Back to the Future just re-opened in theaters this week. There you have a kid from the 80’s traveling to the 50’s. I always felt Back to the Future was this strange lesson in history, like a father telling his son how cool things were back in his day. It seems a good portion of the 80’s was nostalgic for earlier times. The 50’s were probably never a warm, safe or charming as we imagined them, just as the 80’s were not as fun as the youth today seem to think they were. The strange thing for me is that I can’t think of movies from the 50’s reminiscing about the 30’s or the 20’s. However, there are lots of modern films that fawn over past decades. However, we now have whole generations pining for eras they never even experienced.
So my big question here is can you be nostalgic for something you didn’t experience? As I watched 20 Million Miles to Earth, I felt a longing for a Saturday matinée and seeing a movie such as this one. Sure, I saw plenty of movies during the afternoon, especially on cold or rainy days, but the nostalgia I was feeling was for something more iconic, something bygone.
Even in my youth, let’s say sometime in the mid-80’s movie viewing options were blossoming. Not only could I go to the movie theater, but there was cable television and video tape rentals. Today, the options are more plentiful, perhaps too plentiful. The nostalgia I was feeling as I watched this dated, corny, innocent, juvenile movie – call it what you want it was still well done and entertaining – was the nostalgia for simplicity. It was the longing for having only 3 or 4 channels and knowing that every kid in town was going to see the same movie because there was only one movie in town.
It’s a rather silly and perhaps overly idealistic desire, but I find comfort in such a longing. I find this comfort more interesting than any of the pseudo-scientific or quasi-ethical ideas being brought about by this science fiction film for kiddies. I also know that the problem with nostalgia is that is so often masks honest badness with a perceived but flawed sense of good.
Still, the movie was good, good enough that I didn’t turn it off or regret selecting it from the thousands of other choices I had to choose from tonight.