Vulcan Video rules me once more. Late last millennium, mending a broken heart, I plundered the rental magnate’s French/Spanish film wall like a privateer. Catherine Deneuve, Penelope Cruz, Agnes Varda – my ransoms. With their forever West Campus hub at 29th and Guadalupe relocated to North Loop, I’m now within walking distance. Suck it, Netflix.
Fine, we stream the service while receiving and sending DVDs by mail, but make no mistake, we’ve smacked our head on their ceiling. Netflix’s onscreen catalog remains third rate, and by now the postal service has ferried back and forth to us every single blessed HBO and Showtime dramaturgy since Dream On first defined cable television on the former “network.” Hulu brought us Moone Boy (from British broadcaster Sky), but a pair of six-episode seasons didn’t tide us over longer than a week.
Moreover, to say my circumstances have changed dramatically since the late Nineties is akin to calling Jacques Demy or Pedro Almodóvar austere. A decade and a half removed from spending every Tuesday and Wednesday – two-for-one rental nights at Vulcan – walking out with four flicks at just under $6, I’m now married and my wife’s eight months pregnant. Movie night has happened every night for at least the past month and will continue into the foreseeable future.
It started with Stakeout. Netflix doesn’t stream John Badham’s 1987 cop-buddy flick starring Richard Dreyfuss, Emilio Estevez, and San Antonio dweller Madeleine Stowe. I’ve finally wearied of cable TV bloodbaths – Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Dexter – which we found antidotes to in HBO’s Family Tree and Moone Boy. Yet neither does Netflix own the rights to Stakeout cousins Three Men and a Baby and its better half, Three Men and a Little Lady.
Even if they did, chances are their online suggestions wouldn’t have leaned in the cockamamie direction my mind spun after we watched the first of the three aforementioned films. Following Stakeout, a quick Internet search revealed a swath of films I’d mostly taken in on the big screen 20 and 30 years ago. I trotted over to my new neighborhood Vulcan, which opened on the lively North Loop strip in January, to begin our living room movie immersion: Touchstone Pictures.
After having proudly programmed series for the Austin Film Society – Lubitsch, Wyler, Jean Arthur – I freely admit that an extended run of the Disney brand’s line of Eighties comedies indicates either a precipitous drop in IQ, taste, or both. And yet, we’ve laughed away all those Sopranos wake murders: Paul Mazursky’s Bodou Saved from Drowning-inspired Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Chris Columbus’ Adventures in Babysitting, and the Airplane team’s Ruthless People. Wednesday, I took home Mazursky’s Scenes from a Mall.
Few directors have directed Woody Allen with such fine results as Mazursky with Mall, but after Beverly Hills and Ruthless People it’s Bette Midler I’m loving. Don’t think I can handle 1988 hit Beaches, but we’re running out of Touchstone titles after the septet mentioned here. Dreyfuss and Bill Murray in Frank Oz vehicle What About Bob? was almost as good as last week’s take-home of non-Touchstone title Quick Change, again with Murray, but also a luminous Geena Davis and lovable Jason Robards.
Peter Weir’s snooty Green Card wasn’t nearly as good as we remembered, but it suddenly occurs to me that I’d forgotten my spouse’s suggestion of Can’t Buy Me Love. She’d love to do Cocktail, but both that and Color of Money are too Tom Cruise for me. We did Turner & Hooch in our fall Tom Hanks marathon, but maybe we need to dust off Shelley Long in Hello Again and Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam. At the time, I loved the teaming of Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger in Shoot to Kill (1988), though their opposites attract guffaws get taken over by the manhunt plot.
When I inquired at Vulcan how long the store had been in midtown – their other shop remains in the heart of the SoCo district – six-year part-timer Andy Campbell wasn’t sure (best we could come up with was late Eighties), but he’d done an extensive interview with Vulcan owner Dian Donnell, whose oral history of the store he’s excerpted here. Fascinating the part about Vulcan and I Luv Video, my other neighborhood video store, almost merging.
Metal man and the Well frontman Ian Graham takes care of me like family at I Luv Video, while one clerk at Vulcan stoked my comedic crush on Moone Boy creator Chris O’Dowd by suggesting the tony Pirate Radio after we were knocked out with Netflix streamer The Sapphires, which now has me pillaging Vulcan’s Australian section. Everyone knows my nearby free beer palace I Luv Video, but Vulcan reports a slow realization by folks of the new location. (It's at 100#A North Loop Blvd., in between the Tigress and the Workhorse.) In both cases, one of Austin’s 10 commandments very obviously applies here: BUY LOCAL.
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