The other night friends and I fell briefly into one of those discussions that I find myself entering unthinkingly with enthusiasm, but exiting with a little disgust at having ever entered into it. It was about how movies used to be better, or at the very least weren't all focus-tested multiplex fodder. It's not even entirely true: there's more and better indie cinema than ever if you know where to look; it's just that the major studios now see risk aversion as their main business model. But the real problem was how I saw myself falling into the mode of "Weren't things better when ... ?" which is always a bad mode to end up in.
Once upon a time, things were different, and some of those things had aspects that are better than what we had now. Of this I have no doubt. What I know is impossible, and counterproductive, is to entertain such thoughts as a prelude to try and turn back the clock. I don't want this anywhere, least of all in my entertainments.
I've written before about how the two big nostalgia-invoking entertainments of my youth, Star Wars and Star Trek, have been dead to me for some time, and how all the attempts to resurrect them have only made them seem all the deader. It's not those things I want anymore. It's new things that are as daring and fresh and out-of-left-field as those things were when they first appeared. Such things are hard to come by, by design. The truly new thing is always difficult to notice, let alone appreciate.
Sometimes I think nostalgia is just a settling-for-the-easy-thing, a way to take two when you can't get five, as the saying once went. If we can't actually get anything new, then at least we can have some part of the past that isn't quite so terrible. Every now and then a refurbished piece of the past can work, but only because it works on its own terms too (e.g., Blade Runner 2049). But most such things are poor substitutes for truly new experiences.
At some point, I said to myself: I don't even know if the world I live in is geared anymore to produce the kinds of newness I feel needs to exist. I decided I would do my best to make the very things I wanted to see, even if I wasn't very good at it and even if it wasn't received well. At least then it would exist in some form.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind