October 1, 2011 Volume 25, Number 10
DVD stores: Rest in peace
Catch up on some good movies while you still can
By Bruce Soderholm | ChristianWeek Columnist
Somewhere out there, a desperate man is cruising the backstreets of his hometown desperately looking for a corner store, a grocery store, a Dickie Dee ice cream cart - some place, any place, from which he can rent a DVD for his daughter's sleep-over, but to no avail. A neighbour severed his Internet and cable TV connection while attempting to install an in-lawn sprinkler system and it'll be three days before anyone can fix it.
Far-fetched? Today, perhaps, but not necessarily in the near future. The obit notice recently written for Blockbuster Video's Canadian operations sounds the early death knell for the movie format known as DVD (Blu-Ray or otherwise). It's been coming for some time. Bill Gates predicted when Blu-Ray DVD first came out that it would be the final physical format for selling movies. It appears he was right.
I can't help but wax a little nostalgic for the experience of scanning shelves for new releases, reading plot synopses on jacket covers and getting an occasional tip for a hidden gem from a knowledgeable employee. All this will soon go the way of home milk delivery and audio cassettes. And while it's undeniably convenient to order a movie via point-and-click, I fear it will only further reinforce our impulse to hunker down in darkened family rooms as social recluses.
The opportunity to converse with others about what films you're watching is one of the great joys of cinema. The new TIFF Lightbox Theatre complex in Toronto includes places to enjoy debriefing a film over your favourite beverage. This is as it should be, and everything that chisels away at any communal aspect of watching movies, including boarded-up video stores, should be of concern to those of us who want to rub shoulders and dialogue with others about everything from art to faith to culture.
If you can still find a video store that's operational, here are a couple of titles from 2011 that you may have missed but are well worth checking out:
Win Win is the third feature written and directed by Tom McCarthy. His story sets us down in American suburbia where we encounter Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a small-firm attorney who's struggling to make ends meet. He and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) are raising two kids and Mike volunteers as a wrestling coach for a remarkably unsuccessful high school team.
We see though, altruistic impulses in Mike's life as he and Jackie effectively provide refuge to Kyle (Alex Shaffer), a troubled teenager who needs a place to live while his mother undergoes drug rehab. Shaffer's performance is spot on as he sports the sullen scowl of a troubled adolescent that also belies the potential that lies within him as a caring grandson and star athlete. The film deftly combines drama with comedic elements and simply rings true in its character portrayals. Rated 14A in Canada for language.
Incendies is an intense mystery and family drama, international in scope and filled with many unexpected turns. This film, directed by Quebec native Denis Villeneuve, was justifiably in the running for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards. The dialogue is primarily French with English subtitles.
The storyline concerns a brother and sister twins - whose mother's death leaves them with troubling knowledge of a father and a sibling they didn't know existed. Pursuing a posthumous quest bestowed on them by their mother takes them to the Middle East where her hidden past emerges. The revelations invoke pathos and intense emotion at every increment. Incendies is not light viewing as there are depictions of violence and allusions to brutality, but none of it is gratuitous. The thematic strengths of this film reference the value of family love, forgiveness and the capacity to overcome evil with good. Rated 14A for violence and occasional language.
Bruce Soderholm is a freelance writer and educator who makes his home in southern Ontario.