Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm In Love With A German Film Star

for Michael VD

So I was in the video store the other day for ten minutes before I realised they had actual videos for rent. They also have DVDs, but there were hundreds of videos on the shelves, gathering dust or not, I'm not sure, I didn't get too close. I usually run in and out of my neighborhood video store, Nightstar, because it is the kind of place where lingering, and perusing, are frowned upon, which I think is odd nowadays because most people in search of a movie get it free off the web somewhere. If the store is even open. They have the worst hours. In that store, it's still 1984, and in their little neck of the woods, they've got the movie rental market cornered. Of course, I am obsessed with this place. I even bought their t-shirt.
I've gotten into long conversations with friends who also go there, which usually start with the phrase: Guess what happened to me in Nightstar the other day! We share rumors and create theories as to why they are the way they are: curt, surly, and impatient, but we all keep going back to rent their movies.
For the past four years, I've only ever had fleeting glimpses of those distinct video box shapes, which I push out of my mind, as I run to the front where the newly released DVDs are, while thinking "That can't be what it looks like, can it? I won't stop to look! Just get in and get out with Coco Before Chanel" It's the kind of place, too, where I feel judged by what I rent. I have to get a 'cool' movie when I go, or be viewed a tool. "You'll watch any shit!" I imagine them thinking, when I place Couples Retreat on the counter. I'm sure they aren't really thinking that...

Does Nightstar Video still carry videos because the word 'video' is in it's name, perhaps? I don't know if they have new videos, or if new videos are even still made; I haven't investigated that far yet. I've only recently felt comfortable enough there to linger a few minutes past the new release area. Well, I should say ready. I'm only just ready to accept the fact they have videos for rent. That store is like a time machine. I don't know why I'm so uncomfortable around all those VHS boxes, because I still have and use my VCR, and I regularly buy videos. Some old favorites of mine, like Times Square and Breaking Glass haven't been released on DVD, and some movies were issued on DVD only once, making them hard to find and expensive. Maximilam Shell's Marlene is $150 used on DVD, while you can get a VHS version for around seven bucks. My copy from ebay came in it's old clam shell case from an Upper West Side video store converting over to DVDs. You know I love that!

As you may have guessed by reading my blog, I'm a little obsessed with Hollywood. Especially old Hollywood. When I was a kid, around ten or eleven, whenever I saw Marilyn Monroe on TV, I would say aloud: "I'm going to meet her someday!" My parents never contradicted me. I was crushed that day in the library when I was thirteen, when I finally drummed up enough courage to look up her bio, and learned she died before I was born. Sigh...alas.
My love for movies started one summer in the early seventies when I was a kid, where you could find me every morning in my basement in the dark, watching the old movies they showed on TV before noon: westerns, gangster flicks, all the Beatles and Busby Berkeley movies, and all the Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Jerry Lewis, Abbot and Costello, Charlie Chan, Hope and Crosby, and Dean Martin movies. During the morning movies, they had teaser commercials for the monster movies they showed on weekends. They were the best commercials, because they cut together a bunch of clips of monsters slowly creeping up on unsuspecting damsels, or monsters slowly opening their eyes and coming to life, all to the tune of Joe Cocker's You Are So Beautiful, with an announcement at the end: "This weekend's Monster Theater movie is I Was A Teenage Werewolf! Starring Michael Landon!" Oh, I just loved the irony. These memories came flooding back to me recently, for I found a picture of me and my family in that basement.
My neighbors back then were teenage boys in high school, and they were also fans of monster movies, and had books in their living room about them, which I looked at as often as I could. One book particularly interested me, mainly because the movies in it were too scary for regular TV, and I wasn't supposed to look at it, it was too graphic. I'd sneak peeks in it when I could, repulsed and intrigued at the same time, til I was caught, which was every time. Every now and then I make a web search for that extra scary monster book, for old time's sake, but I can't seem to find it.

Video stores were a dream come true for me, when I was younger, because here was a place I could go and get two or three old movies at a time and catch up on everything I missed. I spent hours at a time in them, alone and with friends, deciding what to get, because videos and VCRs were expensive back then, so I didn't rent many movies. (I didn't have my own VCR until 1993.) Because of that, I was very careful in my video selections, getting as many of my top ten choices as I could.
In the early eighties, I even dated a guy I wasn't attracted to, just because he worked in a video store, and I could watch all the movies I wanted. I spent all my Sundays with him at work for a while. "We could have our wedding here!" I would tease. I distinctly remember watching Christine, The Dead Zone and Stallone's rereleased bad 70s porno, Party At Kitty And Stud's over and over. He ended it with me one night when I let slip my true intentions: "I don't want to sleep with you, just show me more movies..."

I don't know what I'm feeling, exactly, when I'm in Nightstar, but it triggers something. Am I sad about video stores nearing extinction, or missing all the friends I spent hours with haunting them? Or is it because movies don't feel as special to me as they once did? I thought it might have been because I've 'seen them all', but I know that's not true; I rented some great old movies there recently. I guess progress sometimes makes me sad.

This year, I got to be a little part of movies, by attending the red carpet arrivials for the Academy Awards. I was hoping to see in person some old movie stars, like Elizabeth Taylor or Lauren Bacall, but I had to settle for Mickey Rooney and Christopher Plummer. But I must say, seeing Meryl Streep live and in person was something special- she lit up the place. I was lucky enough to sit in the front row, by the TV Guide cameras, and make little movies of my own, with some of the stars who showed up that day. That's me, in the glasses and short sleeve shirt, sitting next to the red stairs, gazing lovingly upon Keanu. I didn't know this was going to happen that day, for if I had, I would have passed out scripts, and made a better movie for you! I made 'little movies', as I like to call them, with Hellen Mirren, Gabourey, George Clooney, et al, if you care to view them.

I've been making some progress in Nightstar lately, and having actual conversations with the guys behind the counter, and asking for movie advice, and getting compliments on my choices. Believe it or not, I think the real reason I feel weird looking at the shelves of old video boxes when I'm there is the thought of getting caught red handed, living in the past....

The Passions

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