John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

How old is an old movie?

If you carefully studied the list of films I watched in 2012, and have a keen ability to remember when movies were released, you may have noticed that the list is heavily weighted toward recent releases. And by heavily I mean very heavily. And by very heavily I mean almost to the exclusion of any others. By my count, there are only six films on the list that were released prior to the 21th century — Bounce, Nurse Betty, You Can Count on Me, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Foreign Correspondent — and only the last two are more than 15 years old. (The median release date is 2009.)

This was somewhat by design. Part of the reason I made a conscious effort to start watching more movies was to catch up on movies I’d missed after I stopped seeing movies as often as I used to. I can’t put an exact date on that, but 2007 was the last year I made it a point to see every Best Picture nominee … and sure enough, a whopping 38 of the films I watched last year were released in 2008 or later. (That includes 12 movies released this year that I saw in theaters, but even if you subtract those from the count, movies released in the last 5 years account for more than half my total.)

But that didn’t keep me from feeling a little guilty about it when a friend of mine pointed it out to me, so I decided that I would watch one older movie for every newer movie I saw. That immediately called to mind the question of what counts as an “older movie.” My natural inclination is to think of any movie released during my lifetime as “not that old,” since to do otherwise might cause people to draw troubling conclusions with regard to the question of whether I myself am old. Which I am not.

On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that a not-that-old-by-my-standard movie like, say, Disney’s Robin Hood — the first movie I have a clear memory of seeing in a theater — was released a heck of a lot of years ago. (2013 is its 40th anniversary.) I think you could fairly say the same of Return of the Jedi, released 30 years ago this year. But come forward just 5 years from that … let’s see, Wikipedia's 1988 in film page says Rain Man was released in 1988. Rain Man’s not that old, right? Five years later, Jurassic Park. That’s not an old movie, it’s got CGI! 1993, Schindler’s List. I saw that just a couple of weeks before my nephew was born, and he’s just a kid! A kid who’s going off to college come August, granted, but still.

When I was last at the library, I decided to use what I think of the VH-1 Classic standard, which is to say, if it’s more than 15 years old, it’s a classic, and with that in in mind, I took home Enchanted April, which was released on 1992. But I’ll admit it: I look at the case, and I think, not that old! And the idea that I should think of a movie released in 1998 — Shakespeare in Love, say — as an “older film” is pure psychological torment.

The solution to this problem is, of course, quite simple: stop thinking about it and watch movies I want to watch without worrying about when it was released. But where’s the fun in that?
Tags: i'm old, movies

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