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

Humanity

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

Goonie

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.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Justice for all

Shaft, the typical 1970's style and yet the themes presented in the film are still relevant and cool today.  Hip for its time, Shaft can still show today's viewer some very important ideas about humanity.  John Shaft is a smooth talking, get his way type of guy.  He knows how to use his people skills to intelligently out wit those around him for what he believes is the right thing to do.  His sense of justice and way in which he takes justice into his own hands is something that I sometimes find lacking in today's society.  It seems like sometimes justice is a bit weak today.  There are many laws and errors that seem to let people off a little more easily than before.  Crime punishments do not always seem very harsh and any prison sentence seems to be able to be shortened by years with just "good behavior" (though there was some type of poor behavior for that individual to be punished).  

John Shaft is very street smart and clever.  Who is not drawn to that type of person?  He is always talking with other people to find out what is going on in his neighborhood.  Shaft even sends up a neighbor to turn on his apartment lights while he stays down across the street to find the men watching for him.  Almost everyone has respect for John Shaft, even Ben Buford once Shaft saves his life though Ben at first was against him.  Some people do not seemed pleased with him because of his association with the white police officers.  His association with them actually improves his knowledge and allows him to have the upper hand in his investigations.  His relation to the police helps hi help his own community, which helps him then earn the respect of others.  Shaft is cool for choosing to take some initiative in actions that may not be very popular with those around him, but it ends up helping many people.  Though he may be a little too close to the white police, he still interacts with his community for them to understand he is doing his best to help all people.  Cool is evident in John Shaft.  He is a modern super hero.  Yes, he is now a bit out dated and the lingo and fashion are a little laughable, but the respect for Shaft's cool is still there.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Rebels

Cool rebellion can come in many forms; the first that comes to mind is James Dean.  One of his three star films, Rebel Without a Cause, says everything.  When someone utters the word ‘cool’ it will often happen that the image that pops into someone’s head is that of James Dean.  He only had three main films, all of which were a huge success.  He was edgy and a rebel in many forms.  Dean’s roles in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause were both that of a younger rebel boy.  Not only did Dean play rebels in his hit movies, he had some rebel tendencies in his own day-to-day life.  After finishing high school he went to college, then transferred and changed his major, and eventually he just dropped out of college altogether.  Rather than getting a degree in drama he choose to drop everything to pursue a full time job in acting.  Along the way he made multiple rebellious decisions, even supposedly being homosexually involved and heterosexually involved.  He is seen as a prime example of cool rebellion.  The picture of him smoking and that mischievous grin on his face tell of his known rebellion.  Even the day he died he had been a rebel; he was given a speeding ticket not too much earlier than his fatal accident with another car (thought not his fault). If he had grown older, would he have remained the cool rebel that he was at the time of his death, or did his death seal his fate and legacy as that well-known cool rebel?

A film that reminded me of the cool rebellion of Easy Rider is The Truman Show.  Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, is not the badass rebel that we see in James Dean, or even the super mellow yet somehow transcendent cool of Wyatt in Easy Rider.  Truman Burbank is an average man as far as he knows.  He is only trying to live his life, make it work, and make himself happy.  The town is the perfect American dream, even down to the fences; I have seen Seaside, FL (where this was filmed) and can say that it appears to be the same in and out of the film’s scenario.  Truman feels as if something is not right, and for good reason.  A corporation has staged his life; nothing is real, yet to Truman everything is real.  In the end Truman is the rebel for questioning why he was not happy and for leaving his perfect little world.  Though not the same rebel, Truman shows how this cool rebellion might even be brought into everyday life (subtracting the corporation staging).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The sad facts of life

Our nation is big; I know that, it is around 3,000 miles across. I know that in that vast area there are many different views of life and styles of living.  I am aware that many people in one region do not completely agree with many people from another distant region in our nation.  The majority of the time I do not think about how different people are within the United States, but Easy Rider gladly reminded me of this fact that I seem to push to the back of my mind sometimes.  The film was a rude reminder of how harsh reality can be within even one nation.  The counter culture movement was not long ago, it is doubtful that the nation has changed that much in 40 years. 

Considering how recently this all took place, it seems very likely that many of these themes still exist today.  There is still a large misunderstanding among groups of people today, many people don’t want to learn about what is different from what they know and have been taught.  I think this is the most dominant theme found within the movie.  If people don’t understand each other then often times it leads to disagreement, not discussion.  In a small town, assumed to be southern, the three main characters stop in a small restaurant and receive no service.  The local people eating there look them up and down; the young girls are interested to know more while the older men of the town decide that they are trouble.  In the middle of the night the older men find the characters’ campsite and beat Jack Nicholson’s character to death.  This is one of the most obvious examples of a hate crime.  The men of the town did not identify with the new ideas associated with those men passing through and instead of trying to understand or just leaving them alone, they choose to beat them all and even murder one of them. 

At the end, two other men riding in a truck down a road shoot the remaining two characters.  It appears as though the man who fired the gun did not mean to kill Billy (Denis Hopper), they even turn around once they realize he was actually hurt.  On the way back to see him they shoot Wyatt (Henry Fonda), at first I was a little dumbstruck.  Maybe they shoot Wyatt because he has seen what they have done to Billy.  It is another example of misunderstanding between people and their ideas that happens all across the nation.  My only hope is that maybe we have made some strides toward learning more about what we do not know or understand, I believe this would be the best way for these differences to be mended. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cool Culture

Cool culture, there is a lot to say and even more to think about in terms of cool culture.  Culture is always surrounding us, it is what makes us who we are.  At the time we may not recognize the cool culture that surrounds us, but not long after that time has past we can see the scheme of everything.  Culture is apparent when it is taking place, but it is even more apparent once it has taken place.  Each person may not consciously recognize all aspects of culture that are currently on going, but in retrospect it seems there is much more of which we were unaware.  

Family Guy is a show that consciously mocks today’s culture in all aspects, movies, celebrities, clothing, music, and any other part of culture that you can imagine.  Though this might not be cool culture so to say, it instead mocks cool culture, which makes us question how we view cool culture.  Take for instance one episode of the show titled “Petergeist”, automatically the cultural reference is known, the movie Poltergeist.  Throughout the whole episode the film is referenced but it does not stop at that.  There is a take off of the battle between Gandalf the Grey and the Balrog, when they fall through the Earth while fighting.  Peter tries to build something that is better than his neighbor’s, mocking the American dream.  Carrot Top even appears in the episode and Bob Costas as himself.  Family Guy can always come up with a way to make America aware of the way we find culture to be so cool.

 

There is another type of culture that comes to mind that is found in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  The film gives a small glance into the culture of schools.  Many adults may not really believe there is a culture among youth in school, but there is, and there are cool parts to that culture.  Ferris Bueller is cool in the culture of the high school because he dares to be a rebel against the authority.  He uses his talents to get away with skipping school and just enjoying life.  He uses his computer to change his number of absent days as the principal is actually watching.  The secretary of the school even knows how popular Ferris is; she lists every school subculture that thinks Ferris is “a righteous dude.” Ferris is just cool, even though the film is set in the 1980’s his attitude and his membership of the culture makes it still cool today.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Always Changing yet Ever the Same


Today’s youth, my generation doesn’t exactly have one place that exemplifies the London seen in the Time magazine piece written in the 1960’s.  I do believe however that we have many small places or events that make up something like that London.  There are many different ways that my generation has come to have that sense of hip ness and style.

I think some small “places” that are now hip among youth are concerts.  I don’t always mean the giant thousands upon thousands of people concert, though this can easily show cool culture.  Large concerts were popular even in the 1960’s, but today something that has grown in cool culture is a small concert.  Indie music played at small clubs or even how about big name artists who choose to play small bar concerts.  There is something that is modern about how these types of musical events have grown.  A young person wants to see something in person, to have his or her own personal experience with it.  To hear a cd or listen to something on the radio is not the experience that young people want.  I think young people are looking for a new experience, and most only think that can happen when it is experience in a new way to them.

I don’t think this generation is looking to duplicate any other generation, but I feel as though this happens in variations anyway.  Concerts have always been popular, take Woodstock Festival for example it was a couple of days filled with a large number of artists.  Today there are festivals such as Memphis in May or Bonnaroo, which are both very popular, though not just among youth.  Events such as Bonnaroo bring up topics that today’s youth has really taken to heart, such as going green.  This event that draws so much youth can bring about big changes, because the younger generations can really do a lot of they put their minds to it. 

No matter the time period, the place or events that best portray the youth of the time are also going to be full of ideas about change or how to improve the world.  When we are youthful we tend to be more passionate and when we grow old we tend to mellow out a bit.  I think this is the idea that goes with any young generation and I think that also goes with the style and cool culture of the time.  The topic may change but some passion is always going to be there for whatever it is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just Messy Love


The love in the film Jules and Jim is not ordinary, nor is it healthy in many ways, but there are other loves that remind me of this love.  It is not the type of love of which I would ever want to be a part, but maybe it is fit for some people.  Many people would prefer to have a love that was much more predictable than Catherine’s, but there are those who would rather have the adventure and surprise which her love would always bring. 

 

One particular couple that reminds me of the love in Jules and Jim is Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  The two actors met while filming Woman of the Year and their romance began there.  Spencer Tracy remained married to his wife while being involved with Hepburn for the rest of his life.  This the aspect that most reminds me of Jules and Jim, Jules remained with Catherine after she no longer loved him and became involved with other men, mainly two.  Hepburn’s love for Tracy was much cooler than Catharine’s love for any man; Hepburn took care of Tracy while his health was failing and even chose not to attend his funeral because that would be the respectable thing to do for his family.  Overall I believe Tracy and Hepburn’s love was cooler, but it had some of the same themes found in Jules and Jim.

 

A more recent love like that in Jules and Jim came to mind as well, actually a couple of love triangles all in one show, Grey’s Anatomy.  Though the show is very recent, the theme of messy and yet somehow cool love appears in very similar ways to love in Jules and Jim.  There is a doctor whose wife cheated on him with his best friend, just as in Jim and Jules.  The wife and best friend do not end up together; it was only a small outside affair.  They all somehow remain friends through it all, though feelings have been hurt and the relationships change.  The best friend then ends up involved with another woman, but she is developing feelings for other women.  The web continues to weave itself throughout the whole show and all the characters, but sometimes there is some much needed resolution.  Love can be cool, but I guess it all depends on the reactions of each individual.  The messy relationships do not add to cool love, they only seem to pull away from how cool it could be.

Friday, February 27, 2009

That smile


Jules and Jim was not at all what I expected.  Though I could understand the theme for the week and even its origin, it is much different than the "cool love" I thought I would encounter.  Maybe I thought cool love would be love that never fails or never ends, but this isn’t the love in Jules and Jim.

It instead is a love triangle with a few more angles added.  Catherine toys with the men as the story unfolds, first just being their friend.  Through the beginning I really was enjoying the film and her carefree lifestyle.  She seemed to genuinely want happiness out of life, and who doesn’t want that?  I found myself slightly in her shoes; many of my good friends through school have been male.  Catherine was cool and her attitude about life was cool.  When you are young, being carefree and nonchalant is perfectly acceptable, but there is a time where the youth and irresponsibility has to go and instead maturity must come.  So yes, Catherine had cool love, but that was before the war.  After the Great War ended, everything seemed to change.  Though the carefree Catherine had stayed it seemed to provoke her to be hurtful.  When you begin hurting those you love, you lose your cool.  She and Jules had a child together and by then she should have been able to settle down and really think of those around her.  She instead chose to leave for a while and even have affairs in order to somehow punish Jules. 

When she begins wooing Jim I really lose all thoughts of her cool love.  She becomes obsessive, and rather than building up good things her actions only become destructive. Her final actions really do make me believe she has fully self-destructed.  She throws away every good part of her life, her family, her peace, and even her mind once she pursues Jim.

After being truly confused about how to receive the ending, I began to realize it was a better movie than I had thought.  Right after I cannot say I felt that way, but after letting it sink it for a day I am feeling as though there are many things that can be learned from the film.  I think it is important to see that Catherine had someone who loved her enough that he would care for her even when she did not love him as she once had.  Jules was not really the leader in the marriage as most men are, but he was always supportive and would help her however he could.  What I find most cool about Jules and Jim is the friendship of Jules and Jim and the love that Jules has for Catherine, even after she has caused their marriage to fail.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Darkness- it's a minor key

So film noir is not my favorite genre, but I am beginning to discover that there are many pieces of classical music which I love and have the same themes somehow of film noir.  I have played violin for more than 10 years now and there is something that pulls at my heartstrings while playing music that is darker in feel.  Many times it is easy to play or listen to a composition that is all major keys, normally filled with sharps, fast notes, and melodies that make you smile somehow.  After hearing one of these pieces, such as St. Paul's Suite- The Dargason by Holst , Hoedown by Copland  , or Les Toreadors by Bizet it is hard not to be happy.  Though theses pieces leave a lasting impression it is much different than the impression that is left by music that does not contain the same peppiness. I did not come upon this realization until listening to one of my favorite musical compositions, which showed me that although film noir may not be as happy as many films it has a lot to offer.  There is more depth in film noir than in many of today's comedy or romance films.  Two main orchestral compositions come to mind when I think of a type of film noir through music.

The first composition that is what I would deem the film noir genre of music is Mozart's Requiem III. Sequentia- Lacrimosa.  This is part of Mozart's last composition.  He was very ill at the time of writing it and actually passed away before it was complete.  The piece is heavy in nature; the words that are part of the mass are depressing.  The composition is centered around death and the judgment of man.  Film noir is not part of a peaceful and simply wonderful world, just as the requiem.  Requiem literally means "A Mass for repose of the souls of the dead," there are no happy movements.  The genre of film noir does not show happiness, it is about the true nature of people and what life really is, dirty.  Maybe this example is a bit more than what film noir is about, but I believe you get the same overall feeling.

The piece, which developed my thoughts of film noir and music, was actually Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber.  The piece is touching on a whole new level.  It is beautiful without the normal distinct marks of beauty within music.  Film noir lets us all see the truth of human life, the part that is for the most part hidden until some action brings it out.  Adagio for Strings was first performed in 1938, at the end of the Depression and the beginning of Hitler's Germany.  Life was not so happy for many people and the Adagio seems to portray this perfectly.  There is no grand part in the music, it just seems to grow and continue on until it diminishes in the end. There are no happy endings in film noir and there is no happy end to this composition.  Film noir easily can be a genre found within music, somber and somewhat disheartening.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Noir...an unexpected American genre

After viewing Double Indemnity, I have a new perspective of American film.  I had heard of film noir before, but I was not aware that it was actually developed in the United States. The little about the genre I knew turned out to be very well displayed in the film just as I expected: dark, gloomy, and gritty in a sense.  Knowing about American films the movie was not at all what I expected it to be.  I guess I really never thought that American film would develop something such as film noir, the messy, doubtful, and depressing genre that it is.  I am sure it was quite a surprise for the French to be viewing so many American films after World War II that were not of the American dream and promise that most would have imagined.  Who would have thought that the one genre that is most American seems to me to be the least American of all genres.  I know that not everything can be happy all the time, but I still am surprised somehow.  
I did not really care for the idea of the genre as a whole, but I thought maybe watching an example would show me what was so appealing about the whole genre. Sadly, after the movie I did not feel any different about the ideas of film noir.  Maybe I just miss the point of it all.  I knew the character form of a femme fatale before the movie and I even remember thinking that she could be a very welcomed figure to women.  Instead I felt as though she only furthered some sad ideas about women.  Barbara Stanwyck played an excellent femme fatale, but it did not develop where I felt any draw to that type of character.  I only thought of how backstabbing and brutal she really was, she was so sly that it no longer seemed cool.  There is a certain amount of manipulation that can be used by women to get their way and be cool in doing so.  I felt as though she went well past the accepted amount of manipulation as a character and instead became the women that is ultimately a black widow.  This is the aim of the character but I have a hard time developing any good reasons that it would be cool.  Maybe the idea is that she only needed other people to use them and that she was truly independent emotionally of all other people.  Overall I felt as thought I did not connect with the film and I found that maybe there are types of cool that grow too old and fall out of fashion, though we have neo-film noirs now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cool Imitation or Imitation of Cool?

Allen Felix really is an interesting character. He is so real it is painful.  There are times within Play it Again, Sam that you just have to cringe because you can recognize his imitation of cool within real life and realize that it doesn't always work to imitate cool.  Allen's need to be cool is shown as he has full conversations with his imaginary Humphrey Bogart; Bogart tells Allen what he needs to do in order to win over women and just be cool.  In the end, it seems that imitation will never make you cool, but instead it may spur you into learning what can be cool about you.  

One movie comes to mind immediately as I think of cool imitation, Some Like it Hot.  The movie includes many imitations but it is an imitation as a whole.  It is a comedy based off of one historic and tragic event, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but is turned into a whirlwind run from the mob.  Not only does the movie imitate organized crime, such as having a meeting of gangs called friends of the opera, but also on an individual level there is imitation.  Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) see the infamous shootings of the massacre and have to get away to save their lives.  They run off to Florida with a women's band by imitating women musicians, now named Josephine and Daphne.  While imitating women they are protecting themselves and make friends with Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), who really thinks they are cool girls (for one Jerry takes the blame for Sugar's flask).  Joe decides that he will go even further in his imitation in order to win over Sugar, so he chooses to act as if he is Shell oil Junior , has a fake accent, and even takes Sugar on his supposed yacht.  Curtis's imitation in acting is of Carry Grant and his suave romantic style (later they worked together in Operation Petticoat Junction).  Sugar of course thinks he has coolness about him because the wealth and power she believes he has.  Joe is actually everything she has been trying to get away from, a lousy saxophone player.  His imitation works, but he thought he had to be someone else in order to win Sugar's heart.

Another cool imitation that comes to mind is not a character; it is a whole adaptation of a play.  Baz Luhrmann made an ingenious and imaginative remake of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  Luhrmann's version is highly modernized.  Instead of ancient households, the Montague and Capulet families are major companies in high competition with one another.  There are not the same swords as in the play, instead swords are guns that are literally named swords.  Many original lines from the play are used throughout the movie, but with the new imitation come some new meanings.  The film is a great way to show today's audience how Romeo and Juliet is still applicable to life and acknowledge the great work the original play really is.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My kind of cool

After watching Play it Again, Sam I had a hard time thinking about who I really look to for cool.  I thought for a long time to come up with an actor or actress I really thought fit, but to no avail.  I thought about musicians and though a couple come close, I don't think of them that often.  Then I began thinking maybe the way in which I do things is different than Allen Felix, and then it began to make sense.  I don't think of someone and his or her cool the way that Allen thinks of Bogart.  My thoughts about how someone else is cool and how I somehow idolize that are much more subconscious and subtle.  Since making that realization I can easily see how people channel a type of cool they see in someone else.  

I have a couple of very close relationships with people, not a large number of mediocre relationships.  Some of my closest relationships are with my siblings.  I grew up in a very small house, the youngest of four.  We were not wealthy, so most of our entertainment in life involved each other.  There are no memories from my childhood that come to mind that are missing all of my siblings.  Being the youngest leads to looking up to my brother and sisters.  All while growing up I would look to them for what was cool, as time has passed, it seems not much has changed.  I can see now how much I have made them my definition of cool.  My oldest sister is a doctor, which I now aspire to be one day.  I talk with her weekly about my classes and she lets me know what to expect throughout life.  My brother is brilliant and has really made friends that will be there a lifetime.  I seek his approval on most things.  When I recently told him I was planning to change my major to English pre-med, he told me that during college he had the best English professor and if he had not have been required to start all over he would have gotten an English degree.  My face lit up just knowing that our passions in life are so similar.  My middle sister is so carefree and personable, I only wish I could genuinely know as many people as she does.  


When I see all of my siblings together, even with their spouses, something is just perfect in the world.  My role models not only of cool but also of life in general are truly amazing.  I am sure I could come up with some legitimate reasons that I think some musician is my cool model, but that would be lying.  My siblings are more amazing than any actor or actress or musician is ever going to become, if only because I know them, and can really see their cool in life.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sacrifice

Through Casablanca, we come to know some type of sacrifice.  Rick gives up his true love in life to allow the underground movement to continue in its attempts to stop the Nazis.  He knows that though he has sentiments for the underground, he will never have to voice and publicity of Victor Lazlo.  Rick adds his part in the fight by giving the two travel visas to Ilsa and Lazlo and making sure their plane leaves Casablanca.  The fight will continue as strong as ever, because Rick does not put his own wishes first.  There have been other people who have to make sacrifices in their lives and they are not always as small as choosing to give up a visa.  Many people choose to sacrifice their lives for a cause in which they truly believe.  

Sacrifice is not just something of the movies; it is an every day occurrence.  In 9th grade I choose to do a history day project on sacrifice in the Boxer Rebellion.  Specifically, I did a group performance on a missionary family, Charles, Eva Jane, and Florence Price.  I read a book full of letters written mostly by Eva to her family and friends.  This missionary family gave up life in the United States to go share the gospel with the "heathens" of China.  The family worked to build belief in the salvation of Christ throughout Fen Chow Fu for many years.  They mainly wanted to equip Chinese Christians to hold their own church services and Bible studies.  After four or five years the Boxer uprising began, though it did not immediately affect the Prices.  It did spread to areas near the family, but the Prices stayed longer to help others in peril.  Once they did choose to leave, they were murdered on their way out of the country.  The Price family gave the ultimate sacrifice for what they held most dear, they gave their lives.  Missionaries around the world make sacrifices and I believe that qualifies them for cool sacrifice.  

There is sacrifice all through movies as well.  One movie that comes to mind is Pan's Labyrinth.  The little girl in the story makes a large sacrifice in the end to help someone else (I won't say exactly what it is in case you haven't see it).  She does gain something out of her sacrifice, but it is still a sacrifice.  Rick gains something out of his own sacrifice, which makes me wonder what exactly qualifies as a sacrifice in life.  It seems you can still gain something from your sacrifice, but not gain too much.  Where is the line drawn?

Friday, February 6, 2009

As Time Goes By


So I have a romance with classic films, this being one of them.  I have always thought Casablanca was a wonderful movie and after seeing it again in class I am reassured that I was 100% right about it.  There was something new added to my experience of the film this time, it is the same something that makes me love literature so much, it is discussion and analysis.  People may say how odd is that, don't you want to just take the movie as it is? No. I want to read into things and really discuss subtle lines or actions in the movie that make it so much more than it may appear on the surface.  There is so much more to learn and know about a movie than can been seen the first time you view it.  Wednesday was my third full time to see the film and the best part was being able to talk it through.  

For me, one of the most forceful parts of the film is when Ilsa first comes into Rick's Cafe Americain and she calls Sam over to play her and Rick's song, As Time Goes By.  The song and both Ilsa and Rick's reactions attests to the power of music.  Many times a person will have strong emotions linked with music; it can be from any situation.  Music is something that has no real barriers, not time, not race, not language.  There is always a story that goes with music, whether that is why it was written or why it is so enthralling to the listener.  After the cafe closes for the evening, Rick asks Sam to play the song for him.  Sam is creating excuses not to play the song when Rick says, "If she can stand it, I can. Play it!" And to show everything that song really means to Rick, there is a flashback to the times he and Ilsa had in Paris.  The viewer knows all of the raw emotion that song represents to Rick.  Repeatedly I am amazed about the universal power of music and this movie has the perfect example.

One other aspect of the movie really makes me wonder and think.  It is summed up quite well when Rick says, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns of all the world, she walks into mine." The aspect is fate. Yes, of course in this movie fate is exactly what makes the film and of course it is written to be that way, but there is something to fate.  How is it that an individual can find a person, out of the billions in the world, whom they love so much that he or she can break the individual's heart?  Or how can people work together or be in class together and later find out they are somehow related? Though the fate in the film is staged, it still makes me think about the possibility of true fate.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The criminal side of cool

The thought of cool criminality quickly produces the images of the Godfather or Scarface in my mind, but there are more than just those.  Upon seeing The Public Enemy, I now realize that most films associated with cool criminality have some gang or mob aspect.  Maybe cool criminality tends to portray itself best within gangs or mobs.  Individuals alone, without a gang, do not have the same cool criminality, even if they are criminals.  Something is added when the person is part of a group.  Tom had his partner in crime, Matt, but they were connect even more through people such as Patty.  The support Tom received helped him continue and portray his cool criminality. 

Thinking of cool criminality brought one of my favorite singers to mind, the well-known Frank Sinatra.  He had many connections to the mob, starting with his career around 1940 the Federal Bureau of Investigation began to keep track of his life and contacts with mobsters.  Though Sinatra was popular for his music, surely some people were also attracted to him for his suspected interactions with organized crime.  Evidently, some individuals who had mocked or threatened Sinatra received threats from Sinatra's friends in the mafia.  At multiple points Sinatra gave large sums of money or lavish gifts to his organized crime associates.  His criminal associations definitely aided Sinatra's growth as a star and being seen as truly cool.  Sinatra was not cool only for his mob friends, he did have an amazing talent, but who is to say it would have been the same if he had not had friends in higher places. For this tie, Sinatra maintains some type of cool criminality.

Even cool criminality has made its way into the world of Shakespeare.  The musical West Side Story is based upon two gangs in New York that portray a modern version of Romeo and Juliet.  Though they are not members of mobs, or particularly of organized crime, the gangs do fight and rumble often, which is a crime.  Gang violence is evident when Bernardo wishes to fight Riff for one of Riff's former gang friends getting involved with Bernardo's sister.  Bernardo is the leader of the Sharks while Riff is the leader of the Jets.  Each is cool for his nonchalant attitude to being part of something illegal.  Both gangs believe that they have the right to a certain part of the city and they continuously fight over the boundaries of their territories.  The production as a whole shows the cool criminality, with its songs and dance routines all tied into the quarrel of two gangs.  Cool criminality has many different ways in which it can manifest itself and I believe the more subtle side of cool criminality is found within West Side Story.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cool Collage

New View
Breath-Taking

Art
Ingenuity
Timeless
Experience
Where you come from
Daring
Passion

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The beginnings

After hearing about the origins of film, I began to wonder why the idea of film was developed and what how other types of art might have come to exist.  If Thomas Edison, the Lumiere brothers, and Georges Melies were able to envision something as complex as film there must have been other people who were the same designers within their art.  Immediately I began to think of blues music.  I first started with the history of the blues, which is very similar to the beings of cool, starting mainly through the slaves.  No one can take full credit for the idea of the blues, or at least that person has never been given that credit.  It has taken many years and many different people to make the blues what they have become today. 

One of the first notable blues song is The Memphis Blues by William Handy.  It was simply a song that was about a mayoral candidate, but it is in the style that is now recognized as the blues.  Just as film has grown from the small store front nickelodeons that only lasted a few minutes, so too has the blues.  Slaves would use call and response solos while working to pass the time and to create bonds between them.  Who knew that the tragic situation of slavery would bring an art form that would evolve into so much more?  Blues music was expressive, in some ways it seems much more expressive than most other music.  It was a way for feelings to be shown.  Like early film there were many different topics for blues music.  Like The Memphis Blues, many songs dealt with things as simple as a job or an outing, but of course it also spans the gap to feelings of love and hard times.  Films brought people together, just as the blues have always done.  

As time passed on the music began to evolve into so many more things.  It has developed into rhythm and blues, jazz, blue grass, early country, and even rock and roll.  The blues have come to mean a lot and be well represented by a number of famous artists.  Musicians like John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, BB King, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton may not have been in the beginnings of the blues, but they continue to grow and mold the art form.  Just as film continues to push new boundaries, the boundaries of the blues are ever changing.  The art of the blues and its history are summed up well by Who's Gonna Fill Those Shoes by Buddy Guy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Discovering my thoughts on cool

What is cool? I have never really tried to truly define and explain cool, but after hearing F. John's explanation my mind began to wander about my thoughts on cool.  I can see a spectrum of cool being very plausible, but I believe that every person has his own developed views about cool.  F John gave us his spectrum of dissident to transcendent cool.  I understand his reasoning and examples, but this does not exactly match my thoughts on cool as a whole.  Yes, James Dean is dissident cool as much as Bruce Lee is transcendent cool for me, but what about my mom or even my two and a half-year-old nephew? My mom's ideas of cool are fairly similar to my own, but what is to be said for the fact that my nephew is sure his Pops is the coolest person he knows?  It seems there is an age where an individual begins to develop the idea of cool with which most people would agree, but when is it?  When does a person have the knowledge of culture enough to say what is or isn't cool?  When do we lose the capacity to maintain that judgment? 

Cool is just that to me, a judgment.  A nicer way of saying this is that cool is subjective.  Though many people will have similar definitions, each person will vary his own thoughts depending on his age, gender, social class, ethnicity, and general upbringing.  So for me, I have a liking of classic movies, it comes from watching them with my siblings and parents when I was much younger.  One of my favorite actresses from classic movies is Katherine Hepburn, and she definitely qualifies as cool to me.  Her defiant nature as a woman in Hollywood led to a trend in changes in women's wardrobe and her quick wit was bold to say the least. But would every person think of Hepburn as cool? It is doubtful, but maybe this semester will bring more cool individuals to my attention, such as those who have begun to fall out of the world of cool and need only to be rediscovered.  The world of cool is made of only opinions, there is no easy definition or set of individuals and I am sure it will never be that easy.