Having a small obsession with film started young. My first live action movie was Star Wars (This one was mostly about westerns but I mention Star Wars too – Bras Chocolate, and Westerns). I can’t say whether it was Star Wars or my father who is more to blame for my love of movies. Likely the combination of a father obsessed with movies throughout my childhood and my first interaction being on such an epic scale. I feel sorry for children today. Maybe some of them have awesome nerd parents, but I’m guessing they have to learn to embrace their inner geek on their own.
Dollar Tuesday rentals were practically tradition in my family. It was at this little BlockBuster knock off called Crazy Mike’s (That link is throwback gold). Before it was a Crazy Mike’s it was some other small town VHS rental and likely a different one before that. Dad and I would head up the search party and pick out two or three movies we hadn’t watched yet. Something for mom, something for dad, something for my sisters and me.
I had been frequenting Crazy Mike’s for years with my parents. I had made friends with the dude behind the counter. So one day, I went in hoping he’d let me rent on my parent’s account when he suggested I open my own. I looked at him blankly knowing full well I wasn’t 18. Plus, I hate lying. He started the process and I rolled with it, crossing my fingers. The prospect of movie rental freedom was too much to even hope for.
“I don’t have a debit card to attach,” I said sheepishly.
He waved me away, “No worries.”
What?! I was sure that would be the moment he said no. There was a little card on the counter with the rules and that was breaking rule number two.
“You’re 18 right?”
Shit, that was rule number one. “Umm, today I can be,” the only response that didn’t feel quite like a lie. After all, he clearly knew I wasn’t old enough.
He laughed, and I later found out that he listed my birthday as the day I opened the account. He printed out the little paper card. A card so vital that it almost outweighed the driver’s license I carried in my wallet.
I could rent movies on my own!
This was the moment that my movie watching world exploded a thousand different ways. I’d only ever rented off the New Release wall with my parents but I knew there were so many other movies out there. I started with the classics. This was around the same time that I’d fallen hard in love with Frank Sinatra.
My dad would walk in on me listening to it and inevitably the world would end.
“What the hell is this shit? How can you listen to this garbage?” To be fair, he barked the same thing when I was listening to Metallica, but this was Frank Sinatra. Franky Blue Eyes. This was the voice of a god and my father couldn’t see it. If it wasn’t 80s or early 90s rock, he thought it was garbage. He’d rather I listened to Alice Cooper or Guns N’ Roses, which I did but still. They couldn’t hold a candle to Frank.
He always reacted in a similar manner when he caught me watching anything that wasn’t first a sci-fi or fantasy flick. You’d think he walked in on me watching porn with some of his scandalized reactions. Sorry, Papi, it’s just a black and white film.
The feeling of wandering the classic film section knowing I could rent any of them without my parents poo-pooing my requests was exhilarating. The first film I rented was the 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice. I think I rented that tape (yes VHS) more than a dozen times. I loved it. Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, Lolita, An American in Paris, West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The King and I, Guys and Dolls, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. I already loved musicals, Newsies being one of my all time favorites, but at sixteen I could cater to my every movie-loving whim.
When my friends wanted to rent a movie we’d go to Crazy Mike’s and they’d hit the new release wall, while I’d thumb through anything filmed in black white. Something about a film done in black and white is comforting to me. It’s like curling up under a warm blanket next to someone you care about, hot chocolate or tea in hand, all wrapped up in a black and white bow. I don’t think I can explain it any better. Even today, when I’m feeling down or longing is pulling at my chest, I scroll through my streaming options, looking for something without color, where beauty is held shades of grey.
It’s like coming home.
When I was seventeen I worked for Best Buy and somewhere around eighteen, I purchased my first TV, DVD player, and movies. They were Amélie and Slackers. Two movies that couldn’t be more different but still ironically enough, largely represent my theatrical tastes. I’m a romantic at heart (don’t tell anyone) and I love to laugh.
After my twentieth birthday, I quit Best Buy and started to work for BlockBuster. Looking back on all the various jobs I’ve held, it was one of my favorites. I got to talk to people about movies, ALL DAY. Plus there were free rentals and free pre-release rentals. Even reshelving films was cool. I’d read the backs and think to myself, every single one of these was enjoyed by someone. It’s where I first rented my favorite movies of all time, Before Sunset and Before Sunrise. I know those of you who’ve seen these caught that I wrote the titles out of order. But that’s the order in which I rented them. I really thought, damn they did a cool flashback. How did they make the actors look so young? It wasn’t until later that I realized there was a first movie.
It’s okay, I laugh at myself too.
I started this story, reminiscing down memory lane. I was thinking about this in the shower today. I’d read an article about the last BlockBuster in Oregon this morning. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of it but this was about their amazing Twitter account. Which I highly recommend you check out if you haven’t. Then I started to think about all the times I wish I could pursue actual shelves instead of metaphorical ones to find movies. How I want to ask someone at a counter what their favorite film is, and rent it on their recommendation alone. My movie watching days have dwindled into sad despair since the advancement of technology. Crazy as it seems. I rely on human interaction for the oddest things. When left to my own devices, I watch the same things over and over. I’ve seen Dream for an Insomniac and Pride and Prejudice enough times to quote the whole movie practically without sound. I’m also great at spending half the night watching trailers and reading about different movies without ever settling on one to consume.
Oh, technology. I both love and loathe thee.
Is there an app that will recommend a movie for me to watch? One that tells me the best film to feed my soul? I’d download that. Sometimes I wish I’d really gone to film school as I wanted instead of taking the practical advice given to me. Flim school or to be a lawyer, neither of which I did. I suppose this is why I hang on to writing as fiercely as I do. Some day you will see my name in lights. Small itty bitty lights. It will read, based on the book of the same title by Miranda Levi.