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Old movies break from modern life

Nov. 9, 2005

by LAUREN MAJOR, columnist

For me, most nights end in front of the black-and-white glow of Turner Classic Movies.

The apartment is dark, and I'm the only one awake. I should be asleep, too -- I'll have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. But after a day of classes, meetings, studying for tests, writing papers and worrying about grades, I need a lift.

And nothing does it like Fred and Ginger.

Not that I don't like new movies. I do. But there's something about old ones. As I sit watching alone, I find myself smiling.

In old movies, life is simpler. It only takes a glimpse in a crowded restaurant for Gene Kelly to know he's found the girl to spend the rest of his life with. Love lasts.

It can change a hardened criminal into a model citizen. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy may fight, but love always works things out. I wish relationships were like that.

In old movies, things are black and white -- literally and figuratively. The heroine can choose the honest or the dishonest thing, the right man or the wrong man, the brave thing or the cowardly thing. There's no gray. I wish life were like that.

The characters still have problems. But even their problems are clearly defined with an equally clear solution. A misunderstanding, a hasty assumption, an unfounded rumor -- it's usually a matter of time before the trouble disappears.

New movies might take a more realistic look at life -- although I don't know anyone with as many issues as most movie characters.

But I watch movies for a break from reality.

New movies can show something true, something beautiful, something we've experienced or want to experience. But too often reality is despair, addiction, abuse and dysfunction. It can be depressing.

Maybe it's the complete break from reality that makes old movies so appealing. Musicals are a good example. Most arguments can't be resolved with a tap dance and a love song, but it would prevent a lot of unhappiness if they could. And it's a lot more fun to watch Fred Astaire try it his way.

Lauren Major is a junior journalism and professional writing major from Edmond, Okla.