Tag Archives: nostalgia

Dani’s MOTM (Movie of the Moment)

28 Jan

In addition to being one of my favorite movies of all time, Beautiful Girls (directed by Ted Demme) is my movie of the moment.  I got a chance to gush about it at work today when a colleague mentioned it, and nobody else knew about it.  Or, more likely, they just hadn’t seen the movie in its entirety, so never placed the quote from the Taking Back Sunday song, or recognized Knight’s Ridge when it showed up again in the short-lived series October Road.  

But I digress.  The movie follows Willie Conway (played by my celebrity-crush Timothy Hutton) as he returns from NYC to small-town Knight’s Ridge for a high school reunion.  He finds everything as he left it, and spends cold nights in warm pubs shooting the shit and making “a decision about life.  A life decision if you will.”  A gorgeous out-of-towner and a prepubescent neighbor both complicate and clarify matters for him.  [Warning: spoilers, and anything of substance actually worth reading, after the picture].

As the movie follows this group of guys so utterly preoccupied with physically flawless women–and one inappropriately preoccupied with a thirteen year old–the tension between idealism and realism shows itself in multiple ways.  Ten years out of high school, these guys cling to the memories of their proverbial glory days full of promise.

On the surface of things, this movie should infuriate me.  Why “Girls” and not “Women?”  And who are these schmoes to think that anything less than Uma-Thurman-hot is just a let-down?  And I do get mad watching it; I practically yell “sing it, sister!” as Gina rails against unrealistic images of beauty:

But it’s easy to see that the perky implants and shaved pubes of the PentHouse model are just a metaphor for all the other unrealistic expectations we hold in life.  As this group of friends enters their late twenties (ancient, I know!), they need to decide what they should hold on to, and what they need to let go of.  A life of working all day, drinking all night, and ogling models isn’t quite as fulfilling as sharing ice-cold martinis and Van Morrison with the love of your life.

There’s one scene in this movie that always depresses me.  When he, Paul, and Kev are sitting around rating women (ugh!), Willie rates his current flame Tracy as “a good…solid…seven and a half.”  The sigh in his voice always sounds to me more like resignation than contentment.  He realizes that it’s foolish to forgo his current, perfectly adequate situation in hopes of something more promising down the road.  On the plus side, Willie’s decision to commit to Tracy represents his willingness to start living life instead of waiting for life to happen to him.  He sees his friends stagnate as they wait for “tens,” and consciously decides to move forward.

That sigh, though, gets me every time.  Where’s the line between getting your head out of the clouds (or, in the case of this particular group of guys, getting your head out of your ass), and just giving up?  How do you know if you’re accepting reality or just settling?

If promise is truly “the single greatest commodity known to man,” when is the right time to stop hoarding it, and finally trade it in?

Ostalgie, Memory, & the Formerly Familiar

29 Oct

WERS has been playing this song by The Heavenly States and Spoon‘s Britt Daniel with stuck-in-your-head-whether-you-like-it-or-not frequency lately, and so of course the fun, catchy track’s been looping between my ears.  It’s also made me think, and remember.

I used to live in Mitte, Berlin.  For almost six months I biked under the stately Brandenburger Tor to get to classes, rolling right over the former boundary line of the Berlin Wall.  One hundred and thirty-six people were killed trying to cross from East Germany to West Germany during the wall’s eighteen year reign.  They lived under a kind of socialism, and decided that they would prefer to live in a capitalist society.

This mirrors an internal question I’ve been grappling with: which side of Die Mauer am I on?

Cut off from their families, spied upon by their government, limited in their choices, East Germans were both endangered and taken care of.  Today, a phenomenon exists among Europeans known as Ostalgie – nostalgia for the long-gone East German way of life.  Films like Goodbye, Lenin! capture this tragic, perhaps ill-advised, yet sort of beautiful longing.

Berliner Mauer - the Berlin Wall. 1961-1989. Image via http://www.dartmouth.edu.

For half a year I lived at what had been the crossroads of the twentieth century’s greatest idealogical clash.  I loved it.  I made wonderful friends there, studied an intensely fascinating language and culture, honed my love of and skills in far-flung travel, and ate some ridiculously good currywurst.

Upon my return to the states, I changed my major and academic focus, a new U.S. President was elected, and I fell in love… then fell in love again.  I decided to travel to east Africa and try to make myself useful, and soon after, I was a passenger in a fatal car crash that cost the life of a friend and role model.  I never got a chance – or made the time – to fully consider and feel the time I was fortunate to spend in Germany, and what it means in my life.

An Ostalgie-style reconnection to the past is tempting, and potentially dangerous.  I don’t know if I can make the important choices I need to make about my future and my take on the world until I have a grasp on my complicated past.  But then I wonder, do we ever really have that grasp?

What experiences have you had, but not yet processed?

Which sides are you on?