Anniversary Fever: Cause for Celebration…or a Sympton of Illness?

August 6, 2010 by Simon Kinnear in Opinion with 0 Comments

The evidence has been so in-our-faces all year that I’ve only just noticed. 2010 is the anniversary of everything.

Goodfellas 1990 Martin Scorsese Robert De Niro Joe Pesci Ray Liotta


It’s 20 years since Goodfellas.

25 since Back To The Future.

30 since Airplane! and The Empire Strikes Back.

40 since Five Easy Pieces.

50 since Psycho, Peeping Tom and Breathless.

80 since Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery and Steve McQueen were born.

…and these are just the ones I can remember off the top of the head because they’ve all had major retrospectives in the media.

Goodfellas and Empire are featured in this month’s, erm, Empire Magazine. Back To The Future was the subject of Total Film’s infamous viral gaffe/hoax Future Day (EDIT… and is now apparently getting a big-screen re-issue). Five Easy Pieces, Psycho, Peeping Tom and Breathless have all been re-released. Eastwood’s got a box set out of practically everything he’s ever done, there’s a new biography of Connery about to hit the shelves, and a McQueen season has just started at the BFI.

Milestones one and all…and you could go on (35 years since Jaws, 60 since All About Eve, etc etc). But the sheer weight of occasions to celebrate has got me thinking.

– Is it the innate ‘reset’ button of the big zero at the end of (most of) the years involved, which creates this unusual anniversary bonanza? Although pedants of chronology insist that, say, the 1980s didn’t begin until 1st January 1981, in the popular consciousness you can’t beat the symmetry of 1980-1989. So we tend to look for fresh starts, and many of these films (Goodfellas, Psycho and Breathless in particular) had seismic impact and influence on their respective decades. Do the filmmakers themselves think “new decade, new start” – even on a subconscious level – knowing that breakthroughs, innovations and experiments will be seized upon by the young and the hungry?


– Or is it a dearth of anything like the same eruption of talent in 2010? Cannes, usually the crucible of art-house’s future, was widely considered a wash-out this year. The most universally acclaimed Hollywood hits have been a trilogy’s closing instalment (and let’s not forget, Toy Story is 15 years old, too) and Inception, which even its ardent fans seem to acknowledge is a refinement of Christopher Nolan’s existing progress rather than a true leap forward. And the weird coincidence of three enduring acting legends being born within six months of each other can’t help make you sit up and wonder whether the current crop are going to have anything like that staying power. David Thomson has written a great piece on Jack Nicholson this morning to coincide with the Five Easy Pieces re-issue…but the scary thing is that Jack is 73. Will we still be talking about Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio in 30/40 years’ time?

Finger-on-the-pulse blogger The Incredible Suit has been saying since before January that 2010 is shaping up to be the worst year for movies ever, and he might be onto something. Of course, it’s August, we’re not even into the home stretch of Oscar wannabes, and who can tell which movie is going to be the touchstone for the next decade. It might be The Expendables, for all we know.


But the ongoing cult-of-the-past, while great for focussing attention on some endlessly-brilliant films, is a back alley we’re going to get stuck down if we’re not careful. Ultimately, it’s just another shade of the same paucity of imagination that sees the studio try to remake or reboot every half-remembered hit of bygone days, even films from only a few years ago. Put simply: those future Goodfellas and Psychos aren’t going to make themselves. It’s time to stop gorging on birthday cake and get on with some goddamn work.

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