The Art of Timelessness

For as long as I can remember, every Thanksgiving in the Mackay household has ended with the viewing of the film A Christmas Story to ring in the Christmas season. Not only is the film a family favorite, it also happens to be an American Christmas classic. The older I get, the more I appreciate its humor and overall portrayal of the holiday season. It really captures what it feels like to be a kid at Christmas time...and not just during the 1940's...but during any era! Everything is built up in your own little world towards that one day and the presents that you might receive during it! Most Christmas films focus on the holiday itself, but it really is the whole month and the events that surround it that make up a kid's Christmas and the movie gets that. The cast is all very talented and the movie never really seems to get old. I've seen it 25 some odd times now and I only like it more and more. (It may just be because I can really relate to Randy, but who knows...)

Anyway, aside from all the strengths of the writing and performances, [quick side note before I move onto the main topic of the blog.... On the topic of performances: I just love seeing the joy on The Old Man's face when Ralphie finally opens his beloved present... it just shows the depth of his character and the joy he does get in the simple moments... okay side note over] one thing that always impresses me about A Christmas Story is how much it just nails the look of the period. I mean not that I was there, but it feels authentic...and every time I watch it I think of it as the 40's, and NOT the 80's in which it was made. The only flaw and the sign of the 80's was the mom's hair, but even so...it doesn't detract from the film. Unlike say.... Dirty Dancing, which is probably the worst period movie I can ever think of. I can't believe it tries to pass off that it was set in the 60's with all that 80's hair and music. But back to the authentic side, Back to the Future's 1950's sequences also always really impress me too.

Seriously? Did People dress like this in the 1960's? I don think so.

One the upcoming movies I'm looking forward to is a black & white silent film called The Artist set in the 20's era...and most of it looks so amazing, but every time I see the lead actress she kind of takes me out of it. Not 1920's at all. But, it's been getting fantastic reviews all across the board, so of course I'll be seeing it anyway. So this all leads to the question of what period films work and which have their time imprinted on them, AND which actors and actresses are great in period films and which aren't? It's funny to me how well some people like Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley seem to be able to slip into any decade or era at ease, but you throw a Kirsten Dunst into something like Marie Antoinette and you think "this feels wrong..." (though that movie felt wrong for a myriad of reasons..) More questions I guess could be: what are the best timeless films featuring stories that anyone can relate to at any time? What are the best Christmas films? and..... What are the best timeless Christmas films? Oh and who are the best timeless, or can fit into anytime, actors and actresses? Did you get all that? Now discuss.


Joey said...

To Kill A Mockingbird is flawless in it's capture of the innocence of childhood and how I would think the 30's was.

An actress that really took me out of the movie lately was Rachel McAdams in Sherlock Holmes. I mean the techno shots were enough to jolt me back to the 21st Century, but her makeup and mannerisms really did not fit in that period. Made the movie totally unbelievable for me.

Agreed that Dirty Dancing is the worst for period pieces.

One of the best was "Miracle." Clayton can totally see exactly what the year he was born was like. All through the movie, I kept thinking, "I remember those phones, those kinds of suits, etc." Really well done.

seanmackay.net said...

My eyebrows are timeless.

Sarah said...

Dang it, Sean! Your comments make me laugh and then I totally forget what I was going to say.

I recently watched Tea for Two with Doris Day and Gordon MacRae. It was supposed to be set in the late 1920's around the time of the stock market crash. It was made in 1950 and it totally shows in the fashion. They made somewhat of an effort to capture men's fashions from the 20's. But they made maybe .0001% of an effort for the ladies. And I guess you can't blame them...one of Doris Day's best assets is her super tiny waist...so why hide it in those 20's fashions. But if that's the case, why set the movies in the 20's?

Another movie set in the 20's and filmed in the 40's is Good News with June Allyson and Peter Lawford. Again, you wouldn't know it's supposed to be the 20's except that people say it every now and then. The hair and clothes all scream 1940's. And it looks adorable! But again, why set it in the 20's?

Period pieces made during the silent era or the 30's aren't usually very authentic. The General, starring Buster Keaton was made in 1926 and it is set during the Civil War. They tried to be authentic, but I think in that case, a combination of two things worked against the authenticity of the movie: lack of fashion historians and lack of budget.

I don't think people really started researching fashion or fads of certain time periods until a little later.

Also, I think past fashions were considered unattractive, so they were discarded in favor of the current trends.

I read in a movie fashion book once that certain accurate fashion trends are very rarely used in the movies because they are considered grotesque today. For instance, at the time of Queen Elizabeth, women powdered their faces white (seriously, clown white in some cases) and shaved their heads so that their foreheads would appear longer. So, their hairline in extreme cases didn't start until the middle of the top of their head.

Speaking of Marie Antoinette, the 1938 version starring Norma Shearer has absolutely breathtaking costumes. I think they're semi-accurate (accurate, but exaggerated and over-the-top). But I don't care because they are so awesome. If dresses weren't that way at the time, they should have been!

And Dirty Dancing isn't just awful because of the lack of authenticity! Blech!

From the photo, it looks like The Artist should be set in the 30's rather than the 20's. And I agree that the actress looks out of place. Perhaps it's partially the make-up job that is to blame. But she looks like she would be more at home in a 40's or 50's movie.

I agree with Mom that Rachel McAdams doesn't pull off period pieces very well. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Vivian Leigh are actresses that can work their way into other time-periods easily. In fact, I think Vivian Leigh seemed more at home in other time-periods than the one in which she actually lived.