Free movies, and the lost art of browsing

Bay Street Video's Films for Free program wants to get you back into a video store


There’s a scene in Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy where Jake Gyllenhaal impulsively decides to rent a DVD, and finds himself wandering through the shelves of Queen Video. It’s a great, weird moment in the movie – and not just because the Queen Video he enters doesn’t technically exist. (Villeneuve cuts from an exterior somewhere in Cabbagetown to the interior of the chain’s Little Italy location, which has since closed.) It’s because, really, who wanders the shelves of a video store any more?

I do, obviously. And others do. And Bay Street Video, the little shop across the road from the Manulife Centre, would like you to do it again too.

Toronto’s premier sales and rental DVD and Blu-ray store launched a new wave of its ongoing Films For Free series yesterday. It’s a great project, furthering film literacy by making a select number of titles available to rent, for free, to anyone who wants them. You can take out two at a time and keep them for up to five days. All you need is a membership, which is also free.

This time around, the theme is Sleeper Hits, and the selections were assembled from lists provided by myself, fellow NOW writers Glenn Sumi, Radheyan Simonpillai, Andrew Parker and Andrew Dowler, Twitch’s Jason Gorber and Metro critic Richard Crouse, who’s written two very good books about these sorts of films, The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen and Son Of The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen.

The result is a sprawling, occasionally audacious assortment of 140-odd titles that cover just about every genre of cinema, and stretch across decades. Turns out everyone’s definition of a “sleeper” is a little different I went all auteurist, picking titles by Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson, Wes Anderson, Edgar Wright and Ben Wheatley, while others went in a different direction.

It’s the overlaps that really make it interesting for me, turning a long list of text into a conversation among friends: Glenn and Rad both went for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Rad and Richard both chose Memento and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Richard and Jason recommended The Big Lebowski Jason and I both picked Don McKellar’s Last Night Andrew Dowler and I both selected A Perfect Getaway Rad and I both liked Three Kings. And seeing Glenn recommend Terence Davies’s brilliant The Deep Blue Sea makes me think I should have included the Renny Harlin shark movie just to screw with people.

Check out the whole list, and maybe think about dropping by the store to see what’s available. It’s a long weekend, after all, and you can only see Godzilla so many times.

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