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#164. Encounters with the Past

Humanity has a fascination with any time other than the one in which they are currently living. We always dream of the future and what it can bring us in terms of technological advancement. We also tend to have a certain amount of nostalgia when it comes to the past. It’s difficult to see the flaws of these time periods because we either don’t know what they will be, or we forget what they were. As a result, we tend to idolize those who we see as successful, even if it came long after they were alive. These idols of the past always spawn the icebreaker question: If you were to meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be? While the answer should definitely be “living”, the act of sitting down with a historical figure and picking their mind is something we’ve all thought about. This week’s two films feature characters who did just that.

                                            Bill and Ted’s Excellent AdventureBill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 90 minutes / 1.5 hours

The trouble with history is that most students will find it boring. This seems to be a fault of the presentation of the material, which tends to be dry and full of dates, places, and names to memorize. I have always applauded people who can make history interesting and/or fun, much in the same way that I applaud those who can do the same thing for science and/or mathematics. Life should be a constant classroom, an arena for learning, but if people refuse to learn important subjects like history, they will fail to see the world as a measure of the law of cause and effect. The trick seems to be finding applicability to our modern lives. If we can use the knowledge we gain from history, and use it to our benefit, suddenly the learning becomes fun. One way to make history applicable is to bring history to the modern age.

High School students Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are about to fail their history class if they cannot pass the final presentation. This presentation is to pick three historical figures and to tell what they would think of modern San Dimas. Unfortunately, they get little to no help from the customers of the Circle K. That is, until a mysterious phone booth emerges and out steps Rufus (George Carlin). He tells Bill and Ted that the booth is a time machine and they can use it to complete their history assignment. After being convinced by future versions of themselves, they set off to collect historical figures and bring them back to the present. The one catch is that time will still move normally, despite the use of the time booth. It’s a race against the clock to gather as much history as possible and get back to school in time to present their findings.

Midnight in ParisMidnight in Paris
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

History isn’t merely filled with the people who change its path. Sure, political figures, philosophers, and military generals guide history along its immutable course, but it’s the artists that make it fun to look at. The cultures of the past were all crafted from the minds of the writers, sculptors, painters, and musicians. Their creative outputs give us a glimpse into the past and the influences society had on them, as well as their influence on future society. Because time has given us the chance to analyze and reflect upon the works of these artists, we now see their genius, even if the people they lived with at the time did not. Unfortunately, this high amount of esteem will often blind us to the character flaws of the artists, covering their works in a fog of nostalgia. Still, the people who knew the work of these artists the best were the artists themselves.

On vacation in Paris, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) has fallen in love with the city, especially when it rains. Unfortunately, his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), doesn’t agree. She also doesn’t think he should be attempting to write a novel, and instead says he should focus on his job as a screenwriter. Out on his own one night, Gil finds himself lost when the clock strikes midnight, ushering in a car from the 1920’s, which whisks him into the past. While he’s there, in what he feels is Paris’ “Golden Age”, he meets F. Scott Fitzgerald, who introduces him to Ernest Hemmingway, who in turn allows his editor to look over Gil’s novel manuscript. In subsequent travels to 1920, Gil meets Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali, but the theme he keeps finding is that everyone’s “Golden Age” is never in their current time, but always decades in the past.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 personalities from the past

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One response to “#164. Encounters with the Past

  1. Pingback: End of Act Four | Cinema Connections

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