Being at home constantly watching films on TV, rather than on a huge cinema screen, has got me thinking. So I’d like to take a trip down memory lane because, well why not? Mmmm the sweet smell of nostalgia….
I’ll pick a year. Let’s choose 1996, when I was the tender age of 10 years old. In my short life there had been some significant world moments; the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first bombing of the World Trade Centre and the invention of what I thought was the treat of the century (to which my mum must have been rubbing her hands together with glee), the Pot Noodle. However, perhaps more significant than the fall of the USSR, taking a peak into the future of global terrorism and kettle based curry flavoured noodles, was the creation and popularisation of The Video Shop.
To a certain generation the video shop was an almost magical place. To generations that have come afterwards, the idea of roaming around a shop grabbing clunky boxes and reading synopsis on the back, or picking films based on the an actor you know and the particularly cool poster they appear to be in, probably sounds like madness. Why do that when you can sit on a bean bag and tell Alexa or Siri to find you Fast & Furious 27? I’m being cynical, but it’s hard to explain how great it was. There’s nothing like going to a cinema, it’s simply the greatest place to watch a film. But, some of my favourite films were discovered at the video shop. I saw Goodfellas, way too young, after my brother rented it and watched it three times in two days. After booking tickets to The Matrix in the cinema when it was released in ‘99 and being denied entry for not being 15, I rented the video a year later and finally got to have my mind blown; albeit belatedly and on a much smaller scale. And yes, I’ve still not forgiven the sadistic person for turning me away. One night I watched The Fugitive. In my life I have seen an obscene amount of films, and this film in particular is one that I’ve seen more than most. It is endlessly re-watchable and in the simplest of terms, is a proper film. I love The Fugitive and my enduring love for it starts here, in a video shop in, what year did we choose again? Ah yes, 1996. Let me tell a short story…
In the words of Shabba Ranks the “school bell a ring” and I am out of there. I pick up my Euro ‘96 pencil case, tighten up my Kickers and throw on my coat. In the words of the most famous Chris Evans in the world in 1996, TFI Friday. We’re a long way from his namesake super soldiering his way to Avengers heroism. Instead we’d have to settle for a pasty ginger man presenting features named Freak or Unique and Ugly Blokes. In fairness as a ten year old it was very funny. Anyway, as I so often do, I digress. Walking home without any music, podcasts, instaface or snapbook, I kick my football all the way home. Usually it feels like it takes hours, but on a Friday I feel like Robert Patrick as the T-1000 running after John Connor; only with less murderous, world ending intent. I just want to watch a film and eat food, with severe urgency.
I make it home, making sure to immediately change into my Italian away football shirt; a shirt I wore so much my brother started to call me “Robert One Top”. True story. After kicking my football against the wall for an hour or so, it was time to take a trip to wonderland. It was almost upon us. Not only that, we were going to go to a chippy that now does pizza. They make it there for you on the spot. And you can get chips! I think this is what Gil Scott Heron meant when he said “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, because this wasn’t on the telly and we only know because my brother’s friend’s mum told our mum about it. It’s near the video shop and we all like chippy chips, so we should probably find out. It’s like living in bloody America!
The rumours are true, Sandra was right. We’re walking down to the video shop, after putting the food on the front seat, already buoyed by our visit and now with a hop in our step after this discovery. It doesn’t take long. I open the doors and smell the stale carpet mixed with bad air freshener. I see the bags of popcorn for sale, next to the “ex-rental” videos. After our food excursion there’s no time to look in there tonight; maybe next time. I walk over to the Action section…
Last Action Hero “Seen that”
Terminator 2 “We can’t watch it again can we?”
The Net “The other Sandra…”
The Fugitive “Harrison, Indy, Han, framed for murder? Mum can we get this?”
Now for those that haven’t seen it, I obviously can’t recommend The Fugitive enough. It is so much fun, with Mr. Ford and Tommy Lee Jones on exquisite form. As I mentioned, I’ve seen this film a lot and it could be close to 100 times. As as well as the aforementioned stars, there’s the original “That Guy” Joey Pantoliano, an incredible train escape jump as well as a staggering beard performance from Harrison’s face. We’re 28 years on from its release, if you haven’t seen it at this point, you’re probably not going to. But to reiterate, you should.
There is a reason for all of this. An incredibly self indulgent one, but it is my blog after all. As I stated when I first started this entry, we’re at home and watching films with no way of doing so in the cinema. For many people this is the way they consume films and not much has changed in that respect. However, as is probably evident due to the very nature of this website, cinema is very important to me. I will be attending as soon as they’re due to open in the UK this May, and will do so for as long as I am able. However, there is a lot of worry due to the very nature of release strategies these days. There is a lot of scepticism about major production companies selling the distribution rights to their tentpole films to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, or releasing them to “Prime VOD”. This is all while cinemas have been left empty and struggling to stay afloat. The industry is in flux and will be for a while. I wanted to highlight a few of these things after taking a trip down memory lane, because there have always been peaks and valleys. When my holy video shop was in full flight, cinemas were railing against consumers viewing films at home. When video shops closed, we all adapted to streaming leaving Blockbuster Video to become a nostalgic reference. And now we find ourselves in a situation where we’re watching cinematic releases like Wonder Woman 1984 and Judas & The Black Messiah at home.
But we will adapt to moving back to the cinema, just as we have adapted to all of the ways we viewed films before. Some of my favourite films in life I saw for the first time after renting them from a video shop. That’s continued right up until this past year of home based viewing. The previously mentioned Judas & The Black Messiah I rented a few weeks ago. If, given the chance when cinemas open, I’ll watch it there as well. Lovers Rock, which is one of the most joyous and visceral films I’ve ever seen, was released on BBC One. I wouldn’t take that back because that was how Steve McQueen chose to present it.
Films will always be available in all different formats in various ways. When cinemas open up on May 17th I will return and I’m certain fellow film lovers will as well. In the meantime support your local cinema by making a donation or buying a membership. It will go a long way. My favourite place in the world will welcome your donation here.
And if no one donates I’ll be forced to write another self indulgent blog about the time I discovered garlic mayo at the chippy, on the same night I rented Speed.