"These days, if you're looking for complicated losers, your best bet is TV."
Like pretty much anything, nostalgia is best enjoyed in moderation. Too much time dwelling on the past, even the aspects of years gone by that appear far more preferable than the here and now has to offer, can stunt one's emotional, intellectual and psychological development. (Please note: I am neither a doctor nor a scientist. But that doesn't mean I don't care about you.) And indeed, one of the benefits of living in this current age of miracle and wonder is the seemingly unprecedented access we have to the culture of previous eras. Just make sure you don't hog one particular part of the cultural buffet is all I'm sayin' here. Mix it up a little.
Ok! Now that I'm done telling you how to live your life, let me tell you a little about my own recent nostalgic wallowing, because I've found myself revisiting the cinema of the '70s as of late and marvelling at the line-up of losers whose stories made up some of the most interesting movies of the era.
Maybe it was a more confused and cynical era - or maybe a more realistic one (#makesyathink)! - but the '70s presented a lot of major movies, with lead characters played by major movie stars, who were at best lovable, luckless screw-ups and at worst aimless, clueless fuck-ups. The biggest stars of the day played people frequently unable to get out of their own way. Here's a brief rundown: Dustin Hoffman in Straight Time. Al Pacino in Scarecrow. Gene Hackman in Night Moves. James Caan in Slither. Jack Lemmon in Save The Tiger. Jack Nicholson in The Passenger. Paul Newman in Slap Shot. Robert De Niro in too many to mention. Jeff Bridges played what the boys of Steely Dan dubbed the "gentleman loser" a lot. Hell, even Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky was a good-natured bum before he went the distance. (Watch all these movies if you wanna feel terrible about life! Actually, no, do check them out - they're all pretty rad.
These days, if you're looking for complicated losers, your best bet is TV. And I'm not talking about the plethora of new programs currently muscling their way into the free-to-air schedule, although I'm sure a few such shows exist. Pay TV is where you'll tend to find people acting selfishly, rashly, thoughtlessly and carelessly - I'm thinking the protagonists of, say, Mad Men or Breaking Bad. And in the silkiest of segues, that leads us to Better Call Saul, the first season of which is now on home video.
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I was way dubious when I first heard about the development of a series that would focus solely on Breaking Bad drug baron Walter White's shady lawyer Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk, believing that the character was an integral part of the Bad mosaic but not substantial enough to warrant the spotlight. So wrong, I was. So, so wrong. In recounting the pre-Bad years of Goodman, its tone is beautifully melancholic and its grip on the viewer is light but firm. And Odenkirk, one of the funniest people around, gives a revelatory performance that belongs in the Sad Sack Hall Of Fame.