Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Grass Is Not Always Greener

 “First rule about fight club: you do not talk about fight club.” I find it ironic that in a class where talking about the films is essential, we watch a movie that has that particular rule. I think that part of the reason behind that rule, was to keep the club exclusive—keep it secret. By doing so, its members would become exclusive and set apart from the rest of society while still remaining part of the mainstream. After being allowed into this exclusive club, the men acquired a certain swagger. They were proud of their “battle” wounds and wore them like badges even though people on the outside would have no idea or even care where their wounds originated. 


I think there are a lot of films that revolve around this basic theme: a character seeking

 some level/type of coolness or status, only to find that it was not what they thought. One example can be seen in the movie, Mean Girls. This movie is about a girl who, in trying to join the popular group, proceeded to lose herself and what she stood for. She accomplished her ultimate goal of “coolness” onlyto find that it was not quite what she expected.  I think that this is a reoccurring theme in movies where a character is striving to achieve coolness—kind of a “the grass is always greener on the other side” sort of thing—but once they get there, they realize that it is not what it was played up to be.

     Another example of this can be seen in recent release, 17 Again with Zac Efron. (Yeah, I can’t believe I paid eight dollars to see this either). The once well-know , high school basketball star is grown up, and wishes he had done things differently and pursued a college career instead of a family. Mysteriously, he is granted this wish and is transformed back into his former, high school 

self. However, all too soon he realizes that it is not like he thought it would be. He misses his wife and children and wishes that it would all go back to the way it was originally. Even though his life did not seem ideal, he realized that if he were to undo it, he would have lost that which meant the most to him, his family.

                Overall, through out this semester, we have learned so much about cool. Ultimately, cool is not something that can be pinned down and defined. There are so many definitions that are individualized and personal.  Striving to attain cool will not necessarily make you cool or happy. I think that the closest we can come to a true definition of cool, is to say that it cannot always be a cookie-cutter opinion. It is transient and its fluidity will continue to change in constancy. 



Thursday, April 30, 2009

Medical Humor

     So this was the second time I had seen Fight Club. The first time was last year, my freshman year at UCA. I have to admit, after viewing it for the first time I did not plan on ever wasting time on it again. However, after watching it in class last night and having foreknowledge of the outcome, I was able to appreciate some of the finer details and humor. I was particularly able to enjoy a few of the quirky attempts at humor thanks to my two semester anatomy class that I have just now completed. Just ask Anna, because I passed her a note that shared some of this enlightening information.  At one point in the film, when our main character (who is nameless) is giving Marla a breast exam, she asks him if, in return, he would like her to examine his prostate. Well, again, thanks to anatomy, I immediately grasped the humor behind this. You see, the prostate is a gland that sits just below the urinary bladder and surrounds the urethral tube. There is absolutely no way to examine this particular part of the male anatomy (just in case you don’t know, the prostate gland is not present in females) without something called a Digital Rectal Exam. This is precisely what it sounds like—digital means finger and rectal…well you get the picture. Sorry guys, but I just had to share that. It was funny.

      On a little more serious note, I really was able to appreciate more of Fight Club on the second go-around. I realized that the protagonist never has a name. What is even more interesting, is that his second personality does have a name, Tyler Durden. Another thing that I noticed, is that Tyler Durden was always trying to convince the main character that he depends too much on possessions to define himself. After a “mysterious” apartment fire, our main character loses all his stuff and moves in with Durden. The “two” of them start what becomes known as Fight Club. It appears to me that the protagonist simply progresses from defining himself with material possessions to defining himself with you he wanted to fight. Is that really any better? It still seems like he is still basing his worth on others. First on his outwards appearance, how many material possessions he can accumulate, and what other people see; then on whom he wanted to fight. Either way, he ended up depending on someone else to define himself. It was all just a little contradictive and ironic to me. It also made me wonder, can we ever get away from basing some part of ourselves on other people?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


The only other Quentin Tarantino film besides Reservoir Dogs that I have seen is Kill Bill. Let me just say that so far, old Q.T. has not impressed me.  Explicit gore is not something I have ever enjoyed, or ever will. The viewer could definitely see a connection between these two Tarantino films: blood, blood and more blood. (Did I mention that both of these were fairly gory movies?) These two have a very obvious connection, but I believe they also have a few similarities that are not as stand out.

For instance, both films were influenced by Japanese action films. Kill Bill’s Japanese influence is a little more obvious since Uma Thurman uses a “ninja sword” as her weapon of destruction. While Reservoir Dogs has a smaller amount of the Japanese influence, it is still present in the scene where there are three different guns pointed at three different people—a killing triangle. Also, both films are presented in typical Tarantino, non-chronological style. Both films present main characters, whose purpose and history are not given until later on in the film. Both movies backtrack to define the character.

Another film that has somewhat of a Tarantino influence in it, is one that I saw for the first time this weekend, Seven Pounds. Seven Pounds actually starts with part of the conclusion of the entire film. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to give it away.) My friend and I spent half the movie confused, simply because we didn’t have the needed background on the characters to be able to decipher all of the dynamics between characters. As the movie progressed, more and more history and background was given on the main character, Tim Thomas (played by Will Smith), and we were slowly given understanding.

These non-chronological films are frustrating, but they do keep the viewer guessing and interested in the film. Personally, the frustration of not being able to figure out all the details was one of the only things that kept me interested in Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill. Also, in a world riddled with all different sorts of films ranging from artsy to chick flick type films, these films’ style of time arrangement allows them to stand out from the majority. It gives them the needed edge in booming film industry and allows them to be different. 



Thursday, April 23, 2009


-          Bangs

-          Sports

-          TOMS shoes

-          The lake

-          Intelligence—but not too smart

-          Vintage

-          Acoustic

-          Youthfulness

-          Facebook

-          Brand name clothing

-          Friends

-          Coffee houses

-          Outdoors

-          Scrapbooking

-          Photography

-          Realism

-          Truthfulness

-          Family

-          Humor

-          Animals

-          Confidence

-          Passion

-          Inspiration

-          Faith

-          The stars

-          C.S. Lewis

-          Jane Eyre


Not So Cool:

-          PDA

-          The indoors

-          Plain

-          Lies

-          Crocs

-          Fake anything (from people to brand names)

-          Ambiguity

-          Neuroticism

-          Failed attempts at humor

-          Gaming

-          Conformity

-          Board games

-          Studying

-          Sudoku

-          Good grades

-          Wearing animals

-          Clean cut

-          Deceit

-          Uncertainty

-          Unmotivated

-          Honky tonk

-          Twilight

In retrospect, I find that I actually contradict myself in a way. You would think that all the cool things would represent something that I am, and all the not-so-cool things would describe something that I am not. However, that is not the case. I find that I am a very well dispersed between the two. How odd is it that I would put myself (in some instances) as un-cool? For instance, I put the Twilight series under the un-cool heading, but I myself have read the books more than once. I realize that although it may be popular, the books just are not cool. The first thing you say when someone asks you what they are about, you say, “Vampires, but its not like it sounds!” Anything that requires a disclaimer like that cannot be considered cool.

Just like some of the not-so-cool things describe me, some of the cool things do not describe me. Yes, I am outdoorsy, passionate, and sometimes semi-vintage in style; but brand-name clothing is not always something within my price range. I think its wonderful to get a Gap gift certificate to go shopping, but I think I would fall over dead if someone gave me money to go shopping somewhere like Dolci and Gabana. And its not that I just cannot afford those cloths (I can’t, but that’s not the point), I don’t think that’s how money should be spent. There are a lot of people who don’t have a change of clothes, and yet we (myself included) usually don’t shy away at buying hundreds of dollars worth of clothing a year (and that’s a conservative estimate). So why is something like charity not in my list of cool? I obviously see it was something worthwhile. Maybe definitions of cool are not based on what an individual thinks, but on what those around him and in his culture think. 


Headline: Jonas Brothers Have Joined the Reservoir Dogs?

     What was cool about Reservoir Dogs? Throughout the entire movie people were dying senselessly (well, unless you want to say diamonds are worth lives), the language was distracting, and the seventies music was out of place. However, if talking to a present day teenager, I believe they would have thought some of the main characters were cool. I say this, simply because of their choice of shades. This is something I not only noticed early on in the movie, but got a nice little chuckle over it too. These rough, tough, gangster men were wearing what are now commonly labeled as “JoBros Sunglasses.” Take a gander at the photos below if you don’t believe me.

        However, even with this comical beginning, this movie was far from funny—odd perhaps, but definitely not humorous. One thing that I found odd was the pairing of happy-go-lucky music from the seventies with the men who are at least trying to put up a front of bravado. It seemed like the choice in music was counteracting the image the characters were trying to present. Perhaps that is part of the irony though. We did talk about how not one of the characters seemed to ever accomplish cool, and at some point each character made at least one highly un-cool move or blunder. So in a way, even though it seemed a tad goofy, maybe the music fit the film better than I originally thought. The one scene in which I believe the music had the most effect, was when Mr. Blonde was torturing the cop. The contrast between his actions and the music only intensify the horrific scene. The bubbly music and Mr. Blonde’s carefree dancing only serve to make his actions seem all the more grotesque and psychotic. “Stuck in the Middle With You” will never have the same meaning for me. 

     In the end, there are three people (out of how ever many ended up dying) that I feel sympathy for: Mr. White, Mr. Orange, and Marvin Nash (the cop). I feel sorry for Mr. White

 because towards the end of the movie, he stuck his head out to save Mr. Orange (who was really an undercover cop), ended up shooting his boss, and then getting shot himself all to defend Mr. Orange. Afterwards, he drags himself over to where Mr. Orange is lying, and pulls Mr. Orange’s head into his lap to comfort him, only to have Mr. Orange confess to him that he really is, after all, a cop. I feel sorry for Marvin Nash because of obvious reasons. No one deserves to go through the torture that he did. Mr. Orange is pitiful, but garners the least of my sympathy. I cannot help but think that while it is sad that he had to die (and from the shot of a pedestrian no less), but he also knew the risks when he agreed to the job. He knew that being killed was a risk he was running. 




Monday, April 20, 2009

Passion, if Not Agreed With, Should At Least Be Given Respect


   Condemnation for expressing your true self—for expressing your inner being—is not limited exclusively to the drag queens we saw last week in Paris Is Burning. Some things are condemned by certain generations, religious groups, or cultures. I think there will always be groups at odds (and sometimes it turns into a downright war) because of differences in lifestyles and beliefs. Opinions are inevitable, and the desire to spread these opinions is inherent in human nature. History is chock full of different groups desiring to change or eliminate other groups based on differences. Is the elimination of people groups based on differences right? Certainly not. Is the desire to share the way you feel and what you believe in wrong? No, but sometimes it is treated as so.

     Okay, so I am pretty sure that everyone has experienced the agony of answering your front door, only to find some type of religious group trying to stick their foot in the door. You know what I am talking about—those obnoxious-won’t go away-won’t take no for an answer-and how dare you say you are another religion-type people that show up at the most inopportune times. (My apologies if you are one of these) But it’s true. You with me still? Well here is where I am going to say something you might not like. Those people should, in a sense, earn your respect. They are out there because they have something a lot of us are lacking: a strong enough belief in something, somewhere that they make the effort to get out there and spread the knowledge. It may not be a credible belief, but they are passionate about it. Similar to the drag queens we saw in last week’s film, they are not typically given respect for that passion and desire. These groups would probably rather be caught dead than in the other’s position, but when it comes down do it, they probably have more in common than they think.

     Another group that I don’t think garners the respect they deserve is the rap community. Granted, some of the stuff they put out is “rap crap,” but some of it has genuine artistry. I don’t always agree with the language included in their lyrics, but sometimes when I hear one of their

 songs, I have to stop and appreciate it. I feel sorry for the true rap artists and the rep that has been assigned to them due to the others in their profession. Rap artist legend, Eminem, became popular in the late nineties and is soon to put out a new album. To me, this is an example of a certain generation not being able to appreciate passionate artistry. People in my parent’s generation are unable to see the sheer talent that men such as Eminem possess and use to express themselves. Eminem’s music is highly personal, well written, and well thought out. There is an entire generation that connects to at least a few of his songs if not all. Yet, he is not depreciated by all but that certain generation. He is one of many who is not given the credit he deserves. 


Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Enviable Oasis

     I have a dilemma: what do I say/how do I respond to last night’s film, Paris is Burning? In class, it was mentioned that the transgender community is becoming more of a norm. Well where I grew up, the transvestite community is just as much of a norm as a community constructed of orange people would be. In other words, that lifestyle is definitely not a norm, not yet anyway. I do think it is slowly but surely being brought to the surface, especially with documentaries like this being shown.

      One thing that really caught my attention in this film was the fact that these people had a place to go—a place where they could express themselves and be true and be real. At the balls, they were allowed to be what they could not and earn titles and respect while doing so. They couldn’t do this out in the real world, but at the balls they were given freedom and released from the world’s constraints. I think this is something that anyone would envy. No matter what our sexual, religious, or political orientations are, at some point, we have all felt constricted in some way. Maybe it’s a constant thing or maybe its not, but to some degree, we can all relate to the desire to free yourself from other people’s opinions and judgments. Granted, we may not have been ostracized from society the way this community has been, but to some level, everyone can relate.

      Ultimately, I was envious of that fact that they had a place of true freedom—a place that they could all their own and be who they truly were. How many of us are ever truly able to let go, and be our real selves? We live in a world where to be different is to be weird, and to be weird equals unaccepted. I know we have talked about how it is cool to be different, but I think that has constraints. If you are different, you cannot be too different, or you become odd and unacceptable. So where do we draw the line between being cool different or being weird? These men and women were not accepted by society, so they did the best with what they had, and created a place of respite from the judgment that they faced out in the world—a place where to them, they were real.  I do not have that place, and there are very few people in my life that I feel that comfortable with. These men and women had found an ultimate treasure, whether they realized it or not, and I was truly envious of them. 


Monday, April 13, 2009

One Day (But not yet) We Will Also Be Labeled As, "The Older Generation"

   Last Wednesday in class, I believe we all in agreement that although Robocop may have been ahead of its time, now-a-days its “special effects” left much to be desired. One of the first things that I noticed, was the original robot present to the police of Detroit. Its jerky motions made it very apparent to the viewer that it wasn’t really even moving, but rather its “movement” was provided by some clever editing. What was really comical, is that this particular film was set in the future, but was still rank with the eighties. A box television with dials was even present in one scene and the hair styles and clothing left little room to imagine this film taking place in any decade besides the one is was filmed in. So  much so that after the movie was over,  I even leaned over to a classmate  and asked if it was supposed to be set in the future. These dated, futuristic movies tend to leave one dazed and thrown-off course, but in the meantime, they also tend to offer some unintended comedy. (See the jerky movements mentioned above. I mean, come on ,that was funny.) Some This prompted me to start thinking, what other films are so obviously dated? What modern films will be laughed at in the future?

      The first one I could think of is one my Dad and brother are fans of: The original Star

 Wars trilogy (you know, the third through sixth, the old ones). These three films were also children of the eighties and the times definitely left there mark. Like Robocop, the Star Wars trilogy was intended to be futuristic, but now they simply leave the viewer a bit confused and maybe even a tiny bit lost in time. I think one of the main comedic situations in any one of these films has to be the somewhat stilted dialogue. However, I am not sure if this is due to when they were produced. (Perhaps it is due to the skill, or lack there of, of the actors.) But if you are watching with a quick and observant eye, you will undoubtedly find unintentional comedy

     Another film I just couldn’t resist comparing to Robocop was Back to the Future. Back to the Future was filmed in 1985, and while it was not necessarily filmed with the intention of making it look futuristic, there are some aspects of it that are intending to be a little modern. For instance, take a gander at the time machine the old professor is oh so proud of. Can you say dated? There is no way I would ever set foot in a time machine that looked as ancient as that. Then I have to remind myself that at that time, that car was hot stuff.

     I think that no matter what, we will always look back on movies that one point were at the height of technology and fashion and think, “Wow, that movie was ridiculous.” It is inevitable. Fortunately, it provides good comedic entertainment for later generations. 

Speaking of the older generations....sorry, couldn't resist. This was just funny. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Robocop Does Not Equal Compassion

     Violence, gore, bad verses good—Robocop was chock full of these aspects. If you are in need of releasing a little pent up aggression via vicarious movie viewing, then Robocop is for you. Unfortunately, the bloody scenes were a bit much for me. I’m sure the people sitting behind me got a good laugh out of watching me cringe throughout the entire film. I have never been one who enjoys watching body parts get blown off every which way.  Even with this being true, I have grown up watching movies such as this, and continue to do so today.

     Granted they may not have the quite the amount of gore that Robocop does, but they come close: Gladiator, The Matrix Trilogy, the LOTR trilogy and several other “guy” movies are ones that I have seen over and over again. On one hand, this doesn’t make sense; I do not enjoy violence in movies (I’m not protesting it, I just don’t enjoy it). And yet I have a repertoire of these type of movies built up. I guess I can attribute it to my dad, brother, the mass of boys (my brother’s friends. He’s only a few years younger than me), and my guy friends. Oh well, I 

guess I enjoy the company. One thing I feel like I have gained due to this is a good comparison and knowledge of action type films.

     The major issue that really caught my eye in this week’s movie is the lack of restraint that not only the villains seemed to show, but Robocop and the “good guys” as well. Murder, whether a cop or a criminal, was no big deal. Granted, some of the villains that were killed did deserve to die but that is one of the huge differences between Robocop and modern day action flicks. Batman, Spiderman, Superman—rarely do you see these celebrated superheroes kill a single fly, much less a human. These guys are creative and skilled in what they do. They are always finding some way to rig up the criminal so that the cops can find him and haul him off to jail. To e, this is the way things should be. What justifies the killing? Who is are the Detroit police force or Robocop to make the decision to take human lives? This is one huge factor that in my book, denies Robocop of hero status. He may have a human heart, but in then end thanks to his lack of restraint and compassion, I can see no difference between his and the villain’s heart. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Theraputic Prescription Number One: Just Dance

     Last weeks movie, Saturday Night Fever, was all about the controversy of the fast lifestyle that Tony and his friends led. It showed pros (like sex) and the cons (like when Bobby C. falls off of the bridge and drowns). On the dance floor, Tony was unstoppable; he was in his element and king of the turf. However, at home, his life was another story. He was stuck always  being the second best compared to his older brother who was a priest. Tony never quite measured up to his parents’ expectations.


  Dancing, gangs, and rough home lives— all of these things are seen in yet another, more modern film, Step Up. Tyler Gage is a punk from the streets involved in all sorts of questionable activities such as stealing cars and breaking into buildings. He was caught breaking into an art school, and his punishment was in the form of working for the sch

ool. There, he was able to see

 another side of the dance scene. Whereas he had simply been a street and club dancer before, at the school Tyler was introduced to a new form of dancing while still being able to incorporate what he had learned on the streets. He began dedicating a lot of his time to practicing with Nora, a girl he had met and was interested in. This encouraged him to pursue a scholarship to the Maryland School of Arts. All the while, his friends were becoming more and more agitated with his lack of free time. His best friend, Mac, ends up becoming so angry that he will not speak to Tyler until Mac’s brother dies in a tragic shooting.

     Even though the situations were a bit different, I think Tony and Tyler are very similar. Both come from lower class backgrounds, both are fairly unmotivated until deaths of friends, and both use the dance floor as a relief from every day struggles.  It seems as if dancing offered therapeutic benefits for both—a dose of confidence and a boosting of the ego.

     Also, while watching Saturday Night Fever, I couldn’t help but think of a recent song that is currently being overplayed on Alice107.7: Just Dance, by Lady Gaga. The chorus in this song focuses on the words, “Just dance, it’ll be okay.” It reminded me of Tony’s mindset throughout most of the movie. Once he got out there and started dancing, that was all that mattered. No family problems or work problems got in the 

way. When he was dancing, everything was okay. It was his relief from real life. 




Thursday, April 2, 2009

Skeletons in the Closet

      So from what I can tell, this is the “bare your musical skeletons” journal.  This is where I get to say, “I listen to this, but its ok because…” and then proceed to explain poor musical taste and choices. We all have these whether we care to share them or not, and we all are willing to laugh at ourselves and quickly explain away and defend the musical faux pas that appears in our Itunes playlist. They may be embarrassing and inconvenient, but these songs are close to our heart for many reasons, and will not be easily given up. They are embedded in us, in our friends, and in our lifestyle.

      Before writing this, I scanned through my playlists and was quickly able to identify a few of my own skeletons such as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston and “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer  Warnes

(Yes, I am aware that this is perhaps the cheesiest and most overdone song ever).  I am embarrassed to say that I not only listen to these corny products of the eighties, but that I also

 enjoy them. Picture it: girls in their pajamas, dancing around the room, screaming these songs at the top of their lungs. (Yeah, most of us do not outgrow this when we enter college. It typically takes a little longer. Sorry guys.) These two songs are ideal for this type of activity and I think have become “classics” in their own, small way. I will be the first to say that they are far from musical masterpieces, but it has been twenty years and they have not faded into obscurity yet.

     Everyone has their secret likes and dislikes in the music area. Whether you listen to love ballads, eighties music, or screamo, you do it because it is enjoyable and because in some way or another, it expresses something about yourself. Is that not what music is for—our enjoyment and expression? I am not a connoisseur of eighties music—far from it—but I do enjoy these two particular songs (and perhaps a few others).  My taste in music ranges from Amos Lee and Ben Harper to Avril Lavigne and I Nine and I am currently listening to The Police. (Whoops, just gave away another eighties pleasure)Even though it’s eclectic, I do not feel as if my taste needs or requires an explanation. It is what it is. 


Sunday, March 29, 2009

To Be Good or Not To Be Good?

The character, Shaft, was your typical bad, good guy. He was rough, tough, and impenetrable, but for good. He was not a “hero” or someone that a mother would be comfortable leaving her children with, but ultimately, he was good—he did do the right thing. I think a lot of times we look up to and admire characters like this; characters who have enough backbone to deviate and to cause a little trouble, but are still good enough at heart to ultimately do the right thing. Pop culture thinks it is cool to be bad, but not too bad.
Take the character of the Joker from The Dark Knight. Yes, he’s cool, but in the end, doesn’t he become more of a pitiful object than a cool one? He has no admirable actions, accomplishes no ultimate good, and simply works for his own benefit. When it comes down to it, the Joker is just plain sad. He has no friends, no family, and no one to love or be loved by. I do not see how anyone could aspire to accomplish what the Joker accomplished. Yes, he had money but that meant nothing to him. He burned a huge pyramid of cash—money meant that little to him. The Joker lived a life without meaning and without purpose.
On the other side of things, there’s Batman. At first glance he may not be the coolest character—he could be seen as “too good,” too self-righteous. Who is he to take the law into his own hands? But after a closer look at things, Batman has a dark side and he has struggles. His parents died when he was young and the only woman he has ever truly loved dies. The movie is called “The Dark Knight” for a reason, the whole attitude of the movie and its hero is encased in darkness. Batman’s entire being is struggling with good and bad, right and wrong throughout the entire movie. He is cool, because he is not perfect but ultimately does make the right decisions.
Shaft and Batman both have dark sides but both of them end up working for good. Maybe their means are not always ethical, and they do make wrong decisions. I think that’s part of their cool factor—they are human and they are real. Most viewers are able to relate to them and to their struggles to some degree. Being able to relate is cool.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pulled In Two Directions

Racism—not an issue that was directly addressed in the movie Shaft, but definitely an ever-present, underlying theme. Several instances and situations really stood out to me: Shaft’s “white man’s” job and “black man’s” attitude, his witty white jokes, and the conflict between the white mob and the black gang were just a few of them. I took Adam Frank’s class on race for Honors Core III, and since then, I’ve been more sensitive to things such as racial jokes and issues—perhaps too sensitive. Nevertheless, that is where my mind went when watching this film.

The main issue, I believe, was that Shaft was continually trying to bridge the gap between his profession and his culture. His coworkers never seemed to be able to trust him. They continually doubted his motives. It seemed like his “brothers” considered him a traitor, and were also unsure of Shaft’s intentions. This was made excruciatingly apparent when in response to something Ben says, Shaft replies, “I ain’t no Judas.” It seemed as if Shaft was considered too “white” for the black gangs to trust, and too “black” for the majority of his coworkers. However, there was one specific interaction with his friend on the police force, Lt. Victor Androzzi. Androzzi tells Shaft that he “is not so black” while holding a black pen to Shaft’s face. Shaft replies with, “You aren’t so white yourself,” and holds a white mug to Androzzi’s face. To me, this was an obvious racial relations situation that was placed in the film to make a statement. Perhaps that we are less of what we think we are and more similar to what we think we are not. That the two colors—black and white—in mankind, are more similar rather than opposites.

Another thing that really stood out to me, was how Shaft was continually making white jokes, especially towards his white coworkers. Granted, they were funny, but I did wonder what the motives or thought processes were behind them. I came up with one solution: he was trying to separate himself. He wanted to differentiate between himself and the white men he worked with. Maybe this was a result of the outcast he had become in the parts of the black society, maybe not. Perhaps Shaft simply desired to be known as separate—as an entity set apart. I believe he attained that. Shaft did distance himself from both “sides”—white and black—but in doing so, I believe he gained respect from both also.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Hippie Kind of Cool

As we watched this week’s film, Easy Rider, there was one particular movie and one particular band that kept coming to mind. Across the Universe was released in 2007, but was based during the same time period of Easy Rider—the late 1960s. Across the Universe is a film based entirely on music by the Beatles. Its story is told through the use of many songs by the Beatles and by members of the Beatles. The film begins showing a young man, Jude, in Liverpool, England. Jude travels to the United States to find his father, who is working on Princeton’s janitorial staff. There, Jude meets Max, the son of a wealthy American family. Jude goes home with Max for Thanksgiving and meets Lucy, Max’s sister. Not long after that, Max drops out of school and he and Jude head to New York City. They find a small apartment to live in. There, they meet Sadie, their landlady who is trying to make it as a singer; Prudence, a young woman who has hitchhiked from Dayton, Ohio; and Jojo, a guitarist. Once Lucy’s boyfriend is killed in Vietnam, she also heads to New York to live with Max and Jude.

This movie is all about the convergence of different people with different lifestyles. The film is laced with references and representatives of huge 1960s icon such as when Ken Kesey and his Electric Kool-Aid make an appearance while Sadie and Jojo are meeting with a prospective manager for their band. There is also a huge “trip” when the group of friends jump into this psychedelic van name “Beyond” and head to an unknown destination. Presumably, they are all on LSD and there is period in the movie where, as a viewer, I was completely thrown off and confused (very similar to how I felt during Easy Rider’s trip scene). What amazes me, is that Easy Rider was filmed during the prime of this counter culture , while Across the Universe was filmed almost forty years later yet I feel like it was pretty much dead-on in its representation of that time period and counter culture. This opinion is only reinforced after watching Easy Rider.

However, I do think the two films had two different purposes. Easy Rider was filmed to bring recognition to the cool aspect of this counter culture and perhaps to combat prejudices that accompanied that lifestyle. It showed the way outsiders viewed Wyatt and Billie and the disapproval and hate their lifestyle brought upon them. While Across the Universe shows the turmoil within that particular counter culture—war protests, the breaking up of families, and the consequences of their actions and decisions; but it was also produced to bring about recognition of that time period as a whole, with emphasis on one particular counter culture of that time. I think it does a good job of showing both the cool and the not-so-cool aspects of the hippie and anti-war era. Since the release of that movie (and perhaps because of it), a new generation of Beatle’s fans has sprung up. The Beatles and the peace sign had always been around, but this film gave my generation a better idea of the feeling and passion behind both of those icons.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

True Freedom

Freedom—that is the one theme is this movie that really struck a cord with me. The two men, Wyatt and Billy, live so freely...or do they? They literally ride across the United States on their motorcycles just to go to Marti Gras, a huge party. Along the way, they have the freedom to stop anywhere they wish. They stay a while here, and a while there, and are still able to make it to New Orleans in time for their party. So what is this freedom that they have? Is it truly freedom?
At first, the viewer may think that it is. Like me, they may even be envious at first. However, after being allowed to see the picture from beginning to end, the viewer will realize that the freedom that Wyatt and Billy indulged in was really more of a search for freedom. They were never able to escape the thoughts of other people. These thoughts, negative or positive, affected all aspects of their life whether good or bad—the thoughts of the people at the farm, the thoughts of the group at the commune, and certainly the thoughts of the “rednecks” at the very end.

The first place they encounter on their cross-country road trip is a peaceful farm. Here, they admire the open spaces and plentiful bounty the family has reaped from their work. Next, they encounter a hitchhiker on the side of the road who leads them to his home, a commune. Here, Wyatt is especially affected by the atmosphere and people (and their ideas). He is greatly influenced by the words of the strange man at the commune. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it was something about when it was right, when the people were right, Wyatt would know. I think those words and that idea stuck with Wyatt through the end of the movie until he says, “We blew it.” Wyatt realized that he had bypassed what he thought of as good, and perhaps he had also bypassed the “right” people in the process. Lastly, they encounter the thoughts of the prejudiced southerners. Perhaps the first encounter speaks the loudest, even thought it was not mentioned in class. They ride up to a hotel in the middle of nowhere. There is absolutely no way that every room is occupied. Yet, when the keeper sees that who Wyatt and Billy are and what they look like, he walks back inside and flips on the “No Vacancy” sign. A foreshadowing of what was to come? I think so.

Wyatt and Billy were naive. They had no idea that the world apart from California would be so intolerant of their lifestyle and choices. Ultimately, the thoughts of others ended up killing both of them. Is this the freedom that we seek? Or was it freedom that they were seeking? I am not convinced that they ever truly found freedom. However, I do think that they had embraced the search for freedom more than anyone else of that era or perhaps even this one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Confusing Cultures

Last week’s idea of cool was a little foreign to me. I think that particular culture was a before my time. However,there were some aspects I could identify with, such as the quest of continually seeking cool and also how Thomas never stayed still. I do not intentionally shy away from quiet and stillness (in fact, I find myself seeking it whenever I have a chance), but I hardly ever get the chance due to school, soccer, church, family, and friends. Sure, I can grab fifteen minutes naps here and there but those more like teasers than true moments of relaxation.

The television show Greek, is also an example of a “cool” culture that is foreign to me, but does have aspects that I identify with. It is a show that revolves around the Greek system—a system that remains a little vague and foggy to me, even though two of my roommates are involved with it. They come in talking about it, and they attempt to explain, but I think its impossible to completely understand all the underlying rules and regulations—the unspoken and unwritten laws of the Greeks. The television show is the same way. They have all these guidelines and laws that they have to adhere to, all of these unspoken (but you have to know them because if you break one, you become a social outcast for life) laws that they have to follow. They have these social standards, but really fail to meet any other sort of standards like academic or moral. It is ok if you do not make the grades and its “overlooked” if someone cheats on their boyfriend or girlfriend. (At least on the television show) So there are many aspects that I simply do not relate to. However, I can and do see parts of it that I do relate to, like the smaller complications in life. Boy-girl relationship problems, sibling spats, and the relationship between two best friends—these are all things that I can relate to, and these are what keeps me watching the show.

So now I am going to completely switch gears. I could go on for days about cultures that I do not entirely understand—subcultures and cultures both tend to be definitions of how someone sees them instead of a definition that set-in-concrete. So ultimately, I guess that leads to me not ever being able to completely identify with anyone’s culture but my own, personal one. Honestly, I do not even always understand how my culture influences me and my decisions. I am told that it does, I believe it does, but its kind of like verifying identities in Trigonometry. You know that this equals that, but figuring out the part in-between can be difficult. The culture that surrounds me today baffles me many times over. I do not understand so many aspects of something that is seemingly mine. Like why is it so cool to be a coffee drinker and hang out in local coffee shops? I myself have bought into that trend, but why? There is a website that I find particularly entertaining that kind of laughs at a “white person’s culture” called Stuff White People Like. Many of the things listed are true, but when you thing about it, there is no definite reason why it would be true.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cool Continents

I do not think our generation has one particular hot spot. We do not have one particular city which is unarguably cooler than another. Maybe it is more of a cool continent for us. But then again, even that can vary. For example, when someone declares that they want to backpack across Europe, the response from peers is typically a varying form of “Wow! That’s cool!” (Words like awesome, sweet, or bad can be substituted for the word cool). Europe, in general, is cool. There are the obvious cities that many will name as their personal favorites: London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Dublin are all major tourist attractions. If one mentions that they have been to any of these particular places, then you are automatically granted some degree of worldliness and prestige. However, if you, in fact, have surpassed these tourist attractions and have increased your knowledge of Europe by taking back roads and visiting lesser known cities, then you are truly a person of wonder.

Is Europe the only cool continent? No, I don’t think so. What if someone believes that to indulge so much as to spend months of one’s life strictly for self benefit is inherently selfish and inconsiderate? What if, instead, someone decided to join the Peace Corps and head to a third world country in Africa or South America? I believe that would elicit a very similar response as backpacking did. The Peace Corps is cool. Such a self-sacrificing, passionate attitude is to be greatly admired in my generation. Go save the world because that is cool!

How are both of these outlooks cool? The first is self satisfying, rampant with personal gain, and fun. The second is completely self sacrificing, unselfish, and perhaps miserable at times. What is the connection? Why does this particular generation find both of these things cool? Perhaps it is that the people in both of these categories all belong to a bigger group—a a higher classification, a more elitist society. Most people in our generation are in college (including me). This is cool, but not anywhere near as cool as the two situations mentioned above. College is too normal, too overdone. Everyone goes to college, so how is that cool? However, if you bypass or delay a structured higher education for a more non-traditional type such as a backpacking experience or a learn/work situation like the Peace Corps, then that is cool. Perhaps it’s the edge factor. These people are stepping out of the box, shocking much of the older generations, and by doing so, are gaining this generation’s admiration.

This is cool. In both of these examples, one is able to surprise and shock older generations, and receive nominations of coolness from one’s peers. So maybe it is not a place or a time that makes you cool, but an attitude and mindset of determination and originality.