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

A FILMMAKERS' ORAL HISTORY OF A VANISHED ERA

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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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