Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mourning My Five Favorite Movies on VHS

We recently donated what might be the last functioning TV with a built-in VHS player. Our thirty-something sons both snickered in astonishment that we owned anything electronic that ancient...

Lest you believe we're tech-dinosaurs, it was a rarely used second TV, gathering dust in a corner of our bedroom.  I watched it when using the treadmill.  And perhaps for only 15 or 20 minutes late at night since Jon Stewart departed "The Daily Show."  

We have three other TVs, all flat screens.  A 46" Panasonic in our family room, and two small LG TVs, one in my office and one in the garage/man cave. We replaced the relic with an LG 4K "smart" TV, whatever that might mean.

But what to do with the 32 movies remaining in my VHS collection?  We donated our extensive Disney VHS collection a few years ago when cleaning out Andrea's room.  Obviously, we have no use for movies in VHS format.  

I treasure those movies, though, like I treasure cherished books.  I treasure memories connected to many of these movies.  My dilemma?  Do I replace them with DVDs, thus rebuilding my film library?  I believe firmly in the value of libraries, including film libraries.  Or do I simply keep a list, and watch them on Netflix or Amazon Prime, the two services we use?

Truthfully, I'm torn.  I may collect a few of the films on DVD because I so savor them.  Others, well, maybe not. Among the five movies on VHS I most mourn and may replace are...

"Lawrence of Arabia," released in 1962, starring Peter O'Toole.  The movie that caused me to fall deeply in love with movies.  I vividly recall watching it on a gigantic screen as an 11 year old, swooning at scenes of heroism, gallantry, drama, and gorgeous expanses of blue skies and sparkling desert.  Found out years later, when I attended UCLA film school, that many movie makers, including Steven Spielberg, regard Lawrence as the best film ever made, and seminal to their careers in the film industry.

"Coming Home," released in 1978, starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight, directed by Hal Ashby.  I detested the Vietnam War, and shed tears of sadness during this movie.  I viscerally understood their pain, their passions, their alienation.  Most gut-wrenching scene: Jon Voight, a Vietnam vet in a wheelchair, tearfully addressing high school students... 

"Reds," released in 1981, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton.  At over three hours, the movie was too long.  In the director Beatty's defense, it was a large-scale epic about Russia's Bolshevik Revolution. Greatest single scene ever filmed of a loving embrace... Beatty and Keaton reunited after years apart.  Their expressions of raw need, vulnerability, relief were searing with heat. The movie tagline was "Not since Gone With The Wind has there been a great romantic epic like it!"

"A River Runs Through It," released in 1992, directed by Robert Redford, and starring Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt.  Set in Missoula, Montana, the plot follows the two sons of a Presbyterian pastor in the early 1900s.  The narrator reminds me of my beloved grandfather, a forest ranger and later, rancher.  A sentimental, yet tough film about the vagaries of life and passage of time.  The cinematography is breathtaking and the music sweetly haunting.

"Being There,"  released in 1979, starring Peter Sellers, also directed by Hal Ashby, based on a book by acclaimed writer Jerzy Kosinski.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. About a simpleminded man in the right (or wrong) place at the right time.  Everything he knows, he learned from television.  He rises in prominence completely by a series of misunderstandings, and ends as a senior advisor to the President of the United States.  Dear God... I never once imagined this dark satire could come true.

My VHS film collection contained requisite baby-boomer classics, including:
  • "The Big Chill," released in 1983
  • "The Graduate," released in 1967
  • "Annie Hall," released in 1977
  • "On Golden Pond," released in 1981
  • "The Accidental Tourist," released in 1988
  • "Bull Durham," released in 1988
My collection included a few bona fide old-time classics:
  • "It Happened One Night"
  • "Casablanca"
  • "Fritz Lang's Metropolis"
  • "Macbeth" starring Orson Welles
I defy anyone reading this to tell me they've also seen these obscure film gems  from my collection:
  • "One from the Heart," released in 1982, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Teri Garr, Raul Julia, featuring the bluesy music of Tom Waits.  A film version of an impressionist painting, each frame, each scene was lush with color and abstraction. 
  • "They All Laughed," released in 1981, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, a madcap comedy starring John Ritter, Ben Gazzara, Audrey Hepburn. and  Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten in her only film before she was tragically murdered. 
  • "Prelude to a Kiss," released in 1992, starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan.  A thoughtful comic treatise on true love, based on a Broadway play. 

The Goodwill has been graced with donations of my 32 VHS-format movies.  And they took them, which means someone somewhere still watches movies on VHS players.  I dearly hope they enjoy these magic masterpieces.

As for me, I plan to watch each again.  Soon.