Nathan wrote a piece on a couple of movies released this year that are set in the nineties. Also examining nostalgia in general, he makes some excellent points about why a movie like American Graffiti worked so well in 1973. Simply, these movies are looks at times long since passed and a characterization of more "innocent" times.
But I must say -- not forgetting the fact that I love American Graffiti, The Last Picture Show, and Dazed and Confused, and how I've spent the last four years of my life chronicling post-hardcore before it became commercialized -- nostalgia can be an evil, misleading mindset.
I have not seen The Wackness or August, the two films Nathan mentions that are set in the nineties. That's not really the point at hand. The point at hand is, setting a film in a day and age that was before 9/11 and George W. Bush's time as president. Whether or not that's really going back to a more "innocent" time is in the eye of the beholder. I'm sure there are people who think that way, and that's fine. I think the reason why movies like American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused hold up really well today is because they go beyond the pop culture and vibe of the day and capture a timeless feeling: the twilight of youth.
For me, I can't fully believe that any of my previous twenty-eight years on this planet were flat-out innocent. I might have been innocent, but the world as a whole wasn't.
In the eighties, when I was getting into pop music through Janet Jackson, INXS, and Men at Work on my Walkman radio, and watching Star Wars, Buckaroo Banzai, and Back to the Future over and over again on Beta, there were college students who hated hair metal, preferred for Down By Law over Lethal Weapon, and counted the days until Reagan was out of office. In the nineties, rock music went deeper with me as Nirvana's Nevermind came out when I was in seventh grade and in full-blown puberty. I'm sure there were plenty of people older than me who thought the major labels were exploiting a sound that so many bands before Nirvana had refined.
Basically, it's all about your perspective, and most importantly, the context of the day.
I cannot stress how important context is. In my case, on one hand, my life in college was a lot of fun. Hanging out with people I'd never met before college, working in college radio, being exposed to movies I never saw for rent at Blockbuster, seeing the rise of MP3 sharing, etc. On the other hand, there was a lot of college angst, loneliness, and strained relationships going in my life as well. I'm not saying it was an all-out crappy time, but it wasn't all smiles. The same can be said with my post-college life in 2002. On one hand, I had more time to hang out with my friends who were still in college. . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, the Strokes, and the Hives had incredible records out. But it was probably one of the lowest periods of my life where I felt so worthless because I didn't have a full-time job.
My point is, nostalgia can make people long for a time prior to today and make the present seem hopeless and past the point of no return. I argue that's the nostalgia trap corrupting your memories. And it can continue if you fully believe your best days are behind you. All we have is the present. Besides, how can we say we're living in the present with our in heads almost completely in the past? (I know I'm one to talk, seeing as how it takes a while for me to get over stuff from the past, but I'm just saying.)