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.