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Hollywood Express - Employees' Picks

     Is this a familiar scenario? You enter a video store pledged to haul home a political documentary or a deep European masterpiece. What you really desire is something down-and-funky, sexy and relaxing. Any teen would know what to rent. Dainty you has no clue.

     This just might be the time to take a gander at Employees' Picks, that section of odd indulgences in practically every video store. "It's the last resort for people who can't find what they are looking for, and don't know what to get," Mike Kadomiyi explains, as we stand before his handpicked shelf where he works, at Hollywood Express, Porter Square, Cambridge. "My taste? Most people would say, 'Bad,'" he laughs. "They're mostly straightforward movies anyone can enjoy. My unpretentious section."

     From his choices, I select Dirty Work (1998), a Norm Macdonald comedy that had passed me by. Never heard of it. Would Mike's pick prove reliable? Should you give credence to the eccentric taste of any video-store employee, even at such a knowledgeable place as Hollywood Express?

     "Each movie on my shelf has a purpose," Jolyn Wells says, and leads me on a tour: "Foxfire, an excellent woman's film... Gas, Food, Lodging, my favorite movie... Like Water for Chocolate, the best love story I've ever seen... Head, I'm a huge Monkey fan... Georgy Girl, a great film and in black-and-white. Not enough people watch black-and-white."

     Jolyn describes Meet the Feebles as "The Muppets on crack, the most frightening film I've ever seen," so I'll try that one from her shelf. Also, I've never seen The Stuff (1985), a gross-out science-fiction movie from cult filmmaker, Larry Cohen.

     Finally there's Nikki Tania, who explains, "My section is unofficially known as the Lesbian-Vampire shelf. The Hunger is usually there, and Blade, a campy vampire film. There's Beautiful Thing, a gay coming-of-age story, and When Night is Falling, my favorite lesbian film in the last ten years. The rest of the lesbian films bite. I'd have Faster, Pussycat, Kill Kill!, but someone stole our copy."

     I add on Blade (1998) from Nikki's pickings and take my four choices to the check-out. Meanwhile, Jolyn has lost confidence. "The Stuff is a very bad film," she says. "I'm going to take it off my shelf."

     Too late, Jolyn, but she has no cause to worry.

     Larry Cohen's picture turns out to be an unusual sci-fi social satire, in which literally all of America becomes enamored of this new, FDA-approved product, a kind of Dairy Queen goo run amuck. Is it Communistic or from outer space? Only one little boy seems to catch the truth, that his Beaver-Cleaver family, his whole smiley-faced country, are becoming mass hypnotized.

     Met the Feebles, made in New Zealand by Peter Jackson, is a gruesome, clever, puppet feast, a Muppets NC-17 makeover. A rat shoots a porno film, a hen takes an elephant to court for a paternity suit, two furry animals suffer coitus interruptus: "Oh, shit, I was about to pop my cookies!"

     As for Nikki's recommendation, Blade: Well, any movie with the reptile-eyed, heavy-breathing German actor, Udo Kier, can't be all bad. "I was born a vampire," he says, haughtily. "You others were merely turned into one." And there's ex-porn star, Traci Lords, luring an innocent guy into a vampire disco; American Psycho should have come up with such a decadent, blood-drenched night-spot.

     Sorry, Mike, I couldn't get into Dirty Work, except for a funny scene in which Norm Macdonald, after a tough overnight in jail, lectures at his sodomizers: "You gentlemen have a lot of growing up to do!"

(July, 2000)


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