last picture show

Today’s the day: Videoport closes its doors, and Emily S. Customer has one last recommendation for you.

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.

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human

Humans screenshot

At The A.V. Club, I review the first two episodes of Humans:

Humans could be as rote and vacant as its AI, referred to as “Synths,” are believed to be. Instead, this English-language remake of Sweden’s Real Humans is uncannily well-crafted, with an undercurrent of emotional depth that is occasionally surprising, even gratifying.

on cheesecake, or missing my father

I’ve been craving cheesecake lately.

It’s a little odd, because I don’t much care about cheesecake. It’s pleasant, and frankly I make great cheesecake, but it’s not something I’ve ever craved. Not until now.

Thanks to social media, today I’ve been privy to several groups of friends chatting at length about what gifts they should get their fathers. And I realized with a pang why I’m thinking about cheesecake.

It’s almost the anniversary of Dad’s death. And instead of thinking about it, instead of reasoning out my sorrow and loss, my body tells me to eat cheesecake.

My dad never needed much, which meant coming up with a gift for him was either very simple or very complicated. The complicated gifts were fun: The big bag of homemade firestarters, fatwood kindling, extra-long matches, and telescoping marshmallow forks, and s’mores ingredients to make the most of the fireplace in my parents’ new home, about which he was so excited. The big flat basket full of fancy paper clips, pens (appropriate for one leftie, from another), nice paper, and magazines to celebrate the completion of a new room on their house, the study he’d wanted for several years. The balsa-light, elegantly carved wood-and-wool dusting tool to clean the top shelves of its built-in bookcases without taxing his overworked lungs and frail arms.

But most years, there was one simple thing he asked for and one simple thing I gave him: a cheesecake. Nothing fancy, nothing gussied up. He liked it as plain and simple as it could get. That’s how I learned to make it when I was a child, and that’s how I like it, too.

When he was young and stronger, I’d make a whole cheesecake for him to keep in the fridge and eat huge slices of until it was gone. As he got older and his appetite failed, I made smaller cheesecakes, or made a batch of two-bite cheesecakes or bars to keep in the freezer so he could nibble away on them for months. He’d call me up, days or weeks or months later, to tell me how much he loved it, and we both knew it was more than cheesecake he loved.

I’ve made cheesecake since my father died — once, for a party a few months later. I don’t think I even tasted it. I haven’t made it since.

But this winter, I will. I’ll make a simple cheesecake, just cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and a spike of vanilla and lemon in a barely-sweet crust. And we’ll eat it. And I’ll remember my father, who loved complicated things and simple things. And I’ll think about how our relationship was complicated and simple, and how much I love him.

Little Scraps of Wisdom

Today at The Toast, I write about Paper Moon, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and The Heiress, three films that acknowledge the power of father-daughter relationships but refuse to mythologize or sentimentalize them.

”It’s a common trope: the father as a teller of tall tales, spinner of stories, a larger-than-life figure who molds our ambitions and relationships. Whether he’s cast as a fiercely loving stalwart, a scornful critic, or a straight-up flim-flam man, in these three films a father is the beacon lighting a girl’s path. A father’s presence – and, crucially, his absence – shapes a daughter’s sense of the world, and of her place in it.”
Your Experimental Father’s Day Movie Marathon