10 October 2009

"My Word Is My Bond" by Roger Moore

My Word Is My Bond
Roger Moore
Date of Publication: 4 November 2008

Cover Price: $27.95
336 Pages
Oldham County Public Library

Sir Roger Moore, perhaps best known as one of the assorted James Bonds, turns in a rather self-deprecating account of his life.  Along the way from birth till publication, Moore tells of various hospitalizations, his professional growth from a clothing ad model to one of the most recognizable actors in the entire world, a handful of marriages and a spattering of colorful anecdotes of friends and colleagues along the way.  Fans of Moore's aren't terribly likely to learn a lot of revelatory insights, as most of this has been fairly common knowledge for some time.

To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed because many of the anecdotal passages were shared during his frequently off-topic audio commentary tracks for his seven Bond outings on their most recent DVD issue.  Of course, having already literally heard these tales in Moore's own voice made it even easier to hear him narrating whole passages at a time while reading the printed page.  In fact, the entire thing smacks of Moore's speaking voice and reads fairly effortlessly.  The only genuine complaint I would register concerns the plethora of run-on sentences; sometimes whole paragraphs have a singular period and a host of commas where others ought to have been.

The final chapters concern Moore's involvement with UNICEF, and the content breaks dramatically from the ego-clashes of movie stars that permeates the remainder of My Word Is My Bond.  Even already being familiar with the kinds of cruelties and hardships endured by countless children across the world, they never fail to rattle me each time I hear of them.  There are some genuinely disturbing things Moore shares with his readers, and this is in keeping with how he has approached his role with UNICEF.  People may not be excited to discuss the plight of children, but they are drawn to the celebrity of James Bond.  Moore has openly traded on his celebrity to draw much-deserved attention to the cause, and it comes as no surprise he would structure his memoir accordingly.

08 October 2009

VHS Rental Memories

This blog entry began as a response to a thread on the DVD Talk forum.  I got a bit carried away and when I finished, I decided that the whole thing would make for a worthy entry in my movies blog.  For people of my generation, I think that VHS rental was the way most of us saw the majority of movies.

DVD rental never really had the same effect, for a variety of reasons.  First, VHS weren't "priced to own" until the latter stages of the format; in the beginning, VHS tapes were priced at $100 and up, thusly discouraging consumers from owning films.  The thinking on the part of the studios was that if you owned a VHS, they wouldn't get any of your money anymore.  If you were going to make a permanent purchase, they wanted to get a big chunk of cash from you upfront to offset a lifetime of repeat rentals that they would then miss.  It wasn't until sometime in the early 1990s that consumers could count on $20-$30 release price points.

Secondly, of course, renting DVD's can be done through Netflix.  You have access to a much larger library than any brick & mortar store I've ever rented from, and you never even have to leave your house to make your selection, receive it, watch it or return it.  Despite the obvious superiority of this system, there's something to be said for the human interaction of actually going to a local community's video rental store.  You hear the discussions of favorite actors, movies that "looked good," and things that someone else recommended (sometimes followed by a critique of that mysterious third party's taste).  "Rob said Doc Hollywood was a good movie."  "Rob also said his Ford Pinto was a good car."

The first video rental place I can recall in our town was actually Radio Shack. They had a small library, kept on a double-sided shelf. My dad rented from them regularly, whereas my mom never really cared for movies. They divorced when my brother and I were little (hell, he wasn't even a year old), so we became acquainted with the rental process through him. Later, we got a Roadrunner Video that moved to, I think, three various locations over a little more than a decade. After I turned about 10, I quit going to my dad's on his weekends. Mom had opened a shop with my grandmother and they worked Saturdays. So, I got to rent tapes a lot of times and stay home on Saturdays and watch the movies.

Dad rented things that I know Mom would never have selected, or even approved of us seeing.  I recall Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will?, My Life as a Dog, Glory and other movies with harsher language, more graphic violence and flagrant nudity than the more age-appropriate fare that she preferred we see.  I remember there was one movie he rented, and to this day I have no clue what it was, but during the opening credits a woman walked in on what was either her sister or friend having sex.  The guy was hoisting the woman into the air, and she was wearing black panties.  Maybe a garter belt and stockings.

I remember renting Dick Tracy, which I'd wanted to see all summer long in 1990 but never quite managed to get out to Louisville to a theater to see. (I finally got to see it on a big screen last year.) I rented all kinds of things: Dances with Wolves, Hot Shots!, This Is Garth Brooks! (which I later bought from Roadrunner when they removed it from the rental library), Mobsters (I still am not sure how I got away with renting an R film at that age), Doc Hollywood and various other early 90s flicks.

Sometime in the early to mid 90s, we got another local chain, Movie Warehouse, and for a while Kroger (regional grocer) operated a video rental department. Movie Warehouse's library was probably the largest, but they had a bad habit of keeping titles in their "new releases" much longer than was reasonable. For instance, I know for a fact that From Dusk Till Dawn was on that new arrival wall for well over a full calendar year. (New arrivals cost more/were rented for less time than catalog titles, so maybe it was a testament to the popularity of that particular film.)

Kroger was more of a hassle (and costlier), which is probably why their rental service didn't last long. I don't really recall renting videos from them particularly, though I do remember renting video games for the SNES from time to time. And I bought Groundhog Day as a used VHS from them. Strangely, I never saw the movie until I finally broke it out for the 10th anniversary of the theatrical release.

In 1995, we finally got a theater in town--the Oldham 8. By my junior year of high school, my friends and I would regularly catch the last matinee showing of something there, and then go walking around town. We'd wind up at Movie Warehouse, where we'd rent three movies ('cause that was their standard rental package at the time), and stay up all night with a themed trilogy. We'd do a Val Kilmer night, or a baseball night. One night we did a parody night that consisted of National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, Canadian Bacon and The Silence of the Hams. By the time these trilogies wrapped up, the sun was usually coming up. The night we finally got around to renting From Dusk Till Dawn, we saved it for last. It was very surreal having the sun come up almost in sync with the film.