The More Things Change…

My sons are movie fans, too, and we often spend family nights watching DVDs. They especially enjoy the “teen” films from the ‘80’s—I don’t know whether it’s because of the zany nature of these films or the opportunity to make fun of the clothes and hair.

Last night we watched Mannequin (1987) and I found myself reciting a disclaimer before the movie began. “Now keep in mind, this was the eighties. The hair and clothes you are about to see will be really bad.”

As the story continued, I added little asides.

“This was before riding a Harley was cool.”

“Back then a portable phone meant having a really long cord.”

“Yeah, that’s what skateboarding looked like when I was a kid.”

“That is what you call sexual harassment in the workplace.”

“Yes, it’s the ‘80’s tradition of a music video in the middle of the film.”

The soundtrack includes great songs like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” by Starship, “Do You Dream about Me,” by Alisha, “In My Wildest Dreams,” by Belinda Carlisle, and “My Girl,” by Smokey Robinson. Even if you don’t love the movie, the music is great!

They liked the show. It was funny and romantic. They recognized Andrew McCarthy from the villainous recurring role he plays on White Collar. They identified Kim Cattrall from her “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” commercials and from Big Trouble in Little China. They raised their eyebrows when they realized that James Spader (Mr. Richards) is the same actor that played in Stargate. He looks a tad different in this one.

I laugh when I think about how much has changed in two decades. But then I think about a week ago, when our family watched The Maltese Falcon (1941), and realize how little things have changed in 70 years.

The clothes are a bit different, but nothing Bogey or Mary Astor wore would be completely out of place today—her furs would be faux, but that’s about it. Her hairstyle in the film is “old-fashioned” because it’s crimped and waved and parted oddly, but asymmetric styles are all the rage now, so what do I know?

The story of the bad-boy detective wading through an ocean of manipulative women and murderous, greedy treasure hunters still holds up today. So too, the plot of an artistic dreamer seeking aid and love from a beautiful muse seems a timeless tale.

Clothes change. Hairstyles change. Technology changes. People stay the same. Maybe we laugh at them because they show how much we struggle to change, and never really do.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!

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