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Category — documentary

VHS Love Letter – REWIND THIS!

REWIND THIS! had its world premiere at SXSW and IOC was were!

Josh Johnson‘s ode to the VHS age, Rewind This! (2013) opens with a film enthusiast combing a flea market for VHS tapes, overflowing with the sort of passion any and all global VHS hunters (and film lovers) will immediately recognize. This image sets the tone for the love story to follow, between human film fanatics and the dead format known to Gen X‘ers as VHS. As some of you may recall I interviewed Josh before the film’s completion (here), as he, Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer set out to tackle the subject none had dared tackle before them. And now, seeing the final result, it’s safe to say that their film will go down as a definitive work: an in-depth documentary that dives into the history of VHS, from it’s inception to its demise (Betamax is touched upon but as victor of the format war the spoils go to VHS). We get a glimpse into some incredible VHS collections, owned by people eager to proudly show them off and explain how they acquired their precious and rare finds. Although loaded with local Austin film junkies and VHS collectors, Rewind This! manages to broaden its horizons by traveling the globe: to Japan, where legendary Ghost in the Shell director Mamoru Oshii explains his relationship to the format and how he became “spoiled”by it. To Canada, where Exotica director Atom Egoyan explains the magic in discovering the uses you could get out of VHS. Film critics offer perspectives as well, including heavy hitters like Drew McWeeney and James Rocchi, and what emerges is a well-rounded portrait of more than just a format but a moment in time. Having grown up in video stores (and currently employed by one) my favorite moment is director Frank Henenlotter explaining the unique feature on his sublime horror comedy Frankenhooker‘s VHS box: press a button and hear a reanimated prostitute ask you “Wanna date?” This prompts a montage of several other VHS junkies explaining the same feature, and results in the sort of rush of recognition shared by enthusiasts across the world: I personally hit that damn button a million times with every visit to the video store! But beyond my own attachment to VHS, Rewind This! is an essential historical document. Without the VHS boom there’d be no video stores, no developments in home video, no DVR, no making films in the backyard with friends and family, and none of the thousands of future filmmakers mesmerized by aisles of VHS boxes sitting like dreams up on video store shelves. As we inch closer to an all-digital age, where all is streaming with little to no physical media at all, the younger generations of film-aficionados can now fully understand the foundation – because it was during the VHS age that true cinematic passion thrived, and that passion today fuels all their cult/weird/action-packed journeys into the incredible – be they film or interactive gaming or whatever. Like Not Quite Hollywood  (2008) and Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010) before it, Rewind This! will whet your appetite for rare films to add to your collection, but with the added bonus of causing you to scour the earth hunting for a VHS player the second you finish watching it. Powerful stuff, and a must see for cinephiles everywhere!

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March 20, 2013   2 Comments


Been a busy past couple of months here at IOC, with new writing gigs and a few health scares diverting us from our usual pace – but we’re still alive and kickin’ – so bear with us as we try to right the ship and return to our normal frequency. In the spirit of overly ambitious undertakings here’s a terrific scene from American Movie (1999), a documentary directed by Chris Smith about the love of moviemaking and the quixotic attempts of Mark Borchardt to make Coven. If you haven’t seen it you’re missing out on some hilarious can-do spirit! And don’t forget to follow us over on our IOC FB page where we do a pretty good job of keeping up with the latest movie news – and posting a ton of posters three times a week!

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December 18, 2012   No Comments

Director Interview – JOSH JOHNSON

Filmmaker Josh Johnson sits down with our very own video clerk and resident tapehead, Rockie Juarez, to discuss his documentary Rewind This!, an ode to the VHS age:

Hey film fan – you may have heard a rumor floating around out there saying VHS is dead. I’m here to tell you you’re listening to the wrong people. Please allow me to aim your senses in a different direction – one that acknowledges the vital role VHS plays in pop and film culture history. I’d like you to meet a true believer in the format, a freedom fighter for VHS: the humble magnificent Josh Johnson. In the mere months I’ve known him, we’ve talked, seen (Jaws in 35mm!!), and eaten movies in a way that’s changed me forever. And as soon as I learned of his project – a documentary all about the mighty VHS format called Rewind This! – I knew I had to back it one hundred percent. Preserving the rich history of cinema and all the formats that have changed the way we ingest the sweet art should be a holy task of our Public schools, but seeing as how I’m not King of the World™, I figure I should teach the children through other channels – like this one you’ve come to at Isle of Cinema. So let’s jump right in and meet Josh, and learn about this important documentary! But before we do, just take a look at his picture – how can you not fall in love?

Josh Johnson

Hey Josh, thanks for taking time out of your day to rap with us about your amazing project. How’d it all start?  I imagine taking on a documentary has got to be a daunting task. There were two core ideas that really launched the project. The first was the realization that the story of home video and its impact has never been told on film. The other was the discovery of how many people were still buying VHS tapes on a regular basis because they contained rare content that wasn’t available by any other means. It seemed that there was an opportunity to construct a narrative about the significance of video that would show how we got where we are now and explore where we might be going. I started working with two partners on developing the project and we began small – by interviewing the relevant individuals that we had immediate access to in the Austin area. This enabled us to collect a significant amount of footage before the need to travel arose. Once we reached the point where we needed to start flying around the country to conduct interviews, we were far enough along that we were able to get support through local fundraisers. So while the scope of the project is daunting, there seems to be a lot of support for what we’re doing.

I’ve been in and out of video stores as far back as I remember, and I currently work at Vulcan Video in Austin, so personally this project speaks to me. And the masses agree – I saw you guys catch fire on the Twitter: was it overwhelming, seeing all that love, and was it a validation of what you guys were doing? Both. It is validating for sure and really encouraging to see that the audience for the film might be larger than we suspected. It’s also been completely overwhelming and emotional – the three of us working on this project frequently speak to each other in complete disbelief about how enthusiastic the response has been. This subject means a lot to us and we obviously assumed it would be meaningful to a certain segment of the populace but we clearly underestimated how many people feel passionately about the importance of home video. This process has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.

Click to check out Stephanie Vanelli’s print over at Etsy!

You mentioned your partners in crime on this project and their contributions. Yeah. Carolee Mitchell, who is acting as producer and Christopher Palmer, who is acting as co-director and both shoots and edits our footage. Since we’re a small team there are of course a variety of other roles that everyone has to step and fill on occasion as well.

Several big names were tweeting and spreading the word about it, too. Just so people have an idea, how fast did it take to hit your goal on Kickstarter? And who was your most “flattering” supporter? It took us 112 hours to reach our funding goal. We were expecting it to take the full 30 days but the response just exploded right away. The Kickstarter concluded about a week ago and we exceeded our goal by 53% which has enabled us to add two more production trips and at least 20 more interviews. I don’t know if there is anyone in particular that I would describe as the most flattering supporter but something that has been really satisfying is the broad range of people who have wanted to get involved. There is diverse spectrum of people from different continents and of different ages/backgrounds which I wouldn’t have anticipated.

I’m afraid tears of joy might soak my shirt if I perchance-d to gaze upon those numbers. As far as getting interviews, was it brutal locking down ‘celebs’ or were they on board from the get go? For the most part securing interviews has been fairly stress-free. In a lot of cases we had mutual friends who were able to put us in touch which is always helpful. We’ve also had a surprising amount of success reaching out to people through managers and agents. I think the main reason that the people we’ve contacted have been so receptive is that they are being offered a chance to preserve their own legacy. They contributed to a revolution that hasn’t received its due and our motivation is to acknowledge and celebrate their work. Something that a lot of people might not be aware of is that we haven’t paid for a single one of our interviews. Everybody who has agreed to participate has done so purely out of an interest in getting their story heard.

Hangin’ with the Troma team

So when can we see it!? I know that’s a rough question considering you’re still banging it out so I’ll rephrase that – what’s the projected release date? (Soon, I hope) Our final production trip is in May so we’ll be done filming at that point. We’re editing now so the film itself will be completed shortly thereafter. As for when people will see it that is less clear. We’re currently planning to show at film festivals with an eye towards distribution after that.

It’s going to be gangbusters at festivals. Not to jinx you, but I’d expect it to be picked up fairly quickly – valid subject with valid backers. Well Josh, I want to thank you for taking a minute to talk to me about a project so dear. How can all the interested parties out there follow your progress? In case they’d like to stalk you? Our website is www.rewindthismovie.com which should be getting revamped soon with a new look and more content. For day to day updates you can follow us on Twitter @RewindThisMovie. If you have too much time on your hands you can also follow my personal account(@VHSisthetruth) to learn more about what movies I’m watching, what desserts I’m enjoying, and what sort of awkward experiences I’m having with women.

Doin’ the VHS shuffle.


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March 5, 2012   1 Comment

Great Scenes – PUMPING IRON

The legend of Ah-nuld really begins here, with George Butler & Robert Fiore‘s infamous muscle movie Pumping Iron, a 1977 documentary in which the Austrian über-Republican’s larger than life egoism and ridiculous physique take center stage. This scene especially – where he gleefully recounts his manipulation of an admiring competitor – perfectly captures the blasé devastation Arnold leaves in his wake. A vision of what uncut Id might look like, he has one thing in mind – to conquer whatever’s in front of him: women, competition, the English language (still working on that one), more women, the hapless Lou Ferrigno, even more women, and whoever thinks he might not be the greatest thing to ever walk the Earth. Before John Milius saw him as Conan the Barbarian, before James Cameron would cast him as The Terminator and make him an icon, it’s clear the man was a brutal machine determined to become a star, no matter the cost.

And as an added bonus I couldn’t resist linking this video: Arnold’s commentary. Enjoy!

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November 30, 2011   1 Comment

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