Friday, April 18, 2014

I rarely feel nostalgic and I think that's a good thing

I've seen enough of this to never want to watch it again. Give me new stories.
I find curious the effect that nostalgia tends to have on putting a shine on things that really aren't that good. Take for example the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. I can't watch "Raiders" these days and not laugh at it for the horrible and cheesy fight choreography in the bazaar. When Indiana Jones swings his fist, it's absolutely clear that he misses them, and then there's almost a one second delay before the person he's hitting does a "jerk" and falls backward. And lets not even mention the effects. They look nearly as bad as the Godzilla movie that flat out puts a guy in a rubber suit to topple buildings.

And of course there are the stars from the past. Namely I'm thinking of Audrey Hepburn. She's all over the place these days with Kim Kardashian and others trying to mimic her skinny jeans look with the ballet flats on her feet. I've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's, Charade, and many other Hepburn films. She honestly isn't as good an actress as Vivien Leigh or Betty Davis yet she's popping up more and more in our culture as if she were some timeless icon (which I refuse to believe she is). Hepburn was just a woman (will I get stoned for saying that?) I don't even think she's all that beautiful aside from having a neck as long as a swan (which made it so that she could wear a string of pearls like nobody's business). So why are people pretending like she's the most incredible actress ever and even using computer generated graphics to include her ghost in Dove chocolate commercials?

Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as a "wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition." In my life I've noticed that people love to mourn the extinction of things, and it puzzles me. I no longer listen to 80's music unless it happens to pop up on the radio, and then I usually want to change the station to NPR and listen to something relevant to my time. I never liked eating Twinkies and could care less whether or not they were even available. I don't understand people's obsession with records or even paperback books (they are cumbersome and heavy). I don't pine over how no movie trilogy set in the Star Wars universe will ever be as good as the holy grail of "A New Hope," "Empire," and "Return of the Jedi." Those films were pretty terrible! The dialogue is horrible for one and the acting poor. I don't miss "Leave it to Beaver," "Dobie Gillis," or the fantasy films of my youth that had Harryhausen effects like the original Clash of the Titans. We should all be thankful that CGI has swept the entertainment industry giving us fantastic things like Cameron's Avatar and The Desolation of Smaug. The only thing I like about old houses is the character from the outside. On the inside I want everything modern from electrical, to appliances, to the open floor plans... I'd much rather own a 2014 Kia Optima than a 1980 Smoky and the Bandit Trans Am. The list goes on and on. Maybe I'm an alien because I just don't get why people cling to the past so much.
You know, I don't fault Lucas, Spielberg, or any other director that revisits old films and tries to make them better with new technology. They really do look terrible. I can't stand watching the first Terminator. It's so cheesy. Maybe this is a time to say that reboots really do serve a great purpose because they can be way better than the original. Anyone nostalgic for the original True Grit? For me it's unwatchable.  I'll take the new one over the old any time.

I think that it's good that all things have a time and a place to just die off and that includes ideas. It kind of bothers me that people (and scientists in particular) chatter on about someday finding a way to make humans immortal. There's even a movie out this weekend that kind of broaches this subject (starring Johnny Depp). I find the idea of never having to die an attractive one until I realize that all of the old political and religious opinions that make my life miserable would stay alive with the people who perpetuate them. So yeah, I guess that makes me an advocate of the Grim Reaper. There's a time and a place for death. It allows all of us an opportunity to move forward, nostalgia be damned.

29 comments:

Suz Korb said...

The punching sound effects in 'Raiders' is ridiculous. Actually, all punching sound effects in older films are lame. I long for the day when movie punches have real life sounds, which you can't hear, basically.

I agree with you about Audrey Hepburn. I wouldn't even know who she was if she wasn't portrayed in commercials. I don't watch REALLY old films though.

I'm with you on the lameness of 80s film effects. At this moment in time I love the effects CGI can bring, but even now I'm already aware that most of it looks very cartoony. Imagine how we'll think of CGI films in future, we will wonder how we could have ever been convinced by such cartoon-like 'special effects'.

I only disagree with the music thing. I hate modern pop music with a passion. It's classical for me all the way, pretty much.

Thanks for this blog post. Very thought provoking.

Di said...

You must have meant Bette Davis, not Betty Davis (a singer).
Anyway, I agree with what you wrote about Audrey Hepburn. As someone who does like her, I understand her status as an icon, because she's charming and elegant and classy and cute with great style and a sweet smile. To me she's 1 of those cases proving that charm's more important than beauty- I prefer her to some more beautiful actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor, Hedy Lamarr, Ava Gardner... And of course, with her work for UNICEF, she seemed to be a nice person, a good role model.
So many people tend to confuse these things with acting abilities. I agree, as an actress, she's not as great as Vivien Leigh or Bette Davis. It's rather sad that people today are more familiar with her face than these 2, she's just a bit better than Marilyn Monroe.
That reminds me, I should find more films of Bette Davis.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sure I look for the snake's reflection in the glass and the giant pole sticking out from under the truck after it overturns - but I still enjoy watching Raiders. The passion, the energy, and the fun are still there. Same with the Terminator - still a great story.
But as far as nostalgic for older things, I'm definitely not either. I have friends that only want to listen to the music from the 70's and 80's, and I ask why? There are so many amazing new bands, and new albums from those older bands.
Keep bringing on the new. I like it.

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Michael...

Did you ever consider that nostalgia is a comfort zone for people?

We live in a VERY TURBULENT, ANGRY, and unsafe world. So Nostalgia brings to some a sense of security. Since there is so little to be secure about these days.

There's no security in the work force, No security in travel, people are just doing their things with no consideration of the people around them...

Frankly, I wish we could go back to a more GENTLE time, where people had manners, and cared about one another. Families bonded at the dinner table and not held up in their rooms playing with their computer games...

I find gentleness and kindness in nostalgia and apparently many others do as well.

Your points are well taken as far as movies,music,etc. But I see nothing wrong in anyone who is nostalgic... With so much negativity in the world, who are they hurting?

River Fairchild said...

I think that conflict will always be there - those that are nostalgic and those who embrace the future. I think it goes to what Michael said above - the "good old days" offer comfort and a safe haven. We move forward and invent new things because of the group of people looking to the future. I'm not nostalgic for old movies, or even for their re-makes. Give me new stories and new technology. But that's me. I'm always looking for the next place to go, being a wanderer. :)

Huntress said...

I see what you mean. When I was a kid, I loved Gilligan's Island. Can't watch it now. Blech.

Some of the films were breathtaking. Example: The opening sequence of Star Wars with the planet and battlecruiser on the screen. For me, it was beyond words. Another example is the first look at the dinosaur in Jurassic Park eating from the treetop. The play of muscles under its skin was enough to make me believe.

I think every ground-breaking film opens a whole new venue for us but it fades as technology improves.

Even now with The Hobbit etc, I predict some day people will look at it and think it's as cheesy as the early films of King Kong and Fay Ray.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Michael: Well there's "waxing poetic" about the "Mad Men" days when only white guys were in charge. Sure they find comfort in that. But the answer to your question on "who are they hurting?" is obvious. Women who want equal pay are being hurt, minorities who want equal rights are being hurt, and anyone who yearns for a world in which science is used to explain what occurs in the natural world is hurt. There are plenty of "nostalgic" people in society who smother progress of any kind because they have a death grip on things that gave them "comfort." I couldn't disagree with you more.

Julie Flanders said...

It's funny how often I watch or listen to something I thought was great in the past only to find it's now unbearable. Very few things truly stand the test of time.

David P. King said...

I hear what you mean, though for me it's more of a "if we're doing this again, make it better." I for one enjoyed the Ender's Game movie, for example, even though plenty of my fellow die hards hated it because it "didn't do this" and "it didn't show that." It didn't "bank" on nostalgia as if could have, but for what it was, I thought it was okay. :)

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@DPK: Considering it's a modern movie, I don't think that example is what I was getting at. Now in fifty years if you are sitting there saying "There's never been a sci-fi movie as good as Ender's Game..." I'd shake my head and say "get over it."

Bish Denham said...

Perhaps when you are older, into your 60s or so, you too will be bitten by the nostalgia bug. One has a wider field of vision after living a long time. A thing doesn't have to be "good" to create a sense of nostalgia, it just has to bring up a fond memory. And the older you get the more memories you have and hopefully they are pleasant ones.

Stephen Hayes said...

If I'm not mistaken, you're still fairly young. Nostalgia is mostly a concern for those older than you. Having said this, I'm not nostalgic for the return of the color "orange," so popular in the seventies.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Bish & Stephen: You both may be right. Give me a few years and I may start eating crow as I re-watch Lord of the Rings and say "Microsoft and Google used to be the companies you could count on! But all that's changed! You youngin's ruined technology!"

Pat Dilloway said...

Wow them's fighting words. Most reboots are pretty terrible, like the Robocop one. I don't see any reason not to feel a connection to something because it corresponds to a certain time of your life. As we saw with the Star Wars prequels, better effects did not make for better films.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Pat: Cling to the past!

Pat Dilloway said...

I'll have to do a post next month to explain why you are wrong.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Pat: How am I wrong? The old Star Wars movies are terrible by today's standards. They have stilted dialogue, bad acting, and bad special effects. The only thing good about them was the story. Same goes with the new prequels. They had stilted dialogue, bad acting, and although the special effects were good, the story and pacing were a little off. So in my estimation they are both "bad" trilogies. Your insistence that one is somehow above the other just shows how biased with nostalgia you actually are. You can't evaluate the first trilogy objectively because you were in love with it as a child.

Pat Dilloway said...

Disrespecting the original trilogy is like disrespecting the Beatles. While by today's standards the effects weren't good for 1977-1983 they were cutting edge and without those "bad" movies we wouldn't have pretty much any of the big "summer" movies of today.

Effects in movies like The Wizard of Oz or Gone With the Wind or Citizen Kane are much worse than Star Wars but that doesn't diminish their greatness.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Pat: So what you are saying is that if something was great in the past, then automatically we need to accept it as great in the present. No room for discussion. End of conversation. I don't think I like that thinking at all. It was great in it's day, but just like the Egyptian Empire, it's faded with time. I'm ready for new stories and to heap praise on the new movies! Nostalgia = holding us back.

Pat Dilloway said...

I'm not overly fond of comparing past to the present. ESPN has made an industry out of that. Is LeBron as good as Jordan? Is [whoever won the latest golf tournament] as good as Tiger Woods? It's largely pointless because you often get into comparing different eras. But that's no reason to completely disregard history.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Pat: I'm not advocating a disregard of history. I just don't get nostalgic about many things. I'd rather not ever see the original trilogy ever again (as an example). Been there, done that. I don't get why ppl listen and/or watch and relive the same thing over and over and over.

Pat Dilloway said...

Because you're not a rank sentimentalist. You'll never know what movie that's from because it was in black-and-white.

Adam said...

I watched the first terminator only a few years ago. I though the only scene that looked very laugable was the one where terminator looks like a robot and is running after them.

Liz A. said...

I like Audrey Hepburn...

I know what you mean about nostalgia, though. I prefer my ereader any day to a cumbersome paper book. And I think immortality is overrated.

Susan Kane said...

The "Good Ol' Days" were anything but. My husband is watching "Airwolf" through Hulu. It wasn't good then, and hasn't improved.

Hepburn was a goddess, you heathen.

Rusty Carl said...

I tend to be nostalgic about things that are reminders of happy times in my life. Sometimes it was a movie that made me happy when my home life sucked, or a song reminded me of a girl I had a crush on when the song was new... it's not always about the thing itself, but the feelings it created in me when I was first exposed to it.

Kevin Long said...

I love Audrey Hepburn. I had no idea who she was until one day in college 'Roman Holiday' was showing on AMC. Me and my roommates skipped two classes to watch this woman with an indescribable charisma. No one would claim she was a great actress but she dominated the screen. Why wouldn't today's advertisers want to tap into that?

Do yourself a favor and watch 'Roman Holiday'. You'll watch it once and never again but I think it might change your opinion of Audrey Hepburn.

I prefer to think of nostalgia for old films like scientists revere the great thinkers. Issac Newton would be an idiot compared to a graduate student of today but Newton himself admitted that he benefited from the achievements of those that came before him. I watch old movies with that in mind and accept them in that sense.

Are you seriously saying that you had no problem with the leaps of logic in 'Pacific Rim' but can't accept the fact that the movie effects in 'Gone with the Wind', 'North by Northwest' or 'Casablanca' don't look realistic by today's standards?

PS - John Wayne was a bad ass in True Grit. Love that movie. Loved the remake more.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

@Kevin: I think you're not understanding me. I'm not talking about leaps of logic or bad special effects. At the time, the special effects in the movies you mentioned were state of the art. So at the time (if I were alive) I'd say "Hey that movie is terrific." But after years and years my tune changes. I say "Hey that movie WAS terrific but by today's standards it's terrible and I never want to see it again and don't get why you do." Does that make any sense?

Kevin Long said...

It makes sense and I dated at girl who had a ten year rule for movies for the same reason.

I just like old movies though I admit I don't watch them very often.