People keep recommending things on Netflix to me, then they’re shocked when I say I don’t have it, and probably won’t get it. Why?
Well, I explain a little tentatively (I don’t want to come off as naïve or Neolithic), it’s because I support Vidiots. Always have, always will.
I say that to people who I’m pretty sure are familiar with Vidiots, which I assume (probably incorrectly) is most everyone in Santa Monica. If I get a blank stare I explain to them that Vidiots is my local video store and it’s one of the best in the universe.
If I have Netflix, how often will I make the call to Vidiots (it’s truly rare when they don’t have what I’m looking for), trudge over to pick it up, be compelled to watch it within two days (no matter how else my schedule explodes), then worry about getting it back in time? It’s a lot easier to press a couple of buttons and have that obscure object of my desire pop up in my living room, 24/7.
There are things Netflix can do that Vidiots can’t, like indulge binge watching. I’m a “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” virgin, and friends recommend taking a weekend to revel through the whole enchilada, which does sound like fun. And since I’m often still up at 3 a.m., I could spontaneously watch something I’ve always wanted to see, any time.
So I may weaken at some point. But I’ve decided to keep my money and my membership where my sentiments are, and continue to be Vidiots bound.
Vidiots and I arrived in Santa Monica nearly together and within blocks of each other, almost 30 years ago. It was the dream of two women, who loved movies and had been friends since they were 3, to open a video store that has all the weird stuff they liked but couldn’t find anywhere else.
Hip, entertainment-oriented Santa Monica took it to its bosom. Everyone loved Vidiots. But the times changed and people’s film-watching patterns changed drastically, and video stores fell on very hard times. Even the chains like Blockbuster fell to big screens and digital downloads.
But somehow Patty and Cathy held on, sometimes just barely, and they’re still here, in the original location, and thriving, artistically if not always financially. I like to think it’s partly because of loyal customers like my family.
Three weeks ago, I took advantage of a Vidiots benefit I’ve too often ignored. I attended one of their Annex Series Conversations on Film and Culture. Sounds a little dry, sitting in a plain room on rows of chairs listening to two people talk, but it’s the people they book, and the interviewers are just as marquee as the film people.
This Friday they’re having Santa Monica-born actress Anjelica Huston, interviewed by Pulitzer Prize-winning KCRW and Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern. Not only is he an outstanding critic, he’s got a mesmerizing radio/speaking voice.
Huston, the only third-generation Oscar winner ever (director father John, actor grandfather Walter), is promoting her new book, “A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York.” It should be a fascinating evening, but unfortunately as of now it’s sold out. It’s probably worth a phone call to see if there’s a cancellation. Next time, reserve early.
The one I went to three weeks ago featured distinguished documentarian Davis Guggenheim, and NPR’s outstanding Renee Montagne. Guggenheim is probably best known for “An Inconvenient Truth,” then “Waiting for Superman,” but I was there to hear him talk about his doc on the electric guitar, “It Might Get Loud,” which I consider the best rock doc ever made.
He decided to tell that story by corralling arguably the three best axe slingers of their generations, Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, letting them tell their individual tales in their home locales, then bringing them together, meeting for the first time, in an L.A. sound studio. Fantastic idea, on so many levels. I was delighted when he answered my question about my favorite scene by saying it was one of his favorite moments, too.
Guggenheim was constantly fidgeting with his sleeves and twisting his wrists like a nervous schoolboy, but his manner otherwise was professional and enthusiastic, open, guy-next-door likable and full of insights. Here’s one: when you shoot a documentary, the first time you see the complete script is on the last day of editing. Hadn’t thought of that.
He told the story of having worked for years to get backing for his pet project “Training Day,” always being stymied because he insisted Denzel Washington had to play the lead, and execs kept telling him that movies with black lead actors never make any money. He finally succeeded on a Friday, danced the jig all weekend, contacted Denzel for the first time ever on Monday, which he immediately accepted, but by Monday night he fired Guggenheim from the project, probably unaware of the back story. Denzel won the Oscar. Davis was so upset he grabbed a camera and said through gritted teeth, Screw ‘em, I’ll just shoot my own films. And thus a career …
All were delighted when Guggenheim led off the evening with, “You come into Vidiots and there’s something sacred about this place.” His current project: a doc on Malala Yousafzai, the fearless young Afghan girl shot in the head by the Taliban for pushing for education for girls in her country.
Important local issues
Don’t forget the City Council takes up the issue of the “Chain Reaction” sculpture next Tuesday. I hope a huge crowd shows up to support preserving this important work of art so much identified with Santa Monica.
And I hope everyone is working hard to get signatures on the petition to put the Hines development up for a vote by the citizens who will be affected by it, for decades to come. Go to residocracy.org for details. The deadline is fast approaching, and this is perhaps the most important issue we’ve faced here since the 1970s.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 28 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org