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Comedy Sign

Last autumn, as part of a sporadic yet ongoing quest to visit what video stores remain in cities which I happen to be in, I paid a quick pilgrimage to San Francisco’s Le Video, the Bay Area insitution which is said to house a staggering 90,000+ titles in its presumably Borgesian backroom vaults. The experience, for this video shop employee, proved to be something of a dispiriting one; Le Video, as with all businesses in this ever-dwindling sector, had long been toiling under the realities of a post-Netflix marketplace, and out of financial expediency had recently been forced to rent out the lower floor of its former two-storey setup to another business (a bookshop) and squeeze itself and its sizeable stock into a considerably smaller space upstairs.

The inevitable consequence of such an upheaval was that the vast majority of the shop’s browsable stock was no longer physically on display for patrons to flak-flak-flak their way through (though happily I understand that in the time since my visit much of it has been restored to the shop floor).The experience threw into sharp focus many issues, but for me in particular it highlighted a thorny issue close to my own heart: the display and arrangement of physical media in a digital age. As an obsessive hoarder avid collector of DVDs myself (whose own collection has long since gone from ‘impressively comprehensive’ to ‘a cry for help’) I have, out of necessity, attempted to find ways to organize them so as to make the hunt for one particular title not take as long as the duration of the film itself.

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The issue for a video shop is, however, a different one, and not related to practicality but instead to how best to connect people to films which they might want to watch. Firstly, one might question the very need for physical display cases at all – Flicks’ fully searchable computer database of all its titles, coupled with the advice of one of our knowledgeable members of staff, might be all that one might need to navigate through nearly 19,000 titles to alight on a suitable candidate for that evening’s viewing. And yet – and I speak as a customer of 16 years as well as a current employee – the physical browsing aspect is central to the Flicks experience, whether that be as a means to jog the grey cells into recalling that Anthony Mann western that you read Scorsese had cited as an influence, or simply for plumping for that Miike Takashi film on the basis of its lunatic title and cover artwork. Going further, it might even be argued that the visual presence of an overabundance of choice is, psychologically, a key constituent of the appeal of a well-stocked library.

Since our move to our new premises on Christmas Steps we have, by and large, retained the same display system as before in our Richmond Terrace cavern, with New Titles and Staff Recommendations sitting alongside sections with broad genre definitions such as Comedies, Thrillers, Classics etc. Some of these are, of course, more satisfactory than others – I personally struggle with ‘Art House’ as a useful definition, though it does recall the delightful description ‘Watershed type’ which adorned some of our promotional material many moons ago – and while I for one am happy to debate ad nauseam whether (as Christopher Frayling asserts) Meek’s Cutoff is indeed a Western or a period drama, these labels tend to suffice as at least a starting point for the casual browser.

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Recently, though, we have begun to assemble new sections dedicated to individual directors’ bodies of work, as a means to open up the catalogue along new lines. Where previously there were only sections devoted to Hitchcock and Woody Allen (on the basis that, yes, sometimes you might just want to watch a ‘Hitchcock’ or a ‘Woody Allen’ film), there now also sit the collected filmographies of the likes of the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Mike Leigh and Richard Linklater. One needn’t be a fully paid-up auteurist to see the benefit of such a system, and although instigating this inevitably means a little more legwork on the part of staff (not least the initial issue of *finding* said covers in the proverbial DVD haystack), I for one hope that it is proving to be useful to our patrons in connecting them to films which they may not have otherwise found their way to.

At which point, I would like to open this up to the floor – what do you all think of our new director sections? Are they useful to you, and would you like to see more of them? And if so, who? Would other types of collections (e.g. New Hollywood, French New Wave) be of even more utility in opening up our catalogue for you? Comments below are, as always, very welcome….

Jonathan Bygraves, when not working at 20th Century Flicks, can usually be found fretting about where precisely his copy of Repulsion ought to be stored.

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Not Very Good Films

Despite the buzz around awards ceremonies and film festivals, merely being nominated or selected doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality. I say that while taking into account both the modicums of personal subjectivity that inherently inform any value judgement an individual makes, but also with an eight and a half ruler’s length of film school objectivity.

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Take for example, the new to DVD release of Very Good Girls (2013). It premièred at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and the reviews since have been far from glowing. What a number of writers have called the film out on is its poor depictions of females and female relationships. Writing for the Collider, Matt Goldberg says, “Very Good Girls has two talented actresses in the leading roles, and their personalities and actions are defined not by the characteristics of their own friendship, but how a boy controls that friendship.” Kate Erbland, over at Film School Rejects surmises, “It’s yet another film that sacrifices deeply bonded female friendships to the sexual wiles of boring men.” Other criticisms levelled at the film – and there are many – include its tired generic tropes, creepy stalker-like love story (Hollywood hasn’t thrown off the shackles of misogynist love triangles just yet) and its implausible character development, consisting here of pitting two best friends against one another for the benefit of male-ego-massage entertainment.

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And it really is as god awful as all the reviews suggest. The question, then, becomes what exactly is of interest in this film? It was selected for a reputable film festival, has a reasonably high profile (albeit not spectacular) cast, including Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Peter Sarsgaard and Demi Moore, and managed an admittedly slight but still existent distribution (simultaneously limited theatrical and online in the US, and direct to DVD here in the UK). The one aspect that seems to have piqued curiosity is Naomi Foner, an established screenwriter (and mother to Gyllenhaals Maggie and Jake), for whom this is a directorial debut. Foner’s previous writing credits include Running on Empty (1988), A Dangerous Woman (1993) and Bee Season (2005) – at least one of which was very well received.

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For a festival like Sundance, that has a focus on American independent film, it is not surprising to see a film of this ilk in the line up. But the wreaths of festival selection are too often bandied about as a mark of quality when they should more likely be viewed as a mark of films or filmmakers of interest. The two are distinct.

But, much like Courtney Cox’s directorial debut Just Before I Go (2014), which premiered at the 2014 TriBeCa Film Festival, the name behind this film is not enough to mask its thoughtless, disappointing content. Still, when it comes to film, each of us must judge content and affect for ourselves. If you want my two cents, Very Good Girls is riddled with insidious ideology and enraging dialogue, including this gem, “But it must feel kinda good to have a guy want to have your body?” Sometimes it seems impossible, but let’s continue to dream of a world where women aren’t seen to exist purely for the physical enjoyment of men, on and off screen.

This post was written by Tara & Very Good Girls is available to rent, should you be game to take on its gender issues. 

Nicolas Cage is – Left Behind

It’s funny just how often Nicolas Cage’s name crops up in conversation. Now I know what you’re thinking: surely if I compared the frequency of instances of Nic Cage cropping up in conversation with the intensity of my personal obsession and feeling of compulsion to bring Nic Cage up in conversation that I’d find a clear explanation for this ‘phenomena’. But, and I put this to you, dear reader, maybe it’s just true that Nicolas Cage is the greatest man ever to grace the big screen (bear with me, there’ll be plenty of time and space for comments/complaints at the end of this post and, of course, with me in human form in the shop on Christmas Steps.)

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As Sailor Ripley in Wild at Heart (1990)

If I think back to when I first fell in love with Nicolas Cage, I’m transported back to my late teenage years, discovering popular auteurs for the first time. It was during my David Lynch Odyssey that his gravelly voice and wonderfully styled hair stole my heart. It really was love at first sight.

After this, Valley Girl (1983), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Raising Arizona (1987), Leaving Las Vegas (1995) Bringing Out the Dead (1999), The Family Man (2000), and a host of others further cemented my now unmovable stance as a Nic Cage devotee. Sure, I’ve seen Drive Angry (2011), Ghost Rider (2007), The Wicker Man (2006 – that’s the one that truly tested me), but, the occasional hiccup aside, my screen relationship with Nic Cage really is a beautiful, unwavering thing.

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As Rayford Steele in Left Behind (2014)

Which brings me to why I started writing this blog post in the first place: there’s a new Nic Cage movie in store for the renting! It’s called Left Behind (2014) and the premise is this: Nic Cage is a lecherous pilot who finds himself running out of fuel, trying desperately to land his plane with no way of contacting anyone on the ground other than his confused, determined and annoyed daughter, with the not wildly helpful assistance of Chad Michael Murray (who plays a journalist) while the rapture happens. If you’re thinking, ‘WOW’, then all I can really say in response is, ‘YES’.

But before I try to convince you, along with everyone else who walks in the door over the coming days (/weeks/months/years/however long I live for) to rent it, let me also say this: it’s not good. The acting is awful, the production values vary (from ‘not good’ to ‘woeful’), nothing makes any sense and it seems kinda like they didn’t even bother writing a screenplay.

If that for some reason deters you from renting it, let me counter with this: grab some friends, buy some booze and just enjoy watching a baffling vision of the rapture unfold while Cage furrows his beautiful, beautiful brow. You’ll thank me. Probably.

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Nic Cage’s beautiful, beautiful furrowed brow.

Anyway, either way, whichever way, we’re running a mid-week special deal where you can rent any two Nic Cage movies for a fiver! Including Left Behind which, as a new release title, is currently renting at £4.

In the interim, why not tell us what your favourite Nic Cage film is in the comments section? I think if you’re honest you can admit that you have at least one…

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: this post was written by Tara and may not (but really should) represent the views of all members of staff at 20th Century Flicks.

20th Century Film Quiz at Christmas Steps Pub

10537749_10153945708468539_5344011106399650824_n Now that we’re good and settled in our new home on Christmas Steps, it’s time to unleash the beast that is the combined movie genius of DJWillSpinz and Mr Bags on you, the good people of Bristol. It takes the form of a film quiz in the pub, and you’ll find it at the bottom of Christmas Steps. There’ll be a picture round, an impossible music round*, famous quotes – with a West Country twist – and other multimedia treats. It’s sure to be an extravaganza of film nerdery, many a pint, and a generous sprinkling of props and kudos. There’s also free rentals and a Flicks Kino voucher for the winning**. Get a team together, get there a little early to secure a table and bring a pound for entry – and a few more to spend at the bar, of course. We guarantee good times*** and quizzical experiences all round****.

Quiz takes place on January 19 at 7.30pm. Be there or, well, you’ll miss it, innit.

* It may or may not be impossible

** Must be a member to redeem Kino voucher and free rental coupons

***Guarantee is meant in the loosest sense of the word – i.e. we heavily promote good times but cannot offer any kind of money back scenario if good times are not experienced

****We do guarantee some kind of quiz