Monday, April 20, 2009

We all have a bit to learn

Cool obsession could be in any person’s life.  It is a type of cool that nearly borders geeky cool sometimes.  My first thought of cool obsession went to a film named Wordplay, which is about the New York Times crossword puzzle and the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.  How nerdy is that right? But after seeing the documentary I have some admiration for how dedicated those competitors really are.  People train themselves to work crossword puzzles as quickly and accurately as possible.  These are people who learn so much because they are working puzzles and competing.  I can only imagine the amount of knowledge that is learned in order to become good enough to compete in the tournament.  Not only does the passion and obsession remind me of Paris is Burning, but it also falls under the same type of film, documentary.  There is new vocabulary introduced and people are famous throughout the world of crossword puzzles. 

Another movie, actually series of movies, comes to mind while thinking of obsession.  These movies are about action and mystery and obsession for winning and out smarting other people.  Oceans 11, 12, and 13 all contain cool obsession.  The world of big money heists is a small one, so all of the key players know each other well.  This knowledge allows for people to form alliances and work together or sneak behind each other’s backs to be the one with the last laugh and the money.  It takes a group of highly diverse and talented me to steal a major Las Vegas casino’s money the first time; the second time it requires the help of an old world renown thief and traveling through Europe to steal a priceless treasure to repay the first heist.  The last time requires helping out one of their own and getting back money that has been wrongfully taken from their partner. 

In each film the group won’t stop until they have completed their set task.  They develop elaborate plans to make things work and call on contacts to help them out of situations.  Their obsession can be dangerous, just like that of Paris is Burning when one young man is killed, but the thrill and satisfaction is worth it in the end to the group.  The Ocean’s group works together, everyone is family and no one is going to be cut out or let down.  There are leaders and followers, but everyone gives everything they have. 

Cool obsession can be found in all area of life, it just requires something over which you obsession, and of course it helps to have people with you who think your cool obsession is worth something.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A little bit of shock

Before the reading for the week, I had no idea what the film Paris is Burning would contain so I had no expectations.  After the readings I was a bit more prepared for the onslaught of homosexual balls that was to ensue throughout the documentary.  I had never known of such things.  Everything about this group of people was a brand new world to me.  It was a bit confusing at first; I wasn’t sure how to handle something so new in my mind.  Soon I began to see that these really are people finding ways to enjoy life and be a part of something.  The readings made me see this at first, but I am a visual person and the documentary really helped me get it.

I was shocked about how detailed and involved the world of balls and houses really is.  The new vocabulary, for instance, was something that truly fascinated me.  Of course it makes sense for this group of people to have their own vocabulary, just like there is certain vocabulary for any specific group of people involved in particular activities.  Take for example something as simple as a cross-country team, or something closer to the film, those involved in pageants.  Every group has specific vocabulary that is special to it.  Or how about the number of houses to which a person could belong, who knew there were so many.  Each house had its own style and leader.  These ideas really are not any further away than a high school or college. There are cliques of all sorts and every stereotype imaginable.

People naturally group together with those who are most like them, hence clubs and groups.  Everyone wants to belong, and that is what is the biggest impact from this movie to me.  Each person within the movie was looking to be accepted for what he or she was.  No one wanted to change; instead he wanted to offer his service towards his house.  This obsession with belonging somewhere leads to obsession with representing that house well.  The man who was making a tank top that took him much longer than usual, or anyone who decided to walk in a ball poured his heart into what he was doing so that it would be the best he could give.  I believe everyone can learn from the type of obsessions these people represent.  Obsession can become dangerous, but it should inspire passion in a person’s life and that is what makes this film cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cool Satire

Satire can be seen in many different films.  Even films that are not an obvious satire can still sometimes have something to teach us about society and different topics of which we should be aware. 

One example of a movie that does not seem to be a satire but yet still has something to say is Chicago.  Its flashy advertising, the music, the costumes, the dancing, and so many other parts of this musical may seem as though nothing of importance can be said, but it just isn’t so.  Chicago revolves around a woman in the 1920’s who has killed her lover on the side and goes to jail while awaiting her trial.  There is so much to learn about the corruption of the justice system, or at least to gain some awareness.  Though I saw the film while I was younger and less aware of satire in films, the themes still seem to remain with me and show me that satire in films is effective.  The racy outfits and dancing seem to gain the attention of the audience and subliminally leave messages about the possibility for corruption.  The women in the film use all available resources to gain favor with the law enforcement and hopefully get out of their bad situations.  Not all women are successful and there is something to be said when the only innocent woman of the group is hung for allegedly murdering her husband.  The lawyer who represents the two main women, Velma and Roxy, is conniving and manipulates the law and evidence to win his cases.  All throughout the film there is corruption and deceit.  Though it is amusing in the musical form, it is something against which we are being warned.

Thank You for Smoking is another film that uses a lighthearted manner to convince viewers that there are important things to learn about certain industries.  The main character, Nick, is a spokes person for a group that is completely supported by tobacco companies and so every study that the group conducts will find that there is no link between lung cancer and smoking.  The corruption is made to be amusing in this film; it is so bluntly obvious that he is lying that laughter must follow.  Thank You for Smoking is a bit more obvious as a satire, most people are very aware of the correlation between smoking and lung cancer.  It is comical to see Nick change up the truth, but in the back of our heads we are all thinking how true it really is.  

Friday, April 10, 2009


Robocop, oh the humanity.  Even though the film is from the 1980’s, the themes are still very important today.  Alex Murphy is killed in the line of duty and since he has signed his life to the police force the corporation in charge, OCP, choose to use his body to make a new prototype of a robot working off of a human system.  He fights injustice and works for the good of society.  He even smashes the corruption involved in OCP, he is making the world a better place.  Among all of his heroic acts, Robocop begins to long for something more.  He knows that there is something missing and he begins to work on finding that something.  He returns to his former house and actually is able to have a memory or two of his wife and child.  While Robocop was alive he had a partner and she begins working with him to help him discover who he once was.  He knows there was something more at some point and it takes him a while to discover what that had been.  His life at one point was more than just serving the law, though now he can do a more effective job by only seeing what goes on in a right or wrong sense. 

He chooses to search for his humanity, but what bothers me is that though it will be a good thing for him in some ways, maybe it really is not that great.  Once discovering whom he once was Robocop, or now Murphy, has a connection with the audience based on humanity that is much more effective for the director’s message to be shown.  I run into one main issue with Robocop and his humanity, he will never die.  In the end, every person he meets and with whom he creates a relationship will perish.  I feel as though it is all in vain in the end, though it does not matter for the film’s sake.  His humanity is important to make the audience care about him and about the satire of the movie, but I cannot seem to get past the fact that he will never die.  He serves his purpose in the film, so at least that much is accomplished and maybe I just need to get over what never even happens in the film.  Maybe I should imagine that one day he does break down or that OCP chooses to terminate the immortal Robocop.

Monday, April 6, 2009


ANDY! YOU GOONIE!! Oh the memories.  The constant struggle for keeping your friends and family, yet wanting something better for everyone as well.  The Goonies may be about Mikey and his young group of goon dock friends trying to stay in the place they reside, but it has many similarities to Saturday Night Fever.  Tony and his group are much like the goonies, seeking something.  Mikey’s neighborhood, the goon dock area, is facing the harsh reality of new construction and demolition of the place they have called home.  Not everyone who lives in the area is as worried about it, but Mikey and his friends are seeking something better, saving the goon docks.  Tony depends so much on his friends, he wouldn’t even have a car to get around town if it were not for his friend Bobby.  His friends give him his self-confidence at first, telling him how well he can do on the dance floor.  Mikey finds a treasure map and decides this is a great attempt to get enough money to save their homes; rather than his friends telling him that it is a dumb and farfetched idea, they fully support him and group together to go find the treasure of One-Eyed Willie.  Just as Tony and his gang are one of the lowest social groups, so are Mikey and his friends, I mean they are even called the goonies.  Tony gets in to a scuffle with another social class and Mikey’s brother gets into it with Troy, whose father is planning the destruction of the goon docks.  In the end the movies are not the same, but all throughout they are similar in the struggle as a young person in life with the support of his friends.

One other movie comes to mind, and it is definitely escapism, The Neverending Story.  It relates to Saturday Night Fever in a completely different way than The Goonies, it relates based on the cool theme.  The Neverending Story is about a boy, Bastian, escaping the harsh realities of his life through a book that starts to involve himself.  He is being bullied by a group of boys his own age on the way to school and hides in a bookstore.  Rather than going to class and taking his test he goes up to the attic and becomes enthralled in the new book, which he was warned could be dangerous.  In the book he becomes a vital character, just as Tony became a vital dancer to the disco floor.  Bastian enjoys the book for its adventure, but even more for its inclusion of him.  Eventually his father finds out and he must stop, though he chooses to take one more action to save the characters in his self-involved book. Though The Neverending Story is much more fantasy than Saturday Night Fever, it still maintains the ideas of cool escapism.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Classical, oh so much more

Sure classical music may seem old and maybe a little too fancy or boring, but it really has so much to offer.  It seems as though younger generations have lost touch and can generally misunderstand classical music.  Maybe it is not as dark and grimy as say Saturday Night Fever, but I would say that classical music fits into the same classification of being misunderstood.  That is not to say that ever part of it is happy, there are many darker sides of classical music and darker sides to the stories behind musical compositions. 

By now you might realize that classical music is an important part of culture to me.  It has so much to offer.  Maybe the issue is that people have not been properly taught how to enjoy most classical music.  Yes, we hear classical music in weddings or in movies, but it is not on the top of hit music charts.  Most people do not think about how they would like to hear a certain symphony or concerto, and I am mainly thinking of younger generations.  How is it that so many people could over look such a great art form?  It is because it is an art that is better with understanding, and many young people do not want to take the time to understand it, to them it may seem long and boring.  Not all young people feel this way, especially not those who have studied music for longer periods of time or have grown up in families that have taught them the importance of this art. 

Those of us who do really enjoy classical music know of the power of emotions that may be found in a piece.  Because there are no words, every piece can take on a different meaning for each listener.  Interpretation is what makes music and art in general so wonderful.  A composition that may remind one person of a beautiful sight in nature may remind another person of a wedding of a friend, and may remind another person of a recent emotional experience in his life.

Besides interpretation there is the intriguing history behind each composition.  The tale may just be one of gazing upon a beauty, but another may be from a messy ongoing battle between families.  The story behind music may be made up such as Symphonie Fantastique about an artist under the influence of opium or could be composed for a church service written in reverence to God. 

There are some different parts of today’s culture that does help classical music come out of its hiding places.  Many children are familiar with classical music from Bugs Bunny cartoons and even now the Disney Channel show for young children, Little Einsteins, frequently uses popular pieces from classical music.  As we develop, classical music can often be found in popular movies.  The music heard movies may actually be a classical piece or the score may be heavily influenced by classical music.  I only hope that these small exposures to the world of classical music will provoke each person to take another listen and discover what he may have to gain from the experience. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cool Relations

It isn’t always fun to be the person stuck between two groups, but John Shaft seems to do this with ease.  He minimizes any problems he can between his African-American neighbors and his white police counterparts.  The coolness of Shaft is mainly dependent on the time period, the 1970’s but there are themes in Shaft’s cool that can still be seen today.  His ability to maneuver around the tough issue of friction between races is his coolest attribute.  

There is another character that comes to mind that also has this great ability, Atticus Finch.  In the book and film To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch is a lawyer in a small town in segregated Alabama.  He represents a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white woman.  Though all evidence points to his innocence the town sides with the white woman only because Tom is black.  Atticus is full devoted to his job and is able to keep his chin high while defending Tom.  Though he and his family face many forms of ridicule for representing Tom, he always is respectable and conducts himself in the most gentleman-like way possible.  He does not fit the type of cool that John Shaft portrays in any other ways except how he fights for justice and deals with race relations.  He is not the ladies man like Shaft and chooses not to show his children violence (such as not revealing to them that he was the best shot in the county).  Maybe Shaft could have taken a lesson from Atticus, but maybe Shaft had to have more violence to get his way.

Maybe Shaft is hinting towards the black version of James Bond.  They have many similarities, but I would prefer not to discuss them right now since our final paper will discuss James Bond.  Mainly his way with women, his since of justice, and his use of violence are incredibly similar to that of Bond.

I hope that the type of cool that Shaft maintains through his position in working with his own race and the majority race will soon die out.  I do not mean that I hope we no longer can cooperate, but I think it has been well past time to move on from focusing on race and work together for the betterment of society.  I know that sounds so idealistic, it is, but it is something that should not even cross our minds any longer, the race of another person.  Luckily we are making strides and one day maybe we will get there, together.