My friends know and are often exasperated by my personal focus on old things. I've always thought opening one's self up to old movies and music, rather than simply consuming just new stuff, can supply anyone with the keys to the kingdom: If you can get into music and movies and books from the 1920s or the 1960s, you can arrange to have a constant flow of good and interesting shows and songs and novels flitting through your life. When you focus only on new stuff, you're forced to filter out a lot of garbage. And hey, there's a lot more older stuff than there is new, and since they say the forward progression of time is an illusion anyway... Why not dig in?
Knowing this, a friend recommended "The Retroist" to me. While the minimally produced show focuses more on 80s nostalgia than on general cultural archaeology, The Retroist (the name the unnamed host uses) isn't glib nor is he particularly snarky, which is a blessing. I listened to the episode about the 1980 musical bomb "Xanadu," which I saw in theaters when I was a zygote, and which may have been my first exposure to certain ideals of romantic love and beauty (as well as offering me mythic images of The Strand that runs along the beach in the town I grew up in and heads right up to Venice Beach, where the film is set.)
It's not a particularly good movie, but it has a serious retro charm and a real sweetness. It also has the phenomenally pretty Olivia Newton-John and a great song score by ELO. For The Retroist, the movie ties him to his older sisters. He grew up with two and found himself by necessity more open to the kind of things they would watch for entertainment. The movie centers on a physically incarnated Greek muse who roller skates around Venice Beach, beguiling a wayward young artist who has an unrewarding job painting those big album cover reproductions that used to adorn Tower Records on Sunset (another nice LA touch.)
So as a kid, The Retroist would roller skate around the coffee table during the big musical scenes, even though he had no roller skates and instead simply shuffled his feet. This went on until one of his sister's boyfriends was over for a "Xanadu" screening. The intruder made fun of the Retroist's little skating routine, called him rude names, and was promptly chastised by his girlfriend, The Retroist's beloved older sister. This reminds him why he loved his sister so as a child, and that informs why he's always liked "Xanadu," a movie that could always use a friend.
The second half of the show is a remarkably compact and informative breakdown of the movie's production history, which was fascinating to hear. Not being a well-liked film, none of the home video releases of "Xanadu" have included much in the way of production history or reappreciation, so The Retroist's passionate work here is of particular value... at least for "Xanadu" fans.
Title: "The Retroist"
Episodes Available: 206
Episode Length: 30 minutes
Where to Download: iTunes
Host: The Retroist