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Suggestion: Radio Days

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Firstoff: I realize I'm probably a glutton for rejection. Woody Allen got so many "NEITHER/NEVER!" votes in the Annie Hall vs. Manhattan episode (which was before my time here) that Devin and Amy felt they had to mention the outrage in the following episode, so I realize this will not be the most popular suggestion among many (with legitimate reasons for objecting, I will admit). That said....


"Radio Days" is a subtle, yet enthralling portrait of a certain place in a certain time. New York, late-30s/early-40s. Growing up with nascent pop culture, broadcast every day from a simple appliance that every semi-respectable home had. A window into the greater world. What the Internet (via smartphone) is today, the radio once was to people just seventy years prior, our (great-)grandfathers'/mothers' time.


It's a very, very personal story from Allen, describing the world he was born into and grew up surrounded by, but also a "movable feast" take on pop culture and everyday life, told through the lives of dozens of characters Allen's narrator claims to know mostly through stories he grew up hearing, just before WWII removed the last vestiges of America's provincialism. It's a roman-a-clef, of sorts, but also a very charming and funny look at a time that never seems to let go of the popular consciousness. This is the time "The Greatest Generation" came of age in, and would fight/work to defend in the largest war in history. And that world still casts a legendary shadow on us, today. Maybe "kids today" don't care, but, growing up, I was still surrounded by it, and, instead of resenting it, I gradually learned to appreciate it. This was also the generation that lived through The Great Depression (far worse than the recent one), and which weathered far worse than today's unemployed Millenials or Gen X burnouts. I feel their example has a lot to teach modern audiences about living through hard times today, coping with poverty and disappointment. If they could make it (with nary a WiFi connection), why can't we?


The Canon has, as many have pointed out recently (myself included), too strong a fixation on Gen X, 80s/early 90s nostalgia films. How about indulging in the nostalgia films of an earlier generation? My parents are both much older than I am. Born in 1938 and 1942, this film is probably the best representation of the world they were born into. It took them until their adulthoods (the film was made in 1987) to really appreciate it, but I know they both adore this film as, perhaps, the ultimate time-capsule of their childhood, much as someone of my age would look back on 80s-fare as being quaint and charming beyond all rationality.


I think it's a criminally underrated/neglected film in Allen's filmography. It's 100% free from controversy. It both came out before the early-90s ugliness of his life, and also in no way reflects anything anyone could hold against him. I do believe art can and usually should be separated from its creator, and I will also admit that, his disturbing personal history aside, I remain a huge fan of his films. But I feel that "Radio Days" is not only his most nostalgic film, his most touching film, his most historically-relevant film, but also one of his most easily-enjoyed films. You don't need to know ANYTHING of this time, the movie will describe everything you need to know (that isn't timeless) and it will sell you on the joy of a "Boyhood" of circa-1940. It's not just a snapshot, it's an epic portrait of what it was like to have been born many decades ago, growing up in a world mostly recognizable, despite the distance of several decades.


It's a really fun film, and also very informative. It's funny, but it doesn't rely on its gags to paint a picture of what it must have been like to be a child growing up at the time. It's one of my favorite movies, not just because it can't help but make me think on my parents' childhood, but also because it's just so effortlessly lovable and charming. It's Woody Allen at his lightest. If The Canon can bear to re-enter these troubling waters (assuming they don't want to go with the wonderful fluff that is "Midnight in Paris"), I would humbly recommend "Radio Days". Allen's most under-appreciated gem of a film.


Can you feel nostalgic for a time you never personally experienced? This movie makes me feel like you can. And "Midnight in Paris" just drives that point home more explicitly. I love them both, so deeply. But "Radio Days" is my recommendation. It'll probably never happen, but I feel I have to try to sell it. I would so love a detailed discussion by Devin and Amy, followed by a discussion of the forum's fans, on this beautiful film.


It's currently available only on Vudu, but I'm hoping it will soon become available on other services. It's well-worth checking out for any fan of 30s/40s films, if only to better understand the world the WWII generation came from, before they signed up and were dragged into the greater, more complicated world. It's a very easy film to understand, very funny, very fast-paced.


And, FWIW, it made Empire magazine's list of Top 500 Films of All Time, at #304. Pretty good for one of Allen's "lesser efforts".


That's all.

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