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Seventies Heaven – The Shifting Gaze of Cultural Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a funny thing.

It is infinitely more complex than most people will allow. By its very nature, it is highly fungible, intertwined with concepts like memory and politics in a way that does not always make it easy to parse. Nostalgia hits in waves, but those waves do not always hit at the same time with the same intensity. Nostalgia is not a single monolithic concept, it pulls and pushes from moment to moment. What is the nostalgia of the moment? The eighties nostalgia of Stranger Things? The nineties nostalgia of Independence Day: Resurgence?

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Trying to define a pattern in pop culture’s nostalgia is like trying to read the tea leaves, falling somewhere between a conversational art and outright hucksterism.  Still, one of the more interesting – and least discussed – aspects of the grand nostalgia industrial complex is the state of transition. Big waves become little waves, emphasis shifts, focus goes elsewhere. One of the more interesting shifts in nostalgia over the past couple of years has been a transition from a strong sixties nostalgia into something altogether more seventies.

It is a rather weird sight to behold, as if watching the popular image of one decade fade into the popular image of the other.

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Non-Review Review: Independence Day – Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence is the very limit case of nineties nostalgia.

This is true in a very real sense. The film is released two decades after the massive success of the original film, which came to theatres in 1996 offering unprecedented and awe-inspiring destruction on a previously unimaginable scale. Independence Day changed the public’s expectations for blockbusters, reworking the scale of apocalyptic destruction that could populate big summer releases. However, as much fun (and as well loved) as the film was, nobody was really clamouring for a sequel.

Jazzy Jeff, without the Fresh Prince.

Jazzy Jeff, without the Fresh Prince.

However, there is another truth about nineties nostalgia buried within this belated and bloated sequel. The nineties were a different time. They were a time at which Franci Fukuyami could make a semi-credible case that the United States stood at the end of history. The Cold War was over. The War on Terror had yet to begin. The Twin Towers still stood, and most Americans were oblivious to the existence of Osama Bin Laden or al-Qaeda. The economy was reasonably prosperous. Politics were relatively stable.

It is, of course, too easy to let nostalgia paint the nineties as some sort of “golden age.” There were horrific conflicts unfolding in Africa and Eastern Europe. There were clear shifts in American political rhetoric that paved the way for the current political climate. Paranoia and conspiracy theory were working their way into mainstream political discourse. However, the nineties were a time of much lower anxiety for most Americans, and time of peace rather than perpetual existential warfare.

Maps to the stars.

Maps to the stars.

As a result, Independence Day had a radically different context in the summer of 1996 than it would in the summer of 2016. In 1996, the destruction of the White House and the Empire State Building could be treated as ridiculous escapism rather than traumatic repetition. The narrative of American individualism and exceptionalism was oddly endearing in the midst of a period of sustained global stability rather than an era of resurgent (and violent) political nationalism.

Even in terms of entertainment, the original Independence Day arrived at a point where it was enough for a blockbuster to be a blockbuster, where thematic resonance and political commentary were optional extras that were tolerated so long as they didn’t get in the way of the explosions. Independence Day was released at a point where it was enough for a movie to be “dumb fun” without carrying a deeper message. Without the internet to pick films apart and pour over their subtext, it was a lot easier to just release an unassuming spectacle.

Over the moon about it.

Over the moon about it.

More than that, the sheer practical limitations of filming a blockbuster helped to rein in a lot of potential excesses of a film on this scale. While there was always computer-generated special effects, a heavy reliance on practical models and practical effects tended to dictate both the scripting and the direction of the film. Although Independence Day was an ode to heightened spectacle, there were limits to that spectacle. There was only so much of the aliens that could be shown, there were moments where things couldn’t be exploding.

In short, Independence Day was very much the perfect movie for 1996. In its own way, Independence Day: Resurgence is an ode to that. It is also a reminder that this is no longer 1996.

Not quite the Gold(blum) standard.

Not quite the Gold(blum) standard.

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Win! Tickets to the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of the undefeatable classic ROCKY!

For two nights only, the Jameson Cult Film Club will have the privilege of witnessing the greatest exhibition of guts and stamina in the history of the ring. Rocky will bound onto the screen for two bouts of the Jameson Cult Film Club on Wednesday July 6th and Thursday July 7th at a surprise venue in Dublin.

Tickets are free from JamesonCultFilmClub.ie, simply register your details for the chance to win, but the m0vie blog have a pair of tickets up for grabs for you to the screening on July 7th in Dublin.

Jameson Cult Film Club presents ROCKY

The secret location has been overhauled to feature classic scenes from the movie, including Rocky’s well- trodden training ground and the city’s famous ‘Rocky Steps’. While live actors bust a gut with one armed press ups and pack a punch on meat carcasses in perfect timing to Rocky’s on screen action, the club features unexpected theatrics along with a full size boxing ring for the cult classic’s final clinch.

So grab the Paulie to your Rocky and answer the question below for your chance to win a pair of tickets to the Jameson Cult Film Club in Dublin on Thursday 7th July, the ultimate film experience of the summer.

All entrants must be over 18 – ID must be presented if requested.

Enjoy Jameson Sensibly. Visit Drinkaware.ie

© 1976 Park Circus/MGM Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jameson Cult Film Club: Lethal Weapon

Watching a film with an audience really into it is a joyous experience.

For all that cinema is a social activity that takes place in a dark room with everybody staring in the same direction, there is a lot to be said about the communal nature of the activity. Bringing together a theatre full of people to celebrate a classic film is always a worthwhile activity. A lot of the films chosen by the Jameson Cult Film Club are familiar to audience members, but there is something to be said about actually experiencing a movie like Lethal Weapon with a room full of like-minded people.

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Non-Review Review: Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland encapsulates a number of recurring themes in American mainstream science-fiction,

In many respects, it harks to sixties utopianism. Tomorrowland positions itself as a spiritual companion piece to films like Star Trek or X-Men: First Class or Interstellar. Although most of the film is set in the present day, its retro futurism is firmly anchored fifty years in the past. An early flashback takes place in the 1964 World’s Fair. Space flight is explicitly described as the “new frontier”, recalling Kennedy’s famous speech. Tomorrowland is absolutely fascinated with the idea of organised space flight as a beacon calling mankind forward.

Field of dreams...

Field of dreams…

It almost seems like, to paraphrase George W. Bush, “The future was better yesterday.” There is a paradoxical nostalgia to Tomorrowland, which feels like a desperate plea for the modern generation to abandon their own visions of the future and embrace those of their predecessors. It is a fascinating conflict at the heart of the film, and not necessarily one that writer Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof comfortably resolve. There are aspects of Tomorrowland that do feel distinctly uncomfortable and contradictory.

At the same time, it feels like a genuine and heartfelt criticism of the tendency towards the apocalyptic in mainstream fiction – an impassioned and aggressive urge to embrace a more hopeful and optimistic future. Tomorrowland has its heart in the right place, but it occasionally gets a little lost.

Going against the grain...

Going against the grain…

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Win! Tickets to the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of LETHAL WEAPON!

Christmas has come early to Dublin as the Jameson Cult Film Club is returning for an explosive double screening of the 1987 action comedy masterpiece Lethal Weapon on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st May in a secret city centre location.

Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Lethal Weapon May 20-21

 

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Non-Review Review: The Good Lie

The Good Lie works very well.

Margaret Nagle’s script was inspired by the “lost boys” who escaped the Sudanese Civil War. These displaced refugees found themselves scattered. Some walked hundreds of miles to neighbouring countries like Ethiopia or Kenya. Some travelled even further, emigrating to countries like the United States. The Good Lie is a fascinating exploration of the lives of four such immigrants who arrive in their new home in the year 2000, finding themselves struggling to adapt to life in America. It is a subject that could easily seem exploitative or maudlin.

Packing light...

Packing light…

It would be easy to turn The Good Lie into a heavy-handed meditation on human suffering as explored through the eyes of these four immigrants. The poster for The Good Lie allots considerable space to actress Reese Witherspoon, and it would be easy to write the story as told from the perspective of the American characters who interact with these new arrivals. It is to the credit of Nagle’s script that The Good Lie never allows its focus to shift, that it is never distracted by the more prominent American cast members.

The Good Lie is perhaps a little bit too broad in its humour at points, and its structure occasionally feels a little contrived. However, there is a lot of warmth and affection underpinning the script, with the sense of humour helping to relieve what could easily descend into an overly solemn drama.

Leaving on a jet plane...

Leaving on a jet plane…

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