Tag Archives: documentary

Odd Obsession Movie Rentals, Chicago

In case you hadn’t noticed, I started up another blog recently, but that doesn’t mean I love this one any less. On the contrary, I have been itching to share some of our recent adventures in Chicago (where we were in May) and Portland, OR (where we were in July) before launching into a whole other round of adventures we’re bound to experience in NYC, where we will be next week.

Trust me, it sounds a lot more glamorous than it really is. Hell, anyone who has traveled with a two-year-old can tell you that the going can get pretty damn rough sometimes. And that’s why you need the mellow, “let’s casually explore the city” kind of days in between the sightseeing.

It was on one of those days this past May, when we encountered the staggeringly-well-stocked, totally old-school video store known as Odd Obsession Movie Rentals in Chicago.

Located in the gritty heart of the suddenly-trendy Bucktown/Wicker Park area, Odd Obsession is the kind of classic, deep-catalog video store every great city should have. You know, the type of place you can call up with just a vague notion of the obscure DVD title you’re looking for, and not only do they know the movie, but they carry it too! So cool…

And I swear to God, walking inside that joint was like stepping into a time machine. They don’t carry many actual VHS titles anymore, but, the whole place smelled, looked like, and even felt like your favorite, musty childhood video store. I say felt because those shelves were so packed with super cool titles that you could hardly turn around without bumping into something amazing. Literally. Next time I go, I’m leaving the stroller outside.

We didn’t rent anything, of course, but, just being there and sensing the true love of movies inside every nook and cranny of that place really filled my heart with glee. I’m not kidding, it was like church for film geeks, and best of all, they even had a store cat. You know, the big old, fat kind that sits on the register when you’re trying to pay. I didn’t ask, but, I’ll bet he’s named “Rosebud”.

Anyway, someday very soon (like, next week) video stores will be a thing of the past, something we joke about: “OMG, remember when you used to have to leave your house to rent movies?” and when that day comes, I’ll be glad to know I visited one of the greatest video stores ever…and took lots of cool pictures.

Rock on, Odd Obsession Movie Rentals, rock on!

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Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days”

Ever since we first saw his Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me”, Christine and I have been huge fans of writer/director Morgan Spurlock. So much so that when the third season of his kick-ass show “30 Days” premiered on FX two weeks back, we were kinda glued to the Tivo.

If you haven’t watched yet, the concept is deceptively simple, each week someone is chosen to live in another person’s shoes for 30 days.

Spurlock has appeared in several episodes himself — most recently in this season’s first episode which found him working in a Virginia coal mine for 30 days — but usually he picks someone whose lifestyle and belief systems are exactly opposite of the life they will be living for 30 days.

Previous seasons have seen a born-again Christian living in a Muslim household, a homophobic straight man living with gays in San Francisco, an outsourced American tech worker living in India and working in a call center, and a hard-core minuteman from Texas living with a family of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. If you think that sounds like a juicy set-up for a show…you’re right!

But while most other networks would tart everything up for the sake of the drama, FX has pretty much given Spurlock free reign to make “30 Days” into something truly unique. Not so much a show as a series of insightful, funny, and sometimes enormously-moving one hour films, “30 Days” is not to be missed.

Some people have criticized Spurlock for injecting himself into the drama too much and becoming kind of a Michael Moore-lite, but I could not disagree more. I mean, sure, sometimes Moore’s presence in his own films is distracting and tends to turn the proceedings into the Michael Moore show, but Morgan Spurlock has the exact opposite effect onscreen.

Whether it’s his goofy, everyman quality, or the fact that he just seems more likable than Moore, Spurlock has way more soul as a “character” and lacks the obvious political agenda that drives Moore towards some of his more outlandish stunts. That’s not to say Spurlock doesn’t try to steer the proceedings a bit — which of course, he does — but the thing I like about “30 Days” is that it just feels more heartfelt and real than anything Moore has churned out in recent years.

And better yet, Spurlock never tells you what to think, but rather presents the information to you “as is” and lets you decide what you think, which, hello, is kind of what a documentary is supposed to do, right?

Future episodes this season tackle such hot-button issues as gay families, anti-gun activism, life on an Indian reservation and this Tuesday’s episode which finds a hard-core hunter from Chapel Hill, NC moving into a home of Peta-loving vegans for 30 days.

While those all sound kind of awesome, I have to say that last Tuesday’s episode — which featured retired pro-football great Ray Crockett confined to life in a wheelchair for 30 days — was probably one of the best hours of television we’ve seen in years. If you can find it in repeats, WATCH IT!

Crockett’s struggles adjusting to life in the chair are one thing, but the wheelchair-bound people he met and befriended during his 30 days were just amazing. The paraplegic counselor working with the recently paralyzed, the tough-as-nails wheelchair rugby team featured in the documentary “Murderball” and most poignantly, the young girl recently confined to a wheelchair after a horrible accident.

The look on Crockett’s face as he sits in on the girl’s rehabilitation sessions is heartbreaking, and I defy you not to cry when she pulls herself up in bed for the first time since her accident. I’m not kidding, folks, this is cable television at its finest…really beautiful stuff.

The first two seasons of the show — which I highly recommend — have recently been released on DVD and the third season of “30 Days” airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX. Spurlock was quoted recently in Entertainment Weekly as saying that this Tuesday’s episode (the hunter/vegan family) is the best one of the season, so…what better time to check out “30 Days” for yourself?

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