Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Art of Renting a DVD

It is a truth that must be universally acknowledged that video rental stores are stocked with rubbish.

I don't mean to sound like a snob. I know that every book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble isn't holy writ or deathless prose. Still, I marvel when I hear stories about how difficult it is to "greenlight" a film project, how only a few scripts out of thousands actually get produced.

And then I go to Blockbuster and see the walls lined with movies whose existence offers compelling evidence that the devil exists--and he has a producing gig with a major studio.

Having spent a fair amount of time wandering from desultory shelf to shelf, each of which is stocked withs scores of DVDs which serve as a chilling testament to the decay of art of storytelling. I herewith offer a few guidelines for the increasingly difficult search for a quality film:

1. Avoid anything with a half-naked woman on the cover. Overt sexiness is the most common tactic to distract from what David Putnam once called "the poverty of ideas."

2. A film that is foreign made is not necessarily a mark of excellence (has anyone ever seen a German comedy? What an oxymoron). Still, the fact that it made it to an American video store suggests that enough people liked it to convince cautious film distributors to show it to an audience not known for their love of subtitles.

3. If something strikes your fancy, write down the name, go home and do a web search. Somebody out in the blogsphere probably has seen it already and offered an opinion.

Any other recommended guidelines?