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Loved then, loathed now: 70's and 80's movies seen in today's light

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Mark Suszko
Loved then, loathed now: 70's and 80's movies seen in today's light
on Sep 28, 2018 at 2:29:51 pm

Molly Ringwald's talked about what time has done to her and John Hughes' oeuvre. You can point to a lot of films from the 70's and 80's and what was just funny or unimportant then, can seem horrific now, with a new consciousness rising.

Just to pick one movie at random; "Revenge Of The Nerds"... the lovable protagonists in that simple comedy would STILL be in jail for the various sex crimes committed in the course of the plot. But they're the heroes.

Okay, it's make-believe, fantasy, suspension of disbelief, etc. etc. I get it.

I guess my question is; how do we look back at these films now? Do we shrug them off as simply artifacts of a less-advanced cultural period? Do they get a pass for the circumstances and time they were made in? Do we lump John Hughes in with Riefenstahl and Griffith? In film classes, we still study Triumph Of The Will and Birth Of A Nation. We can perhaps dispassionately dissect them in the context of their historical significance in the evolution of film, for their breakthrough techniques as art, while still abhorring and repudiating their messages. And perhaps we need to, to build an understanding of the medium and how it can be put to use for good or ill. It may be a worse thing to just ignore them entirely and pretend they didn't happen.

Revenge Of The Nerds or Sixteen Candles or Breakfast At Tiffany's are not on the same scale as BOAN. But they may be in the same neighborhood, maybe? What do you think?

I love Laurel and Hardy... but then I came across an extended bit where they perform in blackface, and while I try to keep in mind the context, and their apparent intent at the time, which was not focused on race but on creating a comedic quandary - it's still hard to watch, much less enjoy.

Do you have an old movie you used to love, but now feel squeamish about, because of the evolution of our culture?
Have you re-visited one of these movies recently, and how did you feel upon re-watching it?

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Mike Cohen
Re: Loved then, loathed now: 70's and 80's movies seen in today's light
on Sep 28, 2018 at 3:05:13 pm

Is 2001 considered old? It is 50 years old so based on the fact that Hartford's oldies radio station plays 80s music I think it counts.

I have seen 2001 probably a dozen times on TV, DVD and blu-ray. I recently saw it in IMAX and aside from the few 1960s pop culture references (Pan Am, Howard Johnson) it could have been made in 2018. The story, dialogue, acting style, depiction of technology and attempt at realism are still unmatched by many current science-fiction movies. I think the movie holds up, but I would be curious to hear what people under 25 think about the movie - can they watch it as a film or do they look at it through the lens of film history?

I recently watched Citizen Kane. That is a movie that may be seen by younger people as hokey, but I believe it too stands the test of time in its intent, the attempt to make commentary on a political / journalism motif of its day and the artistry of filmmaking itself that has influenced many films up to the present.

Both of these films I mention are of course drama and not in the same category as 1980s teen comedies.

My wife is a big fan of 16 Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the Breakfast Club, Fast Times and Ridgemont High and the other movies of that era. I think The Breakfast Club holds up 30+ years later - teens still are separated into cliques in school and there is bullying and other social situations that would normally prevent a jock, a nerd, a princess, a stoner and others from spending any time together. perhaps high school has changed, but it probably hasn't. I have watched some recent high school oriented shows such as 13 Reasons Why and it seems things are about the same. I know when I was in school, aside from classes, I had almost no interaction with jocks, stoners or princesses. I was a nerd and so were my friends.

I recently watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High and aside from feeling like I took a time machine back to 1982, for me the movie does not hold up for modern audiences. It is hokey and only useful as a look back in time.

Another 80s movie from the same era is Risky Business. That movie had some very adult situations for a movie starring teens and is in a different class. Other that making Tom Cruise a big star, the movie holds up as not only a coming of age story, but one in which acting like an adult has consequences for the protagonist. Most 80s movies have a coming of age element, but they usually culminate with getting asked to the prom or skipping school - innocuous moments in comparison.

How do younger people view these movies? If you know any younger people please ask them!


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Mark Suszko
Re: Loved then, loathed now: 70's and 80's movies seen in today's light
on Sep 28, 2018 at 3:27:58 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Sep 28, 2018 at 3:28:36 pm

A common theme in this kind of discussion is that the films were merely a reflection of the culture at the time. Well, I think that's partly true, but not the whole story; films are a business, and the studios were interested in making a product that would be a commercial success. In terms of chicken and egg, did the films only promote and reflect the already-established cultural norms of that era, or were they reacting to them?

And we have to stipulate that some films in that era may have shown abhorrent themes and scenes as direct social commentary, even satire. Robocop, for example.

Back to one of my initial questions: name a film you used to like from the 70's or 80's that just makes you squirm now, because we see things so differently. Is that movie in any way redeemable?

"Short Circuit" was such for me. Fisher Stevens' portrayal in that was as racist as Mickey Rooney's Japanese character in Tiffany's.

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Stephen Smith
Re: Loved then, loathed now: 70's and 80's movies seen in today's light
on Sep 28, 2018 at 6:40:00 pm

I feel like we can have two themes here:

1. Does an "old and outdated" film make you squirm now because it simply just doesn't hold up?
2. Does an "old and outdated" film make you squirm now because of the way we view "political correctness" which makes the film inappropriate?

I personally believe most people don't ever watch films created before they were born. And becomes of that I think a persons age is the benchmark for what is "old and outdated" for most people. I grew up in the 80s and have been really enjoying the TV show The Goldbergs since it takes place in the 80's and has lots of nostalgia for me. Nostalgia is really popular right now.

As for 2001 Space Odesy. I couldn't stand the film. It was sooooooooo slooooooooooow. I watched the whole film in fast forward and it was still too slow. I sware the Ape scene at the start is 20 minutes long. The film reminded me of Independence Day. When I watched that film in the theater it was the coolest film I have ever seen in my life. When we purchased it on VHS and I watched it the 2nd time I didn't care for it. What changed? The first time I was blown away by the incredible visual effects. The 2nd time I watch the film I have already seen the visual effects and was now only focusing on the story. Space Odesy has cool visuals that still hold up today but has terrible pacing.

Speaking of pacing. To me, that is one thing that has really change in storytelling. I remember an episode of Leave it To Beaver and they showed an establishing shot of the home. Then an establishing shot of the school. And the show bounced back and forth between the two locations several times during the episode reshowing the establishing shot each time. You would never see that today. For me the thing that makes a "classic" film feel dated is the pacing and sometimes terrible special effects.

I've really been enjoying introducing my kids to some of my favorite films as a youth.

Here are my thoughts for things that might have been okay and are now no longer politically correct. In general Hollywood has always been pushing the "immoral" boundaries. It feels like every year films have more nudity, violence, and bad language. My point is I don't think Hollywood should be considered the moral compass. How many films such as Indian Jones, Zoro and more do we have the good guy forcing himself on a woman? And in those two examples, the good guy is presented as awesome while doing it. No wonder Hollywood has serious issues with sexual harassment, assault and even with child sex abuse. Please don't get me wrong. Hollywood makes incredible films that have entertained and given people a better worldview. Not sure if my wondering thoughts make any sense but this really is a loaded topic depending on how you view the question.

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page

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Chris Wright
Re: Loved then, loathed now: 70's and 80's movies seen in today's light
on Sep 30, 2018 at 1:21:57 am

I've also noticed a lot of films have started to become cringe worthy as well. james bond in particular. you have to put your suspension of disbelief into high gear and add in a dash of anti-chauvinistic pepper to cover the blandness of being of out touch with modern society.

james bond is deep in this predicament. also, so are horror films. how many have a female Jason slasher character. or in thrillers, how many have a female holding men hostage. strong female characters should not become mary sues to compensate for switching roles around and neither men becoming useless. the best way to move forward is to respect the character's flaws and attributes beyond old film roles so that either could play the same part in a script. In the force awakens, poe almost was a certain role and then they switched him out of fear in the last jedi. will james bond ever be a girl? doctor who is.

some arguments about motherly instinct for certain roles will certainly play out in many scenarios. public opinion about female soldiers still hasn't reached maturity even in the real world with the army just starting to admit then to infantry positions. movies can't become mainstream until society does; as movies need to please the majority of film-goers to make a profit.

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