Upcoming Best Video Performance Space shows

Now that the new room is ready to go, we are starting to fill up the schedule for the spring.

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Here are the shows currently booked:

• Thursday, Apr. 17. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Wednesday, Apr. 23. ART ROCK: FLOATING LANTERNS

• Wednesday, Apr. 30. AVANT-GARDE SOLO BASS VIRTUOISITY: JACK VEES • Wednesday, May 7. ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Thursdasy, May 8. IMPROVISATION: FUCHSPRELLEN

• Wednesday, May 14. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, May 15. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: FRANK CRITELLI, MARK MIRANDO

• Wednesday, May 21. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, May 22. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: ILANA ZSIGMOND, SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Wednesday, May 28. POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 29. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JASON PRINCE

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

Music: James Velvet and the Lonesome Sparrows on Thurs., Apr. 17, at 8 PM

If all goes according to plan—and why shouldn’t it?—James Velvet and the Lonesome Sparrows will inaugurate the new Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Apr. 17. The cover is $5 and the music starts at 8 PM.

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Original acoustic rootsy rock ‘n’ roll. Songwriter extraordinaire James Velvet fronts the Lonesome Sparrows. The band includes Johnny Memphis on guitar, fiddle and harmony vocals. Memphis and Velvet have been playing together since 1985. Memphis is also a long-standing member of Washboard Slim and The Blue Lights. Velvet and Memphis are joined on dobro, mandolin and banjo by DickNeal, well-known in Southern CT for his bluegrass band, Hoe. Johnny Java plays electric bass and percussion.

Johnny Java and James Velvet played original roots R&R in The MockingBirds for a dozen years (buttressed for many of those years by DickNeal’s guitar playing). The Sparrows are happiest at Coffee House/Gallery concerts (Never Ending Bookstore, John Slade Ely House, The Buttonwood Tree, Best Video Performance Space) or, in the warm weather, at  CT’s  many tasty Farm Markets. In April, 2010, the group released their 13-track CD Black Velvet Royalty.

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Apr. 17. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS

• Wednesday, Apr. 23. ART ROCK: FLOATING LANTERNS

• Wednesday, Apr. 30. AVANT-GARDE SOLO BASS VIRTUOISITY: JACK VEES

• Wednesday, May 7. ROCK: JELLYSHIRTS

• Thursdasy, May 8. IMPROVISATION: FUCHSPRELLEN

• Wednesday, May 14. BLUEGRASS: RAGWEED

• Thursday, May 15. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: FRANK CRITELLI, MARK MIRANDO

• Wednesday, May 21. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, May 22. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: ILANA ZSIGMOND, SABRINA TRUEHEART

• Wednesday, May 28. POP: MISSION ZERO

• Thursday, May 30. SINGER-SONGWRITERS: SAM PERDUTA, JAY PRINCE

• Thursday, June 12. SINGER-SONGWRITER: THE ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

 

 

 

Best Video profiled in New Haven Living magazine

Renowned theater critic and journalist about town Christopher Arnott recently wrote about Best Video for New Haven Living magazine.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Nearly 30 years after it rewound its first rental, Best’s stock is just as impressive, its mission just as noble, its community just as strong. But its image has changed from being like “Clerks” or “Be Kind Rewind” to “The Last Picture Show” or “The Land That Time Forgot.” Customers don’t just marvel at how great a place it is. They’re awestruck that it still exists in today’s world of instant streaming and short online attention spans.

Read the whole thing—check out what Chris had to say here. (And enjoy the clever graphic made with Best Vid staff recommendation stickers!)

New Coffee Bar up and running

Getting the room cleared out for the Performance Space to resume shows is proceeding slower than we hoped. But the Coffee Bar is relocated and serving that great Willoughby’s brew, along with fine beers and wine.

Barista Kate Taussig gives a thumbs-up for the new Coffee Bar set-up.

Barista Kate Taussig gives a thumbs-up for the new Coffee Bar set-up.

We think artist/Coffee Bar manager Graham Honaker and barista Brian Johnson did a great job building the new coffee bar. They used planks from former cabinets for displaying videos for the counter facade and Graham made the countertop much as he makes his paintings/collages—putting down a layer of vintage magazine pages and coating it with clear epoxy resin.

Hand-built countertop made by Coffee Bar manager and artist Graham Honaker and barista Brian Johnson.

Hand-built counter-top made by Coffee Bar manager and artist Graham Honaker and barista Brian Johnson.

We lost a few days’ revenue in making the move so if you want to help out, come on down and get a great cappuccino or a glass of wine and check out our progress in making the new Best Video!

Rob Harmon’s Picks 04/01/14

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksROB HARMON’S PICKS 4/1/14

Join us as we search this week for… Buried Treasure at Best Video!

Experiment in Terror (dir. Blake Edwards, 1962)

If you are in the mood this week for a nifty, classic thriller with tinges of noir, one sufficiently overlooked as to be – well – criminal, than my recommendation is to look in the Blake Edwards section of Best Video. “What?!” you are probably thinking. “You mean the same director responsible for such comedy classics as THE PINK PANTHER, A SHOT IN THE DARK, THE PARTY, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and 10?” Could this be an April Fool’s joke or some indication of the confusion going on during Best Video’s current renovations? Not in the least.

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR opens with beautiful black-and-white night-time views of San Francisco, as frequent Edwards collaborator Henry Mancini’s score swells, the credits roll, and the camera follows the homeward journey by car of Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick), via the Golden Gate Bridge. Upon arriving home in the—ulp!—Twin Peaks neighborhood and parking her car in the garage she is accosted by a man (Ross Martin) whose face is shrouded in shadow. He informs Kelly in his asthmatic wheeze of a voice that she is going to help him rob the bank where she works as a teller, or else he will kill both her and her teenage sister, Toby (Stefanie Powers), and—furthermore—that he has already killed twice before. After the intruder has left Kelly takes a risk and phones the FBI, in spite of his warning, and is connected with agent John Ripley (Glenn Ford) briefly before the line is cut. What ensues is a wonderfully twisty cat-and-mouse game between Kelly, Ripley and the FBI, and the psychopathic antagonist as he attempts to pull off the daring heist.

The film features two memorably eerie set pieces: one, the opening sequence in the garage where Kelly is held from behind by the unseen assailant and which takes place in close-up and (mostly) one startlingly-long take, with a few brief cutaways. Second, there is an extended sequence where the killer stalks a woman… in the shadowy interior of a mannequin studio! (Why not?)

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Edwards’ direction is sure, unadorned, and marvelously economical, as one would expect from a filmmaker who had cut his teeth in the early days of television, on shows such as Mr. Lucky and Peter Gunn: from a greasy stool pigeon who spends his days in a moldering movie palace watching the Keystone Cops, to a noisy nightclub—overflowing with seedy revelers and undercover G-men—where Kelly is supposed to rendezvous with the antagonist. Experiment in Terror is stylishly baroque and filled with unexpected little details and flourishes, while the film’s overall atmosphere remains palpably perverse and nightmarish.

Remick and Ford are both solid in the leads and Martin makes for a memorably demented psychopath: his campaign of terror is icily effective and believably enacted.

Many iconic San Francisco locations are utilized and the city’s sleazy, decadent characterization is memorable, likely influencing later film classics such as BULLITT and DIRTY HARRY. Mancini’s score is one of the most distinctive ever composed, all throbbing electric bass line and the sound of two autoharps (an instrument similar to a zither), one jangly and out of tune and the other playing shimmering glissandos: one of the rare themes in movie history capable of searing itself into the brain after only a single listen. It manages also to compactly express the mood of Edwards’ film: a beautiful surface sheen – as befitting a picture made during the Camelot era – but one which covers over a dangerous, ugly reality and lurking menace. In spite of its title this is no mere “experiment”: Edwards proved early in his career—and before it would be defined by the madcap antics of Inspector Clouseau—that he was a versatile filmmaker worthy of note.

(And for further proof, also check out the tender and heartrending DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, which Edwards made the same year.)

Haven String Quartet show rescheduled to Wed., May 21

HSQ_7331_WebRenovations, remodeling—they always take longer than you expect. We had hopes that our new Performance Space would be ready for next Wednesday’s scheduled concert by Haven String Quartet. But it’s now clear that it makes much more sense to reschedule this show to Wednesday, May 21. The cover will be $5 and the group will play at 8 PM.

We appreciate Music Haven’s and Haven String Quartet’s understanding and willingness to reschedule this show.

As the permanent quartet-in-residence of Music Haven, the Haven String Quartet’s mission is to integrate music and creative endeavor into community life. The quartet provides access to free music education and world-class chamber music performances to residents in New Haven’s most under-served neighborhoods. In conjunction with these activities, the Haven String Quartet actively performs in other communities, providing engaging performances in traditional concert halls and reaching new audiences in non-classical venues.

Each quartet member is an exemplary performer who also enjoys the work of a teaching artist. They have graduated from such institutions as Yale University, Juilliard School, New England Conservatory and Northwestern University and enjoy successful careers as performers and teachers.

Yaira Matyakubova and Gregory Tompkins are the Quartet’s resident violinists. Colin Benn and Philip Boulanger, respectively, are resident violist and resident cellist for the Haven String Quartet.

Rob Harmon’s Picks 03/25/14

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksROB HARMON’S PICKS 3/25/14

Rewind This! (dir. Josh Johnson, 2013)

I do not remember when my family purchased its first VCR but it was probably sometime around 1985—I would have been about 7—when most of the rest of middle-class America was jumping on the VHS bandwagon. I do, however, vividly remember my sense of awe when we inserted the first tape into the mouth of the machine and the thing whirred to life, humming and clicking, the sound of the magnetic tape winding through the machine and wrapping around rollers and heads, and, finally, an image—a movie image—appearing on our TV screen! This instrument would prove to be a Pandora’s Box for me, tantalizing and hypnotic, one which would eventually open me up to cinematic landscapes both wonderful and sordid; whose grainy, pan-and-scan images, washed-out colors, and the sounds of crinkled tape running past video heads would substantially distort the dreams of my youth.

And then there was the packaging of the movies themselves: from the bulky, cumbersome clamshell cases to the sleeker cardboard sleeves, and the oftentimes lurid artwork which promised explosions and guns, scantily-clad women, and buckets of blood and gore for the viewer. I went to see movies in the theater, too, sure, but that was different: a videotape was brought into the home and viewed, such as the moldering library tapes early on of Disney fare like ESCAPE FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN, FREAKY FRIDAY and THAT DARN CAT, and later on, in middle and high school, taped-from-TV copies of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, STAR WARS, ALIENS and TERMINATOR 2, which were brought out on Friday nights when friends were over.

The modestly-made but hugely entertaining new documentary by Josh Johnson REWIND THIS! is composed of just this sort of gauzy, diaphanous stuff—a memory of, not just one, but many moments in time, of the nature of a decadent era not too far distant—taking the viewer on a tour through the culture surrounding the VCR which was… and continues to be.

Like many other documentaries about subcultures (TREKKIES, CINEMANIA) the meat and potatoes of Rewind This! are the obsessive-compulsives themselves who have made the VCR their life’s work. Some seem dazed and lost in time; others are bitter about society’s current obsessions with high-resolution images and streaming content. Almost all seem to survive on a steady diet of schlock, camp, and ironic patter as they sift through their collections, freely expounding upon the virtues of random violence, splatter, gratuitous nudity, rippling muscles, exercise videos, Corey Haim, Charles Bronson and Dolph Lundgren action movies, etc.

Johnson is adroit enough to recognize that kitsch alone would be insufficient and includes interviews with a wide array of talking-heads: filmmakers (Frank Henenlotter, Atom Egoyan), archivists, writers and critics, distributors, as well as technological futurists who believe that all of this nostalgia is nauseating at best, harmful to culture at worst. Various angles are examined: history, technological development, the VHS vs. Betamax format war, time shifting (taping of material to be watched at a later time), video rental, tape distribution, tape trading, and—importantly—the influence of pornography and the adult film industry on the development of the medium. Numerous clips of cheesy movies and enjoyably-dated old VCR commercials are inserted throughout.

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The film employs a three act structure: introduction of characters and initial exposition; further exposition and development; and, finally, the big questions, such as what future there is for the VCR, videotape, and their adherents. This is undoubtedly a rosy and affectionate take on the past but it is well-edited, scored (sounding, at times, like unused portions of a minimal, synthesizer-y John Carpenter score), and leaves the viewer with plenty of thought-provoking questions, oftentimes only tangentially striking upon an idea (recognizing that to follow every thought to its logical end would be to rob the film of its light and airy tone).

In truth, Rewind This! is not about movies at all: it is about media, plain and simple, the ability to physically possess a medium or, increasingly, not to. With Best Video weathering the storms of media change year after year this film does an excellent job of consolidating and summarizing an immense amount of information into one entertaining and enlightening 90-minute package.

Incidentally, I had mixed feelings when it came time to switch over to DVD: sure, the new format was better in every way—better picture, almost standard letterboxing on every movie (finally!), smaller in size, no rewinding, etc.—but my heart ached a little at getting rid of the VCR. I set it on a bottom shelf, instead, where it more-or-less just collected dust.

Then, one evening a few years later, I was reminiscing with my brother about a beloved-old tape of ours named DAZZLING DUNKS AND BASKETBALL BLOOPERS, hosted by a pre-sex scandal Marv Albert and former coach of the Utah Jazz Frank Layden, who engage in witty banter and introduce various segments of gnarly tomahawk and windmill jams, shattered backboards, alley-oops, bloopers, and other wonders of the NBA in its 1980’s heyday. Before I knew it I was online hunting down a copy of this treasure (a steal at only $1!) and when it finally arrived in the mail a week or so later we popped it in and the VCR hummed back to life. The machine itself – with all of its hisses and whirs – seemed unspeakably noisy to me now but also strangely comforting, as though movies – not necessarily the same things as films – were meant to be accompanied by this wall of noise.

The VCR is back under my TV now on a permanent basis and I have a small collection of tapes sitting next to it: it may not get as much use as it once did but it pleases me to know that this faithful old workhorse is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

While renting Rewind This!—a movie about, well, videos—why not consider renting a VHS tape to go with it? Best Video has thousands, including, for example, Richard Brooks’ controversial 1977 drama LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR and Ken Russell’s 1971 masterpiece THE DEVILS, neither of which has ever been released on DVD!