The Test of Time

One of the pleasures of parenting is torturing your children…umm…I mean presenting them with the opportunity to enjoy the books and movies you loved in your youth. The ones that mattered to you, that moved you and helped you scrabble your way through the playground of childhood and the wild jungle of adolescence.

Books are easy. The vast majority of them can stand the test of time, because we’re used to seeing literature as a time capsule of sorts, representing the morals and styles of the period in which the book was written.

For some reason, it’s less easy to be forgiving of films. I never know going in if my kids are going to spend so much time laughing at the horrid special effects that they miss the entire story, or if the emotional resonance will miss the mark, because “kids aren’t like that any more”.

Sharing The Outsiders with my sons was a no-brainer. The book is a YA classic, and Francis Ford Coppola gave it the white glove treatment. It’s beautifully shot and completely loyal to the story, which – being set “back in the day” – is allowed to feel somewhat dated.

But I’ve only recently begun to share the other movies that ruled my world, the ones that spoke to my generation and had us all flocking to the theater on opening night. The ones we watched over and over (on VHS or Beta), because we could relate. Because we saw ourselves in those characters and those situations. Those brilliant, funny, poignant, sad movies that can be summed up in two words:

John Hughes.

The eighties were an odd and somewhat laughable time, and the concerns of that decade feel so plastic in our current economical and political climate. So I was afraid that the beloved films of my formative years would fall flat on their asses – not just for my kids, but for me as well. But I decided it was worth the risk.

We started with Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. Safe bet, and still funny. Matthew Broderick at his charming, comedic best. Thumbs up all around.

Weird Science (to which I was never particularly attached) was the next to hit the screen. Goofy. Funny. Just slightly off-color, which the youngest found hilarious.

Okay, I thought. This is going pretty well. Might as well take the big leap. *gulps*

Last weekend, we watched The Breakfast Club. And it still rocks! I laughed, I cried (a couple of times), I fell in love with the Brain, the Princess, the Jock, the Criminal and the Kook all over again, and – to my absurdly jubilant relief – so did my sons.

For me, and for many of my peers in high school during the early eighties, this movie was our Graduate. I so desperately wanted it to hold up, and it did. Because the core issue – of being labeled and judged by generalizations, of behaving in accordance with the projections of others instead of being true to yourself – still hold up, and not just for teenagers. It’s something most everyone can relate to. That’s why the film worked 1985, and that’s why it works now.

Tell me – what was the film of your youth? Have you seen it lately, and did it pass the test of time?

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19 responses to “The Test of Time

  1. Movies made in the 50s—my childhood—generally sucked. Consequently, I spent my time watching movies from the 30s and 40s. Bogart movies like Casablanca and African Queen are still viable. I was also a fan of Claudette Colbert, but I’m afraid It Happened One Night was a less durable product.

    On the other hand, during the 80s I introduced my then step son (of a previous marriage) to Coppola’s The Black Stallion. Despite the fact its first twenty minutes were completely devoid of dialogue, the eleven year old’s rapt silence spoke to the film maker’s genius. He was also engrossed by Paul Mazursky’s Tempest, starring John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Molly Ringwald and Raul Julia—a modern day adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic. I think both films still work, probably because their subject matter was less time-specific than other products of that decade.

  2. My childhood was …odd. So most of the movies that I would’ve seen at a young age or as a teen, I didn’t seen until I was over 18.

    There are a few exceptions however. Empire of the Sun, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and a wealth of Bollywood and Cantonese films(I was living in Singapore at the time) are the ones that I remember most watching, and I’ve seen most of them since I became an adult and I still love them all.

  3. I want to watch these all again! *ponders* I really need to add to my DVD collection and bring in all these “old” films.

    For me, I think they all tend to stand the test of time … because it’s the story that matters to me, not the special effects.

    The Great Escape remains one of my favorites. As do The Sound of Music and Brigadoon. StarWars will always be at the top of the list, even with whiny Luke and dated special effects.

    I also love the Leo/Claire version of Romeo and Juliet from the early 90s, I think Shakespear’s works translate really well into modern times.

    • Star Wars may have stood the test of time for me, but my children’s rabid fascination/obsession with it (and all of its requisite accessories) has robbed it of its charm. 😛

      Just re-watched Romeo+Juliet a couple of weeks ago. Still fabulous.

    • You’re right about Shakespeare. I think the ’68 version of Romeo & Juliet by Zeffirelli starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey was the first modern remake whose characters were both believable and sympathetic, yet true to the original—not over-acted.

      I think Lisa started something here. We should occasionally review movies when they transcend the ordinary: Kurasawa, Felini, Bergman, Coppola—the Zucker Brothers?

  4. The Outsiders was great…both book and film.
    As for a film of my youth – it’d be Saturday NIght Fever.
    I sneaked into the theatre to see it because I was under age, and I was
    an audiophile, so it stuck with me. Though the hair styles and clothing are dated, the story and music live on.

    eden

  5. Ah, well, first of all, we didn’t see a lot of movies as kids – the only one I remember? That we watched every year – The Wizard of Oz. Stands up for me. I saw it again not that many years ago – and perhaps because I hadn’t seen it for many years, I enjoyed it. And then The Sound of Music – which I still love, in fact, went to a sing-a-long version a few years ago. But as a teenager, I was mostly too busy to see movies, having left home at 16 and working and… well, you know, just figuring out a way to pay the rent and buy the groceries. But I admit it has been a joy to watch all the movies that you talk about as an adult, all those movies on the television that they play over and over again – I enjoy all of them because they’re new to me – and because they’re part of the cultural conversation, so I feel, have felt, that I already know them when I come to them.

    Kate

    • Part of the cultural conversation – I love that!

      My mom and I watched The Sound of Music and Wizard of Oz together every year when they came on TV. They have a cherished place in my memory and my heart.

  6. The movies that dominated my brain when I was a kid were – Labyrinth, Legend, The Never-Ending Story, The Dark Crystal, The Princess Bride. And that probably explains SO much about me. 😉

  7. I like Raymond have been around a few years longer than most of you — okay, all of you, I started going to movies in the 1940s — and like Raymond enjoyed the movies of the 30s and 20s as well. The truly great movies, seem to hold up over time. the great ones were or still are character studies, someone the audience can relate to. My all time favorites is a list to long, but here are a couple I think are still viable, The Quiet Man, Raging Bull, Psycho, My Favorite Year, Shane, Bridge Over The River Kwai, The African Queen… There’s a few. Now I really love the Pixar stories, because they do such a great job on both Story and character Development.

    Great post.

    Wally

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