Capra actually did a sort of “common man” trilogy. Sort of. I mean the common man being awesome is a general theme for him, but in particular I’m talking about Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Yes, the same Mr. Deeds that Adam Sandler did a revolting remake of, but that’s a whole other rant. I waffle as to which one is my favorite Mr. Smith or Mr. Deeds, but I really couldn’t bare life without both. Meet John Doe is fine, but I’m choosing not formally recommend it because it never made my heart sing like it was a princess in a Disney movie. I think Mr. Smith has more passion, but Mr. Deeds has more humor and quirk. If you want to feel the same tearful happiness of the greedy and terrible getting taken down good and proper, but you really don’t want to deal with all that government nonsense, this is definitely the winner. They both somehow manage to hit all the same points and emotions and yet be so satisfyingly different. You get a fabulous dose of Jean Arthur no matter what you watch. She’s worth falling in love with twice.

>>>For Sunday, Videoport customer Kevin H. suggests I Used To Be Darker (in Feature Drama.) “I Used to be Darker” likewise introduces a young woman looking for an escape. Taryn, an Irish teen, has decamped for the US and is working at a boardwalk arcade. In a bit of a bad situation and unable to cope, she takes further flight to Baltimore, showing up unannounced at the home of her uncle Bill, aunt Kim, and older cousin Abby. She wants the shelter of warm memories of these relatives and past times spent at their house. Instead, she finds Kim and Bill in the midst of a separation. Kim wants to pursue her musical career. Bill wants to hang onto the family for which he feels he sacrificed his musical interests. Abby is angry and frustrated, particularly with Kim. And, like Taryn, we have to pick our way through the anger and brittle sharp edges that made it difficult, initially, to even like these characters. The lashing out and sneering hurt feelings are easy to see; slowly, though, we start to see how they care for, and are careful with, each other. We sit with them in their private despair, in scenes that can feel deeply personal and raw. This is small scale, personal movie making. The actors are largely non-professionals (Kim and Bill are played, apparently, by real-life musicians). Perhaps not the easiest of viewings, but it rewards a little attention. Plus, it’s filled with interesting music (not in a “here’s the soundtrack!” kind of way), and it’s got a gorgeous, washed out, summer-y look that just makes you feel all kinds of hip.

New Releases this week at Videoport: A Young Doctor’s Notebook (everybody’s cool guy Jon Hamm and erstwhile Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe star in this odd British miniseries about a young Russian doctor who seeks the advice of his older self in dealing with the problems of working in a tiny rural Russian hospital during the Russian revolution; look for it in Videoport’s British Comedy section!), The Unknown Known (Errol Morris is the best documentarian in the history of the world, so you should probably rent this, his most recent film where he gets former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to open up, just as he did with former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in his earlier film The Fog Of War),The Lunchbox (crowd-pleasing Indian film for foodies! When a young woman’s carefully prepared meals start getting accidentally delivered to a widowed worker, they start exchanging anonymous letters to each other alongside the delicious curries), The Bridge (following hard on the heels of last week’s release of its American remake, here’s the Swedish/Danish original series, about a body found directly on the border of two countries, forcing two very different cops to work together; check Videoport’s Foreign section!)

New Arrivals on Blu-Ray This Week At Videoport: The Lunchbox

Free parking at Videoport! The parking lot behind the building is free for customers after 5PM on weekdays and all days on the weekends. Also, we can get you a free hour of parking at any downtown parking garage (including the courthouse garage which is, like, a one minute walk away). Just ask for one of our magic stickers!

Get your movies duplicated at Videoport!

You know that Videoport copies DVDs and VHS tapes, right? Well we do! Now don’t try to get us to copy anything copyrighted—that’s against the law. That’s what “copyrighted” means. But home movies, stuff like that—bring ‘em in and get yourself some copies. They’re ten bucks apiece, we do ‘em fast, and you really should have extra copies of those secret surveillance tapes of that thing that you saw that time. You know—just in case you need to foil someone’s dastardly plot. Soo many movies would have been over that much more quickly of the heroes had made some copies at Videoport. So sad…