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Captain Canada's Movie Rodeo

Tumblr can murder if you’re a nostalgia junkie.

I guess I’m not necessarily addicted to nostalgia. I understand that things move forward for a reason, but it’s hard sometimes not to give in a little.

I’ve gotten rid of most of my VHS tapes over the years, but there’s a handful, twelve or so, that I just bring myself to throw away. A couple are tapes I spent a ridiculous amount of money on years ago (I think I paid thirty or forty bucks for the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film Masks of Death), and the rest are compilations made by dear friends. I actually still have my VCR, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I used it. The best I can do is guess that it’s been several years.

There is absolutely no good reason to keep the VCR or tapes, and yet I do. When I move again, I’ll probably even bring them with me.

Why? What the hell for? Why hold onto something like that, if I can’t even remember the last time I used it? Probably for the same reason I look up pictures of video stores on Tumblr.

It’s like I said, Tumblr can murder if you’re a nostalgia junkie, or even if you’re just in the mood for memories that aren’t particularly important, not really, but refuse to make way for more important things. Is it silly to count as a great memory the time I went into a video store in Illinois that housed virtually every movie ever released on VHS? Probably. I’m not really complaining though. I’ll take any positive associations from the past that come my way.

Video stores were an important part of my childhood, I suppose. I lived in town growing up called Lake Cowichan. To my understanding, it’s pretty much the same place today as it was the last time I was there (1998). I lived there from age 3-10, and although it wasn’t a big town by any means, we did have a couple of really good video stores. The one I remember the most vividly was owned by an older couple. They had started the business years earlier, and although other video stores came and went, they remained essentially the same. They didn’t mind my habit of browsing for upwards of an hour, gave me free rentals and candy all the time, and didn’t seem to have to struggle with treating an annoying little kid like me as though I were an adult.

If you wanted to find me on the weekend, I was either there, or at the library. They were pretty reliable places to waste an afternoon.

I was thinking about all this the other day, how it’s nice to have things like Netflix, Hulu Plus, torrents, and all the other options that puts just about everything up for grabs at a moment’s notice, but how I still missed going to video stores, and I wondered if Tumblr had some good pictures. Maybe a fond memory or two.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how much I found. It wasn’t just hipsters clinging to something obsolete for the hell of it. A lot of the posts I found were made by people like me. It wasn’t a question of building a whole religion out of the recent (seemingly) past. They were just memories that had a bittersweet-but-oddly-comforting vibe to them. It does seem sometimes like there are fewer and fewer reasons for leaving the house. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it’s a thought that bothers me sometimes.

Video stores are just a part of this thought. The part where Randal goes to Big Choice Video inClerks seems like science-fiction now. It’s just nostalgia. It can appeal to me, but it’s never a good idea to live in those thoughts for too long. I think it’s important that all of us have a few relics around. I don’t think there’s any harm in it. As long as you don’t stay in the past, which is tempting sometimes, I wouldn’t say you’re doing any damage.

Am I kidding myself? Possibly. I was just happy to find that so many other people can reminisce about something as frivolous as a video store. My favorite posts were the ones about the locally-owned stores. Those were my favorite, too, but the first time I went to a Blockbuster was pretty damn exciting. I was annoyed with my parents for only letting me rent five videos.

Some of my best memories are the ones that really have no particular point to them. They’re just nice, self-contained little stories. If I can hold on to a physical representation of them, like a VCR, then I’m going to.

It’s not like the damn thing is taking up a whole lot of space to begin with.

Barry Lyndon (1975): A+

Why did I wait so long to see this? It’s not like Stanley Kubrick has ever steered me wrong. I guess I just couldn’t imagine being able to get into a movie that forced me to deal with Ryan O’Neal for over three hours. I guess the fact that this may well be my favorite Kubrick movie of all time should only serve to remind me just how asinine some of my movie prejudices can be. Like most Kubrick films, it’s a slow story that needs to be seen at least a couple of times to be fully appreciated. I’ve seen it three times now, and I’m still uncovering the layers Kubrick built into this epic story of the rise and fall of an 18th-century Irish adventurer (O’Neal). The great thing about Barry Lyndon can be found in the best of Kubrick’s works. If you simply want to take Barry Lyndon as a slow-paced, beautiful, tragic story of a man destroyed by his own unwavering arrogance, then you can. If you want to find subtext and potential in every perfect performance, every scene that’s either quietly horrifying or just unfortunate, you can do that, too. It’s because of the incredible versatility of Kubrick’s style and storytelling, not to mention a cast that is extraordinary all the way through, that Barry Lyndon doesn’t show a single second of an age that is rapidly approaching its fortieth anniversary. Barry Lyndon asks a lot of anyone who watches it. It demands your complete attention for three hours that are almost entirely devoid of what usually passes for action in a movie. It makes no apologies for its pace or tone, both of which can be tasking for anyone who isn’t familiar with Kubrick’s work, but the rewards for sticking with it are many. This is a movie that leaves you feeling exhausted just for having witnessed a life such as that of Barry Lyndon. Even after all these years, Barry Lyndon impresses as a truly risky way of telling a cinematic story. The fact that it goes about telling its long story in its own singularly unique way is impressive enough. That it also succeeds in doing this is what makes it absolutely breathtaking and essential.

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (2002): B+

Black comedy doesn’t get much darker than this Scottish independent gem from 2002. Harry Potter fans will no doubt be amazed to see Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle) give an extremely sweet, awkward and incredibly endearing performance, but that’s really not the best thing about this. What gives Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself some pretty imposing dark humor fangs is how it goes about telling a story of, amongst other things, suicide, depression, enabling and self-absorption, with such a shocking lack of sentiment, it’s amazing that the movie is appealing at all. And it may not be for some tastes. People who are big on their movies leaving them with even a sliver of hope are probably not going to be happy with the quiet despair that dominates virtually all of Lone Scherfig’s film. People who are on some kind of list for the kinds of things they tend to laugh at will feel like Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself was made just for them. It certainly doesn’t apologize for its somber humor, or for the depressing-yet-hilarious performances by Jamie Sivies (Wilbur) or Adrian Rawlins (as Wilbur’s constantly obliging brother). If you think optimism, or anything that could qualify as life-affirming, is for suckers, then you’ll feel right at home with Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.

21 Jump Street (2012): B-

21 Jump Street is another good example of those times when I absolutely love being proven wrong. I wasn’t expecting much from a concept, which isn’t really a remake of the 1980’s TV series, but actually takes place in the same universe as the series (and it’s a nicely-done variation on the remake/revamp/re-imagining epidemic), and I wasn’t really banking on a lot from the cast either. I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten around to watching it if so many people didn’t swear by it being one of the funniest movies of 2012. I’m glad I was wrong about the mix of indifference and severe reservations I had about the film, and I’m glad I can agree with the people who consider this to be one of the best comedies of the year. Everything about 21 Jump Street works, and the movie rarely gets desperate in trying to top itself, but the real fun of the film is in the chemistry between Channing Tatum, an actor I’ve never really had an opinion on, and Jonah Hill, who I really should start taking more seriously as an actor. Without the two of them bouncing dialog off of each other with incredible comedic timing, 21 Jump Street would just be a series of jokes without a center. And even that probably would have been fine. Thankfully, and Hill and Tatum are the biggest reason for this, it’s much more than that.

Alfie (1966): A-

Michael Caine is probably the main reason why Alfie retains its appeal after so many years, but it’s hard not to enjoy the sights and sounds of 1960’s London. Caine infuses charm, humor and surprising depth into a seemingly shallow, bored ladies man, hitting notes with this character that most actors (including Jude Law in the unfortunate and unnecessary remake) wouldn’t even come close to touching. Caine plays Alfie with style and vulnerable bravado, and it’s a great performance in a long career of great performances. It doesn’t hurt either that Alfie has plenty of talented actresses (including Shelley Winters and Millicent Martin) to make up the various relationships that populate Alfie’s life. The appeal of Alfie might strike some as a little dated, but it’s appealing nonetheless, and Michael Caine is still Michael Caine. And if words like “timeless” make up your description of the man, then you should be all set.

The Help (2011): B

Calling The Help the movie where “White people fix racism” is a bit simplistic, and it’s true in a sense that this is pretty blatant Oscar bait at times, but it’s hard to be cynical with a film that features such intensely moving performances from Viola Davis (whose Academy Award win was well-deserved) and Octavia Spencer. The story of the relationship between an aspiring journalist (Emma Stone) and two black maids in 1960’s Mississippi is told fairly well, and the rest of the cast, including Stone, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janey, Cicely Tyson, all lend considerable weight to why The Help deserves to be seen as more than just Oscar bait, but make no mistake as to who the real stars of this movie are. Davis and Spencer elevate the quality and captivating force of The Help to impressive heights. They are mesmerizing, and their performances are what make The Help worth watching.