02 June 2009

The Movie Period/Place Meme

Daniel at Getafilm tagged me last week in what is probably one of the most creative memes I've seen circling the web (moreover, he created it!): a favorite movie period/place meme. For this particular challenge, you select a place and a time captured on film that you would particularly like to visit.

The movies take us places, as clich├ęd as it is to admit, so in the spirit of all the potential destinations a film can offer, I present my choices broken down into three categories: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The important qualification to me was not that the time period and place necessarily be a place I'd like to vacation, for example, but a place that was so evocative to me that I would (my safety secured) insert myself into the experience if only to capture all the senses possible aside from sight and sound, a setting so empowered by its art direction, costumes, cinematography, set design, and makeup that I'm not content with the images the film has given me: I want to see more of this place, damnit!

With that in mind, some of my choices might seem a little offbeat, but what the hey. Consider yourself tagged (I'm so late I don't know who's done it already) and link back to Daniel!

Yesterday: Films set in the past

• Shakespeare in Love (1998) — The Globe Theater, 1590s — Because I have a continual love for all things related to The Bard, and visiting him in the context of this funny and fictitious film would be among the best ways to live a moment of Shakespeare.

• Paths of Glory (1957) — French trenches, 1916 — Because it's one of the most graceful depictions of a battlefield I've ever seen. To witness more through the roaming eye of this camera would be a delight.

• L.A. Confidential (1997) — Los Angeles, 1950s — Because it's gritty, dirty, and tough world out there.

• The Right Stuff (1983) — NASA Headquarters, 1953-1963 — Because I want to watch history unfold.

• Far From Heaven (2002) — Connecticut, 1957 — Because cinematographer Edward Lachman used all the skill and abilities from the 21st century to recreate a gorgeous and faux Technicolor world that kept a polish across its entire surface while in the insides were ripping apart. It's as beautiful as it is painful to watch.

• In the Mood for Love (2001) — Hong Kong, 1962 — Because director Wong Kar-wai captured the smoky, hazy, humid days of summer perfectly and tragically.

Today: Films set in their present

• All the President's Men (1974) — Newsroom, 1974 — Because I'd love to work in my former profession before I was born.

• Breaking Away (1979)
- Bloomington, Ind., the 1970s — Because I'd love to visit my alma mater before I was born.

• Manhattan (1979)
— New York City, the 1970s — Because I'd love to have visited this city before 9/11.

Tomorrow: Films set in the future

• Minority Report (2002)
— Washington D.C., 2054 — Because the future has always fascinated me, particularly when the joy of innovation meets the rainy streets of a dystopia. (Runner-up: Back to the Future Part II, Hill Valley 2015, but Daniel got there first. Ha.)

• Wall•E (2008)
— Earth, the 29th-century — Because it's a terrifying take on the apocalypse made strangely gorgeous through the power of animation.


Daniel Getahun 03 June, 2009  

Sir, I am thrilled that you took this one up - and how! Seriously, this is awesome, and exactly what I had in mind.


Wow, right in the trenches of war? That would be intense, but I understand how you're framing it. Not that you would necessarily be fighting, but just getting a more complete perspective of the battle.

LA in the 50's is definitely a nice choice. There was still some mystery and intrigue, shadows and wide open spaces, everybody and nobody was innocent. In a weird way that's also kind of how I would see CT in Far From Heaven (or Revolutionary Road). Maybe some beautiful landscapes and designs to behold, but a simmering undercurrent of dissatisfaction among the people living at that time, as you point out.

I still haven't seen In The Mood for Love, but from My Blueberry Nights last year I know WKW is a master of creating atmosphere. Great choice, I would suspect.

I think Manhattan anytime between the late 60's and late 90's would be a fascinating experience. My first visit there was in 1997 and it was just emerging under Giuliani as a polished pearl. What was lost? I don't know, but like you I'd be curious to see the NYC that was shown in so many 70's and 80's movies.

Hehe, well you know this is where I landed. Minority Report is a pretty interesting example because as far in the future as it is, things generally appear to be the same for everyday people (but not so for government ministries, etc.). And WALL-E, wow, yeah, "terrifying" is a pretty good word for that, because who would want to even be around the humans that still do exist in that form. Ugh.

Thanks again for participating, T.S. - some great thoughts you had here!

T.S. 03 June, 2009  

Ha ha, thanks for your great remarks, Daniel, and thanks for tagging me in the meme. I know I sort of veered off-course slightly, particularly in naming some depressing atmospheres (you're right: I'm too scared for either war or morbid obesity), but I think it's a testament to the powers of directors, cinematographers, and their crews that I can fall in love with their environments and want to see more. Sometimes it's just the lens and the lighting I love, other times it's the full embodiment of an era and a place.

One of the reasons I loved this meme (and finished it quickly) is that I often think about what's outside the frame in a film. I've always wanted to visit the past with the knowledge I have now, or visit the future with the ignorance I have now. I remember being a kid and wanting Back to the Future Part II to keep going because I wasn't satisfied with just the slice of 2015 and 1955 that we saw. We only see America in Wall•E, for example: what does London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo look like? The Great Wall of China? The Amazon River? It's wonderful to think of; I'm happy I could.

Daniel Getahun 03 June, 2009  

No, you didn't veer off course at all! Like you, I'm completely fascinated by that "outside the frame" concept, and yours and others thoughts on this is already making me appreciate atmosphere more in the movies I see.

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