Pop-Culture Gap In General, Movies in Particular.
“Hate” may be a strong word. Our children are often bored by what we find interesting. Most of us can relate. Like a feminist matron glumly watching a lovingly gifted special edition copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves sit on her daughter’s bookshelf year after year collecting dust, we often have to resign ourselves to our children’s individuality. Movies can provide a good barometer between generational differences.
I grew up on reruns of Star Trek. I idolized Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Commander Spock, augmented by the fact that my older’s brother Michael’s intellect seemed such a close match. Undeterred by my own inadequacies, I sought to emulate him (which one am I talking about?) in every way.
My children on the other hand, developed an affinity for the Star Wars universe. C’la vie. Drawn to the battles in space, the Arthurian parallels, and the unambiguous good vs. evil story line. What’s not to like?
I think every parent goes through a stage where they attempt to get their kids to appreciates the movies or pop-culture from their childhood.
Here are three movies which I find entertaining on both the emotional and intellectual levels. Check with the library on your streaming service. Of course, if you’re an old fart like me, throw one or more of them in your cart on your next trip to the local superstore for about $3-$5. I highly recommend them.
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Oh – MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD…
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).
Based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, the movie puts forth the premise that three million years ago, Aliens visited the Earth looking for species’ capable of advancement and found our Australopithecine ancestors. Running them through a series of tests and finding them receptive, the visitors – whom you never see – nudge the pre-Homosapians on the path to the next state of evolution.
The Visitors proceed to bury a beacon below the lunar surface. When humans have advanced sufficiently to find it, they will be ready for the next stage in the evolutionary process.
Jump ahead to present day. Or, a few years into the future from when the movie was released into theaters. Mankind has found the beacon and once exposed to the sun’s radiation, the it emits a beam which points to the planet Jupiter.
The Discovery, is launched to investigate. The crew consists of David Bowman, Frank Poole, super computer HAL 9000 (surprise, I’m sentient), and three others in hibernation.
Conflicts arise, of course. HAL, the only member of the conscious crew who had been briefed on the full extent of the mission begins to distrust Bowman and Poole.
Bowman, the only surviving member of the Discovery meets Mankind’s benefactors, enters a brief chrysalis state and emerges as the next incarnation of Man’s evolution.
My Kids: “Does this thing have an end?”
The movie is faithful to Clarke’s cerebral approach to science fiction. Good science fiction writing does not stray too far from the known laws of physics or one of the major physical theories (Gravity, Quantum, Relativity). This movie is the standard for adherents to that school of thought.
For teens brought up on Space Battles where small space craft can maneuver like fighter jets while in zero gravity, this can be a little boring.
Bowman’s metamorphosis does tend to drag on. Kubrick was probably as “artsy” as a director could get while remaining mainstream.
2010: The Year We Make Contact (Peter Hyams, 1984)
Amid Cold-War tensions, a joint U.S. – Soviet Mission is launched in order to investigate the fate of the Discovery and her crew. Again, based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke.
This was produced during the Regan years, so like a lot of movies from that time, it is very much a set piece. he “Visitors” are clearly replaced with God. Did Arthur C. Clarke, famous for his atheism object? I could find nothing on the subject.
In the culminating scene where Bowman returns to confront Dr. Heywood Floyd, the man who sent him on his mission, Bowman professes, ostensibly having seen the Face of God, that “It’s all very clear to me now.”
While the United States and Russia frantically negotiate to avoid global war, the Russian Crew of the Leonov and their American passengers attempt to remain mission focused. Colonel Kirbuk, played in steely low-key fashion by Helen Mirren, provides the viewer with several good lessons in leadership. We see Kirbuk and her crew benefit from her good decisions, and we see her deal with the con
sequences of her bad decisions. She clearly has her hands full regulating the conflicting interests not only between her crew and the Americans, but between her crew and their superiors in Moscow. She sums up her inner struggle to Dr. Floyd by explaining that though she is a scientist, she is also an officer in the Soviet Air Force. Was this expression of duty a nod to Reagan-era politics? Perhaps.
My Kids: “If we must…”
My kids had zero interest in seeing this after enduring 2001, but they agreed to watch it together as an indulgence to me. 2010 has a lot more dialogue than 2001, which made it bearable, and even a little intriguing for them.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World (Peter Weir, 2003).
This film is an amalgamation of three of Patrick O’Brien’s Captain Aubrey novels. The year is 1805 and the Napoleonic Wars threate
n Britain’s domination of the seas. HMS Surprise is patrolling the vicinity of Cape Horn on orders to take the french privateer Acheron out of the fight. This presents a daunting task since Acheron outguns Surprise and possess a far sturdier hull.
Captain Aubrey, played with dash by Russell Crowe is at times loving father and stern taskmaster to his crew. His main confidant is the ship’s doctor, Steven Maturin. Maturin is the plot device which allows the viewer to se
e other sides to Aubrey aside from that which he chooses to show his other officers and crew.
It is actually Dr. Maturin’s character in which we see the conflict between one’s desires and one’s duties play out in full. When Surprise drops anchor in the Galapagos, Maturin, who is recovering from an accidental gunshot wound takes a mid-shipman and a crew member on a brief trip ashore to collect samples of the indigenous small animals, insects and plants. Making his way to the opposite end of the island, Aubrey spots Acheron anchored in the bay.
Though dismayed at the interruption to his research, Dr. Maturin is after all, an officer in the Royal Navy. He orders all the cages dropped, releases the captured fauna, and makes his way back to Surprise to inform Captain Aubrey that their enemy is nearby.
My Kids: “I am indifferent to all of this.”
While I was fascinated by the background to all of this, my children could not relate. The story opens at a time when the world was on the cusp of industrialization. The generation that entered the 19th century would have nearly nothing in common with generation that exited it. Industrialized warfare equipped with rail, telegraph and the steam engine was barely envisioned.
Long-distance communication was decades into the future. Ship captains served as ambassadors for their nations with plenipotentiary powers. In other words, they were able – often required to make policy decisions.
Communication back home was accomplished by bundling the crew’s letters and giving it to another ship headed back to port. To me, this was fascinating. To my children, not so much.
Do you have a movie or a slice of pop-culture that you love but completely bores your kids? Or how about something the you absolutely love but your parents just don’t understand? Leave a comment below. Thanks.