Category Archives: Time

‘Alistair1918:’ A nice little film you probably haven’t heard of

alistair1918

Just a quick word about a neat little film you may not have heard about, and might enjoy.

It’s called “Alistair1918.”

I ran across it on Amazon Prime, where you can see it for free if you’re a subscriber. It wasn’t among the films and TV shows the service promotes on its main page. You know how if you call up a film, depending on your interface, you get a list of similar movies across the bottom of the screen — and then if you click on one of those, you get a list of things related to that? After you do that two or three times, you get to some interesting, and unexpected, stuff. Well, I was a click or two into one of those searches for arcana, looking for something to watch while working out, and ran across this.

But the blurb doesn’t really tell you what it’s like. It says, “A World War One soldier accidentally time travels to present day Los Angeles. Filthy, penniless, with no way to prove his identity, he struggles to find a way back to his wife in 1918.”

Actually, all of that has already happened when you meet Alistair, the British soldier. He’s been in the present day for about a month, and he’s already come to grips with the fact that it’s the 21st century and that he’s stuck here. He’s been living in Griffith Park, staying alive by trapping squirrels.

So there are no battle scenes, or flash-bang depictions of what time travel might be like, or anything. No “Back to the Future” action involving DeLoreans. In fact, it’s basically like what you’d see on an amateur documentary, because that’s what it’s supposed to be. Near as I can recall, you see nothing that’s not part of the “documentary” footage. It’s about as vérité as cinéma gets.

When the film started, I thought it was a promo for something else, one of those Prime routinely gives you at the start of a video, and only when the “promo” dragged out into extended scenes did I realize the show had started.

It starts with this nervous young woman named “Poppy” trying on different outfits before doing interviews on camera. Gradually, you infer that she’s a graduate student shooting a documentary for her master’s, with help from friends, about homelessness in Los Angeles. She starts by asking people on a city street about the homeless. After a couple of people mention all the homeless in Griffith Park, the crew goes there. They head off the beaten path and starting looking in a wooded area, and the first homeless guy they meet is the one you see below — Alistair.

When they interview him, he very matter-of-factly explains his situation. As I’ve said, he’s had time to adjust. So there’s none of the “Where the hell am I, and what’s happened to me?” drama you see in most time-travel films. He’s even unimpressed with the technology. Alistair dismisses such tropes as irrelevant to his situation or his goal — which is to get back to his wife in 1918. Later in the film, when one of Poppy’s friends sort of condescendingly asks him whether he’s amazed at the old flip phone Poppy has given him, he says, with a “what kind of rube do you think I am?” tone, “We have telephones.” When the guy says, yeah, but this has no wires, Alistair says, “We have radio, also.”

Alistair’s a pretty smart guy who defies the usual fish-out-of-water cliches. You know he’s a pretty smart guy because when they ask him what he did before the war, he says he wrote for a newspaper back in England (ahem!). He’s a guy who reads, and writes, and figures things out. In fact, after a “scientist” he meets fails to get him back home through a hare-brained stunt, he reads every book in the library that deals with wormholes in a quest to figure out how she got it wrong. (The film’s title is Alistair’s email address, which Poppy creates for him so he can communicate with the scientist.)

The film was written by Guy Birtwhistle, the actor who portrays Alistair. Told you he was a smart guy.

Anyway, I think you’ll enjoy this. You should check it out…

in Griffith Park

Change has slowed down so much in the meat world

What people allegedly looked like in 1994. How are they different, except that they're not looking at their phones?

What people allegedly looked like in 1994. How are they different, except that they’re not looking at their phones?

I was looking at the pictures with my post about “Hoosiers,” and something hit me.

Do you realize that the 1980s — when the movie came out — are now as far in the past as the 1950s were when it was released?

That blows my mind. (Although not as much as when I reflect that the ’70s are now further back than the First World War was when I was born!) The early ’50s were ancient history, a different universe, a time hard to place yourself in, when the film was made. But the ’80s don’t seem long ago at all.

Yeah, some of that is age, and you younger folks won’t get it. The time in which the film was set was before I was born, but in the ’80s I was an adult and, by the end of the decade, the father of five kids.

But there’s more to it than that. It goes to my running theme about how much less dynamic our culture is today than it was within living memory.

In the world in which we Boomers grew up, popular culture — fashions, music, film, slang, the whole look and feel of living in America — changed markedly from year to year.

Yeah, the ’80s look different from now, so there’s a definite feeling of that decade being “past” — just not distant past. And I think that’s because if you look at pictures from the ’90s or the ’00s, things look pretty much the way they do now — except that now everybody’s walking around looking down at their phones.

Clothes, hair, cars may be slightly different from the early ’90s — but not as different as they tended to be from year to year in the ’60s.

It’s weird, to me, the way change has slowed down in the meat world, even as it has changed rapidly online. It’s like all of our dynamism, energy and creativity have poured into the virtual, abandoning the real…

Carnaby Street in London in the '60s, when change was what was happening.

Carnaby Street in London in the ’60s, when change was what was happening.