Editor endeavors to quench urge of living in the past

I’m very adamantly against movies that require no intellectual effort from the viewing audience whatsoever. In other words, I can’t stand those movies where the brain cell death toll is in competition with your racing cholesterol as you shovel buttered popcorn down your gullet.

No, I love those films that make you think, make you feel, make you question who you are or why you’re here.

Over spring break, I counted it among my fortunes to see a movie that did all three: Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Word-of-mouth praise and several Oscar nominations had brought the film up on my radar, and when I came home to Cleveland I immediately hijacked the parents’ Netflix account to satiate my desire to see what caused all the buzz.

In one word, the film was magnificent. An aspiring writer is transported through time to the 1920s and lands among his idols.

Two years after my initial jump into the English program – my first class was American Literature from 1914-1945 – I was dazzled, and frankly dorked, by the on-screen portrayals of American literary icons who made Paris their home in the 1920s, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Besides “Dead Poets Society,” this new film provided a new avenue to feel pride in being a student of English, similar to how I observe the eyes of medical students light up whenever they feel a part of “House” or “Grey’s Anatomy.”

My nerdy praises aside, the film addressed a deeper and more imperative question: do you ever feel like you weren’t born in the right era? Perhaps you look back upon the days of the Knights of the Round Table, the Romantic period, the roaring ‘20s or even the punk rock ‘80s and wish you lived then instead of now. Maybe you look at the issues of today or the technology changing your life at a breakneck pace and yearn to live in a simpler time.

I’ll admit it, I think that a lot. I listen almost exclusively to classic rock, but can only listen live to Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd if a tribute band is in town. I don’t even own a car, but cheaper gas appeals to almost everyone. And I really would prefer the privacy that has since been erased by social media.

The protagonist of “Midnight in Paris” learns the truth of those wishes to live in nostalgia: the past looks so wonderful to anyone mired in the present, but it wasn’t as glamorous to the people who lived presently in that past. William Wordsworth didn’t call himself a romantic. The 1920s weren’t so “roaring” for the people living them.

It’s an encouraging thought. First, that Woody Allen – and undoubtedly other human beings – share my longing; it makes me feel normal. And second, since Stein and Hemingway weren’t blessed with any special era to be great, that means I don’t have to be given anything either.

What I make of my time here determines how I’ll leave it.

 

DAN KUBACKI

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