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  • Gemma Speakman

Rear view mirrors exist for a reason


Look forwards, not backwards, onwards, upwards, don't look back or so the various sayings go,  but sometimes is this mantra a little misleading?  Does the past get a raw deal sometimes.  After all it's the only thing we're working with when it comes to deciding the future.  

Oh Paddy, you've me all in a spin (again) 

It got me thinking the other day with the release of A Star is Born, the film starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper which tells the tale of a lowly off the boil rock star fall in love with an up and coming musician, cupid gets heavily involved and the rest is history.  Unbeknown to me, this is its fourth incarnation.  The original was in 1937 where Janet Gaynor was nominated for seven Oscars (winning Best Original Story), the 1954 Judy Garland had six nominations and landed its leading lady a Golden Globe.  Barbra Streisand's 1976 version had six Oscar nominations and also won five Golden Globes, including Best Actress.  Basically the Gaga film out the other week was sitting on top of an already very tall and decorated iceberg.    I didn't know because it was 'before my time.'   Of course those who consumed the first version will say it is the best and the kids watching the latest outing wouldn't even consider anything but the 2018 one because of course they would say this will be better than anything that's come before it. 

That knowledge and attitude, it's not wrong, it's testament to our experiences that make up our life tapestry; when we are born is so critical in shaping our consumption and ultimately our taste in arts and culture.  And it's a very unique journey for everyone.

Grease is definitely the word

Back in my day it was Grease, Dirty Dancing and Ghost as film staples and bolted on to that, one of greatest films to be made, ever,  Point Break (Patrick Swayze was a recurring theme).  They're hardcore engrained into my psyche awash with nostalgia and I stillI take pleasure in watching them over and over again. But nowadays?  I can't quite get that intensity of feeling.  Most films I watch, well it's all a bit, meh.   And as good as they were the big cheeses in charge obviously had a different philosophy back then - there was a real absence of sequels, of finishing on a cliff hanger so that a couple of years down the line they could guarantee you'd be splashing the cash again on the franchise.  I mean did the final Harry Potter film really need to be split into two parts? Does it reek of commercialism and leave a bitter after taste?  Dirty Dancing 2 anyone? Nope.  Point Break the sequel?  Nah thanks it's fine as it is.  Meanwhile, Spider Man 1, 2, 3, Batman, 4, 5, 6, Fast & Furious 18, 19, 20.

I'm joking but you get my point.   

But no of course, someone has to go and spoil it and tell the same story with their own 'artistic interpretation' and hash it into oblivion like when they remade Point Break in 2015 - some kind of studio vanity project no less.  Make up your own stories, there's plenty of writers out there! That one has been told, perfectly.    Of course, I cannot bring myself to watch it. I can barely contemplate it.  Why on earth would you want to interfere with something that's already utterly great (am I showing my age here?).    Maybe the millennials will like it.  But look, the point is, it wasn't the done thing.  Go out on a high.  Leave them wanting more. Play hard to get. It really is far more endearing.

I can't think of a recent film that's blown me away and that I had the compulsion to watch over and over. Possibly Shutter Island but actually I'm too scared to watch that again.  I really enjoyed The Martian with Matt Damon and I love it more that the screenplay came to life from an author who casually and quietly self published one of the most scientifically accurate pieces of fiction ever (so accurate it the book was endorsed by NASA).  But as much as I loved it, it doesn't have anywhere near the same resonance as my top four.    

In the same way music.  I'll often wonder if they just used to churn out total legends back then - Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli's (the list goes on), that nobody these days could ever touch - similarly further back before then Elvis, Dire Straits,  Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd.  But legend making it seems has now officially stopped.  Know of any recently? Ok some definite good talent but certainly not legendary status. And some definite awfulness.  And the music industry is also guilty of wheeling out and reforming bands in the name of commercialism - a recurring 'farewell' tour for the band that spectacularly 'broke up' back in 1990.

Should we blame such drivel as X-Factor and other talent shows that year after year are teaching kids that in order to have real talent and make something of themselves in life they need to stand and perform in front of four people who wear too much make up and have a very pedestrian plastic button in front of them - a motif almost to the utter shallowness of the whole thing.  Should we be more mindful about who we are being judged by? And moreover, is talent and success only to be merited on how famous and mass consumed we are.  Isn't it good to be peripheral and underground? Doing it to and for your niche albeit tiny? There's more merit in that surely without the hassle and trappings of 'being famous.'

Richard Ashcroft put it really well the other day on Soccer AM when he urged musically inclined people to spend the time they would have spent watching X factor to instead pick up an instrument and play it.  You'll learn more about music and yourself in that time proffered Ashcroft - even if it sounds totally shit (to start with).  But you're making a noise, you've started, you're doing it, not watching it.

But maybe it's the natural progression of human nature. When we're younger everything is new and amazing and we are undoubtedly impressionable - every pore it seems is open for influencing and shaping.   I recall going to the cinema regularly as a kid and being continually amazed at how good everything was. I'd come out and think, I can't fault that, it was perfect.  I couldn't get why people could say negative things when I just loved everything about the motion picture.  Nowadays, the feeling is borderline opposite - there's always something not done quite right or to pick at that could have been better 'if they'd have done this or that.'  There's more complications as you get older as you ponder character believability, bad accents and acting, plot arcs, structure and timings etc. I drive my own self made sometimes being constantly 'unsatisfied.'

The wonderment absorbency switch must dry up somewhere around the mid-twenties mark.  And it takes A LOT to reignite the 'this is ah-maz-ing spark' that was so plentiful back in the rose gold days of youth.  Can you remember the last time you felt it?

Why? What is this phenomena called and why now? Maybe it's because it's just too easy and there's too much choice.   Don't like it? Switch over.  There's a million other stations to churn through.  Hell, while you are it be sure to multi screen; who just watches TV these days - you can be on your phone and iPad and Netflix and watch TV and maybe squeeze in a quick chat to your child all at the same time so why not?  Our day to day experiences that used to be coveted and special (rushing home to make sure you didn't miss Eastenders) are much more fragmented and diluted because it's hard to just focus on one thing when there is so much choice all the time.  The overly ready availability of everything is making us less mindful and the upshot is that the impact of any experience is weakened.

Doesn't fit? Out of shape? Bin it, buy another one.  It's cheap enough, doesn't matter does it?  It's only material, fashion isn't a polluter is it?  Plastic bag? Yes please 5p one please, it's fine pop it in the bin after, it'll wash away.  The state of the oceans and landfill might say otherwise and so does the fact reported today that we've wiped out 60% of wildlife since 1970, just by being here and existing. Where will we be in another 50? It's frightening to think. 

Glancing backwards and remembering is a good thing to do.  Remember where we came from - respect our elders (they've been here longer than us),  be proud of our roots our ancestry and remember the things that stand out - a person, a film, a gig, a band, a song. Ask yourself why did it stand out? What made it memorable?  And maybe as we take time to ponder where we have come from and what we have enjoyed we will be better and more mindful at creating more of them. Try and do one thing and properly, be present and soak it up.  

Instead of taking a photo (that you very rarely look back on or contemplate because you have 20,000 or so images in your digital library that you will just never get through but you thank God for iCloud). Think less about the right angle or the most enviable filter and let your own eyes take the picture - now hold it safe inside you, where only you can see it and no one or no app can touch or influence it.

That's your own private library right there and it was there before any camera or smart ass phone got involved.   And will be long after.


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