An oral history that delves deeply into video stores and the film movement they nurtured.

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I Lost It At the Video Store


Using interviews with a wide array of filmmakers, former Premiere editor Roston brings the magic of video stores to life.

With movies now available to view at home with a click of a mouse, it may be easy to forget that as recently as the early 2000s, there were still tens of thousands of video stores in the United States. The Friday-night trip to grab a new release was an American ritual. Only a smattering of remaining stores have survived the industry’s precipitous decline, but, as Roston describes in this engaging oral history, its significance lives on—most notably as “an irreplaceable part of the independent film movement of the 1980s and 1990s” that spawned such award-winning directors as Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, and David O. Russell. “Their films are a product of video store culture, both creatively and financially,” writes Roston, who interviewed more than 20 filmmakers for the book. The book makes the case that video stores gave aspiring filmmakers a forum in which to talk about and learn their craft; Tarantino, Smith, Joe Swanberg, and Nicole Holofcener even worked as store clerks. “It was like living in a film library,” Smith recalls. “You could watch anything, and you could watch it over and over again.” For Swanberg, video-store movies were “my film school before I went to film school.” On the financial side, this book points out, stores needed product to fill their shelves—a demand that companies could satisfy very profitably by making low-budget movies with relative novices. Some of these films, such as Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992), which had a budget of about $1.5 million, got theatrical releases. “A vibrant independent film movement in theaters happened,” Tarantino says. Apart from Roston’s introduction, the book consists almost solely of verbatim quotes from his interviews, which can sometimes make for a somewhat pedestrian reading experience. However, there’s plenty of insider info here for film buffs to enjoy: “I memorized a thirty-minute sequence of Chinatown, which is how I taught myself filmmaking,” Russell recalls, for example, and Swanberg notes that renting Joel and Ethan Coen’s Raising Arizona (1987) made him realize that “not all movies are made by Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks.” Netflix and Redbox, among other things, may have made dinosaurs of video stores, but, as Tarantino laments here, “This next generation isn’t going to know what it’s missing....Something’s lost: that can’t be denied.”

An oral history that delves deeply into video stores and the film movement they nurtured.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941629-15-4

Page Count: 164

Publisher: The Critical Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2015

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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