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


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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