Be Kind Rewind

Ph. and I took in Be Kind Rewind last weekend.
It’s a fun, quirky flick about the desperate, inventive measures by video rental store
workers to recover after all of the tapes are erased. They even have a

Catchiest for me was the premise of
–home-grown, bricolage
film-making (grab a VHS camera, some magic markers, tin foil, etc.). The movie
gets a lot of mileage out of the idea, and in the escalating scramble to re-make
the erased movies, all sorts of mishaps come about: copyright infringement,
battles over microfame, VHS/DVD format tensions, and arguments over store-shelf
economics. But Sweding as an art stance, as a geek-hack aesthetic method:
even if you already knew what make-do composition was, the movie gives the idea
a nudge, renews some of the pleasure and spark in the spirit of carefree
re-makes–enough of a bump that we’re sure to see more

YouTubic transmedia
, like this Sweded version of The Shining:

Eesh. Might be creepier than the original, if a bit less drawn out in its suspense.


Unmatched by any four-week stretch ever (ever!) before, I’ve been heading to
the movie theaters over and over in recent weeks.  At the unprecedented and
steady pace of one per weekend, I have taken in four picture shows in as many
weeks: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Rent; The Lion, the
Witch and the Wardrobe
; and Walk the Line.

If you’ve got $8.50 to spare and an impulse to take in a show, I’ll stand by
recommendations in this order:

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Skeleton Key

If spoilers follow, they’re slight.

Skeleton Key: Kate Hudson acts the part of a New Jersey college
student who, mourning the loss of her father, shifts her work to hospice
care, easing the dying to the end.  Naturally, she lands a gig in a
Bayou mansion (is this the same place Forrest Gump was filmed?) many miles from
the closest city, a shadowy and unkempt house where much mystery and mayhem ensues,
tensions build, and the spirited plot (in four words: need more brick dust)
creeps onward.

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The Start of More?

The "new" Blockbuster has riddled us with promises of abandoning late fees.
The slogan says, "The end of late fees.  The start of more."  Good
enough.  We rent movies from Blockbuster, and we have returned them to the
store late, paid the fees, felt stupid, absolved our delinquency.

So when a postcard showed up in the mail the other day telling me we owed
twelve bucks in late fees to Blockbuster, you can imagine my surprise.  I
was stunned.  But your ad campaign, I thought, it promises the
end of fees
.  Is this the start of more?  According to the notice,
we’d returned The Day After Tomorrow five days late when we picked it up
in mid-November.  And my memory isn’t the sharpest (still working on
getting the new phone number right every time), but I’m sure The Day After
was a week-long rental.  We only rent movies one or two times
each month; the infelicity of a late return is generally fresh with us.  We
usually expect the late charge. But not this time.  "The end of late fees. 
The start of more."

When we rented Hero and I, Robot the other day, D. and Ph. went
to the new release wall while I wandered up to the counter (at the store on Erie
Blvd. here in Syracuse). 

"Can I talk with somebody about this late fee notice?  It’s for a movie
we rented in November.  Says we returned it five days late, but I’m almost
certain it was a week-long rental."

Clerk looks at the note card, eyebrows furrowed accusatorily.  "Yeah,
The Day After Tomorrow
was returned five days late. It’s [something
incoherent involving long division] per day."

"We’re generally good about returning movies on time [granted, a fuzzy
assertion].  Is it possible that the DVD case said ‘one week rental’? 
When we were in here a few weeks ago renting Supersize Me, I saw that
several of your new releases were shelved in mixed cases.  Some of the
cases said ‘two day rental,’ others ‘one week rental.’" 

Clerk: We run out of cases, but all the new releases are two-day rentals. 
If it’s in the wrong case, you have to read the slip inside.

"The slip?  Is that the same as the receipt?"

Clerk: Yeah.  You should read the receipt to be sure you’re getting it
for a full week instead of two days.

Friends, read your Blockbuster receipts. 


Denouement: To delay the charges, sleep on it, etc., we rented on my card
rather than D.’s.  Then, to clear our names, salvage our fragile credit
ratings, and restore decency to our lives, D. slinked back to the store a few
days later and coughed up the twelve bucks.  But insult to injury, those
goldang ads.  "The end of fees.  The start of more."

Centigrade 480 or so

Been a few days since we rushed over to the movie house to catch Fahrenheit
.  Plenty has been said about it–from folks inviting the president
to view it, to Letterman’s top
, to Kenneth
Turan’s NPR/L.A. Times review
and Jenny
and Chuck’s
insightful entries.  All of this means I’m going to keep it short, mention
just two of the pieces that have been fomenting since we watched it early

Stark Juxtapositions: The humorous scenes weren’t enough to soak up my sense
of shame, horror, disappointment–the whole lot of nightmarish associations
volleyed throughout the two hours, playing off the dreamscape opening. 
Some of the juxtapositions were plainly crushing, and so I felt sad while
watching the movie.  I wonder why there aren’t more reviews on Moore’s film
as sad.  Propagandistic, unapologetic, scathing, and edgily
documentary-like, but also sad.  And here we are.  When I left the
theater, Bush was still Commander in Chief.

Election Impact:  The movie-viewing public isn’t neatly partisan, nor
would this movie have been a success if it played a milder line, with a gentler
approach to the inquiries and associations.  Sure, it pushes hard issues,
and it does so in a way that will reverberate across party lines, that will,
perhaps, even redefine party lines.  Why?  It’s compelling stuff, I
think.  F911 reveals no less than a small bundle of res ipsa
incriminations.  The torturous overplay of trailers, reviews, clips, etc.
must have a relationship to the latest, and lowest-yet approval ratings (at
42%).  No telling if the hum will last through November, but it’s
unimaginable that the White House can muster enough damage control to restore
Bush’s image as a competent leader(!).  Then again, now that the
sovereignty or whatever in Iraq has been turned over, Bush and company can
refocus on the re-election campaign.

I really should have thrown this together right after watching the
movie.  I’m sure I had more to say then. Certain! But there’s just been so
much F911-ing, and I feel a bit run down, blase.