Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ex-Video Store Employee Favorites - New Series

Video stores were a big part of my life. My family made frequent use of them from the time I was very young. From late in my junior year of high school all the way through my college graduation and years beyond, they paid my bills and fed my movie collecting addiction. My first job when I moved to Los Angeles in 1999 was at a small family-owned DVD/Laserdisc shop called Laser Blazer(R.I.P.). The video store culture was something I grew up with as I said and I really do miss it these days. Places like Cinefile Video in L.A., Scarecrow Video in Seattle, and Vulcan Video in Austin keep the tradition going and I hope it never dies out completely. 

Laser Blazer - Los Angeles, CA

Blockbuster Video State Street - Madison, WI
One of my absolute favorite things to do is to walk into a video store and have a peek at the staff picks section. When I was in college and working at a video store, I maintained and swapped out my employee picks with some regularity so it always excites me to see what other folks choose to display on their shelf. Though I haven't seen a staff picks section in person for quite some time, I started thinking back to some of the stalwart placeholders in mine. These were movies I rarely swapped out and oft recommended. Below is a list of several that I remember(memory is a bit hazy at this point). Nothing to revelatory, but all movies I loved then and still adore to this day.




 12:01 (1993)
From Jack Sholder (director of THE HIDDEN and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2 among others) comes this TV movie which was a more serious take on GROUNDHOG DAY. A ordinary man(Jonathan Silverman) works at a high tech company that may or may not be involved in a time loop he finds himself trapped in. Thankfully he has a wisecracking Jeremy Piven as an office mate to help sort things out. Additionally,he has a crush on Supergirl/Billie Jean(Helen Slater) who also works there. Martin Landau stars in this one as well and walks like a duck in a few scenes.




The movie is s an adaptation of Richard Lupoff's short story "12:01 PM,"which had been previously adapted into this 1990 academy award nominated short starring Kurtwood Smith:






THE 'BURBS (1989)
One of Joe Dante's masterpieces. I still love this movie and even have the one-sheet hanging in my office at work. I have told Dante in person that I would camp out(which I never do) for a Criterion Blu-ray of THE 'BURBS. I feel like this movie still doesn't quite get its due. Zack Carlson screened it at Terror Tuesday a year or so ago and all the doubters were silenced by its awesomeness.







THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS (1972)
Bob Rafelson's best picture as far as I'm concerned. Nicholson and Dern will blow you away.








THE LAST DETAIL (1973)
Absolutely one of the films that demonstrates the greatness of Hal Ashby and another one of Nicholson's best ever.






 NIGHT MOVES (1975)
Arthur Penn's spectacular neo-noir has only gotten better each time I've watched it. This one has really moved up the ranks in terms of my all-time favorites. I owe my discovery of the film(like so many others movies I love) to Danny Peary and his Guide for the Film Fanatic(which is still my favorite book. Period).





THE OMEGA MAN (1971)
This film made me a lifelong Heston fan(and I owe Bob McKenzie for turning me onto it).










STRAIGHT TIME (1978)
Crime film based on Eddie Bunker's novel No Beast So Fierce(well worth a read). Outstanding cast and performances from Dustin Hoffman, Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Busey(& Jake Busey!), Theresa Russell, Cathy Bates and an amazingly evil M. Emmet Walsh(who was supposedly cast in BLOOD SIMPLE after the Coens saw him in this).








THREE O'CLOCK HIGH (1987)
A good friend of mine and I stumbled onto this film on cable in the late 80s and were instantly addicted. I cannot count the number of times I have recommended this film at this point. My wife even used to show it to her high school class on occasion for fun. If you're unfamiliar with it, see it asap. A high school take on HIGH NOON(which I have never been a huge fan of), it is dripping with style and is a joy to watch. The one sheet features my favorite Drew Struzan artwork.




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The below group of films were always in my section, but I feel they are all pretty obvious and have been mentioned here often. Nonetheless:






THE APARTMENT (1960)


   
THE CONVERSATION (1974)

 

THE KING OF COMEDY (1983)

 

THE THING (1982)

 

CHINATOWN (1974)





9 comments:

  1. I worked in a video store too. It was my first job, in 1985 when I was 15. My picks for movies discovered at work: Sid and Nancy (shouldn't have been watching that one at work, -- too sweary!); Where the Buffalo Roam (I was obsessed with Bill Murray...still kind of am, actually) Quadrophenia (BELLBOY!!!!I was obsessed with Sting too. Sigh.); Mosquito Coast (Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, River Phoenix...Good stuff); Starman (if you can find a better 80s era weeper than I'll give you $1.99 which was the price of a rental in those days. Perks of the job were watching movies at work, taking any video in the store home at night and interacting with the half dozen hardcore film nerds in our town. It was amazing how expensive those videos were to buy, $80 was typical, and how collectors would drop several hundred at a shot for rare foreign films they'd buy through our store.

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  2. Jenny- those are some excellent employee picks! I'd have had respect for your store right off the bat if I'd seen your shelf when I walked in! Yeah I do kinda miss my video store days sometimes. Was a really fun & stimulating environment and I made many good friends there.

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  3. Never got to work in a video store...but don't think I didn't try. However, many of the video stores in my area would sell the posters when they were done with them, so I was always visiting to see what I could grab.

    "Three O'Clock High" would definitely be in my picks. It's a movie that when I mention it to people, they have rarely heard of it. But it is just soooooo original.

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  4. When I worked at a video store (the long defunct Video One) and had an Employee's Pick shelf, I would write mini-reviews on a Post-It note and tape it on the video box. That's mostly because people would take a look at the movies on the shelf and see it was an Employee's Pick and STILL ask, "Is this any good?" LOL

    Some movies I remember putting on my shelf: Days of Thunder, Superman 3, X-Men, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Get Carter (the Stallone one), Aliens, and Point Blank & Payback.

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  5. FF-glad you agree re: THREE O'CLOCK HIGH. Not sure why the film slipped through the cracks. Perhaps because Casey Seimaszko, never was all that big of star in the 80s. He's great in this film though and many others(including Bill Forsyth's BREAKING IN) and I wish he got more recognition.
    VV-Sounds like a cool group of picks sir. I love the idea of seeing DAYS OF THUNDER(which I am a fan of), SUPERMAN 3 and POINT BLANK on the same shelf. Good stuff. Always meant to get ambitious and do little mini-reviews, never did.

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  6. OK, so I've added 4 movies to my queue. I always find it interesting to see how many stars these recommendations here are over at Netflix. The movies on this list were anywhere from 2 to 4.25.

    LOVE the Omega Man. Night Moves was really good too, just watched that earlier this year. Those and Chinatown are the only ones I've seen.

    RetroHound.com

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  7. Robert-which ones did you add to your queue? Hope you enjoy!

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  8. 12:01, King of Marvin Gardens, The Apartment (embarrassed I've never seen this one!), and The King of Comedy. I already had The Conversation. I went ahead and added Three O'Clock High also.

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  9. I have a video store in the UK, and whilst I don't have an employee picks shelf, I do use Facebook to post a 'pick of the day' - usually something rare / cult / under the radar !

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