- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Recycled nostalgia

“Our culture is driven by nostalgia. … Even the brand-spanking-new stuff, the newest of the new, the stuff that parades around showing off its supreme novelty is, nine times out of 10, just some crusty 20-year-old idea with a pretty new hat and scarf on it so you won’t recognize it at first. Most of our movements, our trends, our cultural blunders, even our foreign policies, are created or at least endorsed and funded by crusty old [people] who are so nostalgic for their glory days that they can’t get [excited about] anything but recycled ideas, remakes, adaptations of old books and movies, styles that were crappy the first three times around, and antiquated notions of our rightful place at the top of the globo-cultural trash heap. …

“The trouble with all this nostalgia is that not only does it make us look like losers because we either can’t create anything new or can’t appreciate anything that is new, but it also dooms us to repeat our old mistakes over and over again. In other words, those who learn history are doomed to repeat it — or replicate it — badly.

“Some would rather think of this process as cultural recycling. These are the people who treat their stinky concepts as shiny and special and brand-new in every way. ‘TV producers,’ I think they’re called.”

—Heather Havrilesky, writing on “Nostalgia TV,” Sunday in Salon at www.salon.com

Natural hit

“‘March of the Penguins,’ a gripping documentary about emperor penguins in Antarctica, is even rated G (yes, the rating still exists). …

“Despite the director’s low-key approach — there is no wild-eyed crocodile hunter here to whip up audience fervor — ‘March of the Penguins’ enthralls. …

“The movie offers many captivating moments: a new couple’s cuddle, apart from the massive throng, as if they were teenagers on a date. A chick peeking out from its father’s feathers to take a first glimpse of the world outside. A penguin slipping on ice. Free of any gimmicks, ‘March of the Penguins’ is a throwback to a time when nature specials felt natural.”

—Josh Larsen, writing on “Some Very Human Nature,” in the September issue of the American Enterprise

No nudes

“Nowadays, nudity is a decided liability when it comes to the commercial success of the movie. In 2004, none of the six major studios’ top 25 grossing films, led by ‘Spider-Man 2,’ ‘Shrek 2,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,’ and ‘The Incredibles,’ contained any sexually oriented nudity; only one had a restrictive R rating — Warner Bros.’ ‘Troy’ — and that was mainly due to the film’s gory violence, not its sexual content. …

“Since graphic sex in movies is a triple liability, the studios can be expected to increasingly find that the artistic gain that comes from including it does not compensate for the financial pain and to therefore greenlight fewer and fewer movies that present this problem. We may live in an anything-goes age, but if a studio wants to make money, it has to limit how much of ‘anything’ — at least anything sexually explicit — it shows on the big screen.”

—Edward Jay Epstein, writing on “Sex and the Cinema,” Monday in Slate at www.slate.com

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