Once again, I’m covering American Horror Story for The A.V. Club. You can check out my review of “Checking In,” AHS: Hotel‘s premiere, here.
Y’know, I don’t think you are sorry.
At The A.V. Club, I write about “The Dundies,” which takes the characters out of the office but not The Office out of the characters.
I couldn’t fit this tidbit into my Watch This word count, but “The Dundies” commentary reveals that this episode was originally conceived as a possible pilot for the U.S. version of The Office, which explains why it works so well as a season two premiere, giving an overview of the characters and dynamics for the show’s new viewers even as it takes them outside of their usual setting.
Then it’s time for The DVD Shelf, where I talk about the absurdity and downright surrealism of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Remember, if you want to pick a fight with me about Monty Python, it’s one pound for a five minute argument, but only eight pounds for a course of ten.
The VideoReport has done a lot for me. In its infancy, I wrote thumbnail reviews as an excuse to flirt with the fella I’d been dating, and — because then as now, he did the bulk of the writing every week — every review I submitted freed him up for more smoochin’. A few years later (almost exactly six years ago today as I write this), I presented Dennis with a week’s worth of reviews, written in secret during spare minutes here and there, so he could take off the week of our wedding and not worry about turning out a half-dozen reviews on top of everything else. (Thanks, Andy, for guest-editing that edition of the VideoReport.)
The backlog of reviews and reflections we’ve both (but mostly your unfailing editor, Videoport Jones, a.k.a., Pancakes W. Meat, a.k.a., Dennis Perkins, freelance writer, true cinemaphile*, and swell guy) accumulated, years and years of writing for free, gave us each a springboard into professional reviewing. I’ll always be thankful for that.
But neither of us did it for that reason. We wrote, and write, for the VideoReport, because we believe in independent cinema, in local business, in the virtue of a video library not restricted by transnational corporations’ backroom deals, in the delight of walking into a real brick-and-mortar video store and having a conversation with a movie lover who can steer you to some unexpected treasure.
Videoport has been a haven for me, for lots of movie-lovers like me and movie-lovers nothing like me, for decades. It’s been a gift to Portland. I’m grateful for all it’s given me, and us — us the couple, us the city, us the loyal supporters of indie everything.
Goodbye, Videoport, and thank you for your gifts.
*After an interview, Malcolm McDowell called Dennis that, and the compliment buoyed him for weeks. Mr. McDowell, you don’t know how right you were.
That last recommendation I promised: The Last Picture Show. Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute to the great Westerns of years gone by, this black-and-white 1971 masterpiece was nominated for eight Academy Awards. In a dusty Texas town, the local movie theater, the site of a lot of memories and fumblings in the dark, of dreams and desires onscreen and off, is closing down. A handful of friends — including Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, all achingly young and lovely, all already looking back over their past with the keen combination of nostalgia, pleasure, and grief we all know too well — gather for a last hurray. It’ll break your heart, and it should.
I didn’t expect my review of the season two premiere to delve into how Forrest MacNeil (Daly) uses his job reviewing life experiences as a pretext for escaping his own life, abdicating decisions and destiny both to the hands of random viewers, boxing off his actions from their consequences. Review allows Forrest to pursue adventures and debauchery without acknowledging how his own desires drive his behavior or how his detachment from his own culpability puts walls between him and the people he loves. Review lets Forrest put his life in a box… or, in this episode, in a hole.
Forrest is right about one thing: It’s possible to find meaning in the most unexpected places, and in assignments that sometimes seem random.
At The A.V. Club, I review Key & Peele’s “Severed Head Showcase,” an episode that asks who’s in charge, what we value, and why.