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The Last Blockbuster

Year: 2020
Production Co: Popmotion Pictures
Director: Taylor Morden
Producer: Zeke Kamm
Writer: Zeke Kamm
Cast: Sandi Harding, Kevin Smith, Ione Skye, Lloyd Kaufman, Brian Posehn, Darren Hayes

The most interesting thing about this film that I didn't know (if you're a movie geek you already know most of the story of the Blockbuster outlet in Bend, Oregon) was that the only reason any Blockbuster video outlets still existed was because of the company structure.

A lot of them were owned by the Blockbuster corporation and closed immediately when things went pear shaped in the home rental market because of the advent of streaming (the film does a good job of explaining the decline in more detail than that).

But many were franchises, the name and branding licensed to the store owners so they were free to keep trading as long as the were making a living, subject to the current owner of the name, Dish Networks, renewing the license terms.

Everything I know about Bend is from the videogame Days Gone and the studio that created it, which likewise talks about it being a lush small town community full of natural beauty and an old time vibe you don't get in most of America any more.

So whether proprietor Sandi Harding really does work as hard as the film portrays to tap into a subculture of movie lovers who pine for the bygone days of video stores (and she undoubtedly does work hard) or whether the shop has been exceedingly lucky – somehow staying open throughout COVID – the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

The movie paints her as a hero and the store as an underdog of the type cinema loves, so it's probably a bit of a case of printing the legend rather than going into the nuances. But it's entertainment and not an accounting audit, so the deeper subtleties don't really matter. Good on her and the store for surviving.

There's an eclectic and honestly quite strange gallery of talking heads. It wouldn't be what it promises without Kevin Smith but Ione Skye, the love interest from Say Anything? Some SNL-like faded comedian who appears half stoned throughout and for some reason gets an extended sequence walking through the store with Sandi talking shit, the whole thing getting more awkward by the second? The lead singer of Savage Garden?

Most bizarrely of all, Lloyd Kaufman, the acerbically outspoken B movie king who throws profane barbs at the studio system that are among the best moments of the movie?

The only really sour note is another example of extreme America-centrism. The film is roughly chronological as Sandi and her family wait to learn their fate because of the license renewal issue, and when the news emerges that the last few Blockbusters in the US aside from Bend – all of them in Alaska, for some reason – are closing they realise to their excitement/trepidation they're the last one left in the world.

In fact they weren't. After the Alaska stores shut down there were two left. The Bend store would indeed become the last one but until October 2019 the other one was in Morley, in my adopted hometown of Perth.

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