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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Zen of Parking Lot Attending
In 1986, Chris Farina purchased a parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 2009, Meghan Eckman produced and directed a documentary, The Parking Lot Movie, about the attendants working at Farina's `The Corner Parking Lot.'

Located near the University of Virginia, adjacent to the backs of several bars as well as the train tracks, and featuring a wooden shack...
Published on February 7, 2011 by Don Schwartz

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars documents "slice of life" view of quirky people
A better description comes from PBS.org: "... celebrates a brotherhood of eccentric attendants who man a unique parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia [a university town]. From grad students to middle-age slackers, indie-rock musicians to surly philosophers, these overeducated part-timers wax profoundly about car culture and capitalism, seek vengeance against entitled...
Published on November 28, 2010 by reneereader


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Zen of Parking Lot Attending, February 7, 2011
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
In 1986, Chris Farina purchased a parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 2009, Meghan Eckman produced and directed a documentary, The Parking Lot Movie, about the attendants working at Farina's `The Corner Parking Lot.'

Located near the University of Virginia, adjacent to the backs of several bars as well as the train tracks, and featuring a wooden shack built in 1986, the attendants have face-to-face contact with the customers as they drive by the lot's shack to, hopefully, pay their parking bill, in cash or check, directly to the attendant.

Farina tends to hire college students, graduates, and musicians--men with higher-than-normal IQs than one would find attending a small-town parking lot. His management style is loose, care-free. Consequently, these young men spend their time between customers playing games and creating contests with the lot's orange cones. They print words, phrases, and the names of extremely low Q-list rated celebrities on the vertically-swinging bar customers drive under after taking their automatically-printed, time-stamped ticket. The attendants hang out with friends some of whom also work at the lot--or are alumni of it. They play music, sing, listen to music, read, and, most critically, deal with rude, narcissistic, and combative customers some of whom simply drive by the shack without paying.

Oh, and one more thing: They reveal their souls to the filmmakers.

The power, the impact of both comedy and drama--whether narrative or documentary--rests in conflict. It is this conflictive contact with difficult customers that emerges as foreground for the attendants as well as us viewers of Eckman's well-done documentary about a whimsical subject that turns out to be not so whimsical.

Some customers argue with the attendants, trying not to pay, or to pay less than the required amount. One customer argued over a forty cent parking fee. Some simply drive by the attendant. On top of all that, one of the reasons the attendants have so much fun printing on the vertically-swinging barrier is that said barrier is frequently, willfully destroyed by customers or pedestrians. As many as three barriers a day are broken--affording attendants even more opportunities to exercise their literary creativity on the replacement barriers.

The most intense conflict in The Parking Lot Movie occurs, not surprisingly, when customers do the drive-by/no pay, followed by furious attendants running after the cars, yelling at the customers, pounding on the cars, struggling to get the license plate numbers. Those scenes are the most haunting, but as I contemplated both the humor and drama engendered by them I began to wonder: Why isn't there a vertically-swinging barrier at the lot's exit like there is at the lot's entrance? That would surely discourage patrons from leaving without pay, and, indeed, reduce both the monetary loss and the customer/attendant conflicts. Perhaps the exit-way is more than an exit for the parking lot; maybe it's also an alleyway between the bars' rear-ends and the parking lot, and Farina could not legally block the public alleyway.

I contacted Meghan Eckman with this question, she confirmed that it is an alleyway, but that owner Chris Farina could easily set up a movable exit barrier elsewhere; protecting the lot, and, especially, the attendants, from the conflicts and loss caused by stingy parkers. `Why doesn't Farina put up an exit barrier?' I wondered to myself. Perhaps he sadistically enjoys tempting his customers to betray moral, ethical, and spiritual values--like pet owners who place dog biscuits on top of their dogs' noses. Perhaps Farina delights in infuriating his attendants, or likes a good fight--but, if so, he misses most of them, or he secretly video tapes them. After all, Farina hasn't replaced the haggard booth in 24 years of doing business, 24 years of Summer rains and Winter freezes.

About that booth, I wondered if he's simply nostalgic.

I shared these speculations with Eckman, and here is her response:

"I will say this, Chris is very nostalgic--which is the real reason he leaves the booth in place after all these years. He does not have anything up his sleeve, I assure you. In one of his interviews he spoke about how he used to have a house
by the lake, and from the transcripts, it reads: 'I wanted to take the [parking lot's] booth out to the lake. If I could sit in the booth out in the rain, it would remind me of some of those nice memories here [at the lot] which is when it's slow, and no one's in a hurry, you're just sitting here and playing music. It's funny, it's a parking lot. Who would think you would have those kinds of emotions for it? But, it's not just a parking lot, it's the people here and the time for me that has passed in my life.'"

His nostalgia is readily apparent in Farina's interviews. Kudos to Eckman for illuminating this sentiment in this unexpected film, a film that clearly demonstrates the power of documentary to reveal the sublime treasures and intense passions buried in seemingly mundane life.

But enough of that. Back to our beleaguered attendants. These incessant unhappy customer contacts bring the attendants into a direct experience of the United States population's economic and cultural stratification and the ever-growing gap between these strata. The interviews of the current and former attendants capture the variety of emotions and attitudes chiseled by years of working the lot, dealing with recalcitrant customers. One defense some of the attendants mount is to cultivate an inner sense of "Lord of the Flies"--with the customers, of course, playing the role of the flies. The attendants develop and nurture the "I'm Okay, You're Not Okay" script described in the Transactional Analysis school of human interaction. One attendant, transcending the seemingly petty dramas at the lot concluded poetically, "We had all in a world nothing can offer us."

But "all" is not dark. One of the attendants met his life partner at the lot, and she ended up being the token, and much appreciated, female in the otherwise all-male cast--excluding, of course, the drunk, high-heeled college girls who didn't have speaking parts.

The film concludes with an 'Animal House"-like montage of photographs of each attendant with a printed description of Where-They-Are-Now, with many of the former attendants finding impressive high-status positions. Apparently they benefited greatly from Farina's de facto internship in life. The DVD contains a massive amount of Special Features--ten of them, to be specific.

Hey, sitcom developers, remember "Taxi"? Or, perhaps, "Frasier" at a parking lot. "Goodwill Parking"?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Witty, thought-provoking documentary, February 6, 2011
By 
klo'c (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
The Parking Lot Movie is a gem. The documentary explores the life philosophy of the attendants of a parking lot across the street from UVA- characters that will draw you in with their sincerity, humor, and unique outlook on life. Their experiences at the parking lot give insight into human nature, and remind us to respectful to everyone- especially if they're parking your car.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you like working class biography pieces?, February 21, 2011
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
I do, I own pretty much every book that involves a disgruntled worker or a worker that loves his job. This documentary is now number 1 when it comes to documentaries. (This coming from the guy who got Netflix for documentaries). Watch it, buy it, steal it. I don't care, but you will enjoy it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating documentary, May 25, 2011
By 
Blues Professor (Kingston, RI USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Parking Lot Movie (DVD)
This film, directed by a young filmmaker, creates a fascinating portrait of a group of guys working at a parking lot in a college town. What's so interesting about a parking lot, you may ask? Although it may seem like the most mundane of topics, the film actually raises intriguing questions about education vs. class, town vs. gown, elite entitlement vs. intellectual capital--thanks to the "insanely overeducated" folks who work at the parking lot and observe the comings and goings of their customers. This oddball group of philosophers, musicians, anthropologists and street-corner gurus enjoy hanging out and creating unusual "parking lot games", to pass the time as they collect parking fees from people who mostly party too hard, drink too much, and aren't used to noticing the service people around them. It took Meghan Eckman 3 years to film and edit this story, but what she produced is a remarkably funny, intellectually stimulating, and at times even painful portrait of a group of guys who realize that they are working in a nearly invisible profession, and yet they still can't help but notice what's going on. Eckman found an untold story in her own backyard and created a film which raises intriguing questions, which every educated person should think about.

I showed this film at the end of the semester in my film class, and asked my students, "What stories are in your own backyard, that you might want to tell?" They could think of lots of possible films they'd like to make, both fictional and non-fictional. This movie is a good catalyst for discussion and so I highly recommend it. (As a personal aside, I'm familiar with Charlottesville, VA and the UVA campus, through friends and relatives who went there, and can vouch for the accuracy of the film. In fact, my cousins who grew up there and attended UVA all worked in similar parking lots. On my recommendation, they watched this film and loved it.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars documents "slice of life" view of quirky people, November 28, 2010
By 
reneereader (rockville, md USA) - See all my reviews
A better description comes from PBS.org: "... celebrates a brotherhood of eccentric attendants who man a unique parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia [a university town]. From grad students to middle-age slackers, indie-rock musicians to surly philosophers, these overeducated part-timers wax profoundly about car culture and capitalism, seek vengeance against entitled patrons and thieves, and make fun of drunken jerks."

Perhaps this is more like "Slackers" - not the kind of gripping drama or compelling storyline of many of PBS's Independent Lens offerings (I mean, compare it with the film of the Jewish woman who parachuted in to save others from the Nazis). This is more like a distilled experience of spending time with some interesting and intelligent characters who are figuring out their lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The existential crisis of Generation Y, June 14, 2013
By 
S. Palmer (Albuquerque, NM USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This movie presents an interesting view of the people in an existential crisis. You may form strong negative opinions about the characters interviewed but throughout the movie there are flashes of the petty grudges that form their lives which present opportunities for great amounts of pity for their small and limited world views. This movie is worth watching for the last 15 minutes. You will see that most of the people interviewed are the real losers of this world. They have the potential to be "great" but understand the cultural definition of "greatness" and choose to reject the path that they would be forced to follow. Instead they aimlessly wander and are forced to grow up after, for some, decades of parking lot work. This is a movie for the people that worry that they will never find the one thing that makes their life meaningful. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) it only affirms that you are not alone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Zen of Parking Cars, March 21, 2011
By 
Eric Sanberg (Berwyn, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
I try to watch a number of documentaries every year to remind myself there's a real world out there. I'd not heard of this film but those who saw it seemed to enjoy it a lot. Thought I'd give it a go and I'm glad I did.

This is about parking lots in general, because I suppose they all experience the same things to one degree or another, but it's about one pay lot, in particular, in Charlottesville, VA. What makes this worth seeing is the owner and the guys that work there. The owner gets it. He hangs in loose. He understands what the job is about and what type of person could do the job for any length of time without blowing a gasket. The employees themselves are a cool bunch. Most are educated in the arts or philosophy or whatever, and they give a great perspective of the job and the customers.

I live outside of Chicago and having had to pay $20.00 for two hours worth of parking, it's interesting to hear these guys talk about customers trying to dodge a $1.50 parking fee. They see all types. The yuppies, the drunks, the entitled brats and every other "type." They see them all day and every day and have developed thoughts and philosophies regarding all of them. They do all manner of things to keep the job interesting and do their share of complaining about the butt-holes they are forced to deal with.

Parking is something we only think about when in needs to be done, and then it's simply one of those things that is a stepping stone from where we were and where we're going. I can pretty much guarantee you though, that after you watch this little gem, you won't ever view it quite the same way again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kept wishing it wouldn't end..., March 16, 2011
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
What a fun and absorbing little doc this was. This is one of those films that pulls you in and before you know it, has you enamored about a subject you didn't even know you wanted to learn more about. Paid parking lots.

The rag-tag group of parking lot attendants which inhabit this lot are rarely anything but insightful and at times fascinating. You'll get to experience a day in the life of these people and see:

-What happens when drunk frat boys break the wooden parking meter.
-How parking lot attendants spend their time when bored.
-Rich people complaining about paying a dollar for parking.

This is a movie that comes alive by elevating the seemingly mundane topic of a parking lot into an exciting and relatable place. By the end of the film, it's hard not to identify with the parking lot attendants as the everyday man; fighting a battle against a consumer who doesn't seem to respect or dignify him.

This is an enjoyable and surprisingly philosophical film...very highly recommended. I just wish it was a bit longer!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This film is brilliant, March 11, 2011
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
This movie will challenge, entertain, confound, and ultimately compel you to consider your place in the universe. I found so many scenes both hilarious and intellectually stimulating I can't praise it enough.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A real indie creation., June 20, 2014
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens) (DVD)
Working in a parking ramp, I know the scene very well. These guys do not have to deal with the bureaucracy I do. It is more a family owned type of business with no pretentions. It is brutally truthful, however...
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The Parking Lot Movie (Independent Lens)
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