The first old movie I remember watching was The Bad Seed. It’s about an evil little girl and includes some fierce debating over nature vs. nuture. We were about 13 and my best friend Amanda and I were having a sleepover. We stayed up late for no good reason, flipping through the public access channels, when it appeared! It was already halfway through but it immediately caught our attention, which I think is a testament to how clearly intrigued we were. Eventually I saw the whole thing multiple times. It’s very quotable and if you watch it you can finally find out what excelsior is.
Since then (and also since growing up and realizing the variety of films that are available) I have loved old movies. With two video store clerk jobs behind me, I can definitely say that even if I haven’t seen a particular movie, I can at least visualize its DVD (or VHS) case (Yes, the first stint was in 1999 when Netflix was just a twinkle in the internet’s eye.For the record, I never thought Netflix would work. It sounded really stupid).
To sounds smart in this post I found a website seemingly involved with AMC called Filmsite (http://www.filmsite.org/filmh.html) and it’s been really helpful in organizing my thoughts on the subject. This is how their History of Film is broken up:
Pre-1920s: Early Cinematic Origins, and The Infancy of Film
1920s: The Pre-Talkies and the Silent Era
1930s: The Talkies, the Growth of the Studios and ‘The Golden Age of Hollywood’
1940s: The War and Post-War Years, the Beginnings of Film Noir
1950s: The Cold War and Post-Classical Era, the Era of Epic Films and the Threat of Television
1960s: The End of the Hollywood Studio System, and the Era of Independent, Underground Cinema
1970s: The Last Golden Age of American Cinema (the American “New Wave”), and the Advent of the Block-buster Film
1980s: Teen-Oriented Angst Films, and the Dawn of the Sequel, with More Blockbusters
1990s: The Era of Mainstream Films and Alternative or Independent (“Indie”) Cinema; and the Rise of Computer-Generated Imagery; also the Decade of Remakes, Re-releases, and More Sequels
2000s: The New Millennium, an Age of Advanced Special Effects (3-D and Performance Capture), and the Era of Franchise Films
2010s: Insert Cliche Here: Women are Crazy, Women Like Babies, Women Hate Babies (But Then Realize That They Actually Love Babies) Women Like Sex Too and Other Tropes That Bored Intelligent People by the First Year of the Decade*
To me, “old movies” are usually from the 30s- 50s- after the silent era but before color. I like the clothes, the alien-sounding speech patterns and accents, the quickness, the fact that I don’t always know what’s going on but I know that something decent is seeping into my brain (unless the movie has any black characters, in which case it was a different time and how do you even know what you would have thought about race inequality if you had been born in 1920???) Also, there is a scene in Gone With the Wind where Belle, the local madam, and Melanie Wilkes share a moment in Belle’s carriage that really made me cry both times I watched it. (Also, I start to cry at least once in the morning if I listen to NPR because they always have some snippet about somebody doing something nice or meaningful and that’s enough for me when I first wake up and I am tired and full of self-pity.) I don’t know if the actors were better back then, or just more dramatic, but damn they can make me cry so much more easily than actors today. Except Natalie Portman, although I am usually crying from laughter. Laughter at her INABILITY TO ACT.