Volume 1, Issue 3 - I'm in a nostalgic period

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Wednesday August 29, 2018.

It’s weird that we’re at a point in time where the 1980s count as “nostalgic” for people, but man are we getting old. This seems to have been kicked off by me watching Atomic Blonde recently (with a small nod to Call Me By Your Name—the “Love My Way” scene was tremendous), and falling in love with it. Not because it’s a great movie—it’s a good movie—but because of the way it felt to see it. The setting, the music, the spy stuff. It’s a really fun movie, and also a good one.

The music alone makes it a must-watch for a second time, which I’ll be doing soon. The performances are all pretty great. John Goodman is solid, and Charlize Theron is excellent. Sofia Boutella seems to be a rising star. Overall, it was a ton of fun, and got me moving in a direction that I am enjoying since it happened. That direction is to be much more aware of that first decade I really remember.

The Americans recently concluded its six-season run. While the show finished up a couple of months ago, it hit Amazon recently and we were able to watch the final season in relatively short order the past couple of weeks. Over the course of its time on the air, it was one of my favorite shows for a variety of reasons, including:

  • It’s set in the ’80s
  • Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are fantastic
  • Stan MF Beeman was way more badass than you realize
  • Even the kids turned out decent
  • Spy stuff is cool
  • Looking back on the US-USSR relationship with thirty years between it all is interesting

If you haven’t seen the show, it is about a couple that is raising two kids in the Washington, D.C. area. They are Russian spies, but were raised and trained to be American. They have a handler, but their lives are shrouded in constant secrecy, as spies’ lives tend to be when portrayed on TV. Oh, and they live across the street from an FBI agent whose job is to turn Russian spies into American assets.

The first season really reminded me of Alias in that it was all action with a small look at the people behind the action. Unlike Alias, however, The Americans evolved really well. As the characters became more developed, the show didn’t fall into the trope of relying on relationship drama to drive the narrative. There certainly was relationship drama, but we were looking at the fate of a family we grew to like and worry about in the context that they were in the country illegally and doing really illegal things.

Without spoiling anything, I have to say that the ending of the show, which was scheduled well in advance (so they could do it right) was just about perfect. Above everything else the show does with the spying and intrigue and political maneuvers, it really makes you understand the humanity of the Jennings family. While you will likely be pushed to think of them as bad actors, others, especially because of what we knew and were taught about the Soviets in the 1980s, the conclusion really flips that on its head. Heck, I think the entire sixth season did the job.

One aspect of the show that really hit home in the sixth season was that in each episode, there was a few minutes dedicated to a musical montage. The one that I remember vividly was the episode that featured Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” It was meant to show the juxtaposition of Elizabeth and Phillip’s roles in the family and with the Soviets at the time, and it was really, really good. It simply showed scenes from their lives while the entirety of the song played. I even asked how freaking long the song was because it was really noticeable that they were playing the entire thing instead of just a few seconds. It was also, as montages can be, a perfect way to evoke a mood and a feeling about where they were in their lives. Each episode featured one. Some were better than others, but they were all important to the season’s arc.

That particular montage was good enough that I began to listen to that song a few times a day. It was one that I knew because it was a staple of the 80s, but I never appreciated it before. In fact, I probably thought it to be really boring in the past. But it’s a really good song. And it led me to more good songs, all from that same time period. And the next thing you know, I’m working on a Spotify playlist of all the coolest New Wave hits. And as I began building it (feel free to let me know what I’ve missed), I realized just how much this music resonates with me. I love this stuff, and have always been a fan, but I care too little about music in general to have ever thought much about it. Well, now I’m thinking about it, and it might just be what keeps me listening to music for the next few years.

Some good stuff to check out

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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