Skip to main content

Deep Impact

The concept of home video entertainment is forever woven into a physical reference point for me. True, I've 'moved with the times' and listen to most music digitally these days, but somehow cannot find the ability to enter the 21st century and watch movies via streaming. I'll stick with DVDs and Blu-rays, thank you very much. This is why I always took such comfort in the existence -- despite the odds -- of That's Rentertainment DVD/Blu-ray rental store, nestled in a small(ish) space in the campus town of our fair twin cities. Alas, that is soon to be no more. After 30 years, the store will be closing later this summer.

It was three decades ago that my parents brought home our first taste of home video entertainment. They situated the VCR (VHS, not Betamax) next to the television set, and had rented a few videos to watch. For them, Alfred Hitchcock movies. For me, some episodes of the Transformers cartoon series. It boggled my mind that it was possible to watch Transformers on any occasion other than the set time it was aired on television. This, and the first occasion I had to use a smartphone, was when technology really wowed me.

Over the years, the home video format changed. We went from VHS to DVD, then to Blu-ray, and now we're in the age of streaming. Sure, some folks -- including yours truly -- still muddle about with physical copies of movies and TV shows, but a lot of people (a majority?) now have no need of venturing somewhere to procure a bit of audio/visual entertainment. Netflix can do that for them just fine. I've lamented this of late, not only for feeling behind the times, but not going unnoticed that it's another bit of childhood chipped away.

That's Rentertainment was a place of comfort. Here was, to be frank, a relic of years gone by, a place that used to exist in various permutations all over town. Blockbuster, Stars and Stripes Video, Family Video, countless others: They were dotted across the landscape. The Internet, for all it's worth, is unable to recreate the experience of browsing physical things (books, movies, etc.), of running into friends and neighbors while searching for the next film to rent. That's something we're losing as places like video stores become relegated to the past.

In truth, I should have shopped more at That's Rentertainment. Habitual late fees rather put a stop to that, but that's my issue, not theirs. Cool people worked there. You know -- people that you could interact with, as opposed to staring at a computer screen while an algorithm creeps on your history and suggests items of interest. There would be conversations with fellow patrons, as we'd discuss some of the common titles that we had rented and watched. It was neat to see a special section devoted to films that had played at Ebertfest. That's a nice, local touch that you're unlikely to find online.

I dunno. Everything has its time. Everything comes and goes. To seek permanence in a world that has let us know over and over how transient it is would be folly. And yet... I miss That's Rentertainment, and it's not even gone. In truth, I miss what it represents, an era that has gone the way of the dodo bird. Is digital streaming more efficient than the physical encumbrances of consuming the same entertainment? Perhaps. But since when has efficiency always meant that something's better?

Kudos to owner Geoff Merritt for steering such a valuable, beloved ship for so many years. Thank you to the incredible, knowledgeable, fun-to-talk-with employees for making it a neat place to visit. Thank you to the other patrons who engaged in amiable conversation about our shared love of cinema and good television over the years. A unique piece of Champaign-Urbana will be going away soon, and I, for one, am sad.


Popular posts from this blog


Ok, we're now three-fourths of the way through this year's calendar, so I thought I'd rank the thirty-eight 2017 movies I've seen so far.

Here they are....

1. A Quiet Passion
2. Baby Driver
3. Dunkirk
4. Get Out
5. Kedi
6. A Ghost Story
7. Wonder Woman
8. Columbus
9. Brad's Status
10. Marjorie Prime
11. Maudie
12. Logan
13. Spider-Man: Homecoming
14. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
15. Brigsby Bear
16. Atomic Blonde
17. The Big Sick
18. Split
19. Kong: Skull Island
20. It
21. Wind River
22. A Cure for Wellness
23. The Hitman's Bodyguard
24. Norman
25. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
26. Logan Lucky
27. Alien Covenant
28. Ghost In the Shell
29. War for the Planet of the Apes
30. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
31. Life
32. Annabelle: Creation
33. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
34. My Cousin Rachel
35. Baywatch
36. The Bye Bye Man
37. mother!
38. It Comes at Night

It will be interesting to see what the last three months of the year brin…

If You Could Read My Mind

Dance clubs are a funny thing. They contain within their walls a life force and vibrancy sometimes unmatched anywhere else. When dusk settles and the lights come on, people will flood the dance floors to gyrate to music with hypnotic beats and songs about love, lust and fun at the disco. At gay bars, this sort of scenario usually increases ten-fold. It isn't for everyone, but for many it is a respite from the harsh realities of the real word. It is a place that isn't just a structure, but a sanctuary where folks -- minorities in their own communities -- can take shelter and unwind with abandon, at least for a few nighttime hours.
As someone who benefited greatly from such an aforementioned gay dance club, you can imagine my dismay at news of the closing of Chester Street Bar. In business for over three decades, gay-owned and operated, there was a time when C-Street (as it was known by most) was the only haven for those in the LGBT community, near and far, to enjoy themselves …


"Step out from the mask you stand behind Fearful lost and blind Time to take the time The pressure’s on you Hide away, hide away No tomorrow, just today"
- Brilliant, Ultravox
Today was National Coming Out Day, so of course it gives some pause for reflection on my own coming out story. It was in April 1993, my junior year of high school (go Chargers!). In the six years of writing this blog, I have alluded to how I came out, but never really delved into the intricacies of how it came about. What better day to do so than today?
My first (small) indications of homosexuality manifested in grade school. While in first grade, I thought a fifth grader looked cute. In fifth grade, I would stare, longingly, at a boy in class, until he caught me looking at him. There were some infatuations with boys in middle school, and a first sexual experience during freshman year of high school. Everything up to that point had been, for the most part, based in the physical realm. I liked the way certain…