Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Touch of Awesome

Every year, the Library of Congress and National Film Registry select 25 films to be archived for all time. They tend to run the gamut in production value, popularity, age, etc.. What they all have in common is that they somehow contribute to or represent society and life at the time.

You want a couple ends of a spectrum? This year includes both The Terminator and Robbin Barstow's home movie of a trip to Disneyland.

I saw Barstow's home movie online a year or so ago. It's one of those fantastic slices of bygone life that I often regret we don't see more of. Go take a look for yourself. It runs around 35 minutes. The family won the trip through a 3M Scotch Tape contest, and it covers the various attractions around Anaheim in 1956, including the recently-opened Disneyland. It even has some star power, as Steve Martin appears about 20:20 into it. He was 11 years old and selling guidebooks at the park in a top hat and vest. You wouldn't know it was him if he hadn't written Barstow himself to let him know.

Could you imagine making a home movie, and then 50 years later the Library of Congress decides it's worthy of preservation? What an honour for an amateur filmmaker.

People rush to record the big events. In 100 years, people won't have a hard time finding coverage of 9/11, or the Phillies winning the Series, or Obama's victory speech. But will they have any real idea of what life was like here? Where will they find the day-to-day experience of living in this time? What did the streets smell like? What was in that block before the megaplex went in? Did people REALLY dress like that? The home movies, the countless pictures, the diaries, the slide shows, the ephemera of the everyday is what gives life to a time. Does anybody know how Abraham Lincoln walked? How his expressions changed as he gave one of his many speeches? This simple video shows more slices of 1956 life than any movie retrospective or voyage through microfiched periodicals can. Dad's comments, the kids' behaviour, the bad acting, the colour of the wallpaper, the model of the lawnmower. These are the things that matter on an individual basis. Just ask Kat about her dad's boat. Or take a tour of James Lileks' site. Read the stories about parents, grandparents, favourite aunts, and the items we attach to them.

My mom handed me a paperweight of my grandmother's the other day. Every time I look at it, I remember the desk in the living room, her writing me a cheque for being quiet for 5 minutes, and every time the family sat together in that big room and talked. A simple ball of marble carries the weight of hundreds of memories. Somewhere in my parents place is a very short black and white video of one brother as a 5 year-old, the other as toddler, chattering away with my grandmother in her kitchen. I'd forgotten about it until now... there's something that needs to be committed to digital memory.

People wonder why I take a million pictures and videos of the seemingly mundane.

Seeing a home movie, even if it was for a trip won in a contest, being honoured in this way? Stuff like this makes my day.

1 comment:

StB said...

Not often you read about someone enjoying life around them. Well played sir.