Nov 25, 2018
Here’s a second episode for today while we’re getting caught up from the fire. I last left you with the immense trauma experienced by my cat, lounging comfortably on the no pets couch, while I read Kurt Vonnegut in a hardback wooden rocking chair. Actually, it was pretty comfortable, and I had forgotten how much I liked to read. We had the news on for a bit, but with just fleeing inside from the smoke, it was more than we could handle, and we had hours to kill before the official press conference later that afternoon. Waiting is probably the most stressful thing for me to do, as someone who suffers from acute anxiety attacks, and I had been pretty much having a two-day long attack. I was moving between feeling glad our house was still standing and feeling sorrow for those who lost so much, up and down the state. And even though I felt guilty about it, I was really happy when the press conference started, and we were given the okay to repopulate our neighborhood.
More from my adventures during the evacuation in the coming episodes. You can hear the whole story starting with my review for “Outlaw King” (Episode #314) and before each review leading up to today, and if you haven’t yet, please subscribe. Let me know you’re listening by sharing this episode with #WelcomeBackOMP, and I’ll add you to a growing list of people I want to thank out there.
Folks like Mat Landour, an award winning French director and illustrator, who reached out after I updated everyone. We’ve been trading likes on Instagram, him for some of my movie reviews, me for his awesome illustrated short stories. I felt honored he would reach out, and thought I would return the favor by promoting him in this episode. You can connect with Mat on Twitter @matlandour, on Instagram @matlandour, but definitely check out his website at www.matlandour.com. Thanks for reaching out, Mat!
Today’s movie is “Vintage Tomorrows” (2015), the Magical and Practical and Porter Panther documentary directed by Byrd McDonald. The documentary follows the explosive steampunk subculture, from its amorphous origins to its modern-day creators and gatherings, in an attempt to understand the fascination and how it applies to our modern culture on multiple levels.
Western civilization has a fascination with knowing who did something first, especially in our world obsessed with recognition on a personal level, and probably a fleeting desire to be at least a footnote in human history. It’s an idea that has its roots in two key concepts: European colonization and the dawn of the industrial age, which are ironically the two major sources of inspiration for steampunk as an aesthetic. And much like steampunk’s origins, as a sub-culture, it hasn’t really been so much as a who did it first, as much as a who were the progenitors of the foundational ideas, who is rarely one person. Which brings us to today’s documentary, bringing together some of the major influencers, makers, and content creators for steampunk, gathered around a table in a guided discussion with the authors of the book that serves as the basis for the documentary.
“Vintage Tomorrows”, if nothing else, is a nice introduction to all things steampunk, heavily dependent on interview footage to drive the story spliced with b-roll of all the lovely costumes, props, and content within the sub-culture. It’s the equivalent of a coffee table book look at steampunk, with lots of visuals, a few short quotes, and almost no narration. Had it kept this structure and format the entire documentary, it would have been passable, but towards the end we’re also invited behind the scenes of a steampunk troupe wedding, and I found myself suddenly wanting something much more than what I was getting. I left the documentary with mixed feelings, having a nice source material list to dig into the genre, including the book on which the documentary is based, but also realizing I’m missing out on a lot more the steampunk sub-culture has to offer.
And that goes double for the extremely fascinating discussions towards the end, which look at steampunk’s place in the larger society. It’s easy to laugh at steampunk as some hipster hobby, and that’s hard to dissuade when the aesthetic inspiration comes from the time of colonization and imperialism, which obviously ignores both the class and race discrimination on which those societies were built. I was happy to see that discussed, along with the effort to create a retro-futurism as perhaps a way to reclaim, or maybe more importantly, recreate and reform a European cultural styling. And also how steampunk becomes a multi-facted metaphor for our larger relationship to technology, the good and bad aspects. The film begins like a genre fan convention and ends on some surprisingly poignant insights into our larger, quickly crumbling society.
“Vintage Tomorrows” (2015) is a nice introduction to steampunk, which looks at the history and impact of the sub-culture through a series of interviews with today’s well-known steampunk community ambassadors. It helps dispel some of the myths surrounding how the sub-culture is portrayed while also looking at the deeper significance of its impact on the larger culture and its relationship to technology. It will also whet your appetite, even if it can’t satiate it. Anyone who wants to learn more about steampunk should check out this documentary, then put on your goggles and board your airship for the growing volume of content available out there.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 7.4/10
“Vintage Tomorrows” (2015) is not rated and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, and Tubi.