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Films flashing back to the 1970s? Far out!

6:34 PM, Feb 2, 2013   |    comments
Ben Affleck in "Argo"
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By Bryan Alexander
USA TODAY

Hollywood is getting groovy again.

The 1970s are hustling onto the big screen like it's a feverish Saturday night. Among the theater-bound indie films premiering at last week's Sundance Film Festival were Jobs, the story of Apple's early days;Lovelace, a tale of onetime porn icon Linda Lovelace; and the documentary History of the Eagles Part One, a portrait of the first incarnation of the seminal Southern California rock group.

Meanwhile, Argo, set against the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis, continued to snare pre-Oscar recognition, most recently at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards.

MORE: Argo heats up the Oscar race
SUNDANCE: Highlights from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

While the core subject matters are serious, the love for the era of, um, interesting fashion statements is also intriguing for directors.

"The 1970s have a nostalgic place in a lot of filmmakers' hearts," says Jobs director Joshua Michael Stern. "There was some magic in the '70s, whether we saw it at the time or not. There's a lot about the decade that feels amplified now. At the time, the hair didn't seem unattractive, the glasses didn't seem too big, the collars did not seem too pointy. It was what it was."

Perhaps one reason the decade is romanticized now is because it was before technology and iPhones dominated the cultural landscape, says Stern. "It was the calm before the storm.''

Jobs focuses on the mid-'70s founding of the Apple computer company, when Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) and Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) toiled in a humble Los Altos, Calif., garage and Wozniak drove a beat-up Ford Pinto - which proved to be tough for Stern's team to track down.

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman had their own challenges creating the era for Lovelace, about the Deep Throat star. The trickiest thing on their list: finding the circular bed favored by young Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), Lovelace's eventual husband.

"How many circular beds do you see today?" asks Epstein. "It's in our movie with the bedspread and sheets to match. That alone is worth the price of admission."

While the film follows Lovelace's exploitation in the porn world, the early days of the story are filled with early-'70s innocence, from the big hair to roller dancing. Sarsgaard garnered big laughs at the Sundance premiere by tossing out phrases such as "outta sight" and ''groovy" and pointing out his character's bright-red bikini briefs ("It's not my look," Sarsgaard said, groaning).

Even Argo's depiction of the Iranian hostage crisis required some sartorial soul-searching by director/star Ben Affleck and co-star Alan Arkin.

"When I first called Arkin for a fitting, he immediately said, 'I hate the '70s. What are you going to put me in?' " says costume designer Jacqueline West. "Everyone gets a bit scared of the '70s. It's so extreme. Even Ben was a little scared of the giant lapels and the wide ties."

Affleck insisted that the more flamboyant looks of the era be toned down. The outfits for everyone, from the Iranians who stormed the U.S. embassy to the Americans who hid in the Canadian embassy, were copied from actual photographs, and the garb worn by Affleck's CIA character, Tony Mendez, was based specifically on CIA agents' accounts. Everything was designed to blend in rather than stick out.

"Ben did not want the audience to be hit over the head with the '70s," says West. "He wanted real people over fashion."

Even Arkin's Hollywood producer character, Lester Siegel (a composite character), looks restrained. West says the actor commented that his outfit "was the best fitting of his career." Arkin ended up with an Academy Award nomination (for supporting actor) and kept Siegel's leather jacket and specially made Persol sunglasses.

"The '70s will never leave, or at least, they'll always come back," says West. "There's just a lot of nostalgia for them."

History of the Eagles Part One tapped into that nostalgia for the band that dominated the decade, from its debut album in 1972 until its 1980 breakup. (The members have since reunited.)

"They came up in the moment in Los Angeles when the California sound was dominant. And they were that sound," says producer Alex Gibney.

The current Eagles came together to kick off the film at the festival (it airs on Showtime Feb. 15), allowing fans to reminisce about the era of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

"There was a lot of excess," says Gibney. "It's a time of pre-AIDS, cocaine and wild sexuality - all of that with that hair and those droopy mustaches. It was a very interesting time."

USA Today

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