Down Dusty Aisles…

Now, this is going to sound very old-guy of me but sometimes I really feel bad for kids growing up today. Just, I suppose, as people from my parents’ generation felt bad for my generation. I think it’s just a cycle that continues on and on and on.

Why do I feel bad for the kids of today, you might ask?

Well, for me, a big part of my youth and teen years were spent in the movies, around the movies, and watching movies. It was a huge part of who I am today. Now, the kids of today can still go to see movies, can still make movies (and far better looking ones that we ever did, that’s for sure), and can still ‘rent’ movies but it will never be the same as when I was a kid For me, there were very, very few places as special as the video store.

For people that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s the video store was more than just a place to rent movies (VHS, though some amazing spots rented laserdiscs, those movies on large record sized platters, and those few places were always amazing to me, but I digress), it was a place to DISCOVER movies and truly, to fall in love. I look back on those days and I mourn their passing because it’s a part of our culture, a part of me, that’s truly lost, and it’s a shame.

Now, I will never tell you that I loved VHS or lasers more than I do DVD and Blu because I am a movie nerd and part of being one is being a bit of a snob and as such, well, you want this stuff not just to look good but to sound good, and now, to be packed with extras. Heck, I could do a post just on that aspect of movies and how spoiled we are to see how films are made, to see deleted scenes, alternate cuts, and to hear what the filmmakers have to say about their movies. That is still a relatively ‘new’ idea, new since lasers hit, really. Before the advent of that cinephile’s format, where you got films in their original aspect ratios, and at times, with the aforementioned extras, you were stuck looking for magazine articles or books about the movies you like and that’s not nearly enough for movies you’re nuts about. I can do you one better even since it still astounds me that so many foreign films, cult films, and weird oddities are getting releases now, and NICE releases that it still boggles my mind. So many movies I had to track down as bootlegs are finally getting some of the attention they deserved and I couldn’t be happier. But…video stores…that is something I still lament. It wasn’t the format that drew me to them, no, it was the movies themselves, and the act of discovery that they lead to. It was falling in love with movies for the first time and all that went into that courtship.

For me going to the video store made watching movies and discovering them far more formal than it is now. Now I can rent something via an online service and have it streamed to me in a matter of moments. I love the convenience but I miss the adventure. It is SO easy to see things now that I watch a lot of utter nonsense that I’d never have rented. Stuff that is so bad I just want to see how bad it is. But there was a lot of formality to going to the video store. You had to actually GO there, and once there you usually wandered around, even if you knew what you were looking for, just because there were always new releases, there were always hidden gems, and there were always that wonderful box art. And truly, box art for movie releases is as dying of an art as movie poster art itself is. Effective art on a movie box could make the worst trash look captivating. And what teenage guy could resist ogling the sleazy box art that filled the aisles. For someone like me, who is into horror films, it was a magical time. Sure, we didn’t get the amount of movies we do now, or in the pristine and loaded versions we get but back then you could discover movies from the likes of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, George Romero and others who you had never heard of before. You would wander the sections and be drawn in by the box art and then you’d read the synopsis and see the lurid, often gory images on the back of the box and you’d be sold. Sure, you rented a lot of trash that way but you found some gems in that trash as well. And you DISCOVERED. Indie movies, classics, and even blockbusters you were too cool to see in a theater were all there waiting for you to rent. That act of discovery invested you into what you were going to watch more than streaming or downloading ever can. Sure, you can discover the films but you don’t feel that connection you did when you held the box in your hands and ha to really want to see it. Heck, I still remember sneaking sleazy movies in with the other stuff I was renting, feeling like I was getting away with something taboo, as if I was beating the system. And nothing was better than that sleaze, not porn or anything else because the fact that you had to be sneaky in renting it made the sex and nudity all the sweeter.

And you didn’t just rent a movie. You rented MOVIES. You made a night of it. Whether alone or with other people you made it an event. You rented movies, you got drinks, you made popcorn or got food, and you settled in for a night of movies. As soon as one was done you were rewinding it or, if you were impatient, you were up and switching tapes. The spell couldn’t be broken. You were under the magic of the movies and you didn’t want to break it. And it was wonderful, and it was because of the stores. It was because of those often musty, over or under lit stores. When the corporations came in something changed forever, some of the magic was lost, but the trade-off was variety and more, more, more. And who can resist more?

Alas, video stores are all but gone now. There are still a few small boutique type shops in bigger cities, and there are a few chain stores left but it’s not really the same. Sure, you can go rent at a kiosk at a big chain store, or online, but it’s not as formal, it’s not as magical. You don’t tend to go rent movies you have never heard of, seen a trailer for, or know something about anymore. That age has passed.

Naturally you can take this scenario and change video stores for record stores or bookstores or any number of things and it doesn’t make it any less true. The act of going out and discovering things, ART, isn’t the same. I love the convenience of shopping online, and will still discover stuff but not in the same way. And it doesn’t feel like it used to. That magic is gone. That excitement is over. And you know what, in ten years, fifteen years kids from today will lament the good old days of MP3s, or Blu Rays, or DVDs, or the internet, or who knows what. It’s our nature to mourn as things pass out of existence. But in that mourning there is a chance to remember, to cherish, and to remind people what is important about the things we love, we adore, and we have passion for, and that’s the discovery, the magic. Because when that’s lost, does the love still somehow remain?

I still love movies, I always will, but I may never love them as much as I did as a kid, when seeing them, sharing them, and going to see them meant more than simply streaming or downloading something and casting it aside. It’s the experiences I remember most, not the movies, and we’re losing those experiences day by day.

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