30 September 2011

Rental Store - Video Vision

Fear not, I haven't accidentally posted the same label twice. There was a Video Vision in St. Paul Minesota in addition to this one in Seattle, WA.

26 September 2011


United States - 1987
Director - Michael Schultz
Warner Home Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 27 minutes

Brain Candy

Canada - 1996
Director - Kelly Makin
Paramount Home Video, 1996, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 38 minutes

Read my commentary on this film at Illogical Contraption under the title Canada Is Just Plain Better at Music.

19 September 2011

Chicago Blues

Chicago Blues
United States - 1972
Director - Harley Cokliss
Rhapsody Films, 1991, VHS
Run Time - 50 minutes

There are a number of interesting things about this brief documentary beginning with the director. Cokliss has continued to work in film and has some noteworthy films to his name, however Chicago Blues is not listed among his credits. Nor is it listed among the credits for cinematographer Tak Fujimoto who has an even more impressive resume. Perhaps they're not proud of this film now that they've gone on to the big time. I can't understand why that would be the case though, Chicago Blues is a great piece of history.

Like many of the blues documentary and performance footage shot at the time it suffers a bit from the amateur anthropologist mentality of its makers. Upon 'discovering' Black culture through music in the 60's, white people seem genuinely surprised and practically impressed that there is a Black culture. In presenting the art, white filmmakers repeatedly decontextualized it, filming performers in artificial folksy or rural settings and surrounding them with curious white onlookers.

Chicago Blues is an exception to this trend namely because it doesn't present its subject matter as an exhibit. Icons Muddy Waters, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy (all of whom recorded together in the early 60's) and lesser known bluesmen like Floyd Jones discuss the experiences that led to the creation of the Chicago Blues sound. In the years during and after World War II, large numbers of Blacks left the south to find work up north. As a hub of national commerce, Chicago proved to be one of the most promising destinations. For people born and raised in the south, and for the music they brought with them, the change proved to be utterly transformative. In fact, it is that experience which the film claims was the context for the creation of the Chicago sound. More than any other blues film or documentary that I've seen, Chicago Blues attempts (and mostly succeeds) in allowing the subjects, from the musicians to the city, to speak for themselves.

16 September 2011

15 September 2011

Chyna Fitness: More Than Meets the Eye

Chyna Fitness: More Than Meets the Eye
United States - 2000
WWF Home Video, 2000, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour

14 September 2011

Emergency First Aid

Emergency First Aid - An Introductory Course
United States - 1995
Dog Movies, 1995, VHS
Run Time - 40 minutes

12 September 2011

Sewing with Nancy - Trees and Flowers

Sewing with Nancy - Trees and Flowers: Landscape Quilts
United States - 1998
Nancy's Notions, 1998, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour

Shit gets deep with Nancy and Natalie.

05 September 2011

Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr

Australia – 1981
Director – David Hemmings
Vestron Video, 1984, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour 37 minutes

Treasure of the Yankee Zephyr is essentially a formulaic Western, set on the margins of civilization where intrepid loners are defined by their actions and uphold a stoic moral code in a lawless land. Nothing but the accents have changed. New Zealand is more or less the rocky wild frontier of the (English) Empire afterall, still unpenetrated by metroplitain 'order'. Gibbie (Donald Pleasence in top form) is a rugged frontiersman who has spent his life living on the fringes forging his own path. Barney (Ken Wahl) is a young rebel, born into a society that offered nothing but a conformity he couldn’t stomach and wouldn’t eat anyway. So reticent are they to stray from the lonely path of personal initiative that our protagonists argue with each other for the first half of the film.

On the left is Bruno Lawrence of Quiet Earth
Drunken mountain-man Gibbie discovers a U.S. military planeload of WWII vintage loot half-submerged in a remote New Zealand lake. Trading some of his haul in the nearest village he finds himself the subject of persecution by a semi-official and terribly fake-accented George Peppard. Gibbie reluctantly teams up with bitter youth, ‘Nam-era cultural drop-out Barney, they action-scene their way through the remaining film. With the help of some stalwart Kiwi frontiersmen, they keep Peppard’s forces of modern metropolitan greed from commodifying their myth of rugged self-sufficient outsiderism and win the day with handfuls of loot and hugs all around.

All this and yet, director David Hemmings' Kiwi Western fantasy doesn’t manage to be anything but safe. Gibbie and Barney do dabble a little in rebellion, but it would be far too upsetting if they were ever allowed to truly reject society. That’s why, in order to succeed Zephyr’s protagonists actually have to embrace it. What better way to do that than by recreating that bedrock of social institutions, the family with the introduction of a woman. Gibbie’s estranged daughter Sally (Lesley Ann Warren) starts out scolding and yelling, but reconciles with her father and falls in love with Barney in time to assist in their triumph. And of course it’s important to consider that recreating civilization in the wilderness essentially robs it of any of its frontier character. Onward colonizing heroes flush with Old Crow and treasure!