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Sampiro
04-25-2011, 03:49 PM
The Charlton Heston 10 Commandments was on TV the other night and I watched a few minutes of it and couldn't help thinking just how cheesy and dated and almost hysterical the movie is by today's standards. I'm trying to think why.

Gone With the Wind was made 17 years before 10 Commandments and still holds up. The lack of graphic violence or sex and of course the attitudes expressed in the script (happy slaves, evil Yankees, etc.) are dated of course but all in all I think somebody who has never seen the movie could still get engrossed in it. While I've never been able to watch more than a few minutes of Wizard of Oz I can see why kids today would still like it. Bridge on the River Kwai won the Oscar the year after 10 Commandments but seems incomparably more modern, and Coppola's masterpieces Patton and The Godfather- filmed 14 and 16 years later admittedly but still older than most Americans- still find new audiences every year. The Taylor/Burton/Harrison Cleopatra was filmed about 7 years after The Big 10 and while it has problems as a movie and just as many historical inaccuracies as Heston's "Moses Moses Moses" its ancient Egypt doesn't look or feel anywhere near as dated.

Another Yul Brynner movie that comes across as incredibly dated is The King and I. You never once immerse yourself in the characters or the story or forget that it's not just a movie but an old movie. Like T10C it had a big budget for the time- it's no surprise when a low budget movie looks dated or cheesy, though many low budget films have aged much better than these two. (I watched Anatomy of a Murder again recently and even though it's black and white and takes place mostly in a courtroom it holds up fine.)

So The 10 Commandments specifically or older movies in general, what causes some to become incredibly dated while others get much closer to timeless?

For Commandments the hammy acting I'm sure plays a part. For both T10C and King & I the fact that you can tell that most of the shots were filmed on a set (one with much too shiny floors and obvious backdrops as well) probably has much to do with it as well.

While you can't get much further from 1950s epic than the 1950s nostalgia 1970s sitcom Happy Days I think much of its extreme dating is from the fact that almost all of the episodes were so obviously filmed on a soundstage, and the fact it was film rather than videotape detracts. Three's Company, which coincided with the later seasons of HD, had jokes that were no stupider but the videotape makes it look fresher even with the early 1980s fashions.

Anyway, your opinions on what makes for a dated movie/TV show/etc.?

salinqmind
04-25-2011, 09:36 PM
I can generally tell right away what decade a historical/costume movie was made, just from the hair and makeup of the actresses. The prevailing fashionable look of the time period that the film was made shows up onscreen. Is that what you mean? Also, a lot of really old movies (in the 30's) were based on plays, and the dialogue and settings are very 'stagy'. Just watch one of the oldies on TCM any weekday morning - there is no background music, all actors are dressed in formal clothing, sitting in nightclubs drinking and smoking.

Frazzled
04-25-2011, 09:53 PM
Also, a lot of really old movies (in the 30's) were based on plays, and the dialogue and settings are very 'stagy'.

This is what I think really sets old movies apart from new movies. I haven't seen the 10 Commandments in years - but recently watched another Chalton Heston classic - Ben Hur. In that movie I thought the men were decent enough actors, but the women all drove me crazy! They acted like they were actresses on a stage: they had a very stilted and distinct way of speaking; their gestures were heavily exagerated; and there was nothing "normal" in their body language. I think this is what really sets the old movies apart. Once method acting gained popularity it put an end to treating movies like plays.

Harmonious Discord
04-25-2011, 10:07 PM
This seems to be more of what you wanted. The older movies are not fast passed with constant action. We've become used to movies being loaded with action and information to process. We become antcy waiting for the actors to spit it out, just say it for crying out loud and get to the point. The last five minutes could have been done in one.

This is what I say for the thread title. The tech used in the movie dates it for me. Hair, clothes and music are the next thing.

Zeldar
04-25-2011, 10:09 PM
I'm dropping back to the cliched "it depends on the movie" as a general statement, but here are some features that if stressed will date a movie:

- cars
- makeup
- hair styles
- clothes
- the color of the film itself (color palette)
- lighting
- the music
- acting styles
- dialog idiosyncrasies
- "street talk" and slang
- mannerisms and affectations

In spite of its age and period feel I can still see A Streetcar Named Desire and think of it as modern if not present day.

The Dirty Harry movies already feel dated out of their entertainment value.

If the movie intends to portray an earlier period (Westerns and Middle Ages, for instance) it's going to depend on hair and costumes whether it's "dated" or not.

panache45
04-26-2011, 04:44 AM
I've never been able to watch more than a few minutes of Wizard of Oz . . .

You do know that most of the movie's in color, right? :D

Horatio Hellpop
04-26-2011, 07:34 AM
Most movies, intentionally or not, hold their protagonists up to be the sexiest characters imaginable by the standards of when the film is released. The Roger Moore 007 films are particularly interesting in this regard; they embrace wholeheartedly a 70s/early 80s glamor that's painful to watch from even five years down the road (As one critic put it, "There's nothing quite as unforgiving as Roger Moore in a safari jacket."). You can dress your protagonists in period clothing and carry it off (See: The Godfather, Boogie Nights, The Untouchables), but if you're out of touch with a certain timeless sense of fashion, you're as clueless as Roger Moore in that blimp in View To a Kill. Not to pick on poor Roger; the was da man for his time. But sometimes a film just wears its unhip notion of sexiness like a pimple on its nose, like Paris Hilton in The Hottie and the Nottie or Carol Channing in Skidoo.

stpauler
04-26-2011, 07:38 AM
Any attempt at technology is the obvious one. Think of the phone cradle for the modem on War Games or pretty much all of the movie Electric Dreams.

I think, or I hope, that the shaky cam thing will date a movie to 2000s when that was a chic thing to do.

Sigmagirl
04-26-2011, 07:41 AM
While you can't get much further from 1950s epic than the 1950s nostalgia 1970s sitcom Happy Days I think much of its extreme dating is from the fact that almost all of the episodes were so obviously filmed on a soundstage, and the fact it was film rather than videotape detracts. Three's Company, which coincided with the later seasons of HD, had jokes that were no stupider but the videotape makes it look fresher even with the early 1980s fashions.
One thing that dates certain older comedies for me is the practice of taping before live audiences and allowing -- even inciting -- the audience to go crazy when certain characters appear. You don't see that nowadays. When I see an old episode of Happy Days and Fonzie enters the room, Henry Winkler has to stand there grinning like a chimp for the better part of a minute before he can say his line. It adds to your observation of how obvious it all is, with being taped on a soundstage and all. Today far fewer comedies are filmed in front of an audience -- and they laugh when something is funny.

BrotherCadfael
04-26-2011, 11:57 AM
Zeldar mentioned the color palette, which is particularly noticeable for a number of 70s-era pictures. I am not certain if this was a choice by the filmmakers, or caused by deterioration of the film stock, but a lot of cop dramas of the period can be ID'd with just a momentary view of the shade of the picture.

ministryman
04-26-2011, 12:09 PM
Gasoline prices....

Munch
04-26-2011, 12:26 PM
For me it's that string of roman numerals at the end of the credits.

UncleRojelio
04-26-2011, 12:33 PM
Lately, it is the cell phones.

freckafree
04-26-2011, 12:42 PM
One thing that always pulls me right out of movies of the mid-20th century is the use of night filters in outdoor scenes. I realize it was the best technology they had at the time, but it is so jarring to see it when the "night" is obviously a bright, sunlit day.

Jeff Lichtman
04-26-2011, 12:47 PM
In my opinion, The Ten Commandments was a bad movie to begin with. Some of the dialogue is ludicrous:

Oh Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!

Some movies age well even when they seem dated. The OP mentions The Wizard of Oz, which is still enjoyable to many even though it feels like an old movie. The interesting question to me isn't what dates a movie, but what makes some movies age poorly.

The more contemporary and sophisticated a movie seems when it's first released, the more likely it is to seem naive to audiences years later. For example, when Hitchcock's Spellbound came out in 1945 it probably seemed very smart, but today the movie's psychological mumbo-jumbo seems simple-minded. "Issues" movies are especially prone to this. It was considered courageous to make a movie about alcoholism in 1946, but does anyone still want to see The Lost Weekend?

Blockbuster movies often age poorly. Things that were impressive to audiences fifty years ago often seem ridiculous or dull today. The Ten Commandments is like this - it has an all-star cast and special effects that were state of the art for the time, but now it just seems silly. There are exceptions - Gone With the Wind is still widely loved (although personally I can't stand the movie).

gallows fodder
04-26-2011, 01:28 PM
I can generally tell right away what decade a historical/costume movie was made, just from the hair and makeup of the actresses. The prevailing fashionable look of the time period that the film was made shows up onscreen.
This -- it's disorienting to watch a film ostensibly set in, say, Victorian England, and see all these women with bright red lipstick set to form bee-stung lips. I'm sure we do things like that now and I just don't notice, but...I'd like to think we take a little more pride in being period-accurate in our higher-quality TV and films. Molly Parker playing Alma in Deadwood did wear make-up (where as in reality Alma wouldn't have), but it was very subtle and you could tell the attempt was made to balance playing up Molly Parker's features for the camera while remaining true to the period for the character of Alma. I can't think of any pre-1950s period movie that attempts to keep actresses' makeup period accurate (please correct me if I'm wrong -- I'd love to see them!).

RealityChuck
04-26-2011, 01:32 PM
Jeff makes a valid point: a movie can age well despite some dated elements. For example, Casablanca was a film that clearly was very topical when it came out, but it still holds up, since the story is a good one.

One issue is when a director uses a trendy style. Planet of the Apes is disappointing because it was shot with "cool" 70s-style camera work that looks very badly dated today.

KneadToKnow
04-26-2011, 01:40 PM
One thing that always pulls me right out of movies of the mid-20th century is the use of night filters in outdoor scenes. I realize it was the best technology they had at the time, but it is so jarring to see it when the "night" is obviously a bright, sunlit day.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Especially when you notice a character squinting because the sun hurts his eyes.

Another one for me that jars me is watching (what I take to be) early-technology cross-fades from one scene to another. The entire frame of the picture will sort of jump, as though it has skipped a sprocket on the projector or something, then the crossfade will happen, then the entire frame will sort of jump again, as though it's been wrangled back onto the correct sprockets.

It's not the same kind of thing everybody else is talking about, but to me it very clearly says "this was made in the time before they'd perfected this technique."

does anyone still want to see The Lost Weekend?

Jebus, no. I was telling someone about this film a few weeks ago and said, "Have you ever heard of AA?" They said, "Yes." I said, "Then you don't need to see that movie. It's only function is to make people aware that AA exists."

Tanbarkie
04-26-2011, 01:50 PM
This -- it's disorienting to watch a film ostensibly set in, say, Victorian England, and see all these women with bright red lipstick set to form bee-stung lips. I'm sure we do things like that now and I just don't notice, but...I'd like to think we take a little more pride in being period-accurate in our higher-quality TV and films. Molly Parker playing Alma in Deadwood did wear make-up (where as in reality Alma wouldn't have), but it was very subtle and you could tell the attempt was made to balance playing up Molly Parker's features for the camera while remaining true to the period for the character of Alma. I can't think of any pre-1950s period movie that attempts to keep actresses' makeup period accurate (please correct me if I'm wrong -- I'd love to see them!).

This is definitely something that still happens all the damn time - it's how we end up with Sam Worthington sporting exactly the same haircut in both "Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans."

Gangster Octopus
04-26-2011, 01:58 PM
I think older movies that try to show what the future would be like tend to look very dated. The movie that comes to mind is the original Rollerball. Its supposed to take place in a future where six (or seven) corporation-countries rule the world annd they invented rollerball. yet the clothes and the other set peices look straight out of the mid 70s.

Sampiro
04-26-2011, 02:05 PM
You do know that most of the movie's in color, right? :D

Yeah, another thing I don't like about it. Color or black and white- MAKE UP YOUR MIND!

Though I did have a dream about it once. And you were there... and Judy Garland was there... and man was she wasted, but gave a helluva show nonetheless.

Simplicio
04-26-2011, 02:09 PM
In my opinion, The Ten Commandments was a bad movie to begin with. Some of the dialogue is ludicrous:

I think its also hurt by the fact that Charlseton Heston's eccentric, over-the-top acting style, kind of like William Shatners, has been spoofed so many times that its hard to take seriously when confronted with the real thing.

panache45
04-26-2011, 02:09 PM
I think most of you guys are missing the point of the OP. I agree that 10 Commandments is very dated (and was even when it came out), but it has nothing to do with changing technology. I think it has more to do with dialog, but not the way most people think. Dialog was delivered very differently back in the 30s and 40s, yet that doesn't automatically "date" a movie. In fact, most of my favorite films are from that era. But there's something very different about movies like 10 Commandments, and it has something to do with dialog that indulges in artificial self-importance or profundity. It seems like the character were making "pronouncements," rather than simply delivering their lines . . . especially the narration. It's almost understandable to hear Moses or the Pharaoh speak this way, but it becomes comical to hear it out of the mouths of slaves.

Sampiro
04-26-2011, 02:11 PM
This -- it's disorienting to watch a film ostensibly set in, say, Victorian England, and see all these women with bright red lipstick set to form bee-stung lips. I'm sure we do things like that now and I just don't notice, but...I'd like to think we take a little more pride in being period-accurate in our higher-quality TV and films. Molly Parker playing Alma in Deadwood did wear make-up (where as in reality Alma wouldn't have), but it was very subtle and you could tell the attempt was made to balance playing up Molly Parker's features for the camera while remaining true to the period for the character of Alma. I can't think of any pre-1950s period movie that attempts to keep actresses' makeup period accurate (please correct me if I'm wrong -- I'd love to see them!).

Somehow it didn't affect Gone With the Wind as much. Actually the women's hairstyles were alright, but the men mostly had 1930s haircuts unlike the beards most of them had in the book and the 1860s in general, but I suppose the period clothing and stellar sets did some offset. (Rhett is bearded in the book, but it's almost impossible to imagine him in a remake without the Gable moustache.)

Dr. Zhivago has also held up well. I've no idea how accurate it's look is but it's sufficiently "someplace that's not here" to not be as important. (Irrelevant aside: there was recently a decorating show that featured a woman's odd desire to recapture the "ice mansion" look of the Gromeko's frozen country house (http://www.google.com/search?rls=com.microsoft:en-us&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=995&bih=581&q=dr.%20zhivago%20ice%20palace).)

PhiloVance
04-26-2011, 02:37 PM
For me it's that string of roman numerals at the end of the credits.


I like you're thinking. :D

shy guy
04-26-2011, 04:57 PM
- the music
- acting styles

I think these are the big ones. The acting styles and obnoxious scores make it difficult to get into a lot of older films. Any one of them is jarring.

I tried to watch Last Temptation of Christ for the first time a few months ago, and the obnoxious mega-80's synth score totally destroyed any immersion in the movie I might have had otherwise.

garygnu
04-26-2011, 05:25 PM
General editing and pacing styles, then hairstyles.

Sampiro
04-26-2011, 06:04 PM
I tried to watch Last Temptation of Christ for the first time a few months ago, and the obnoxious mega-80's synth score totally destroyed any immersion in the movie I might have had otherwise.

I thought the synthesizer music was obnoxious when I saw it in the '80s even (though I loved some of Peter Gabriel's non-synth instrumentals for the soundtrack) but not nearly as much as Willem Dafoe's whining and Harvey Keitel's "Jesus, it's da cops!" accent. There's a scene where Jesus (non-canonically) pulls his heart from his chest that had some audience members chuckling, and then one said in a Monty Python drag accent "That's not a heart, that's his kidney!" which totally wrecked the scene. If it hadn't been for the protesters outside it wouldn't have made a dime.

BrotherCadfael
04-26-2011, 07:23 PM
SIrrelevant aside: there was recently a decorating show that featured a woman's odd desire to recapture the "ice mansion" look of the Gromeko's frozen country house (http://www.google.com/search?rls=com.microsoft:en-us&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=995&bih=581&q=dr.%20zhivago%20ice%20palace).Did you ever think about how long it would take (and how much fuel it would take) to warm that place up to the point where it would be habitable? And how much of a mess it would be?

And yet, in the next scene, they're all sitting around the fire nice and toasty.

Jeff Lichtman
04-26-2011, 09:54 PM
I tried to watch Last Temptation of Christ for the first time a few months ago, and the obnoxious mega-80's synth score totally destroyed any immersion in the movie I might have had otherwise.

Last Temptation of Christ is a dated movie? Am I really that old?

Horatio Hellpop
04-26-2011, 11:46 PM
Last Temptation of Christ is a dated movie? Am I really that old?

Well, the thing that dated it for me was the scene where Jesus fought those ninjas in the Jerusalem temple.

You only THINK I'm kidding.

GreedySmurf
04-27-2011, 12:27 AM
A somewhat more modern problem is the mention of technology, and more specifically computer systems. I recall a nineties movie, with one of the Baldwin's in it, who quotes specifics of his really sweet system. Little more than 3-4 years later and that quote is hilarious.

Sampiro
04-27-2011, 12:42 AM
I'm trying to remember what 90s movies I saw the other day where the guy takes out his cell phone and pulls up the antenna. In any case, it was a funny moment.

devilsknew
04-27-2011, 01:41 AM
Was flipping through channels today and got a little laugh and blast from the 70's when I saw a brief Charles Bronson scene in what I think was Death Wish. His brother or a friend or somebody is coming into Bronson's apartment for dinner and notices the brand new psychedelic harvest orange paint job that he has given the apartment and mentions that, "It's a litlle bright isn't it?" Bronson replies that he thinks "it's cheerful." Then Bronson says, "We're having Liver and Spaghetti for dinner, how do you want your liver done (Rare, medium, well)?"

digs
04-27-2011, 10:13 AM
I think most of you guys are missing the point of the OP. I agree that 10 Commandments is very dated (and was even when it came out)...

Brings up a good point. I saw The 10 Commandments in the theater when it premiered. Lest you think "That silly generation...what were they thinking?", the answer is: "Oh, man, listen to Ol' Chuck Heston chew up the scenery, and look at Annie Baxter's modern makeup! Who do they think they're fooling? Hardy, har, har! Oh, well, pass that popcorn with real butter and the giant Milk Duds we paid a whole quarter for."

A lot of the films mentioned were cheesy from the get-go.

Horatio Hellpop
04-27-2011, 10:20 AM
The computer games in War Games and Big really dated them to specific years.

HeyHomie
04-27-2011, 12:43 PM
I agree with what a lot of others have said w/r/t makeup and hair styles of the day being shoved into the movie.

I can't watch any Western made before, oh, 1990 without being totally taken out of the movie by the actresses' hair and makeup.

Not for nothing, I've been wondering for some time now whether the braided pigtails of the young lead in 2010's True Grit would have been in style for a 14-year-old girl 1880's Arkansas. Anyone know?

FordTaurusSHO94
04-27-2011, 02:18 PM
The film stock throws me off. 80's and early 90's movies just have that certain look to them. Movies today are cleaned up a lot and use a much finer grain or something.

mr. jp
04-27-2011, 04:04 PM
The film stock throws me off. 80's and early 90's movies just have that certain look to them. Movies today are cleaned up a lot and use a much finer grain or something.

This reminds me of something, I hope this isn't too much of a hijack. Why is it that 80s music sounds so 80s? It is to me identifiable by sound more than any other decade.

KneadToKnow
04-27-2011, 04:10 PM
This reminds me of something, I hope this isn't too much of a hijack. Why is it that 80s music sounds so 80s? It is to me identifiable by sound more than any other decade.

This thoroughly deserves a thread of its own, because my first reaction is to ask which 80s music you're talking about: Prince? Def Leppard? The Police? Salt-n-Pepa? Run-D.M.C.? Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mombazo? The Eurythmics?

'Cause if all that sounds the same to you, I got nothin.

Shirley Ujest
04-27-2011, 08:26 PM
Some movies are so brilliantly made, you are sucked in immediately, regardless of the time it was made.

Example: His Girl Friday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJVCQTd6DTI) video goodness.

Lion in Winter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-q46HwbVcw) One of the best movies you've never seen that you need to see before you die.
this is not the opening clip. It was the first I found on Youtube.



Then there are some, that something goes wrong. Like in LadyHawke which was a better than average story/acting/cast/set and on the verge of epic geekness in its own way, and the music (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CiQvE2cA2Y&feature=related) was so out of place, it really took you out of the moment.

digs
04-27-2011, 08:54 PM
Not sure of the time frame, but there was a period where electronic "synth" music was used even for films it was not appropriate for. Blade Runner? Perfect vehicle for Vangelis's "moody moog musings". Chariots of Fire? Not so perfect, but the music matched the slo-mo running so well, it gets a pass. A film set in a woodsy idyll, like Ladyhawke? WHAT were they thinking?

Heck, we could start a whole thread on misplaced synthesizers in movie soundtracks:
Tango and Cash, Fame, Masters of the Universe, The Mighty Boosh... heck, even when they rock, I question what that That Non-Analog Robot Sound has to do with films like Beverly Hills Cop.

Just checked and they were first used in the Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service back in 1969!

Ulf the Unwashed
04-27-2011, 08:56 PM
Last Temptation of Christ is a dated movie? Am I really that old?

Yes.

http://xkcd.com/891/

Hail Ants
04-27-2011, 09:53 PM
The OP mentioned Bridge on the River Kwai. When I finally watched that film all the way through I was shocked at how old-fashioned-Hollywood cornball awful it was! I think because its a war film and based on a true story. Its as if you made a film set in a German concentration camp but used a standard boilerplate Hollywood script with jingoistic characters, insultingly inappropriate pathos, and an utterly ridiculously unrealistic happy ending.

And it was made by David freakin' Lean!

The Second Stone
04-27-2011, 11:05 PM
I can't watch any Western made before, oh, 1990 without being totally taken out of the movie by the actresses' hair and makeup.



You need to catch "Johnny Guitar" sometime. Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge as the town vs country baron fighting over some tail played by Sterling Hayden. The shock, horror, and sense of camp washing over the audience is alternately never ending and all was delivered straight up.

Arrendajo
04-28-2011, 12:16 AM
This thoroughly deserves a thread of its own, because my first reaction is to ask which 80s music you're talking about: Prince? Def Leppard? The Police? Salt-n-Pepa? Run-D.M.C.? Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mombazo? The Eurythmics?

'Cause if all that sounds the same to you, I got nothin.

I would say yes, due to the production more than any musical style.
Yes, this topic deserves its own thread. I came of age in the 80's and loved the music I was listening to. Now it grates on my ears like gravel in a coffee grinder.

Superdude
04-28-2011, 12:22 AM
One thing that dates certain older comedies for me is the practice of taping before live audiences and allowing -- even inciting -- the audience to go crazy when certain characters appear. You don't see that nowadays. When I see an old episode of Happy Days and Fonzie enters the room, Henry Winkler has to stand there grinning like a chimp for the better part of a minute before he can say his line. It adds to your observation of how obvious it all is, with being taped on a soundstage and all. Today far fewer comedies are filmed in front of an audience -- and they laugh when something is funny.

This happened on Seinfeld for a while, when Kramer would make his first appearance. From the Seinfeld IMDB trivia page:

"As Kramer became more popular, his entrance applause grew so prolonged that the cast complained it was ruining the pacing of their scenes. Directors subsequently asked the audience not to applaud so much when Kramer entered."

devilsknew
04-28-2011, 02:39 AM
This reminds me of something, I hope this isn't too much of a hijack. Why is it that 80s music sounds so 80s? It is to me identifiable by sound more than any other decade.

Just an interesting observation. But I think the greatest singular contributor to the '80's synth ambient cinematic movement is John Carpenter. It's not just a Halloween Soundtrack.

salinqmind
04-28-2011, 10:21 AM
I agree with what a lot of others have said w/r/t makeup and hair styles of the day being shoved into the movie.

I can't watch any Western made before, oh, 1990 without being totally taken out of the movie by the actresses' hair and makeup.

Not for nothing, I've been wondering for some time now whether the braided pigtails of the young lead in 2010's True Grit would have been in style for a 14-year-old girl 1880's Arkansas. Anyone know?

From extensive reading, I've gathered that in Victorian Times, a young lady 'put her hair up' in a bun or chignon when she reached marriageable age. Long, loose hair was acceptable for children (or maybe 'loose women - inside, only?'), it simply wasn't acceptable to let it flap around for adult women. And women didn't get their hair cut short, barring an unfortunate accident with, say, paint, or due to an illness. For a 14 year old who wasn't living in a proper middle-class home, but out and about in the world, well, she was still a child, and her hair would have needed to be kept under some kind of control, so braided pigtails were a logical solution. That, a snood (sort of a mesh hairnet with the hair bundled into it), or a ponytail or braid. If she was of an age to meet boys, go to parties, etc. her female relatives would have started her off on a future of elaborately arranged upswept hairdos. (sidetrack: women never left their homes without a hat or head covering of some kind. It simply Wasn't Done!)

Mr. Excellent
04-28-2011, 10:57 AM
Jeff makes a valid point: a movie can age well despite some dated elements. For example, Casablanca was a film that clearly was very topical when it came out, but it still holds up, since the story is a good one.

And "The Third Man", which can be seen as a sort of rejoinder to "Casablanca", holds up even better. Very, very modern-feeling film.

gallows fodder
04-28-2011, 12:00 PM
The more contemporary and sophisticated a movie seems when it's first released, the more likely it is to seem naive to audiences years later. For example, when Hitchcock's Spellbound came out in 1945 it probably seemed very smart, but today the movie's psychological mumbo-jumbo seems simple-minded. "Issues" movies are especially prone to this. It was considered courageous to make a movie about alcoholism in 1946, but does anyone still want to see The Lost Weekend?

I missed this before, but you are so right! I watched The Snake Pit (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040806/) (1948, with Olivia de Havilland) a few months ago -- it's about a young woman who is institutionalized due to mental illness and eventually recovers, and it was based on an autobiographical novel by a woman with the same issues and did a lot of good for the real-life mental health community and actually inspired a number of states (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snake_Pit#Impact) to change to reform the conditions in their state mental hospitals. So it was a pretty important film, and the care with which the director made the film and required all the cast and crew to spend time at a mental hospital so that they could capture asylum life accurately is very evident. It's a good movie and worth seeing.

BUT. Olivia de Havilland's character was clearly psychotic, either schizophrenic or bipolar with psychotic episodes, or something. She heard auditory hallucinations, experienced "lost time" blackouts, had memory problems, paranoia, emotional lability, attempted suicide IIRC, etc. Her eventual healing was as a result of the combination of electroconvulsive therapy and talk therapy. The major breakthrough and explanation of her problem was not, "You are schizophrenic," but..."you have a guilt complex due to rejecting your father's affection shortly before he died when you were a child." AND THAT WAS IT. The clouds part and light beams down from the heavens and all is now well.

So in 2011, I hear this and think, "What the hell kind of Freudian bullshit is this?" That would never fly today. However, and this factors into why this movie is still worth seeing, it's entirely appropriate to the time (as it should have been, as it wasn't a period film) and educational as to the history of psychiatry and the conception of mental illness.

But boy is that diagnosis dated.

a35362
04-28-2011, 12:09 PM
All movies are period films, eventually.

Ashley Pomeroy
04-28-2011, 01:25 PM
Anyway, your opinions on what makes for a dated movie/TV show/etc.?

I've pondered this myself. I've always wondered if it would be possible to make a movie that is genuinely timeless, that doesn't date, and so I started to pay attention to old films, trying to work out which ones still seem absolutely fresh today. Not so much the plots but the style. The look, the music, the sound design, editing, credits etc (old British films tended to have all the credits at the beginning, and just one slide at the end with THE END, or perhaps a single diagonal list of the main players). The conclusion I reached is that the perfectly undateable film would probably have to be a period drama, and thus already dated, shot as simply as possible, with actors and actresses who didn't go on to be famous and who wore period-correct hairstyles etc.

The film would have to be lucky that a subsequent, ubiquitously famous film did not copy some element of it and thus date it to the time of the subsequent film. I'm thinking of e.g. Saving Private Ryan or The Matrix, which both had very distinctive and original visual tricks that were subsequently smothered to death by floods of imitators, and are thus through no fault of their own inextricably linked to a certain time. Compare either of those with Raiders of the Lost Ark, which had plenty of imitators, but was shot in a deliberately simple, old-fashioned style. Mostly on location, with a lead actor who had an everyman quality. Orchestral music, well-done practical effects, set in the past. It's a good example of a film that has aged very well.

You'd also have to make a distinction between films that are definitely of their time, but which feel like modern period dramas set in that time, and films which are of their time and feel old. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is obviously set in the late 70s, what with the hairstyles and the televisions, but it doesn't feel particularly old. In contrast, every single frame of Rocky IV screams 1985. Every single frame of Rocky IV was targeted at the people of 1985; outside that year its effect is nil.

See, I was thinking of Ridley Scott's The Duellists, which is set in Napoleonic times, with period-correct costumes, and beautifully shot, but the whole thing has nonetheless dated. Specifically it looks and feels like an extended New Romantic video, what with the dandy highwayman looks and the obvious graduated sky darkening filters. The same is true to a lesser extent of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, or Peter Greenaway's The Draughtman's Contract; for someone my age, it is hard to look at those films without thinking of Adam Ant (or in the case of the latter film, Channel 4 and women in dungarees). Perhaps future generations, who have no organic knowledge of Adam Ant, and of the video for David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes, will view them more kindly.

Barry Lyndon benefits from having Ryan O'Neal in the lead, because he is extremely bland and his career tanked thereafter. Classical music, subtle lighting effects, Kubrick's particular visual style. Certainly it has dated far better than A Clockwork Orange, which was supposed to be in the future, but now looks like the fag end of the 1960s distilled into a pint glass. Stanley Kubrick's a fascinating director to ponder in this respect. He controlled his films, down to the design of the credits, and there was no way he was going to bow to fashion, and so most of his films have aged very well albeit not perfectly. In the future, when Jack Nicholson is long-dead, and no-one remembers him, there won't be much of The Shining that says 1980.

I suppose the ultimate answer is that no single thing dates a movie; it's a combination of things. For example, the original Night of the Living Dead felt old-fashioned to me because it's in black and white, and the characters generally look and act like people from the past - in fact, the first time I saw it I assumed it had been made in the 1950s - but the brutal, uncompromising attitude hasn't dated. A plot point later in the film where SPOILER the hero shoots one of the living living SPOILER genuinely surprised me.

I've often wondered how a child, with no previous exposure to old films or old culture, would react to Easy Rider or Electra Glide in Blue or Logan's Run or All the President’s Men etc etc. All of those films seem dated to me, even though I wasn't alive when they were new, because I have built up a mental picture of early-70s cinema. Downbeat endings, meandering plots, all the cast in their thirties and forties. I suppose at first they just seem alien, and then over time the faces become familiar, and the music, and - paf! - the alienness and the time period become linked.

On a small technical level, footsteps. In 60s action films. Seriously; the last time I saw The IPCRESS File I was struck by how the sound mix was full of footsteps during action sequences, and this seems to have been a quirk of the period. Same with the fight sequence on the train in From Russia with Love. Obviously-looped dialogue that doesn't have any room ambience, that's another thing.

Gordon Jackson. You don't know him, because you're American, but trust me. He dates a film. And blue light; blue light dates a film to the 1980s. You know, it's interesting to compare the first two Robocop films. The original came out in 1987 and doesn't absolutely reek of the 1980s; the style is modest, nothing tries to be deliberately contemporary, and the general look has a sensibly formal approach. The bizarre ethnic mix of the Detroit street gangs hasn't dated, in the sense that it was weird back then. Still, the brutal violence is just as funny as it ever was. In contrast, the sequel has a distinct and pervasive whiff of the early 1990s about it, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on.

Jackmannii
04-28-2011, 06:07 PM
I suspect far too many people are watching movies to see if they can pick out incongruities or "things that look dated" and suffer an inability to enjoy them as a result.

That said: I have difficulty getting into '30s-'40s movies in which American actors speak in those pseudo-British voice-trained accents. You're growing up in working-class Cleveland, you probably can't be expected to sound like Olivia de Havilland.

Also, any movie with Walter Brennan or William Bendix is hopelessly dated.

UltraVires
04-28-2011, 08:06 PM
I think it is little things: Smoking on an airplane, or basically anywhere. No seat belts. Pay phones. Staying at a hotel, signing your name, and paying the bill in the morning. Calling co-workers or neighbors Mr. or Miss so and so. Kids calling their parents sir or ma'am. Things that don't happen today.

Also when the movie actually mentions date, for example when Demolition Man shows Hollywood burning to the ground in 1996, that immediately dates it.

Kim o the Concrete Jungle
04-28-2011, 10:00 PM
To me, the big difference is "stage" acting verses naturalism.

Mmm, okay. So there's just the two of you. And you're standing in the kitchen of your own house. The record player isn't going. The radio isn't. So, um... why are you shouting at each other? Are you both deaf? Did your mothers never teach you about inside voice vs outside voice? Is the sappy violin-drenched score actually being played on the set while you're doing your scenes?

I remember back in school we watched an old film version of a play we were studying, and all the hammy, hysterical stage-acting got a big laugh from us kids.

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