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Movie Marathon Idea: American Nostalgia

July 3, 2012

Happy 4th of July to all!  For this edition, we have a selection of films that focus on America as viewed through rose-colored glasses.  Let’s face it, as a nation we often cling to nostalgia as if it were life itself, preferring to  bask in ideals rather than reality.  Movies are the perfect venue to escape from the day-to-day grind by remembering fondly what has come before, and what will no doubt come again…

1.) Radio Days (1987)

Perhaps Woody Allen’s most personal and most light-hearted film, Radio Days is a hilarious look at the New York of the 30s and 40s from a child’s viewpoint.  Based on Allen’s own memories and featuring an ensemble cast like no other, the film is basically a series of vignettes that celebrate the joy of the ridiculous, the magic of coincidence, and the love one family shares throughout it all.  My favorite sketches involve the dim-witted cigarette girl Sally (Mia Farrow), who finds herself entangled with the mob before rising as an unusual star in her own right.  Radio Days strikes just the right chord from beginning to end, reminding us how important it is to remember those formative years.

2.) Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)

Francis Ford Coppola’s often overlooked time-travel comedy is less about the sight gags and more about learning to value our past decisions without regret.  Kathleen Turner’s Peggy Sue made the choice to marry young and give up her girlhood dreams, but gets a second chance to change her fate and her true love when at her 25 year high school reunion, she’s transported back in time to 1960.  It’s easy to blame all the hard knocks on fate or on others, but in the end, Peggy Sue learns that she still has some growing up to do of her own .  Nicholas Cage gives one of the best performances of his career as Peggy Sue’s conflicted boyfriend/husband Charlie, who had dreams and goals of his own to consider.  Overall, that love of nostalgia permeates the film, which takes you back to a land of shiny cars, perfect ponytails and dreamy tunes.

3.) Dazed and Confused (1993)

The best thing about Dazed and Confused is the mood it creates.  On the last day of school in 1976, your various stereotypical teens deal with those issues that once used to seem so important.  This includes your standard posse of bullies (including a young Ben Affleck and Cole Hauser), the popular kids, and the younger siblings who are just trying to stay alive in the face of self-created mayhem.  Richard Linklater’s film isn’t about plot so much as it is about atmosphere and the ultimate aphrodisiac of nostalgia.   The glory days still reign in everyone’s memories, and Dazed and Confused is a nod to the normalcy of grabbing some insanity while the sun still shines.  High school movies are a dime a dozen, but the best are those which take us back without making us feel guilty for remembering just what was so awesome about being irresponsible.

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