With the rise of Netflix, Redbox and ever-expanding streaming-video options, old-school brick-and-mortar video stores are likely to be extinct by the end of next year. Say what you will about the evils of a behemoth like Blockbuster, but this can't be a positive development. And I don't say that from a purely nostalgic point of view — though that's part of it.
Like nearly every other segment of our rapidly evolving, technologically driven cultural landscape, the evaporation of physical buildings in which physical objects are obtained with help of actual human beings is a distressing turn of events. Besides the existential angst of no longer being able interact with and know that something in fact exists in the “real” world, part of the understanding and experience of a movie (or music or any other cultural object for that matter) is informed by the social context in which we encounter it.
I grew up at the dawn of home video. I remember going into my neighborhood video store and talking to the clerk about what movies he liked and recommended (though, initially, I was too young for his favorite, David Cronenberg), walking up and down aisles looking at the various VHS box covers, endlessly fascinated by the unknown cinematic pleasures each might contain. Some lived up to that fascination (Blue Velvet), others didn't (Caged Heat 2).
Later, during my college years, I worked at an independently owned and operated store on Cincinnati's West Side (Feature Video, anyone?) where my burgeoning movie madness was satiated with heavy doses of everything from trashy low-budget B movies to old-school Hollywood classics. And while the store's selection was woefully lacking in terms of world and less readily available underground/independent cinema, it did provide my first extended exposure to the perspective-altering output of such filmmakers as Woody Allen, Robert Altman, John Carpenter, Cronenberg, Brian DePalma, Hal Hartley, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Jarmusch, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, John Sayles, Martin Scorsese and dozens of others, most of whom I discussed with and argued about with co-workers, friends and customers (“Dude, Blow Out is waaay better than Scarface!”).
There's no denying that access to films has never been better; what's missing is the communal aspect of going into a place that nurtures and complements and enhances movie culture and those who love it.
As for this week's theatrical releases, the biggie — Will Ferrell's latest comedic collaboration with Adam McKay, The Other Guys (read tt stern-enzi's feature here) — is complemented by a trio of art-house offerings that range from “heartfelt” (Ajami) to “heartless” (Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinski).
AJAMI — The writing/directing duo of Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti take on a hornet's nest of divergent cultural issues and social problems in Jaffa's Ajami neighborhood. Ajami is a heartfelt picture of communities ripped apart in a never-ending cycle of violence. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Not Rated.) Grade: B
COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY — Coco Chanel is depicted as a heartless home wrecker in director Jan Kounen's pointless biopic drama. A stench of cruelty sticks to the filmmakers' questionable intentions, as well as to the callous actions of the dueling artistic protagonists. (Read full review here.) (Open today at Esquire Theatre.) — CS (Rated R.) Grade: C-
MID-AUGUST LUNCH — Watching this lauded but fatally slight comedy of manners about a middle-aged Italian who finds himself caring for four spunky old dames, it's hard to believe writer, director and star Gianni Di Gregorio also co-wrote the bloody mafia hit Gomorrah. Amiably self-deprecating to a fault, the semi-autobiographical Mid-August Lunch features Di Gregorio as Gianni, an aging slacker who cares for his demanding mother (Valeria de Franciscis) in their decrepit Rome apartment. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — Ella Taylor (Not Rated.) Grade: B-
THE OTHER GUYS — Desk jockey detectives Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) stumble onto the heroic forefront in Adam McKay’s latest laugh-fest collaboration (Anchorman, Step Brothers) with Ferrell. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B
STEP UP 3D — Jon M. Chu directs this third Step Up film, which is about a team of New York City street dancers (led by Rick Malambri and Sharni Vinson) who compete in an international competition. Disney is pimping this thing as the “first 3-D feature to be shot entirely in New York City,” a distinction we image they intend as a selling point. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.