Living Out Loud

Remembering the 90s - The Video Store


(From my GeoCities blog, 1997)

Remember the early days of video rentals? For my first membership I had to pay a $50 deposit as well as a huge membership fee. The selection was poor, since the store had to maintain a VHS and a Beta section. Now video rental services are ubiquitous. Get a prescription filled, rent a movie. Buy gas, rent a movie. Soon it will be, "go to a funeral, rent a movie" or "mail Christmas packages rent a movie."  True to the precepts of Adam Smith, demand has risen, supply has followed and to the chagrin of unentertained Americans everywhere, quality has come damned close to disappearing.

This weekend was a case in point. We rented 7 movies. Two of them were new releases, $3.49 for 2 nights, a rare treat in our budget conscious home. The remaining five were part of that great bargain spawned by the same culture that gives us the 20 oz. Coke, 5 movies, 5 nights, 5 dollars. Were one person to watch all of these films (something that never happens in a house with five different personalities) 14 man-hours would be consumed. If you figure in multiple viewers, these boxes of plastic enclosed celluloid could conceivably eat up entire days of productivity.

One new release was Tin Cup, starring Kevin Costner and Don Johnson. It is the story of how a driving range pro from Salome, TX qualifies for and plays in the US Open in Pinehurst. There was no plot or character development, and the dialog was cliché ridden and inane. $3.49 down the old entertainment budget drain...

The second new release was White Man's Burden with John (Vinny Barbarino) Travolta and Harry (Banana Man) Bellafonte. It was a lame representation of a society where the roles of blacks and whites are reversed. If you are in the mood for camouflaged racial stereotypes this is the film for you. 

Another disappointing loser of a movie was the intellectually crippled version of Tom Clancy's A Clear and Present Danger. The book was a fun, well thought out read. The movie was co-edited by the folks at Readers Digest who put out all those condensed soups. Harrison Ford talks real slow and Willem Dafoe looks weird with blonde hair. 

Then there was The Name of the Rose, with Sean Connery and a prepubescent Christian Slater. The dialog was in English but sub-titles are needed because the director has his American actors speak with some sort of neo-classical middle Italian lisp. LOSER.

We never got around to watching Son in Law, with someone named Pauly Shore. I think I'm glad.

Oh, there was one fair to middling movie in the lot. It was With Honors and starred Joe Pesci, the greatest character actor of this generation. He is to the 90s what Ned Beatty was to the 70s and 80s. (Remember 'squeal like a pig....'?) Pesci plays an intelligent bum adopted by a quartet of Harvard roommates. 

There is no moral to this story. I don't think predictions of doom for the quality of American culture can be drawn from a batch of seven video rentals, but you never know.