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"It doesn't really seem that long ago."
July 21, 2008 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Home Movies. A 1975 documentary by a young academic folklorist, exploring what it was that people were doing when they made home movies: remembering selectively, creating a "golden age."

This little film looks kind of clunky these days (though I think I hear a clear antecedent of Ira Glass' delivery style in the narration of the filmmaker) , but it provoked some interesting thoughts about how little of our motivations for recording our lives has changed in the digital age, even as the ease with which we do it increases. We're still trying to preserve our lives, prevent time's motion, and create stories about ourselves.
posted by Miko (20 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
...and if you don't like the somewhat heavyhanded interpretation, the images are nice to look at.
posted by Miko at 8:54 PM on July 21, 2008


Thanks Miko, it looks interesting judging from the 1 minute youtube preview. I'll watch the rest with ms. mouse and maybe get some ideas on how we're going to film new babby mouse. And maybe some how-not-to ideas.

When I saw The Books live a couple of years ago they played home movies as a backdrop to one of their songs, with everything cut and synchronized to the music. It was awesome and sweet. Oh nice it's on youtube.

(if you get a babby you will look at things like this without snarking. Also you will think his farts are cute and you will go glaaaaaah when he smiles. It's put a real crimp in my cynicism)
posted by fleetmouse at 9:38 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll bet Chris Crocker thanks the Almighty himself that he wasn't born in 1960...
posted by Tube at 12:49 AM on July 22, 2008


We're still trying to preserve our lives, prevent time's motion, and create stories about ourselves.

...and preserve our dirty monkey sexcapades.
posted by spicynuts at 5:50 AM on July 22, 2008


our dirty monkey sexcapades.

I think that fits into the "golden age" hypothesis.
posted by Miko at 5:57 AM on July 22, 2008


Well I for one hope I'm still having dirty monkey sexcapades in my golden years.
posted by spicynuts at 6:35 AM on July 22, 2008


I'm just sick of never being able to enjoy a family party for more than half an hour without my mother coming over and pestering me to take some pictures or video with the equipment she brought. First I never get to enjoy the party, second, I'm never in any of the pictures or video.
posted by autodidact at 6:45 AM on July 22, 2008


Damn that Satie and his Gymnopedies. Now I'm emotional over a bunch of people I've never met, and a "golden age" that probably never existed.
posted by chihiro at 6:56 AM on July 22, 2008


Families use the image-freezing magic of the camera to isolate, record, and confer importance on certain events in their lives."
This is so true-- everyone must have, like my family, those images that are recorded year after year (in my family, it's the food-- got to get a picture of the food, in case we forget that we had Thanksgiving dinner I guess).

I'm very schizophrenic on the topic of home movies. We never took any of our kids, which I regret somewhat now (because of course they were the world's most adorable, smart, talented kids), but on the other hand I got to actually *experience* the filmable moments of their lives. At so many (especially school) events, there were so many cameras focused on a single child that those parents didn't get to see the entire thing (a school play, for instance, where you follow your kid around to the exclusion of the entire play), and thereby pretty much erased the contribution of every other child. So in a way I'm glad I have just the memory and not the picture.

The endless recording of my kids' generation has indeed "confer(ed) importance" not only on certain events, but on the lives of this generation, and in fact false importance. I think it gives children an inflated idea not only of their own importance, but that somehow every little moment of their lives is so vital that it must be preserved. I think it distorts their sense of perspective.
posted by nax at 7:30 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


in my family, it's the food

In ours, it was the fancy holiday table setting before we sat down to eat...we have a photographic timeline of our tablecloth and dish ownership.

I think it gives children an inflated idea not only of their own importance, but that somehow every little moment of their lives is so vital that it must be preserved

Interesting idea. And not only kids, but in all of us who tote our digital cameras around, compiling sets of editorially selected bits of our daily experiences, as though they are so vitally different from anyone else's.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on July 22, 2008



I think it gives children an inflated idea not only of their own importance, but that somehow every little moment of their lives is so vital that it must be preserved


It's funny. Millions of people who lived before the twentieth century have survived only as an illegible entry in a dusty parish register somewhere. Today each one of us probably has more records than have survived even from someone like Benjamin Franklin, much less Shakespeare or Jesus Christ. But are we any less anonymous for all that? Lost in that sea of data, we're still the faceless masses of history.
posted by nasreddin at 8:16 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Came in here hoping for a little Coach McGuirk...wrong Home Movies I guess.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2008


And not only kids, but in all of us who tote our digital cameras around, compiling sets of editorially selected bits of our daily experiences, as though they are so vitally different from anyone else's.

I agree about the editorially selected part - nobody really goes around taking photos of the mediocre and crappy parts of life - but the truth is, their experiences ARE vitally different (to them) than anyone else's, in that they were there.
posted by kingbenny at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2008


Am I the only person who avoids having pictures or videos made of myself? There have been six pictures made of me since I was eighteen.

I like the idea that the people who know me will know me. If I am remembered it will be through words and actions. When I am dead, I will be forgotten.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


I like the idea that the people who know me will know me. If I am remembered it will be through words and actions. When I am dead, I will be forgotten.

Interesting...so words are somehow more acceptable than images? Or do you mean your spoken words? Cuz this here weblog, ya know, has a written record of your existence. So, methinks maybe you should clarify your position.
posted by spicynuts at 12:00 PM on July 22, 2008


I don't take a lot of photos, though I enjoy photography--I'm too self-conscious to take many photos. I don't like to "prevent" people from doing things, which is often the case when a camera is out (they try to be polite and not get in the shot, or become self-conscious), and I've found I pay less attention to the actual event going on if I'm taking photos of it. That's OK if my main reason for being there is to take photos, but otherwise it's kinda distracting.

I've also never found anyone else's current home movies interesting. I would rather listen to an anecdote about a vacation than watch a crappy movie taken on said vacation.
posted by maxwelton at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2008


Written words are acceptable, spicynuts. They are my actions. I just don't particularly care if anyone remembers what I looked like at any given time, or that people I don't interact with (or who don't read my words) know that I exist.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2008


The thing about the images is that the intimacy and meaning they have for the people in them and the people who know the people in them (gah) changes completely when that personal connection is gone. In a way, I don't really need pictures of my FOB grandparents and their friends in Brooklyn, pretty much any pictures of Greek immigrants in 1925 will do, because I would have no idea whether they were related to me or not. I don't feel any less love for my grandmother because I don't have pictures of her, or any less fascination for photos of mid-20s Greek immigrants because I I'm not related to them. It's the words that give the images meaning.

I recently started an online journal describing key pictures in my mother's photo album so that my children will know what these pictures are, but wouldn't sitting down on the couch and going through it with them accomplish the same thing? So sonic meat machine has it right-- people who know me will know me, and the people who don't know me, including my direct descendants need the stories, the words, as much or more than they need the pictures.
posted by nax at 3:34 PM on July 22, 2008


people who know me will know me, and the people who don't know me, including my direct descendants need the stories, the words, as much or more than they need the pictures.

But you've made the choice for them that they don't need the pictures. I'm just doing this out of intellectual curiosity, not out of any snark - who are you to say what one of your descendants or close friends need or don't need? Maybe the people who know you prefer the intimacy of a picture. You yourself state that your words are more important as the represent you, but so does your choice of hairstyle, clothing, expressions, etc - they give you a context within the culture - an instant statement about where you stand in relation to your time. A picture is actually worth a thousand words.
posted by spicynuts at 6:12 PM on July 22, 2008


Right, spicynuts. You have put your figure exactly on the schizophrenia of this. I love looking at the pictures from my parents' childhoods. But if I don't know the stories, if I don't have the words, they might as well be strangers. In fact I have boxes and boxes of slides featuring people who look familiar, but I've lost the stories. If I'd lost the pictures, it wouldn't matter, because the words live in my head which with any luck I won't lose. That's why I started writing down the words for my kids; so they will have the stories, even if the pictures become meaningless.

Of course complicating, and even negating my position, is the fact that looking at the pictures has triggered memory of some of the stories. However, this will only work for me, for this one generation, because many of the stories, while triggered by the pictures are not actually related to the specific pictures. (Man, gotta put that thought in the journal! thanks!)

So, yeah, it's complicated.
posted by nax at 5:08 AM on July 23, 2008


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