The 1980s were terrible. I know, I was there. Not for all of it admittedly, but for well over half and they were awful. We had a neo-liberal government which closed the coal mines devastating countless towns and families, whilst the rest of formerly nationalised industry was sold off to the private sector at bargain prices that would have made Russian oligarchs blush. We had the Falklands War, poll tax riots and shoulderpads. SHOULDERPADS PEOPLE, SHOULDERPADS!
It was a terrible time to be alive. It also spawned some of the worst music of all time. Whereas the 60s were see as the birth of cultural freedom and the 70s of groovy musical, chemical and sexual exploration, the 80s will be judged as the decade hope finally crawled up and died.
But that was a long time ago. It’s in the past and we can’t be hurt by things in the past, right?
We can when they come back to haunt us in a blaze of firstly, ironic, then completely unironic glory. It started a few years ago with Sylvester Stallone making sequels no-one wanted to see. The only problem? People went to see them. Loads of them. Idiots.
That meant more films with old people in and the creation of a new genre of films starring old action stars doing the sort of thing they were too old for 20 years ago. The pièce de résistance was the utterly stupid, utterly awful, utterly successful tripe, The Expendables. Inevitably, this was followed up by the equally stupid and equally successful The Expendables 2.
The Expendables 3 starts shooting later this year.
But I don’t want to talk about for the moment. I want to talk about the absolute obsession we have with the past and how it obscures the actual good things that exist today.
Exhibit A: The Last Stand.
Now, I have not seen the film and I will certainly be writing about it in some length at a later point in time. What I would like to talk about is the fact that I have seen a 1,000 articles about this movie (99% of which were entitled “He Said He’d Be Back”) and they all focus on the return of aging actor and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Let’s get this straight. This is not the return of Orson Welles. Marlon Brando has not risen from the grave and lost 15 stone. This a pensioner (he’s 65) running around blowing shit up. It’s exactly the same as it was in the 1980s only with a couple of “oh my hip” jokes thrown in for good measure. His return is being laurelled as The Second Coming.
Now, I wouldn’t really have a problem with this per se, except for the fact it completely overshadows what is the real spectacle of the film. The most interesting part of the film is that it is directed by the fabulous Kim Ji-woon. With The Last Stand he is making his English-speaking debut.
He is one of the most successful directors in South Korea and one of the most respected. Yet in the UK his contribution is completely overlooked. At best he seems to get a token mention whilst all the focus is on the lead actor who is going to exactly what everyone expects him to do, just doing it older.
Kim, by contrast, is an unknown quantity. He has made a number of movies in a number of different genres and all of them have been brilliant. He is an auteur with an eye for being thoroughly entertaining and the focus should have been on him.
Furthermore, it should have been on the fact this is the first movie to be released from three of the biggest directors from Korea all making their English-language debut this year. Chan-wook Park (who made the fantastic Oldboy) will be releasing Stoker and Joon-ho Bong (Mother) will be releasing Snowpiercer.
These are three excellent directors, all of whom are highly successful in their home country and well respected. Yet over here they are hardly given the time of day because god forbid, someone should recommend a movie with subtitles for a wide audience!
Yes, I understand that putting Arnie’s name on something will make sell more, but it is awfully disrespectful to some incredibly talented people in what will prove to be an interesting cultural experiment. America is co-opting some of Korea’s best film-makers. It should at least have the decency to acknowledge that fact. But that is a more general point in any event. The repulsion in the western world of subtitles is an appalling and thoroughly shaming phenomenon.
The point is, the brilliant things in modern culture are being overlooked by the very people whose job it is to find such brilliance and bring it to the fore. Instead, they rather hock films with old people pretending to doing the exact same things they were pretending to do 30 years ago.
Get over it people, the 80s are gone and we are all the better for it.