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In Search of Lost Time
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
Every once in a while I'll watch a movie or hear a song that for some reason triggers such an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in me that for a few days I can't think of anything else. I can't focus on the moment when this happens, it's like a fever that clouds my brain and won't break. The world will continue to spin on its axis but I'll be completely indifferent to the daily news and events that are going on, lost and mesmerized by the pang of remembering another time.
It's an odd, pleasurably feeling that doesn't happen a lot — maybe two or three times a year — but I've noticed it always occurs at least one time in the Fall. I'm sure the changing of the seasons strikes a lot of people similarly; something about the end of Summer causes an almost universal reverie to descend. Kurt Weill wrote a timeless and timely song about the phenomenon 70 years ago and the song still rings true.
This season's culprit is Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater's latest movie, and after I saw it I was in a daze. The movie was released in April and did fair business, but I caught it on video and I'm glad I waited — the movie takes place in late August, 1980, and it felt right to watch it at approximately the same time of year. LInklater describes the movie as a sort of "spiritual" sequel to his cult favorite Dazed and Confused, and it's easy to see why: both films are loose, affectionate looks at young guys and the unhurried riffing and goofing off that accounts for much of the spine of most friendships.
I know a lot of people who have great reverence for Dazed and Confused and love to quote it, especially the Matthew McConaughey lines, but it's never really caught fire for me; for some reason, I'm just less attuned to movies about high school. I enjoyed the large cast and the improvisational nature of the movie (a Linklater trademark), and I'm a sucker for films that take place in one day, but it didn't floor me like the recent movie. This says more about me than it does the director, I know, for my most redolent memories come from when I went to college, which is where Everybody Wants Some!! is centered.
I'm wholly unreliable as a critic when it comes to Everybody Wants Some!! — it's one of those few movies that I've seen that's captivated me so completely that I don't even know if it's any good or not. I only know that I loved it and that after watching it I tracked down all the classic rock songs used in the movie and played them for a solid two days, hoping to prolong the sensations I felt from the film without re-watching it. Linklater's my age and the time frame in his movie mirrors exactly my own history and he's got all that stuff down: the clothes, the music, the hair, the attitudes. It was a kick to see Linklater reproduce many of the images that still lurk in my memory.
Most importantly, though, Linklater nails the pleasure and frivolity of being young and hanging out; when the days stretch out endlessly and the future looks like a recently paved highway that's about a mile wide. The characters in the movie play for the college's baseball team but this isn't a sports movie — there's virtually nothing at stake here, no big game, no troubled pitcher trying to prove himself to some unloving father, etc. The movie takes place during the weekend before school starts when the players meet and practice and goof off. Baseball is just something that brings the group together; you just know that most (if any) of the players won't be playing pro ball in the future, and you also know that nobody's gonna be too busted up about it.
The movie's funny, and crass, but it's also irreducibly optimistic, and I guess that's what ultimately overwhelmed me. It treats the future as this great, playful joke that everybody's going to get and enjoy; there aren't any dark corners lurking in this film. And the movie reminded me of something that's always struck me about my own college memories: namely, that while getting drunk and chasing girls was certainly a priority, I rarely think about those times now. But I can instantly recall hanging out with roommates and friends in that unhurried way that you do in college — crafting jokes on the porch, sunbathing on the roof, riffing about anything to the point of ridiculousness. I still crack the same jokes that my friends and I created decades ago.
Whenever I get all strung out on nostalgia, it's always a little sad when I finally realize I have to tuck those memories away and get back to the world of the now. And I'm not one of those guys who likes to live in the past, generally; I like my life and even as I settle into prickly old age, I remain pretty optimistic about the future. But I've learned that you simply have to give nostalgia it's due. I still remember the strongest proof I've ever seen about the power of nostalgia: senior year, in high school, I gave my copy of The Cheerleader by Ruth Doan McDougall — a great high school book — to one of my friends. He read it, and then immediately got back together with his ex-girlfriend. When he told me about the reunion, he shamelessly credited the book as the impetus for his actions. He hadn't wanted to get back together until he caught the nostalgia virus that McDougall's book had so effortlessly infected him with. (And yes, they broke up again.)
The Cheerleader, Everybody Wants Some!!, and a bunch of power ballads from the 80s will instantly send me into another time, and so I gotta be careful when approaching them. I caught "Suddenly Last Summer" by the Motels on an oldies radio station a few months ago, and I almost lost a week to flat-out mooniness. (And I know the Motels were a terrible band.) I could easily make a list of two dozen other songs that would affect me equally, but I won't, because I got things that gotta get done. Once you fall down the beguiling rabbit-hole of nostalgia, it can become nearly impossible to pull yourself out.