Say Anything

On Friday night, to unwind for a bit, I started to watch Say Anything, which I've never seen before. It's a teen romance classic, many websites and best-of lists have assured me, plus I've always thought John Cusack was cute, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I only watched the first 45 minutes before sleep got the better of me and I went to bed, but this is the impression that still lingers with me today: not the dated, cringeworthy pseudo-teen fashion of 1989, not how lanky and limber John Cusack looked, but the damn telephones and other technologies that populated each scene. In one of the earliest scenes in the movie, the cassette tape playing in Cusack's car gets jammed in the deck, and he smoothly wedges a piece of folded card between the tape and the deck to get it going again. Later, at a party scene, anonymous hands are popping cassette tapes in and out of a stereo with multiple tape decks; one even inserts the tape upside down (a detail I suspect would be lost on a modern-day teenager).

Back at the graduation ceremony, there's a scene --- obviously meant to be comical --- where the camera focuses on a whole crowd of parents holding up massive portable videocassette recorders to record the valedictorian's speech. Most tellingly, the teenager characters call each other on landlines using rotary dial telephones they carry into the bathroom for privacy or, in the case of a wealthier family, a cordless flip phone (a forerunner, no doubt, of early Motorola cellphone design).

This film is only 25 years old, but if they remade it today, the social dynamics and beats would be very different. If nothing else, filmmakers are still experimenting with how to represent texting in film without impairing storytelling.

I don't feel old, but I'm reminded once again that the trappings of modern life change very quickly.

On a related note, it turns out that a number of iTunes users today don't know who U2 is anymore and have been pretty candid online about it (link via Adrianna on Facebook; context: Apple is giving away the new U2 album free and it's automatically downloaded to one's iTunes account). Which makes me think about cultural touchstones as signifiers in the long run, and how they are read and remembered compared to, say, technologies. Which is also linked to why I think Friends is still relatively entertaining even though it's 20 years old and counting, but that will be a longer post for (I hope!) another time.

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