REMEMBERING NOSTALGIA

The times that people that live and dwell within this domestic landscape are seeing their world going to hell in a hand basket. This is the phrase that the world as we know it is doomed and everything associated with it is going to pot, and not necessarily through “wacky weed” (where available of course), although using the stuff may ease the pain for its moment.

This article won’t discuss the many trends and reason why the said world is going to hell, pot, the dogs, or whatever cute term one wants to use to describe a situation where it ain’t want is used to be as what is why those serious news sources exist, and why they want you to subscribe to their services they offer to let you know just what is going on in that cold cruel world of ours. What will be discussed within these notes is how people cope with such factors on how they can get through their life and times, even if they can ease the pain for the moment.

One of the many factors that people use is what’s called “nostalgia”. According to the ol’ Webster’s dictionary (or any other dictionary) that can be found online, that term means “..a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations..”

That definition is quite understandable. People as a whole do possess associations with previous experiences within their past. Some are pleasant and happy, such as a trip someone has taken, or an event one attended such as a birthday party for an associate of themselves. People have also experienced not-so-great moments in their life as well. If one was once involved in let’s say a flood, you may not necessarily be nostalgic for that event. So speak about such an event to state “Remember the Smithville Flood of nineteen-aught-three? Boy, was that a time!!” sound very much like a line from some comedy skit. Then again, perhaps what came from the flood may fall into nostalgia, such as how the people in the area assisted with one another, or the results of getting a dwelling space that was a lot better than the old home that got flooded out. But we believe that you readers out there get the idea of what we are attempting to state here.

Anyway, nostalgia has played through a number of factors, especially during recent times. When the pandemic was at its peak, many folks tried to cope with what was going on through nostalgia. Streaming services offered a dose of programming from not-so-long-ago that gave people their own personal comfort, enough for them to not only binge and their favorite TV and/or movie series, but to gain interest in a title that had previously been forgotten about. This drive was even brought to the attention of those programmers and other groups that help the intellectual property (“IP”) rights to the source, enough to present another remake/reboot/reimangaring to the big or the little screen.

A good number of this type of nostalgia tends to teeter toward events and properties based upon the nostalgia user’s own memory, and those folks lived through the moment or era. There are other forms of nostalgia as well. History fans may have nostalgia over an event or period of time that they hold interest to, but didn’t necessarily live through the time where the elements were at their peak. There is even a term for that phase called Anemoia, whose meaning is for a longing for a past one doesn’t remember. (There’s another term for this sense called Nostalgia-alga, and one can switch off from one phrase to another if you want!)

For instance, one holds a fascination for the Civil War that took place in the USA from 1861 through 1865. There are Civil War reenactors that gather in large groups in an open space or field. These folks dress up in military uniforms of the era donned in blue for the north and grey for the south, and participate in reenactments of battles that may or may not have taken place. These Civil Way fans hold a nostalgia for the Civil War, but of course, never were around to live through this period in US history. And bringing it up to 20th/21st century standards, some people of Millennial age (up to age 40 or so), have an interest in mid-century modern furnishings and related designs. Mid-century modern describes the period of c.1945 through the 1970’s where designs were simple, flowing, and had a futuristic look as created by such designers as Ray and Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, and a host of others that were involved within that field. Those that are 40 and younger do not necessarily recall when those designs were at their peak, but they hold a personal interest in a period that was already the past when they first saw the light of day. But you get the idea here.

And it’s not just limited to media and objects. Food comes into play here, where recipes and dishes have made their comeback thanks to nostalgia. Macaroni and cheese, a dish that was long associated with foods that one would serve kids either through an elementary school lunch or as a dinner that “mom” would once serve her offspring(s), has returned. Gourmet versions of this once stable have graced the pages of cookbooks and related media associated with home living. Restaurants are adding that dish to their menus either as a side dish or a main entry. And the reason behind this return? Mac ‘n cheese has been labeled as “comfort food”, an item once enjoyed and later forgotten or abandoned, depending on one’s personal tastes toward food. And that conformity is connected to nostalgia. This is also the reason why cookbooks published from another era are sought by those that troll garage and estate sales, as well as looking online to find a book that features recipes created back in the day where nobody seemed to give a damn in what they ate. Cookbooks of the modern era (21st century mostly) have dishes that are much healthier than ever before, even breaking down its nutritional values to it all. Even when there is an attempt to reprint a cookbook from yore, many of the recipes are rewritten to substitute ingredients that are much healthier now than they were back in the day. Bacon fat isn’t as popular as it used to be, yet bacon itself serves as “comfort food”. Just don’t use the grease in your recipe!

Nostalgia of course, is far from being new. Yours truly first experienced this face of interest into the past going back to the 1960’s when movies from the so-called “golden age of Hollywood” started to take interest thanks to local TV stations filling up their schedules running older movies whenever they could fit them in. This started the creation of books that wrote about this era. I got involved with nostalgia when I started to attend the first set of comic book conventions that would take place in some hotel ballroom for a weekend that glorified the golden and silver age of comic books and related. In fact, the first major convention I attended was called Nostalgia ’72. In 2022, anything from 1972 is considered nostalgic! And since this is the fiftieth anniversary of 1972, that is behind the reasons why one may be seeing elements connected to that year. And to stay in focus with that year, this year celebrates the infamous break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC that started a political tailspin. And in July, that month commemorated the 50th anniversary of the film release of Deep Throat, the movie that ushered in the modern era of porn features that were movies where one can see on camera “lovemaking” among a weak and thin story line. After all, one doesn’t see such a movie for its plot and acting beyond “doing it”!

There is a lot of stuff going on right now that isn’t very happy and well. And that trend will continue as long as the human race will thrive. However, there is an escape to all of those troubles and woes. And that escape, even if that method of getting away from it all is through emotional means, is there for the taking. Granted, those concerns may still linger, but at least one can take that vacation from the 2020s and return where those concerns were not as bad as one released when one left. They even may find a solution to those concerns thanks for diving into those sights, sounds, and tastes that came from another era. After all, what goes around comes around. And who knows, perhaps fifty years from now, there will be folks that will wax nostalgic over the pandemic, the war, and when gas prices shot through the roof. There might even be nostalgia over the use of gasoline to fuel cars! We’ll just wait and see…!

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Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents the world premier of Norm Foster’s comedy A CLEAN BRUSH, a tale about two house painters, a pair of sisters that aren’t sisterly to each other, and an “accidental” death.

James Lemire and Michael Kerr play Dick and Mello, a pair of house painters whose latest gig is to repaint a room inside of a dwelling belonging to Zoe. (Mandy Fason). Dick and Mellow learn that Zoe’s husband recently passed away by “falling” on a fireplace poker. In fact, he fell a number of times on the poker, apparently in the same spot on his head. Zoe wants to get the place freshened up to rent out. While Dick and Mello start on their painting job, Zoe’s neighbor and sister Lois (Susan Priver) comes in She’ there to see what’s going on with her sis, even though they barely get along with each other, as well as reviewing the pair of painters she hired. Is Zoe trying to cover up a possible murder of her husband? Is Lois behind this plot as she didn’t do too well with her spouse? And will Dick and Mello complete their painting gig, even though Mello is taking a shine toward Zoe? This is far beyond another plot of slapping on a fresh coat of paint on the walls just to get the job done!

This new comedy by veteran comedy writer, playwright, and Canadian by origin Norm Foster is a comic farce that holds up to a lot of sharp dialogue, especially between painters Dick and Mello as portrayed by James Lermier who is the “straight man” to Michael Kerr’s Mello as the “fall guy”. The pair of painters peter out as a comic duo that holds more sarcastic canniness than genuine knockabout laughs. One won’t see any physical comedy as the two attempt to paint a la Laurel and Hardy, or even another attempt for a revival of Mack & Myer for Hire! (Do an online search for the latter description!) Zoe and Lois, as portrayed by Mandy Fason and Susan Priver, could plot themselves as scheming sisters, but instead portray siblings that are on their own terms. They are not working with each other in a supportive role, but are just emotionally distant. (Just like real siblings!) The pacing is indeed original for how it stands, even through there is no paining done on stage, and there is no real murder seen on display–assuming that there was a murder in the first place!

As to the visuals, Michele Young’s costuming shows off to where the characters stand within their roles. Dick and Mello’s costuming only consist of painter’s jumpsuits (spotted in the first act while cleaner in the second), while Zoe and Lois dress as women that could be as low-key evil! And Jeff Rock’s scenic design is at its minimal. There are little furnishing on display since the stage consists of a single room that will be painted over. And there is a fireplace placed on stage right to where the “murder” apparently took place!

Directed by Howard Storm, A CLEAN BRUSH is a play that consists of house painters along with a pair of cunning sisters that know enough about each other. It sounds more like a plotting for a drama than a comedy. So we’ll call this production a dramatic comedy or a comical drama. One can take their pick. So make sure you have the proper rollers and enough drop cloths to keep the place dressed with a fresh coat! And use primer as well! It’s enough to be amused much faster than watching the paint dry!

A CLEAN BRUSH, presented by Theatre 40 and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located within the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off little Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until October 23rd. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM.    

For ticket reservations, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org

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DON’T WORRY DARLING (Warner Bros./New Line) stars Florence Pugh as Alice Chambers. She, along with her husband Jack (Harry Styles) lives in a suburban community nestled in the middle of the desert resembling Palm Springs of the 1950’s. This community named Victory, is connected to a rather secretive organization developing The Victory Project, a utopian experimental collective run by its CEO Frank (Chris Pine) where the husbands are the breadwinners and the wives live within a fantasy life. The wives cook and clean as they are supposed to do. But they also lounge by the pool, drink fancy cocktails, and smoke their brand of cigarettes. After their husbands return from their jobs working within The Victory Project, they hold dinner parties with other couples in the neighborhood dining on the elaborate meals as prepared by the humble wives. And yes, each husband makes love with their spouses on the husband’s commands. But Alice isn’t like the rest of the wives that do household chores and attend fashion shows held within the community of Victory. She sees things going amiss. She even starts to question what her husband does within The Victory Project. This starts a chain of reactions to where Alice may be proven to be out of line where pills may bring her to her senses, or so says the “expects” working on behalf of The Victory Project. Does Alice know more than she should know? Or is she really seeing things as a hallucination? And is this community really part of an ideal 1950‘s-esque utopia complete with everything in a style of mid-century modern along with period music played from phonographs in everyone’s ranch style homes?

This movie is a blend between the stylish fashions and set dressings made famous in the TV series Mad Men while set upon a post-modern aura of science fiction. (A 21st century version of SciFi, not the classic 1950’s take on SciFi!) It also leans towards a sense of a fear that brings havoc to those that aren’t part of the status quo. The screenplay by Katie Siberman with story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Siberman starts out with Alice and Jack hosting a party in their home where their friends are present. Then things start to get a bit out of kilter, almost surreal and strange. Those elements added is what makes this movie not just another retread of living in the 1950’s as it may have existed or not! Then again, this feature could be part of a tale that could be expanded as a multi-part mini series viewed on one of those streaming video channels that tends to be the place to view such mini epics!  It has enough plot twists that can provide the room and ability to expand far from this film’s 122 minute running time.

It also features an interesting leading and supporting cast consisting of Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Olivia Wilde (who also directs), Nick Kroll, Sydney Chandler, Kate Berlant, Asif Ali, Douglas Smith, Timothy Simons, and Ari’el Stachel. Many of these names hail from TV/Video, while the rest have appeared as character roles in previous feature titles. So don’t expect much “star power” as such a movie of this type may support.

The real stars of this film are the visuals as expressed. Production designer Katie Byron offers through its staging what the 1950’s were supposed to look like. Costume designer Arianne Phillips sets up the outfits that the men wore and the women paraded in, while Rachael Ferrara dresses each set that brings out the best of the style of the middle 20th century.

Of course, a good looking movie doesn’t necessarily mean that DON’T WORRY DARLING is a good movie! It has its moments for sure! But as stated before, this title would make a better mini TV series. Perhaps a version of this feature may wind up on HBO+ as it comes from the Warner Bros.-Discovery cannon. And since the majority of the cast hails from a TV landscape, it could have the original players set within the roles that make this movie just what it is. It’s a feature that’s amusing with a bit of suspense and mystery added for good measure, complete with a 50’s rock ‘n roll based soundtrack that is more doo-wop rhythm and blues than an expected collection of R&R stars from the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Elvis. After all, when it comes to period films, one must play as much music from that period as one can get away with (or can afford through licensing) in order to show its audience that it takes place in the era the movie represents. In this case, it’s the 1950’s for sure! (Ditto for placing shiny looking classic cars within the backgrounds!)

This title is rated “R” for sexuality, violent content and (limited) foul language as noted by the MPA. Now playing at all multiplexes nationwide.

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