Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Logic 102

It's a Friday afternoon and, as always, Fernando has the free popcorn ready and raring to go for those who would wish to enjoy it. A guy who'd been in the store a number of times in the past and who had, in fact, rented on Fridays previously picks up a couple of movies.

Receipt or popcorn?” asks Fernando after he hands the man his change.

Huh?” is the response.

I've got free popcorn on weekends, if you'd like a bag, and you're always welcome to the receipt of course,” explains Fernando, tugging at the yellow carbon copy receipt attached to the rental slip proper.

Do I have to take both?”

Tezcatlipoca help me. “Er. No. That's why I used the word 'or' instead of 'and.' You can take both if you want but you're not forced to. In fact, you're not forced to take either, if you don't want either.”

You should have just said that I don't have to take it.” Then, after a brief pause: “But I'll take popcorn.”


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Big Money

A teenager and his girlfriend come into the store right after opening time one day. They rent a single $1 movie. Fernando fills out the rental slip, tells them the total, and goes to retrieve the disc.

When Fernando returns he looks down to see Ben Franklin's face stamped upon the bill resting on the countertop.

You don't have anything smaller?” Fernando asks.

I want to break it,” says the teenager in response.

I recognize this fact. But it's a one hundred dollar bill. I just opened, and cashing change for that would effectively ruin my till for the rest of the day.”

I want to break it,” the young man repeats. “You have to take it because that's what I'm paying with.”

Okay, fine then. Hang on a second.” Fernando takes the hundred and heads to his deposit envelope. He places the hundred inside and withdraws an equivalent amount of change: four twenties and a pair of tens. Then he hands the twenties and one ten over.

The other one he makes change for. It just so happens that somebody the day before had paid for couple rentals all in quarters, dimes, and nickels, so Fernando was able to clean that clutter out of his till. The remaining difference he reaches through ones. “There ya go.”

Dude, that ain't cool,” the teen whines, nonetheless taking the money and sequestering it.

Neither is paying with a hundred when you have a one dollar bill right there, after I told you how big a pain in the ass it would be to change out from my start till,” says Fernando, pointing to a piece of crinkled, Washington-emblazoned paper money the customer has nestled in his wallet. Then Fernando smiles. “Have a nice day.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Aesthetics and Earnings

A high school girl is browsing the store one afternoon. “Have you watched all the movies you have here?” she asks.

I'm afraid not,” answers Fernando. “Lots of them don't really appeal to me. That one, for instance,” he continues, nodding his head to the Beastly case she holds in her hands.

That sucks. You shouldn't have to get movies you don't want to watch. I wouldn't if I had this place.”

If that were the case, you would quickly discover your income to be greatly depressed, and I guarantee that you'd change your mind rather quickly."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Clocking In

At around four in the afternoon a young woman bolts across the parking lot from where she had just pulled up. She had just opened a new account about a week before and had been in to rent a couple of times since then. She hauls ass into the store and slams three movies down upon the counter's surface and brushes strands of hair away from her forehead. “Am I late?” she asks.

Fernando blinks in surprise. “No. Not at all. Not even close. I admire your dedication, though.”

She breaths a sigh of relief. “Okay. You said they had to be back by seven, and it's after four now.”

Fernando approaches the counter to replace the movies on the shelves. “You...you thought I meant seven in the morning?” he asks, pausing in his labors.

Well, yeah,” she admits with a small fidget of embarrassment.

God, that would make me the worst kind of sadist in the world.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Direction Sense

A guy Fernando has never seen before enters the Dominion one afternoon. He browses about the store for a bit, then approached the counter. “Yeah, how far along until I get to Inuitland?”

It's about a half-hour's drive straight thattaway,” says Fernando, pointing along the highway. “Just follow the road and you'll get there no problem.”

And that's where the fair is?”

It is indeed.”

For a moment the stranger flips through Fernando's Adopt-a-Movie box. “Okay, thanks. Are these for sale?”

Yessir. Four dollars apiece, with the price lowering to two bucks after the first two.”

Alright.” And then the man turns and leaves the store.

Fernando didn't see the point in the man feigning interest in Fernando's product if all he needed were directions. What was Fernando going to do, mislead him in a fit of juvenile pique? There is sign on the highway not one mile from the Dominion that would reveal the falsity of any untruths Fernando might have said!

Silly humans.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Truth Through Power

Customer rents Spy Kids 3D. Customer returns Spy Kids 3D the next day. Problem is, customer neglected to return the 3D glasses with the discs. No big deal. Fernando calls her up.

-Ring ring ring-


Yeah, hi, this is Fernando calling--”

You've reached Celes. I can't come to the phone right now but leave a message and I'll call you back. Bye!”

In the real world, Fernando is now seething at this recorded message. But he allows no trace of ire to creep into his voice. “Yeah, hi, this is Fernando calling from the Dominion of Movies. I'm just calling to let you know that when you returned Spy Kids 3D today you accidentally forgot the glasses that came with it. So if you could just drop them off sometime, that's be great. Bye.”

Time passes and eventually the lady's boyfriend and their children come to the store. They pick out a couple of movies.

I don't know if you guys got my message earlier,” says Fernando at the counter, “but you accidentally forgot the glasses when you returned Spy Kids.”

No I didn't,” says the boyfriend.

Er. You did. See?” Fernando reaches for the shelf next to him and retrieves the set-aside case. “It's no big deal. You can just bring them when you return these ones tomorrow.”

Caught in his misstatement, the gentleman agrees to Fernando's reasonable request and peace is maintained in the Dominion thereby.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Super? More Like Mediocre

I want to like the movie Super, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Paige, more than I do. I want to believe that there's some sort of cohesive message in this movie's garbled set of images and dialogue. The writer and director, Mr. James Gunn, probably feels he has communicated a statement about violence-glorification in American media and personal growth, but I just don't see it.

Rainn Wilson is Frank, who acts pretty much like Dwight Schrute would if he were a short-order cook married to Liv Tyler instead of a paper salesman. Liv Tyler is disenchanted with her marriage, and so enters Jacques/Jock, portrayed by the ever-enjoyable Kevin Bacon. He's a drug pusher and pimp and he has a malicious hold over Ms. Tyler. She is a recovering drug addict, though she's not very good at the whole “recovery” thing, and she ditches Mr. Wilson in favor of her new paramour/drug dispensary. This rightly upsets our hero, enough that he has a religious epiphany starring Nathan Fillion in which he decides to become a superhero named the Crimson Bolt who whacks baddies with a wrench. “Baddies” in this case range from child molesters to people who cut in line at a movie theater. Yep.

He's eventually joined in his quest for righteous retribution by Ellen Paige, a 22-year-old comic store employee who has a weird sexual fetish for Mr. Wilson's superhero persona. Together they fight, and simultaneously perpetrate, crime. Eventually the obligatory happy ending is achieved, despite this being labeled as a “dark” comedy. Insert eye-roll here.

My displeasure with this film stems firstly from its inconsistency regarding its fetishistic use of violence. Mr. Wilson is not a particularly nice guy; in fact he's a pretty selfish bastard. Okay, viewers can buy that. Not all protagonists need to be shining avatars of goodness, and there's this faux-existentialist, quasi-nihilist malaise that seems to afflict most of our protagonists in recent years. He's, first and foremost, devoted to his wife (can't fault him that, I suppose) and, second, to upholding “the rules.” The problem is that he is a great big hypocrite about those selfsame rules, especially when it comes to rescuing his wife from the clutches of the nefarious Kevin Bacon. If it's okay for him to break the norms of society in pursuit of his own interests, how can it be justified that other people are in the moral wrong for doing the things for which they, apparently, deserve punishment? The movie never addresses this ethical knot and it doesn't do a particularly good job of comparing Frank's moral situation vis-a-vis his victims', though it does a whole hell of a lot of contrasting.

Second, there's the matter of Boltie. Ellen Paige did a marvelous job portraying the stereotypical annoying kid sidekick. At one point near the end of the movie some events occur and something life-changing happens to Boltie and, by extension, the Crimson Bolt. During the film's denouement, a whole hell of a lot of time and attention is given to Frank and his wife's life-situations, but none to the fallout of what befell Boltie. This happens after it was emphasized more than once that there exist real-life repercussions for Crimson Bolt and Boltie's antics, up to and including police investigation of the vigilantism. Leaving such a gross plot thread unresolved by the credits is more than merely unsatisfying; it's outright lazy. There's also the little matter of her, at one point, raping Frank. You read right. Last I checked, rape was not something to be condoned, but Frank takes to the act with considerable aplomb once he goes through a superficial resistance phase. More of that “it's ethical when I or my buddies do it” moralizing, I guess? Or there's an exception to the “rape is bad” rule when it's girl-on-guy? The incident, at any rate, is forgotten by both parties by the time the next scene opens.

Maybe, just maybe, my critiques are in fact what the director wanted to achieve with this film. Maybe he was less concerned with creating verisimilitude in his fiction and more intent on exploring the metafiction of the vigilante superhero genre through calling out its inherent inconsistencies. But if that was his intent, it was done clumsily. He played too many other tropes straight when he should have deconstructed and subverted nearly all of them, and what resulted was a confusing clusterfuck that feels as if it came from the second draft of a script rather than a polished, tight final product. There exist worse movies, to be sure, but a positive, must-see recommendation for Super is not something I feel I can give. Give it a go if you're specifically craving a superhero deconstruction film and are sick of Watchmen, but be aware the movie's title in no way describes the quality of its contents.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beer Run

Every year a country/rock/folk music festival is held in the vicinity of the Dominion. It is held a goodly distance from the actual Dominion, but the Dominion is located distressingly near a gas station. See, the attendees at this festival like booze with their music. Resupply runs are undertaken by many brave and tipsy souls to keep the alcohol flowing without interruption. The gas station, of course, knows this and jacks up the price accordingly.

Fernando's Dominion of Movies has beside it a small alleyway that leads to the parking lot/throughfair out in front of the store, which from there meanders over to the gas station in question. Rather than taking an extra ten to fifteen seconds to utilize the highway, people like to speed through this alley at well-nigh thirty miles an hour and whip around the front corner of the store onto the front lot.

Because Fernando's building is not, in accordance with all the common laws of reality, transparent, sometimes people cruising the alley find surprises waiting around the corner. Small things, like other vehicles, children, and so forth. This forces them to slam on the brakes to avoid a ruinous lawsuit or reckless endangerment charges.

Anyhoo, one day a pickup made this arduous trip. The cap was full-up with unfamiliar young men in sleeveless T-shirts and so there was no room for their fourth...except for in the truck's bed, so that is where this gent sequestered himself, looking out to the rear. The truck came bounding up the alley with that obnoxious roaring that reveals to the world a person who had put more money into his vehicle than his education and rounded the bend.

Oh, look, parked cars. Man, you'd never think those could exist in a parking lot.

The driver slammed something fierce upon the brakes to slow his mad charge. Newton smiled upon Fernando on this day, though, for the laws of motion held true and the gent in the truck's bed was pitched forward through the power of inertia as the truck suddenly decreased its velocity, rapping his head on something in the bed, rising moments later cursing loudly and clearly enough for Fernando to hear inside the store, rubbing at the side of his head and pounding on the truck cab's roof in impotent ire as the vehicle vanished from sight.

These comrades reconciled soon enough, apparently, and when they made the return trip (at a markedly slower pace) a few minutes later Fernando espied the wounded young man nestled amidst cases of Busch Lite, glaring out at the world with a watchful eye against any that might attempt waylaying the caravan's precious cargo.

Beer does heal all wounds, it seems.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shark Week

At one point Fernando had the film Jaws on VHS, but that copy gave up its ghost long ago. Fernando had seen no merit in attaining a DVD copy because, honestly, who would want to ever rent a DVD from a third of a century ago that could be picked up at Wal-Mart for $5?

Naturally enough, within the span of one week Fernando had four different groups of people entering the store asking for the original Jaws. Prescience would be such a nice superpower to have.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not This Poo Again

It's New Release Tuesday! The biggest Tuesday of the month, by far! Many anticipated titles, some of which Fernando has promised to set aside and reserve for customers who had asked. Titles like Paul and Jumping the Broom and Your Highness.

Titles which Fernando's distributor failed to get into his hands.

It has been whispered by some that Fernando is the sort to pride efficiency in his endeavors and belief in the inherent immutability and overall lack of trust in life. Fernando had held out a naïve hope that his distributor would evidence change after many spouted murmured words of apology and promises of reform. This obviously has not come to pass.

So now Fernando will be visiting Wal-Mart for some of his releases.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Imaginary Numbers

A pair of teenaged girls enter the store one day to rent a trio of movies. Fernando asks a name, it is provided, the transaction is going through, everything seems to be going just splendidly.

Then Dad decides to show up. Dad is a fat guy with tattoos on his forearms and the pinched face of a man perpetually angry at the world.

He trundles into the store and shouts at the top of his lungs, “You better not be putting any late fees on there!”

Whoa. What now?


You better not be putting any late fees on there! She ain't payin' no late fees because the movies didn't work!”

Whoa. Self-restraint issues. And...what?

W...What late fees? Which movies? I have no idea what you're talking about.”

Fernando's confusion seems to have been mistaken for acquiescence. “Damn right you don't. Cuz we ain't payin' no late fees.”

I don't even know what late fees you're talking about. You don't have any. I don't know which movies you're talking about either. If you guys had late fees, I would know. It's my job to know. I don't have any. Now, I could make some up if you really wanted--”

YOU BETTER NOT!” the man roars, slamming his fist upon the counter and leaving a greasy smudge on the glass.

Please don't do that. If you break my counter, you will buy me a new one, threats of nonpayment be damned. And I was being facetious. It's called sarcasm.”

Dad storms out. Daughter meekly pays and follows.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Burden of Responsibility

A semiregular customer of Fernando's rents one day in mid-March. As Fernando digs through his stamp card box in search of her card, she says, “I have one of those in there?”

Well, yeah. I started one a while ago. There we go!” Fernando retrieves the card and places a stamp on it.

Can I hold onto it?” she asks.

Okay, if you insist. Most people leave them here to save on the hassle of remembering they're there.” And he turns over the card.

The customer returns sometime in May or June or something. She rents a couple of movies or something, pays, leaves. She doesn't produce her card to be stamped, which...okay. Fernando tried to warn her of this back in March.

Now it's July. She returns, rents again, and this time pulls out her card. Fernando stamps it for her.

Can I get stamps for the ones I rented a while back?” she asks.

Fernando at this point in the conversation has no idea what she's talking about. “Er...what now?”

The last time I was in I didn't get my card stamped. I wanted to get that done now.”

Um...you haven't been in for two or three months, far as I can recall. And the time before that you asked that you be given ownership of your card. So you kind of took on the responsibility for remembering to have the card stamped yourself.”

I forgot. So can I get it stamped now?”

Fernando shrugs. “Fine.” And he stamps her card a single extra time. But that's not good enough, says her glower.

I rented three movies that time.”

Listen, you waited a quarter-year to come back and remedy your oversight. I'm far too lazy to dig through the old rental slips to find out the actual number of movies you rented. Be glad I gave you the one.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I've Changed My Mind

-Ring ring ring-

Hello, Dominion of Movies.”

Yeah, do you have a copy of Insidious in?”

You're lucky. I've only got one left for the night. Did you want me to hold that for you?”

Yeah, I'll be down later to pick it up.”

So Fernando plucks the tag and sets it aside. Customers come, customers go, and more than one (two, to be exact) asks about Insidious and whether or not it is available. Fernando informs them that, sadly, all copies are spoken for tonight but that he expects them back the following day. Some of those customers (all, to be exact) take Fernando up on that offer, asking him to notify them once one becomes available.

But you, dear readers, are genre savvy, so you can figure out where things are going already, I'm sure: the guy who has the copy set aside for him never comes in. Figures.

So, the following day, Fernando calls up the first person on his list immediately after opening because, what do you know, he has a copy of Insidious on hand for renting. The person thanks Fernando, hastens to the store, picks it and another movie up, and is on her merry way.

Ah, but, as you may have guessed, there's more.

Around five an 18ish year old wearing a baseball cap sideways saunters into the store. “Yeah, I'm here for Insidious.”

Fernando blinks twice. “I don't have any copies in at the moment. I am still expecting one back tonight, though.”

You told me you'd hold it for me.”

Riiiiight. And you told me you'd be in to pick it up yesterday. I had other people waiting for the movie and I'm not psychic, so I went with the option that would actually make me money.”

Yeah, but you said you'd hold it for me yesterday.”

Precisely. That was yesterday. You didn't come in to pick it up, and you didn't call me to let me know you'd like it carried over to today.”

I've changed my mind. I don't want it anymore.” And he storms out.

One of Fernando's regular customers who was browsing the store at the time chuckles at what had just transpired because this customer apparently found what Fernando had said to be amusing. He does not change his mind and so rents some movies and leaves.