An analysis on Hollywood’s growing preoccupation with nostalgia.
The 2017 award season has seen Hollywood’s preoccupation with nostalgia hit an all-time high. La La Land hit big at the Golden Globes, BAFTA’s and the Oscars (Or was the latter Moonlight?). A reason for its success, is the warm nostalgic feeling the audience get upon viewing. However, it not only reminds the audience the better days of Hollywood by showcasing the traditional style filmmaking from the fifties, but the role of nostalgia is present in the narrative, which inevitably sells the character’s motivations and love story.
La La Land sells itself as a Hollywood golden age musical, when in fact at a closer look, the film focuses on the Jazzy tones of the soundtrack rather than big choreographed musical sequences.
The film sees Mia, a budding actress who is living out her days pouring cups of coffee to people in the industry, while she is rejected time and time again. By chance at a party, she meets Sebastian, a Jazz musician, who’s main goal isn’t to sell out his dreams and eventually open an old fashioned Jazz Bar. The plot is cliché in the way the audience can guess important plot points and how the film ends. Mia eventually gets her break and has to move away from Sebastian, who inevitably sold out for a record deal.
The bright aesthetics are all reminiscent of the golden age musicals. The jaunty Jazz tones convince the audience they are having a goodtime to distract them from the clichéd narrative, that some may argue is a nostalgic hat tip to musical love stories of the 1950s.
Within the film the characters display nostalgic tendencies. Mia is nostalgic for the old Hollywood system, saying she often stares at the window where Ingmar Bergman stood in Casablanca. Sebastian is nostalgic for Jazz, the form, the performance and the distribution, which makes it all that more upsetting when he sells out for John Legend’s band. Nostalgia is pouring out of every crevice of this film, and the audience love it. However, La La Land is the latest in a long line of nostalgia fuelled filmmaking.
Films such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters and Alien, all present a slice of nostalgia within contemporary cinema. Although some may argue that Hollywood has run out of ideas, a case can be put forward that the rebooting nature of these beloved franchises, not only allows a new generation of audience to appreciate the films past audiences fell in love with, but instil a notion of the good old days in the older audience.
Star Wars is the perfect example of nostalgic filmmaking. The use of old actors, familiar locations, props and costumes, and not to mention the storyline, mirror an image of that used in A New Hope. A similar phenomenon occurred towards the end of the summer in 2016, a strange new show was taking the world by storm. Stranger Things has acquired its critical acclaim from almost nostalgia alone. Although the story telling works on solving mysteries, formal elements and the shows aesthetics all rely on hat tips to 1980s blockbusters, that leave the show as a post post-modern masterpiece. So like the new Star Wars, television shows are also capitalising on the nostalgic trend.
Other than introducing a new audience to the franchise, and reminding the old audience what’s been missing in their life, it begs the question, why are we and cinema nostalgic?
Nostalgia can be described as a yearning for an irretrievable past but sought anyway. It permeates its way through everyday life. So why are people viewing the world through nostalgia tinted specs? Have you heard of a man called Trump? The man who wants to build a wall on the Mexico border? The man who has tried to impose a travel ban on Muslims coming to America? The guy with the orange face and silly hair cut? Yeah that’s him. Well, with him, Russia’s nuclear arsenal, Brexit, ISIS and all the other fear provoking global issues, no wonder people are yearning for a past that is irretrievable.
Therefore, due to the depressing state of the world at the moment, the film industry has responded by either rebooting old franchises, paying tribute to old Hollywood styles and even bringing back deceased actors, in a bid to capture the authentic portrayal of past characters to make their audiences swoon. However, who knows where this nostalgia will take us, will we be rebooting the already rebooted versions of the old franchises in years to come. Where will this end?