Another week, another conversation. The latest conversation in our series considers what it means for a band or a director, specifically, to age. How do we reevaluate them? What do we look for? Do they fade away entirely? What is their (gulp) legacy? What follows is a lightly edited conversation in lieu of a podcast.
Matt: We’re back with another of our Conversations, which are steadily becoming regular affair. I tweaked by back today so it’s fitting that we’re going to talk about legacies and aging. How’s it going, Tim?
Tim: Very impressed with your lead-in. I have always enjoyed a good topical opening segue jawn thingy.
Matt: No one can say I don’t hurt myself for the good of the art. So Tim mentioned this general topic recently after watching a new(ish) movie. Want to spitball the general concept/motivation?
Tim: Well, it’s sort of twofold, though I watched both these movies in the same night. Cold Mountain was the one I talked to Matt about, but then I started thinking about the idea a little more during Coco, which is probably the last time anyone is going to throw those two together.
During Cold Mountain, which is a solid flick and which is definitely too long, I was kind of struck by how different this movie must have seemed when it came out in 2003. Back in 2003 there was not a lot of conversation, or at least not mainstream conversation, about what we might call the “Confederate flag” issue, or maybe it’s better phrased here as “media about the Confederacy during the South which is weirdly pro-Confederacy and not very interested in slavery.” Cold Mountain begins at the Battle of the Crater during the Petersburg campaign, which is an interesting starting spot. What the movie leaves out is that a significant part of the Union troop body at that battle was African-American units.
Matt: That starts way later than I assumed. That’s interesting.
Tim: It’s got the whole out-of-order plot going. Technically it starts in the 1850s. Really the goal was to remake The English Patient as a Civil War movie which, woof. All the characters of note in this movie are Southerners, and some of them are soldiers, as Jude Law’s Inman is. He’s at this battle and he’s fighting and so on and so forth, but the movie totally ignores the massacre of many surrendering black soldiers at this battle by the Confederates. There is virtually no presence of black people in this movie at all, in fact. There’s a few lines of dialogue to the effect of “The rich people fighting for their slaves have roped us into it,” but that’s not really much at all, and certainly not enough to whitewash the movie of any sort of culpability. Cold Mountain was not a major Oscar contender or anything, but it was one of the better-reviewed domestic releases of the year, it has one of the most name-brand casts I’ve ever seen, and it did well at the box office. Fast forward fifteen years later and two things come to mind. First: I think the movie itself would be changed before it was released to address some of those issues. Second: if the movie were just released like it was in ‘03, there would have been a huge backlash. To me, this is an interesting contemporary example of how things age. In 2003, I’m sure I could have watched the movie as a love story. In 2018, it’s impossible not to think those things I’ve mentioned above.
Matt: That’s sort of sad to me because there’s a good Marxist reading buried in there. The lords of production dividing everyone else for their own gain and such. Not that I think the movie would do that even today, but it doesn’t have to go the Hillbilly Elegy route of romanticizing not-rich whites and ignore everything else. (I should mention I’m not totally dissing Hillbilly Elegy. But it does do that to some degree) But you’re right, I can’t imagine that movie as is being released today (and I think released is the key word there).
Tim: Diss Hillbilly Elegy all you want, dude.
Matt: I don’t know that I’m defending it, per se. I get part of its motivation since I grew up not that far from the places it’s about. I don’t want to make it seem worthless, but it is misguided.
Tim: Also, the movie itself is all about the homefront, about women on the homefront making their way without men…there’s a lot of valuable stuff in there that I even think is laudable. (I am deeply troubled that it makes Inman a kind of Southern white knight in his relationships with women and other folks…I mean, there’s some elements of the film which remind me of Birth of a Nation in its proto-Klansman vision.) But it totally erases black people except as a rape victim, and you’ve got to wonder what it was doing. Released definitely is a key word…I think there’s something to be said for writing your story or making your story and then looking at it and saying, “Hrm, we have a blind spot.”
Matt: I was being a bit more cynical even. I could imagine someone still writing it that way before someone else realizes the major issues or even a test audience.
Tim: I could absolutely see it getting to the test audience phase and then being revised. Honestly that’s probably the most likely road, where they’ve filmed some stuff, cut it, and then put it back in.
Matt: Similar thing happened with Moana. Test showings made it clear that maybe a bunch of white dudes writing and creating the movie isn’t the best way to go. It’s good they changed some stuff and got different voices in the room, but still a bit of “really, you went that far first?”
Tim: For sure. Anyway, that’s a really long-winded way to say something along the lines of “Stuff is different when you watch it later in a different social context.”
Matt: Or, even if you feel the same about a text/person/thing years of accrued context and social change cast it in a different light and you have to reckon with that. Maybe I’m just being pedantic here, but that seems like a distinction to me.
Regardless, even new texts that haven’t marinated in culture as long prompt these sorts of thoughts/discussions, so want to talk about Coco (in, as you say, the only time it’ll be connected to Cold Mountain)
Tim: Right, so here’s my other idea that takes up a lot of space. But, spoilers I guess?
So the center of the plot of Coco is that the dead can revisit Earth on the Day of the Dead if they have a picture placed on a family’s ofrenda. Conversely, if a dead person has been totally forgotten by every person who knew them? (I think this is right), then they disappear even from the world of the dead people too, and that’s permanent. I think this has a lot of really interesting implications (that our memory of the dead requires a tactile/visual aide for them to stay with us, or the implication is that this Skeleton-World is populated entirely with people from the past few decades) but I was struck by the moment in which one character just disappears into the ether. I think that’s a powerful way to think about when something is gone gone.. Or maybe, when something is so obscure that it’s unable to recreate itself, i.e. like that point of no return for a practically extinct species, that’s when it disappears.
Matt: That’s right, when every “live” person forgets them they disappear into the ether. It’s in the line of Pixar offering some really striking (and kind of stark) image or concept for innate things everyone deals with, especially children who may not fully know what they’re dealing with yet.
Tim: I was not ready for them to take “Movie about dead people” and turn it into “everyone dies for good eventually.” Which is why I think that fits into this discussion about aging, where you change the older you get and then eventually you disappear. Like, here’s a really weird example that I’m not sure fits…do you know offhand who Joseph L. Mankiewicz is?
Matt: I know he was a director but could tell you nothing about him. So I have a vague sense of his name. (At least I think he was a director.)
Tim: He started off as a producer, but he’s famous for being a director who directed his own screenplays. So you win! Maybe that’s not a good example, but I think about him as someone who’s sort of in danger of being remembered solely by movie buffs in another fifty years…
Matt: I think it’s a good example. I have slight name recognition but couldn’t tell you what movies he directed. I suspect he will grow foggier in my mind in the coming years.
Tim: His best work is from the late ‘40s and early ‘50s (All About Eve, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, A Letter to Three Wives) and he was also the guy who helmed the Liz Taylor Cleopatra, which honestly might be the trivia question most associated with him. But he’s not New Hollywood, no modern director says, “Oh, yeah, I was definitely watching him as an influence,” and I really worry about him turning orange and disappearing forever as streaming takes over and people focus ever more on recent releases. And there are lots of good directors/performers who have already done that and more. I suppose I bring him up because he was a huge deal at his peak.
Matt: For him in particular, I think it depends on All About Eve. That’s the only one I think has a chance of remaining in (slightly) more than film buff memory. Even then, that’s not him as a person.
Tim: Not like I know the dude’s entire biography, but that’s still part of it.
So if I have any overarching thoughts for this, they’re sort of in the mind of Cold Mountain and Coco: what is aging in ways that were sort of unpredictable at the time, and what is disappearing? And the obvious follow-up for #2 is: why is it disappearing?
Matt: It’s something I think you and I encounter fairly regularly even if we didn’t think about it too explicitly before now. We both teach, and I know for me testing and seeing what artists and texts students do and don’t know is surprising every year. I always ask about favorite band and seeing older artists disappear from those conversations is a shock to the system.
Tim: The stuff that sticks around is also pretty wild, too. In the film club I co-sponsor at school, we had a sci-fi week that I thought E.T. would be a good fit for. They’d all seen E.T., a movie which is about twenty years older than them. I want to know how E.T. is a movie all these fifteen- and sixteen-year-olds had seen when I’d bet they hadn’t seen any other movies from 1982.
I also want to throw something else out there…I dunno if it fits with the conversation we’ve tried to start, but I know it bothers me.
Tim: The legacy thing. I hate the legacy conversation. But this conversation we’re having about aging fascinates me. I think part of it is that the legacy conversation gets thrown around a lot in sports as opposed to music or movies. And the sports legacy conversation tends to be terrible. Feel free to push me back to the actual chat.
Matt: I’m trying to figure out why it feels so different (and worse). In music anyway, legacy conversations do happen but they don’t feel as, I don’t know, oppressive? There’s a sense in sports that the sport never changes so we can compare the “legacies” of everyone equally. Other forms acknowledge that the mediums and particulars constantly change, so I feel like legacy becomes more of a way to consider something after it’s done rather than a cudgel to beat other performers/artists with and stack them against.
Legacy comes up way more in sports, at any rate. I’m just trying to figure out what makes that question of hindsight so different. Am I making any sense here?
Tim: That’s something I hadn’t thought of much. Though I had a shorter answer which also uses the word “cudgel.” Like, “legacy” is a word to use as a cudgel against LeBron, Harden, and Chris Paul and it’s never used to make someone look better. It’s always a “they’re not good enough” conversation.
Matt: No one really worries what a band’s legacy is going to be while they’re still putting out a steady amount of work. Sure you have your Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen who have mostly set legacies and still perform, but they aren’t producing as much new work and that conversation is more to consider what their influence already is (which we can measure since they’ve been around for decades). That’s not happening in the basketball conversation, it’s all about measuring the present against the past. This is why the Jordan/LeBron debate is so infuriating to me. Because I don’t care! They’re both great, they both innovated the sport in many ways, they’re both winners. My soul doesn’t need them to be in some clear order because of intangible “legacy.” (While I’m here, LeBron would beat Jordan 1-on-1.)
Tim: You tease. And you hinted at this idea too…legacy conversations are really about how you want other people to see you. Every time someone talks about Jordan’s sociopathic will to win or Kobe’s “Mamba mentality,” what they’re really saying is “I want people to see me as a winner because if I’m talking about basketball on the Internet I’m almost certainly a guy under 35.” It’s possible that music and movies, to take our favorites, don’t usually bring that kind of reaction out in the people who discuss them. And there’s also much more to be said about how the Stones influence Springsteen influences whoever than there is to be said about like, Magic influences LeBron influences whoever. No one likes to think of it in terms of influence, just in comps.
Matt: And no one is blaming a new band or artist for not being the Stones or Springsteen (no one sane anyway) because we agree these artists can exist in similar space, do different things, and still be good and fun. There is a newer band actually, Greta Van Fleet, that sound exactly like Led Zeppelin. Exactly like them. That’s fun for a minute and then becomes “why are they so into simulacrum?” Which is to say I like your point that it’s about influence rather than direct comparison for the sake of hierarchy. Not that we don’t like a good hierarchy (see all our previous Conversations) but it’s all contrived.
Tim: Oh, is it ever contrived. One of these days we need to have a Conversation about what exactly is so entertaining is about brackets. In any event I feel like we can more or less leave the legacy talk out unless it like, clearly makes sense to throw it in there.
Matt: It did. But we’re clearly interested in this for reasons beyond the vagaries of legacy. More in it for the nuance of aging and memory.
Tim: Okay, so let’s hit #1: What are some examples of media that are aging unpredictably? I’m going to yield the floor to you because I think you have more thoughts on this than I do.
Matt: Recently music Twitter has been re-evaluating a bunch of interesting bands (as meronyms for genres, really). The three that really stand out to me are Sublime, Korn, and Dave Matthews Band. Out of genuine curiosity, what are your basic impressions of those three bands?
Tim: I love that you asked that, because I have never counted myself a fan or serious listener of any of those groups but I have opinions anyway. (Seriously: I was watching Lady Bird and did not have any reaction to “Crash into Me.”)
Matt: Let’s start with him/them! I’ve never had a Dave Matthews phase but I know quite a few people who did or still are. The consensus for years was that they’re the ultimate stoner bro band, tacky and irrelevant but hugely popular. There are a lot of talented players in the band, and they had some definite hits, but their critical reputation was in the toilet.
Tim: I think of them as fun, but I always think of them as being shallow. Or like, if that’s your favorite band I sort of think of you in labrador retriever terms.
Matt: And that’s really where the re-evaluation stems from. They’re a fun fairly innocuous band and people are now wondering why that didn’t matter in critical reflections. So now DMB is coming back as this sort of fun, quirky band not aiming for much beyond a good time.
A sorority formal I went to in college had a live band and they played “Ants Marching” at some point and it was all kinds of dumb fun dancing to that song. Lady Bird sort of takes the band in that vein too. There are at least a few DMB songs everyone is familiar with and they work well as a soundtrack to emotional moments without ideologically or spiritually standing in for the experiencing. What was your sense of how Lady Bird is using DMB, because that movie was a big moment in this steady reconsideration.
Tim: I was blissfully apathetic : p More seriously, Lady Bird is a really good period piece for the recent past, which is tough to do and which is a movie genre that I really believe in. “Crash into Me” certainly helps out on that front.
Matt: Tying this to Coco a bit, Dave Matthews is well remembered and that’s why they’re living in these period adaptations and considerations. No one is saying they’re an all-time great band all of a sudden, but they were like the wallpaper for that period and will live on in representations, I think. In ones that don’t have an air of pretension, that is. The indie kids will make one and it’ll be all Built to Spill and Saves the Day which, I’d dig that but it’s not representative of general memory.
Tim: I kind of miss Saves the Day. I think there’s a lot to be said for looking at wallpaper and seeing what patterns in it still work, to butcher an extended metaphor.
Matt: Saves the Day is great! If you had told me a few years ago that people would start to accept or even begrudgingly respect Dave Matthews Band as cultural influencers and not that bad I’d have spit milk.
Tim: I think the fact that they still exist and they still exist in a fairly easy to see kind of way is important, right? Or am I overvaluing their presence?
Matt: I don’t know how much new people are gravitating toward them these days. That’s not rhetorical, I actually don’t know. So maybe it’s a matter of who’s telling the stories in that way? They’re definitely still around and doing their thing, bless them. And they can still go to a field and jam for a few hours and pull a full crowd.
Tim: That’s part of the reason I thought about them as easy-to-see, given their festival presence. You know as well as anyone how little I go to concerts and stuff, but when I just see posters on Facebook or when I’m out, I feel like I always see their name.
Matt: They do mostly their own shows anymore. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw them on a festival poster. That’s mostly a reflection of festivals moving away from jam bands which used to be the lifeblood of festivals. Their own shows are very festival like, for sure. But yeah, they definitely have a presence still. I like the re-evaluation of them, I think it’s fun, but I’m wondering what their status is in 10 or 20 more years.
Tim: Gotta wait until Chloe Grace Moretz uses “Tripping Billies” in her directorial debut to find out, maybe. That reevaluation is probably even the right one too, from where I’m sitting. They were always fun and that’s at least a good thing.
Matt: On the not good side of re-evaluation, Sublime.
Tim: Sublime has always signified to me people having the kind of fun that I can’t imagine myself having.
Matt: A sort of fun I don’t think you want to be having. But yeah, they were a bro-y party band and that was their image for the longest time. Bradley Nowell, their frontman, overdosed years ago and the band’s reputation comes down to like two albums. More people (men) have finally begun to notice that Nowell’s lyrics are pretty toxic really. “Santeria” is okay from their first album but then you get something like “Date Rape” on the second that is wildly homophobic. I don’t want to go too deep into the problematics of various songs, but the homophobia and sexism pervading many has finally come to the forefront. And the reaction is largely we can appreciate some of the music aspects here, which are sometimes fun and pretty diverse, but the lyrical content doesn’t pass like it did in the 90s. That said, even the interesting music aspects don’t hold up all that well. I’ve never really been fond of Sublime, but there’s just nothing there to hook me anymore where there might have been 10 years ago.
Tim: I have listened to “Santeria” many times and bobbed my head and all in all I am much more out on them than I ever have been on Dave Matthews. That one is interesting because it feels like it’s been sitting out there waiting for all of us to notice and care since the beginning.
Matt: Yeah, and “Santeria” and “What I Got” (and “Two Joints” every so often) still get play on the radio. Which, those songs aren’t as problematic as some others but Sublime still exists in the public consciousness that way. I hear them more on the radio than I do Dave Matthews.
Tim: Lookit this fella here, listenin’ to the radio.
Matt: Gotta keep up with what the youths are listenin to. Which, this is conjecture, but I wonder how many of my students (college freshmen) know about both bands. I might be thinking more know Sublime, but I could be way off there.
Tim: I was thinking the same thing, though sort of on my E.T. principle, i.e. “Whatever thing I’ll never understand why they know it is what they’ll know.”
Matt: That’s sort of where I am. Though the grab bag of genres that is a Sublime record does fit with what they tend to know and like. Red Hot Chili Peppers are a huge touchstone for them. Anyway, I think there’s a comparison to Cold Mountain here in that, while I’m almost positive a record like 40oz. To Freedom could get made today, the backlash would be massive.
Tim: Should we talk about what was getting in the way of backlash then? I feel like I sort of skipped over this on Cold Mountain too. Like, were people not listening for it then? Were their brains just not attuned to it? What do you think the deal was?
Matt: I’ve been thinking about that and I still don’t know. Bunch of problematic music getting made in the 90s. People still weren’t really grappling with homosexuality and misogyny exists in nearly every genre at that point (still does, but maybe not as blatantly). Like, I honestly don’t know what made it so, not acceptable necessarily, but not in need of response as it does today.
Tim: I wonder if part of the issue is that white/straight/etc. was still considered just part of the baseline. And that people still looked at those things like they were the default, and so in the case of Cold Mountain you have these default white people reviewed primarily by default white people and then you paper over the issues with race or with gender relations that the movie also doesn’t want you to focus on too hard. That could be a little simplistic, I dunno.
Matt: No, I think that’s a big aspect. I’m reminding myself of this now, but one should keep in mind that who was writing about music and movies was much more important in the 90s and even 2003 than now. It still matters, but the internet opens lines of opinion. Whatever your local reviewer decided to review or whatever the radio played in the 90s was what you knew.
Tim: Oh, this part! Yeah, yeah, this part.
Matt: And those people were primarily straight white males. Tim’s excited about this part!
Tim: The Internet has exploded what people are exposed to. I was missing that bit. Because I can remember a time when it really was newspaper, TV, radio, and you didn’t expand beyond what was in your grasp. Like, Wesley Morris was alien to me and might have been alien to me forever if not for the Internet. And now I think he’s essential reading for movies.
Matt: R.I.P. Grantland. If I don’t like someone’s method or takes I can look for other people. To the white male thing a bit more, Sublime was originally three white dudes playing around with rap and punk and reggae and roots and a bit of dub. And they made some interesting things but I wonder how big the appropriation discussion would be today. I don’t really want to sidetrack us there, but part of what made them a “viable” commercial entity in the 90s would probably be part of the problem today.
Tim: (doing the Buzz face when he says “delicious hot schmos”) The ‘90s.
Matt: Which is actually a good segue into Korn, if we’re ready.
Tim: This is the one I’ve kind of been looking forward to.
Matt: Me too since I don’t have any real attachment to the other two but I had a definite Korn phase. Nu-metal in general, largely because of Korn though. Nu-metal was like Holden Caulfield made manifest and exposed to heroin. It’s angry white boys upset with their station in life and, in retrospect, we all should have been much more worried. It’s some genuinely seething stuff, and often at the expense of women.
Tim: Another band I really didn’t listen to: I was mopey, not mad.
Matt: Bless the emo bands for becoming popular next. Part of why I’m so interested in the re-evaluation of Korn (Deftones are getting some better press, Limp Bizkit is basically the same as ever though people don’t seem to hate Fred Durst as much) is that there’s that necessary “yeah, these elements were problematic” mixed with genuine “but we missed this and it was interesting.” The book on this genre is that their history starts with Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers (which the bassist from Korn said almost exactly at one point) which got older critics all in a tizzy. But they’re doing really interesting stuff with rap and metal and funk and actually making it all work together. The other thing with Korn is that those guys grew up in rough conditions, so there’s more acceptance of why they were so angry but a needed questioning of where that anger got directed. In general I just like that a band like Korn, one in a genre as disparaged as nu-metal (which was insanely popular), can get reconsideration like this that’s both critical and understanding. The music is of its era to some degree, but stuff like “Freak on a Leash,” “Blind,” and “Got the Life” still have a certain vibrancy to them. Sublime sounds dated and backward, Korn sounds like a unique band still.
Tim: So has the music gotten better reviews now than then? I’m not surprised that the ideas are not so lovable anymore.
Matt: I’m glad you asked that because I realized how murky that last sentence I wrote was. Their new material gets the “it’s nice that they’re trying something new but it’s not that great” treatment. The older affair – Follow the Leader especially and Life is Peachy somewhat – are getting some re-evaluation and notice as pretty influential and musically progressive (definitely not socially progressive). Not to sound like every critic is going back and thinking about old Korn records again, but there’s a greater number of people defending the band, or at least saying there was something valuable about those older albums.
Linkin Park comes out of nu-metal and Hybrid Theory sold in the tens of millions. It’s a genre that needs reconsideration going forward. It was too big not to warrant that. And Korn sits at the beginning of its commercial popularity. (So does Rage Against the Machine, but everyone talks about them differently.)
Tim: So when there’s a literal book on nu-metal and its influences in fifteen years, Korn will need a place of honor, such as it were.
Matt: They will figure heavily into my book, yes.
Tim: I didn’t want to imply too heavily that it would be your book, but yes.
Matt: It feels like I’m grabbing a torch here that I didn’t fully realize I would. I’ve been super interested in the evaluations of these three bands largely because of the genre trappings. You have a rap-rock-reggae band, a nu-metal one, and a jam band. Those genres tend to be buried critically, it’s nice to see them get some new thought. And it’s because of how big they were. 50 years from now, I’m not sure which ones aren’t fading into the forgotten ether.
Tim: With popular music I think this is such a difficult thing to predict. Can you imagine telling people in 1960 that Bobby Darin would be a soundtrack figure but not a popular listen?
Matt: Or people in the 70s that disco would have no cache anymore.
Tim: I love you, disco. I watched Saturday Night Fever a minute ago and everything.
Matt: Music is so interesting in this regard because there is just so much and we never really know what’s going to endure in the moment.
Tim: And the number of artists who fade away over time is just stunning. Like, how many people can name three contemporaries of Bach?
Matt: I’m not even sure I can. I know a good amount of composers but always forget where they are in the chronology.
Tim: He died in 1750, so like, 270 years or so. And the average person can’t recall another person. Even people who know stuff! (I’m not exactly up to snuff on Bach’s bosom buddies.) And if it really does pare down everyone but one every quarter-millennium, that’s a tough task.
Matt: It’s starting to happen with 20th century music even because of things like Oldies and Classic Rock radio stations. Eventually a bunch of stuff gets pushed together and only a few players stand out. Which is, now that I think about it, really pertinent to Coco with the memories revolving around who got songwriting credit.
Tim: That got dark. Though you’re absolutely right. You have to be Burt Bacharach for people to know your name. Just don’t ask me why I picked him.
Matt: Austin Powers tried to dredge up his memory. Which, honestly, is where I first heard of Mr. Bacharach.
Tim: “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” from Elephant is my first encounter with him.
Matt: …I think I saw Austin Powers before that album, but I’m not positive. Either way, I regularly forget that’s a cover song.
Tim: That was one of the first albums I ever bought for myself, so I have vivid memories of like, going through the liner notes because I thought you did that when you got those.
Matt: I still buy CDs and get vinyls, so I’m intimately familiar with that process. I actually have Elephant on vinyl, so this is just a bad showing for me. Third best White Stripes record, just to drop that and move on.
Should we say more on these bands? They’re fun in part because I never expected them to receive this level of attention again and get an injection of fresh memories to keep them going.
Tim: I know I was going to ask if you had a couple of bands in your back pocket who you think might be up for a changed perspective in the next ten to twenty years. Is there one positive, one negative? (I have been trying to plan ahead for movies, so this is something I had in mind…)
Matt: Perfect! I’m currently sorting in my head between bands I want to see get this treatment and ones I actually think might.
Tim: I know I am already struggling with this and I am sure it’s because I am confusing what is likely to get a reevaluation and what I want to get reevaluated…
Matt: Like, I would love for people to revisit Jimmy Eat World but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Which is a shame because their fingerprints are on a ton of newer rock bands (emo is in a fourth or fifth wave) but those bands aren’t popular.
Tim: I would have thought that Jimmy Eat World would be a winner here because they have such a wide influence.
Matt: After I wrote that I started thinking that might actually make them perfect for this. A couple decades down the road when their influence on this generation of bands is undeniable, yeah I can see them getting some shine. Clarity, Bleed American, and Futures deserve it, that’s a heck of a three album run. Part of my hesitance is that I’ve encountered some people – we’ll call them punk purists – who prattle on about the damage pop-punk and emo did to “true” punk. Everyone has gathered by now I think that argument is bogus but, like Korn, Jimmy Eat World helped usher in what would become a really popular genre that a lot of critics didn’t care for. The difference here is that people already know it’s a genre kickstarted largely by sad white guys. It’s become much more diverse since, but that’s part of the history (and leads to stuff like what happened with Brand New, which I’m still sour about). That people are already wrestling with it is good, I think.
Tim: I am assuming that’s going to be positive, then. Any bands or performers you think are going to have a negative turnaround in the fullness of time?
Matt: Can I add a luke-warm take real quick in regards to positive re-evaluation?
Tim: I’ll allow it.
Matt: Thank you, Mills Lane. Get over your Coldplay hate, y’all. There’s some good stuff on those first several albums. I do honestly think they’ll see a bit of a turnaround down the road when people realize we were foolish to put them in the same sentence with Radiohead at first and then were over-critical after.
As for a negative turnaround, this one is harder than I thought it would be going in. Kid Rock is already headed that way and should be. I was thinking about the Red Hot Chili Peppers because there are a fair few people who are just tired of them at this point, but I think they’re too popular among younger folk.
Tim: I think both of us would also draw a line between “tired of” and “redefining quality.” Because I know I’m also fairly tired of them, but I still get the point.
Matt: That’s true. I like the band, I sort of worry that people will start to wonder if they’ve done anything different since Californication at best but probably Blood Sugar Sex Magic and deem that to be unworthy of their initial popularity. I don’t think it’ll be quite the same though. Another two bands come to mind but I’m not sure if I think they’re candidates or not: Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer.
Tim: I think we have to hear the Weezer case, because I think this is the take I was looking for but didn’t know the specifics of.
Matt: Weezer’s reputation still rests on Blue Album and Pinkerton. Pinkerton already gets reckoned with as a manifestation of Rivers’ misogynistic tendencies and I just don’t know that Blue Album is going to matter to new listeners all that much going forward. I love that album, but it has brought that band a lot of good will. I understand there’s a contingency for Red Album (I hate them for having this many self-titled records, with another one coming out real soon if the tease is serious), but I really doubt that’s enough to keep them from falling out of favor. Which I guess is me saying it comes down to Pinkerton. When the people who loved that record in the 90s aren’t the loudest voices anymore I could see Weezer fading away (not totally, because stuff like “My Name is Jonas” and “Say it Ain’t So” still exist) or even falling to questions of “why did we give this Rivers Cuomo guy so much rope?” Is that jiving with the take you’re looking for or feeling unfulfilled?
Tim: No, I think that’s the right level of heat. Though I think that Weezer probably peaked in the popular imagination with “Pork and Beans,” and really with the video and not the song itself. They belong to a certain time, which very nearly gets us into a discussion about timelessness that is just well outside the purview of this one.
Matt: Red Album, which “Pork and Beans” is on, has some solid tracks but really feels like the band mimicking rather than doing their own thing, which is the credit given to those 90s albums. Yeah, I think I talked myself into Weezer eventually getting a negative re-evaluation. Or if not that strong one more like “why did we care so much?” I’m a little sad about that because they write some really good songs, but it makes sense that it would happen.
Tim: Now for the ol’ switcheroo, I suppose. And I’ll tell you what, coming up with some movies/directors/whatever that I think will age well has been weirdly difficult for me.
Matt: My general (perhaps uninformed) sense is that movies and directors tend to stay more tightly stratified than artists/albums/songs. Is that unfair?
Tim: I don’t think that’s wrong. I also think that because the movie is the movie, people tend to figure out what they think about it pretty quickly, and then within five years or so the movie is stuck in a certain kind of way unless it gets seriously reevaluated. Like, either the movie has pull or influence five years out or it just sort of sits and when you bring it up people are like, “Oh yeah, I remember that movie.” Even Weezer, who we have just said some non-complimentary things about, changed several times in the way people looked at them.
Matt: They’re boring now! It’s weird. And yeah, they’ve had a few iterations while somehow remaining identifiably Weezer.
Tim: The thing about them is I think there’s a lot of real argument to be had about the band. But you look at movies, and even the ones that people sort of wax on about as “This movie wasn’t rediscovered for many years” still usually had good reviews at the time. People mention Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life here all the time, but like, both of those were nominated for Best Picture, so it’s not like people thought they were garbage.
Matt: We’re doing a band-to-movie thing here when maybe it should be band-to-director (or album-to-movie).
Tim: You’re right. I have muddled this a little bit. Really ought to be band-to-director.
Matt: I don’t want to cut of discussion of particular movies that have been or need to be re-evaluated, but are there any directors that stick out as having gotten the Weezer or Jimmy Eat World treatment? (you know, the treatment we advocate for but that hasn’t actually happened yet…)
Tim: Probably not any that are as off the wall as like, the reevaluation of Korn you were mentioning earlier.
Matt: I’m trying to think if there’s a person or movie that would surprise me in the way Korn did. Maybe if people started liking Ace Ventura as much as I did.
Tim: I have one name that really sticks out in my mind as someone who’s probably going to get the Weezer treatment: Quentin Tarantino.
Matt: Here we go!
Tim: I think he is already fading, and it’s possible that he may not have much cultural cachet in twenty years. Part of it is sort of a Cold Mountain thing, because Tarantino and Harvey Weinstein absolutely belong together in the same sentence if for no other reason than the fact that they did business together. The fact that Tarantino has been really mealy-mouthed about that debacle (which is the nice word for it) has hurt him. I think there’s also a sense that his best days are really quite far behind him…it’s hard for a director’s best movie to be almost twenty-five years old, and for nothing else s/he’s done to be anywhere near that caliber. There are certainly directors on the market who are in that boat (and if you think Tarantino is a hot take, just wait until what you see what I have cooking here), but Tarantino really has Pulp Fiction and then, depending on who you are, some combination of Reservoir Dogs, Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds, the Kill Bill movies, and maybe if you’re a little off the wall you throw Jackie Brown in there. I think Reservoir Dogs has already reached the point of more academically/historically interesting than movie interesting, though I’m sure you disagree here.
Matt: Yep. But go on.
Tim: And out of that list of everything that’s not Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds is the only one that I think is holding up well. Maybe his biggest problem is the proliferation of streaming and the democratization (basically) of movie viewing. The word on Tarantino has always been “He’s a huge movie fan and he mishmashes references, etc.” but in the past few years that’s started to become “He’s a huge movie fan and he doesn’t actually have any ideas of his own, which is a problem.” There’s this quote about Taxi Driver that I love. Paul Schrader, who wrote the movie, added in a little aside to the Bresson movie Pickpocket. He said roughly, You used to be able to get away with that because people hadn’t seen as many movies. The fact that everyone with a Filmstruck account or, heck, torrents, has access to Lady Snowblood has definitely made people raise their eyes a little more at Tarantino. There’s kind of a sense that he’s not adding or changing much within this material he likes, and that’s going to hurt him long term.
Matt: I can easily see him getting re-evaluated in these ways, but I’m deeply interested in this in the, I don’t know the word here, theoretical, I guess. Tarantino is getting the treatment DJs used to get (and still do to some degree), where cutting and sampling wasn’t seen as actual creation. Still questions about theft and intellectual property with samples too, so the debate still happens. To me DJs are absolutely creative and unique rather than derivative (good ones, that is, they can still be derivative). I’m starting to view Tarantino more and more in that sort of light. Not exactly the same, but similar. That said, I think you’re right in that this will hurt his reputation long term, and I say that as someone who adores Reservoir Dogs and am off the wall enough to add in Jackie Brown. More to the theoretical aspect, there’s less need for someone like Tarantino, who scours old movies from less popular genres and reconstitutes them into something more people will see. Beck is having this issue a bit, but without Tarantino’s less savory personal qualities. Viewers can do this digging and discovery on their own now.
Tim: Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds are the height of Tarantino for me because they are brilliant…looking for the phrase you used…reconstitutions, that’s a good word, of noir/neo-noir and the World War II squad mission, respectively. I think those two have so much more to offer beyond just saying, “This is my World War II movie and it should remind you of like, The Guns of Navarone” or something like that. The problem is that something like Django Unchained, which has a lot to offer, doesn’t have a lot more to it other than “What if we made a Western in the antebellum South?” and the parts that Tarantino does add to it are iffy at best. Nor do I want to say that a good director doesn’t borrow/steal/do some straight up burglary of other works they like, but I don’t think it’s a good sign for the long haul if that’s how people talk about you.
While we were doing this I came up with more people. The dam kinda burst. Do you have more Tarantino thinks or do you want me to throw out my list and then choose a few?
Matt: All artists steal – or “borrow” if you like – to some degree. Tarantino has always been really obvious about his influences. I find myself in this space of he should be re-evaluated but I can’t see myself not feeling attached to a few of his movies. I guess I’m just saying this one is fascinating to me on a personal level. But yes, throw out others you’ve been thinking of and let’s see what happens.
Tim: First of all, I have three names that I’m interested in watching over the next decade or so, because none of these people have a whole bunch of movies to their credit, and all of them are poised to really change in the next ten years: James Mangold, Damien Chazelle, and Matt Reeves. Mangold is definitely the most established of the bunch, and I had kind of written him off before Logan (no, still haven’t seen it, I’m a bad person), but the praise for that movie was so strong and so universal and I think similar to the kind of praise he’s gotten for movies like Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line. People were all talking about character so much in that movie, and Mangold has started to earn a reputation as being a guy who really gets into the guts of his people. I am curious to see what a Star Wars movie does to him and his stock, but it’s possible he rebounds in an interesting way. I just know that I have been bored by my Mangold experience, and maybe he’s changing in a way that will improve his reputation.
Matt: I’m the resident Logan stan. It’s so so good. I can say it has me excited for Mangold’s future projects and I hope he can keep on a roll.
Tim: I’m pulling for James Mangold. It used to be that a director (like, eighty years ago) got a lot of chances to make features and get used to it. Maybe Mangold is just getting used to it. Matt Reeves has Cloverfield, Let Me In, and the Apes reboot on his resume, and there’s some superhero movie in his future, and I’m curious to see where he goes because I think he’s really talented and I’m afraid he’s going to coast on preexisting properties forever.
Matt: Reeves is co-writing an upcoming Netflix series too. Mission to Mars, or something like that. No real clue if it’ll be good, but he has some stuff besides the Batman adaptation. Which, I’m skeptical of all DC stuff at this point.
Tim: Reeves is carving out a corner as a dedicated sci-fi/horror kind of guy, but he is not carving out a corner as someone who’s the most important name in production. It’s very weird. Cloverfield had J.J. Abrams’ name all over it. Andy Serkis gets more credit than Reeves for the Apes movies (and there’s an incredible team of visual effects folks who deserve way more than they get). Reeves still is under the radar in a strange way. And Damien Chazelle…look, I’m not going to talk about La La Land again, but I think the guy is already dangerously close to becoming a caricature of himself, and the next few movies he does are going to go a long way towards deciding what his legacy (oh that word) will be. I am certainly interested—La La Land is a well-directed movie! And it’s not great! Ugh!—and I am a little pessimistic.
Matt: Is there going to be a (big) difference between how Chazelle looks to film buffs like yourself and general audiences? I have no real basis for this question, just a gut feeling that he could end up with really different reputations.
Tim: I’d say it’s really possible! And then I think to myself, “The list of people who have negative reviews of La La Land without recourse to Moonlight is like, Richard Brody, Amy Nicholson, Armond White, and me.” There are a lot of smart critics who I really trust who were just gobsmacked by that movie. What I think is most likely is that La La Land is undoubtedly his most popular movie, and that he’ll either become the kind of personal, tightly-wound director you see in Whiplash, which I’d be cool with, or you see him turn into Peter Bogdanovich and flame out early. I have no conception of his personality, so we’ll see. I do know that he and Bogdanovich are both very movie-literate (no one is more movie-literate than Bogdanovich), and I think both of them crested high on making adaptations of old forms and then in Bogdanovich’s case he bought his own hype and imploded. If Chazelle starts thinking he’s unbeatable, and again I have no idea what he thinks about besides white people evangelizing for jazz while black people just play it and shut up, then he may get into hot water. That got angry faster than I thought it would. I am so easily triggered by him. If he decides to adapt a Henry James story then we’ll all know he’s screwed.
Matt: He’d do The Ambassadors. I can say for Mangold and Reeves I hope they do well for themselves but Chazelle I sort of go “eh.”
Tim: I would love to see all three succeed. I would also like to see each of them do different types of movies than they have done so far, and if they actually branch out then I think it’ll bode well. (That was the really succinct version of the past few hundred words.)
So here are some people I’m afraid for/think will fall off, in no particular order: Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson, A.G. Inarritu, Clint Eastwood. And here are some people I think the world is going to judge more kindly: Todd Haynes, Steve McQueen, Ang Lee, Mike Leigh, Merchant & Ivory, Sofia Coppola.
Matt: I had a feeling you were going to mention Anderson…
Tim: You know how you were saying music Twitter had opinions about those bands you discussed? The world is already talking about Wes Anderson in a way that makes me worry a little bit, even as an Anderson agnostic.
Matt: Sigh. What are they saying?
Matt: I was about to write “anything besides ‘twee’”
Tim: That’s the general consensus. I dunno that I’d call him excessively twee, y’know? Here’s a twee movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. All of the people I put into that “fall off” category, except maybe Clint Eastwood, have this in common: they make the same movie over and over again. And you really have to be so marvelous at doing that if you’re going to last…like, Ingmar Bergman good. I think the best of Wes Anderson’s work is going to survive, but, deep breath, Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom and Darjeeling Limited and so on are going to disappear. The critical consensus right now is that the guy peaked with Rushmore, which is, like Tarantino, not the kind of thing you want to hear if you have twenty years of movies in between. I like to think Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel are going to last, but I’m even a little worried about them.
Matt: Peaked with Rushmore?! Those people can kiss my tuchus.
Tim: I’m not on that train, but honestly I think that’s starting to crystallize. To me it’s most likely that he survives as a really niche filmmaker and is watched by people fifty years from now with the same kind of eye that…gosh, I don’t have a good comparison ready to go here. I almost want to say George Romero, in the sense that you know exactly what you’re getting when you watch him and it’s not like anyone else but is it really much more than a lot of fun? And is it even the fun that wraps people up?
Matt: Anderson has a style and I get if it doesn’t work for people. But stuff like Royal Tenenbaums and Grand Budapest Hotel and even Life Aquatic have a definite heart and are, for all his artsy coyness, empathetic movies. There’s some heavy stuff in those movies too, which is why I get kind of sick of the twee thing.
Tim: That’s where I am too. The Royal Tenenbaums has too much acid in it to be one of those rainbow lollipops the size of my face.
Matt: The family drama – and that’s a gentle word for it – in Tenenbaums is intense and sad but also familiar. Stylistically, sure, he is twee. But emotionally I don’t think he trips into twee all that often.
Tim: I think he’s polarizing, and not even in a makes-you-mad way, but he is an acquired taste. I worry that the acquired taste is not going to last another two generations of moviegoers. And I worry when people are raving about a movie like Moonrise Kingdom as soulful and wonderful and the best since Rushmore, lulz, when there’s really not that much there there.
Matt: Saying Rushmore is the peak leads to this problem, I think. Like, that’s the perfect movie to pick if you want to nail Anderson for being twee and too irreverent. It’s Schwartzman tossing zingers for two hours and I’ve never felt the same stakes in that as some of his later stuff. It’s a well made movie, and has a consistent vision and tone, but Anderson’s sensibility and humor feels like it’s there for it’s own sake in Rushmore in a way that I think he moves beyond later.
Tim: Rushmore is a seriously accessible movie even because of its own plot? Like, the fact that it’s fairly straightforward and it resembles a parody of angry young men movies means that people can line it up more easily. And it does not necessarily have the Anderson look that he developed. One more thing, or maybe two, that might give him the business: there are a lot of women who exist primarily for men in his work, and the Isle of Dogs backlash is real in part because there are a lot of people of color sidekicks in the earlier movies. Aesthetically that’s not important. Politically I’m not sure that bodes well, because call me nuts, but I’m not sure Anderson’s audience is right-wing/wouldn’t care about identity pieces.
Matt: Anderson isn’t going to a conservative rally anytime soon. Those are good criticisms that need to be discussed. Not to suggest this only happens in Rushmore, but that’s sort of why that one feels like cherry-picking to me, because that movie is all about Max and his angst. Again, it’s not only in that movie. Isn’t the Isle of Dogs backlash more than that?
Tim: As I understand it from my Internet browsing, it’s primarily about cultural appropriation and not hitting the Disney target of “voicing your characters from x background with people from x background.” Maybe the second part a little less, but I guess there’s a sense that the Japanese people in the movie are largely insensitive?
Matt: The Greta Gerwig character can be a bit off-putting, but otherwise the humans are mostly Japanese voice actors. The dogs are all Anderson regulars.
Tim: And I don’t know if that matters to people a lot. I think the Gerwig character is really where the criticism is aimed.
Matt: There’s sort of a white savior thing going on with that character. Not totally, but it’s there. I’ve been thinking about the appropriation question ever since it came out and haven’t really landed anywhere firm. I thought Isle of Dogs was mid-tier Anderson right away and fairly innocuous (besides being a pretty tight allegory for xenophobia).
Tim: The best-case scenario for his legacy is for Isle of Dogs to stay mid-tier and not get too many people poking around. Maybe for critical and cultural reasons alike.
Matt: I’m a hopeless Anderson fan and don’t mean to sidetrack this into only him. Who are you interested in talking about from those lists you made?
Tim: I’m a hopeless Linklater fan and I am so worried he’s going to disappear in thirty years. Not disappear, obviously, but turn into someone only people like me really care about.
Matt: My impression is that, unfortunately, Boyhood has already receded to the background some and he needs Dazed and Confused to stay popular to not disappear in that way. Which is to say nothing of his work, I like all I’ve seen from him. I guess those are my “on the outside” senses, what do you see happening?
Tim: His three Before movies, especially viewed closely, are just stunning. I have a hard time believing that those are going to disappear entirely. I think Dazed and Confused is likely to fade, but that movie is so adorable (in the literal sense) that I have a hard time imagining that going away. But those are his most relatable movies. There’s definitely a very Texan aspect to his movies that you see in Slacker or Boyhood or Everybody Wants Some!! And I know that’s offputting to some people because to really get it you have to be able to relate to Austin, essentially. I think it’s the kind of invaluable cultural anthropology that I frequently watch movies for, but I know a lot of people don’t watch movies that way. And then you get his off kilter stuff like A Scanner Darkly or Waking Life that’s definitely not for everyone. He’s very specific, basically. And that kind of specificity can absolutely doom you when you’re not working anymore. My best-case scenario for him is to turn into the Hal Ashby of his time, in the way that you watch one of his movies and you are there in the time period he wants you to be in. (I just connected the two directors in a review I just wrote of The Last Detail, so it’s on my mind.)
Matt: Here’s everyone’s reminder that Linklater also directed School of Rock, which I just remembered myself.
Tim: I will never understand how that’s him, and at the same time Linklater is so invested in rock/pop music that of course it’s him. Jack Black in that movie is a preservationist at heart, which I think Linklater has shown himself to be over the course of the past three decades or so. But like, man, you scroll through his filmography and it gets you every stinkin’ time.
Matt: I sort of like that it’s there, but it’s definitely weird. I’m wondering about (two time Best Director) A.G. Inarritu and Steve McQueen. The latter because my immediate question was “who’s doubting him currently?” Not to stop discussion of Linklater if you want to spend more time here.
Tim: No, it really kind of makes me sad to talk about Linklater dying out, so I think I’m good having said my piece. I want to start with McQueen because he’s only got three features, but the average moviegoer has only seen one of them and it’s definitely the worst of the bunch, and maybe more worrying to me is that he’s trending down. I guess I should have mentioned him with Reeves and Chazelle and Mangold. My thought is that people are going to return to Hunger and Shame in a couple decades and really be forced to reckon with a guy who can be as difficult to watch as Michael Haneke and Yorgos Lanthimos but who makes these unconscionably beautiful movies while doing so. There’s not enough talk about him as the most talented director in English right now, and that may honestly have to wait until he’s not working anymore.
Matt: Our dear readers should know my love of Michael Fassbender owes a lot to Steve McQueen. He has a movie, Widows, coming out this year (and a 2Pac documentary somewhere down the line), but I do often forget he has so few features.
Tim: He took a long time to get into full-length movies, and he is certainly deliberate between them. As for Inarritu, I’m not really sure that any of his movies have aged well even in the past decade. I think that’s a real problem for him going forward. As much as Boyhood has kind of sunk, the “Birdman is not really that special beyond the fake no-cuts bit” discussion is rising, The Revenant is already one of those movies better liked for its actors than its anything else, Babel is a good mess but undoubtedly a mess…I dunno. I think people are going to wonder what we saw in him as a filmmaker apart from his technical bona fides, which are of course substantial. But I see Birdman and The Revenant as basically heartless movies, and Babel has bad aim. I would not be surprised if Amores perros turned into his best-remembered movie, and that’s another debut feature. I also have sort of an out-there connection about his actors which I’d like to toss out there.
Matt: We love out-there connections at the Conversations Lounge.
Tim: He’s directed ten actors to Oscar nominations in just five movies, which is a little crazy. That’s Wyler-esque. But I am very curious to know how those performances will look in time, because a lot of them share the pseudo-Daniel Day-Lewis quality that I think is going to out of fashion. Right now acting awards are as much about how much work you do off the camera as you do on it: Daniel Day-Lewis learns how to skin animals or sew, Sandra Bullock puts on a ridiculous accent, Natalie Portman learns to dance, Leo DiCaprio does weird stuff in winter, you know the drill. Acting styles change so much over time, and what we look at as good acting always changes, and I wonder how the change in our perception of good acting is going to alter when, hopefully, we care less about what learned skills someone has to showcase for a performance.
Matt: And if our obsession with bodily transformation ever changes. One could, ya know, hire performers who are of naturally different body types.
Tim: Blame De Niro for that one.
Matt: People are blaming De Niro for a lot of things after the Tonys.
Tim: Whoosh! Any other directors who are on the way up you’re interested in?
Matt: Ang Lee stands out but for similar reasons to McQueen in my head. I wasn’t aware of the doubt around him really. Maybe Sofia Coppola though, because I thought you were down on her before that list.
Tim: Ang Lee is interesting to me because everyone thinks he’s very good and he doesn’t end up on a lot of like, “Best Directors of the Past Whatever Years” lists. I think we’re going to remember him as one of the five or six best directors of his era (That’s why, punnily, I included Mike Leigh as well.) He’s not showoffish or anything, but the guy is so tremendously versatile and always makes these great movies. There aren’t many directors who could make all of Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Life of Pi. But he did, and I didn’t even mention his best movie.
Matt: You did not, to my surprise. Fun game for the people at home.
Tim: Easy game, hopefully. Sofia Coppola is sort of tough for me? I don’t pretend to be a big fan of hers—in some ways I think there are good Wes Anderson parallels, and I’m sure I’m not the first one to it—but Coppola invites controversy in these remarkable ways. I think there’s something about her personally that people just don’t like very much. But let’s say people still think Lost in Translation is good in twenty years, which I think is likely because so many people are rapturous about it now (and trust me I don’t understand why). Eventually I think she’ll get her due as someone who makes insightful movies about women, even if those women are not destitute or particularly relatable or any of those other buzzwords we look for. I found Marie Antoinette to be remarkable, and The Beguiled, for all of the bashing it deserved for erasing a black character from the story, remains a powerfully atmospheric picture. When she’s not in the spotlight or she’s dead or something, the personality/bad press issues will start to fade away and I think people will reckon with her movies more as movies.
Matt: How important is she as a precursor to this newer generation of female directors? Like Greta Gerwig or Patty Jenkins to some degree.
Tim: I think Gerwig needs the success of Sofia Coppola to break in. Not literally, but I think the fact that the world knew a sort of quirky woman director with a background outside directing and a very personal vision could succeed would help. Patty Jenkins feels like she’s on her way because of Wonder Woman…like, weirdly, she and Ryan Coogler have more in common than she does with Coppola in that way. I do think it’s important that Sofia Coppola makes movies about women and especially their interactions with each other, and I think that historically that’s been a sign that someone will follow her and expand that vision significantly. Not like history should move like that, but Coppola has proven it works in our time.
Matt: In a fun almost full-circle moment, Coppola directed the music video for “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself”
Matt: I love directors who cut their teeth on music videos. But yeah, that’s her.
Tim: That is a weird almost full-circle moment.
I have been saving my hot take. Do you want the hot take or do you have more? (I’m happy to chat more about these folks if you’d like.)
Matt: I don’t know that I have much more to write about them. Let’s hear the hot take.
Tim: In fifty years, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese will be reevaluated in surprising ways, and I’m not sure either one will be remembered with the sort of living legend status we have given to them.
Matt: Had a feeling you had a Spielberg take in you. So E.T. finally fades away?
Tim: The individual movies I’m less sure about? Well, no. My take is that both of them are judged well on their movies from about 1995 and before, and that the back half of their catalogues will be basically ignored.
Matt: The Scorsese bit seems hotter to me than the Spielberg in that regard.
Tim: Oh yeah. My fingers are even a little blistered, y’know? But I say this as someone who loves Martin Scorsese’s movies and who, on a long trip to becoming a movie lover, looks to him as the person who pushed me along.
Matt: I’m trying not to just ask why, but why basically. What about Scorsese’s last 20 years of work won’t hold up? Is it that people will just stop caring as much, or are there things he has been doing more recently that will make those later movies forgettable or even in need of critical revision?
Tim: I really think that since…here goes…like, 1993 or so, he’s made three great movies: The Age of Innocence, The Aviator, and Silence. That’s more than most directors! But two things…first, I’m on an island about all three of those to some extent. Second, this is a serious decline phase, which has good movies in it, but that’s a relatively thin list for the past twenty-five years especially for a guy who is a consensus best two or three living American director. This is even after sort of a quieter period in the ‘80s. I think he’s going to be remembered as an all-timer, and I think he’ll be remembered as an all-timer primarily because of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
Matt: I know it hurts you to predict the fading of The Aviator.
Tim: Those three movies are so magnificent, and they are so outside what a lot of people think of Scorsese, i.e. “good Boondock Saints material.” When he is reevaluated, what I hope will happen is people will come back to those movies (and The King of Comedy, and The Last Temptation of Christ) and really emphasize them in their evaluations.
Matt: It just now occurred to me that you haven’t mentioned Goodfellas.
Tim: I am very curious as to what happens to Goodfellas, which is spectacular and which I kind of think is fading from the conversation. That’s more hunch/vibe than anything else.
Matt: I assumed Goodfellas would live with Taxi Driver and Raging Bull so that’s interesting.
Tim: I am genuinely worried about the state of the mob movie, or at least the historic mob movie. There’s a newer generation of moviegoers who find not just Goodfellas but The Godfather too stately and not bloody enough.
MattMatt (like JakJak): So you’re saying late stage Scorsese and Spielberg will do the Coco fade away more than get seriously reconceptualized like, say, Sublime, yeah?
Tim: Probably? I think large parts of their catalogues are going to be looked at again and people will say, “What’s this for?” Spielberg after about 1993 is definitely in that boat, and that’s assuming people still fete Schindler’s List.
Matt: I assume Jurassic Park will always be safe, so 1990 feels like the bottom end.
Tim: And y’know, there are Spielberg movies from the 1980s which are actually being reevaluated positively. There’s an audience for The Color Purple and even Empire of the Sun which knows they’re being overlooked.
Matt: Can I put you on the spot real quick?
Tim: Let’s go for it.
Matt: How are the Wachowskis going to fare going forward?
Tim: I thought about them. I honestly think that the Matrix movies will fade a little, as they already have, and then they’ll be remembered by a certain segment of the population as being adventurous and weird and very hit-or-miss. I kind of think that reputation will stick for a while.
Matt: It hurts my heart, but that’s probably right. There is some re-evaluation of Cloud Atlas happening (I wrote something in that vein for a class, actually) and I keep hoping people will go back to that and Speed Racer and even V for Vendetta and say there’s some fun stuff here.
Tim: Not to interrupt, but Speed Racer is definitely getting some favorable reevaluation already. And I think that it’s overdue, because the “bonkers popcorn movie” take is pretty much where I am. And have been!
Matt: Woo! That movie got panned when it came out, so that’s especially nice to hear. I didn’t plan on saying much about them, but they seem like a pair that could go either way. They’re ambitious and pretty singular at this point, I hope that lives on.
Tim: I always hope that really singular directors manage to hold out for a long time. Sometimes they do and sometimes they have to wait decades to be found again…the Wachowskis might fare better if they go the Tod Browning route, but I hope they don’t have to.
Matt: Anything else you want to say about directors in particular or this concept in general?
Tim: I said way more than I thought I was going to.
Matt: Isn’t that what we always do?
Tim: Even by the standards of our “more than I thought I would,” this one feels lengthy.
Matt: Find your Hector, folks. Whatever artist or text you really love, tell other people about it so it doesn’t fade away. Share the memories of what makes those texts and people so special.
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