Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Uncategorized Movie Review of ‘Rewind This!’ (2013)

Movie Review of ‘Rewind This!’ (2013)

With DVD and Blu-ray discs being perceived as the norm for physical media in this day and age, and with media distribution gradually moving towards an all-digital delivery model, video cassettes have faded into obscurity, replaced with superior formats that have led to VHS being discontinued. But Rewind This! is not quite as dismissive towards the original home video format. Masterminded by Josh Johnson, this documentary concentrates on the collectors who take pride in their collection of VHS cassettes, hunting for obscure titles at flea markets and keeping their sense of nostalgia alive. But Rewind This! also offers far more than this, tracing the origins of VHS and examining both its cultural and historical impact, showing us how the media industry was changed forever with the ability to watch motion pictures at home.

Rewind This! introduces a number of eccentric VHS collectors, who maintain an extensive library of video cassettes despite the advent of streaming, downloading and disc-based media. They treat their purchases like collectible baseball cards, treasuring obscure titles that will probably never be transferred to a more stable medium. A segment of the documentary even reveals some of the most cherished possessions of the collectors, from the ridiculous (Corey Haim’s self-aggrandising video Me, Myself and I), the downright obscure (a Windows instructional video, starring Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston who play their Friends roles), the eccentric (Leslie Nielsen’s Bad Golf Made Easier), and the fucking weird (Bubba Smith’s workout video Until it Hurts, in which the hulking Smith says that he loves the viewer…). And to heighten the charm of the documentary, notable clips from some of these videos are shown.

While Johnson does not explain the mechanics behind VCRs, Rewind This! has a segment devoted to the genesis of VHS, recalling both its creation as well as its war against Betamax to become the dominant home video format. The overview of VHS’s history is also interspersed with ancient ads for VHS and Betamax, including a very amusing commercial featuring John Cleese interacting with a cat. Other topics include pan and scan, introduced because consumers felt duped if they saw black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, oblivious that they were actually seeing the most visual detail possible because of it. Rewind This! also reminds us of a time before the internet, when consumers could only choose to watch films based on the cover art, unable to check reviews on their smartphone. And because there was such a huge demand for VHS tapes in rental stores who wanted as many videos as possible, shelves were filled with the cheapest, most Z-grade titles imaginable (oftentimes shot on video), but said features still made bank thanks to their inventive box art. Indeed, these days we never see such ridiculously exciting video covers anymore.

Johnson additionally gauges opinions on the current state of media distribution. The documentary doesn’t ignore the fact that a lot of people are simply not interested in a physical media collection, opting instead for streaming and downloading. One of the interviewees discusses the fact that the death of physical media will change the meaning of ownership forever, because companies will wind up controlling a consumer’s access to media. After all, even if one purchases a digital copy, it’s possible for film companies to remotely lock access to it.

The biggest success of Rewind This! is the way it affectionately reminds us of the VHS era. While we can be thankful for modern advances in home media technology that allow us to watch movies in perfect quality in our own living rooms, one is forced to ponder a simpler time. Rewind This! shows that there is still a market for VHS tapes today, mirroring the fact that vinyl records are still a hot cult item. Quality is not important to the collectors, but rather the nostalgic factor, as well as the fact that hundreds of movies will only exist on VHS as they cannot be transferred to a superior format. Many casual movie-watchers completely neglect these facets, but Rewind This! provides fascinating food for thought, and the uninformed should find it completely enthralling.

Rewind This! is an energetic documentary, briskly delivered and full of information. Momentum does flag from time to time, but otherwise there are very few missteps, and it manages to give each topic its due attention. It’s a delightful piece of work which educates and evokes nostalgia, and it deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

8.2/10

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