Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Fight to the End: What Cool is All About Part 2

In this corner…the Narrator

Going through the mundane, the Narrator is a man with a boring white-collar job, bossy boss, and has insomnia. He pours over home décor magazines, spending too much money and time on how his apartment defines him. To try to sleep, he goes to self-help groups of the addicted and dying. Surprisingly, this helps him sleep! Letting his emotions go and being included and cared for as if he was dying seems to release him. He gets addicted; he likes being in these exclusive groups.

Compared to Tyler Durden, the Narrator doesn’t seem like a really cool guy. He does what he’s supposed to do in society (work hard and then frivolously spend that hard earned money) and doesn’t seem to have very much inspiration or emotion outside of furniture and self help groups. Even when his precious apartment blows up, he doesn’t get very upset. In fact, he simply tells the audience that these things happen; he calmly calls Tyler, and the two go out for drinks. Whenever Tyler tries to get him to do something, he fights and argues, trying to hold on to the consumer and controlled side of his life.

There is so much more to him that makes him cool, though. His cool isn’t extreme and in your face like Tyler’s, it is quiet, unnoticed, but in the end very complex and powerful. While Tyler is the one who will take the lead, the Narrator is the one who will be in the crowd, backing you up, and keeping tabs on you. Although he seems to not care about anything, he does enjoy the self help groups, and he becomes very attached to Bob, watching out for him. The Narrator likes the bonding and trust that the people in these groups develop; he desires the close friendships. This caring is his strongest weapon of cool. Another cool characteristic of the narrator is his ability to be above Tyler’s influence. All of the other men in the Fight Club are like Tyler’s robot army; they do everything he dreams up with out questions. They can’t do anything without Tyler and have no independence. The Narrator is outside of Tyler’s power. Sure, he gives in most of the time, but he chooses to do so. In the end, when he realizes what Tyler is creating and organizing, the Narrator stands his ground. He is given the choice of either being consumed by Tyler’s character or remaining his own, and he chooses to fight, even if it brings his death.

To sum it all up, this movie portrays so many types of cool. It doesn’t stop there, though. Just as the Narrator discovers what he is made up of, I feel as if we all can discover a cool inside of us, and like the Narrator, we have the choice of what cool and what to do with it. Cool is the freedom to be who you want to be and to accept who you are. That is what I have concluded from this class. There isn’t just one type of cool. Whatever you chose, the only thing that matters is that you are confident and savvy about your decision.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Fight to the End: What Cool is All About

And so we come to the end of this class of cool. We started in the 1930s with Public Enemy, and now we are ending in 1999 with Fight Club. I think this is a great movie to end on because it depicts so many aspects of cool. We see independence, passion, strength, endurance, brotherhood, intelligence, rebellion, devotion…basically any cool that has been portrayed the movies this semester. It also provides us with a great ultimatum about cool, but before we get there, we must first have one last fight about cool. As we were leaving class, a group of us were discussing the film. There were two ideas being argued, and each side had a plausible argument. What we were discussing doesn’t really matter because the reason for this tale is to illustrate the discussion about what is cool. There will always be sides taken on what is found cool. Go back to the lists we made about what was hip and cool; I’m sure there are some conflicting ideas of what is hip and what is square. Cool can’t be made into a list, and it can’t be defined. Look up cool in the dictionary; will it give you the formula on how to be cool? No. But, as I said, after this last fight, one ultimate characteristic of cool will be discovered, so let’s get started. Shirt, shoes, and jewelry must be removed. There are only two to a fight, and the fight ends when one taps out or blacks out…

In this corner…Tyler Durden

Tyler is a man ready to take on the world, and he is a kaleidoscope of different cools. We first meet Tyler on one of the narrator’s numerous trips for his job. Tyler automatically takes the spot light with his knowledge and wit. You wouldn’t think that a man who makes and sells soup would be that interesting, but he is charismatic, grabbing your attention and making you want to be his best friend. As we get to know Tyler more, we soon find that he doesn’t follow any standards set down by society. When the narrator is trying to subtly hint to Tyler that he needs a place to stay (which is what everyone seems to do when trying to ask others for something), Tyler calls him out, telling him to just ask. Sabotaging what ever he can to shock people, Tyler tries to make people see how tied down and mundane their so-called lives are. His desire to live life and to awaken society along with his intellect really makes him a man people want to be with and be like.

Extreme, that is another side of Tyler that can go too far but really adds to his cool. There is no middle ground with him; you either do it all the way or not at all. He will not compromise, nor will he back down. He will stand his ground, take a beating, and continue on with his plans. He’s not always beaten up, though. Tyler demands respect and your compliance because he is so tough. He can stand on his own. He is independent, competent, free. He is free of society, free of a conscience, free of fear. It is this freedom that fuels his cool and extremeness. However, as this movie shows how Tyler acts with this freedom, total freedom can lead to extreme, harmful actions. In his quest to wake society up, Tyler sets his Fight Club army on very destructive missions. Everything that is or represents the consumerism that is tying everyone else down is destroyed. Now, a forgiving point in his plans is that the only people put in harm’s way are the ones who are pulling the stunt. Even in his grand finale which will result in city blocks of destruction, he has made sure that no civilians will be around.

But, I feel that all of the destruction he organizes and the way he uses his freedom aren’t all that cool. Yes, the destruction will be very effective and wake people up to their reality of unnecessary consumerism, but contradictory to his freedom, he isn’t giving society the freedom to choose what they want. It is one thing to make someone aware of what is tying them down, and completely another thing to destroy everything they have to force them to stop being consumers. Another contraction he has is that although he is free, those who follow him are completely controlled by him and his rules. He is free, and he seems to want others to have his freedom, but his method of achieving that is to tie everyone around him down with his authority. There is so much about Tyler that is cool, but he also has his flaws.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Colors of Cool

Throughout the semester, we have been studying different areas and portrayals of cool. While this movie, Reservoir Dogs, wasn’t one of my favorites, it portrayed a good variety of cools. Joe, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Pink, Mr. Orange, and Mr. White all have their own style and flare.


Joe Cabot is the man in charge, the head honcho, the man with the plan. He is the criminal mastermind, the one planning numerous jobs. He seems to know everything and everyone. All of the guys like him; they kid with him and seem to have a good time with him. They also trust that his plan is thorough and efficient. Joe is not a man to mess with, though. Mr. Orange described him as like The Thing from Fantastic Four, and the description was a great one. Joe has the growling voice and the big person to make a person think twice about confronting him. He has an overpowering and competent cool.

Mr. Blonde

Mr. Blonde is complex. He is a tough, almost crazy guy. He seems like a loose cannon, one who is going to go his own way. Calling you out, Mr. Blonde will challenge you, but he won’t get in your face. He has a collected air about him, and he isn’t one to get angry or excited or anything beyond calm. There is one cool you would never expect from this man: loyalty. He did four years in prison for Joe when he could have betrayed Joe and gone free.

Mr. Pink

Mr. Pink is a confusion. He cares the most of the guys about being cool, but he just can’t gain that status. He tries to take on too many different types of cool: professional, macho and in your face, and a rebel. Throughout the movie, he is always exclaiming that the guys need to be professionals. He also defends his masculinity by complaining about being called ‘Mr. Pink’. Finally, he tries to stand out from the rest by making a big deal about tipping. He enjoyed and felt intelligent when he criticized something no one else did.

Mr. Orange

Mr. Orange is somewhat like Mr. Pink in that his cool is one he created. Unlike Allen in Play It Again, Sam, Mr. Orange is successful in acting like criminal. Everyone, even Joe until the end, is fooled by this undercover cop’s act.

Mr. White

Finally, Mr. White, my favorite character, is unlike any criminal type. He is caring, almost motherly. He cares the most about Mr. Orange when he is shot, and protects him when Joe is about to take Mr. Orange out. To a fault, Mr. White shows loyalty and compassion for those he takes under his wing. Him as a mother bear is a perfect image: he cares so much for his cub and is terribly fierce when danger jumps upon that cub.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hips and Squares

No fat
To know the hidden meaning
To know everything and have an opinion
Not square

No cussing
Anything not “I…”
So fat
To take something at face value
To be ignorant and unsure of a position
Resource abusive
Not hip

Warning: I am going to be very straight forward and coarse when explaining this list. Some people might be offended.

It was interesting to start this list because I didn’t know that it would invoke such emotion in me. I started out asking myself, “what is THE THING to do, or what does the mainstream find as cool?” I immediately thought about the items that I disagree with. I realized that I don’t see myself as “hip” because I don’t adhere to the “hip” list; I am more “square”. So ironically, most of the “hip” list is what I find as uncool and the “square” list is how I view myself. Then again, I did start putting things on the “hip” list that I do find cool and adding ideas onto the “square” list that I don’t like. I guess I follow the square characteristic of being “unsure of a position.”

I started out with an area that I feel uncomfortable and out of place with: what my friends seem to find fun. I honestly don’t care for rap. I prefer to have drums and guitars in my music, and I especially don’t want to hear about how a guy lusts after this girl or how he “had his way with her” last night with ten cuss words in each verse. I also don’t see the point in getting drunk. All it does for you is make you lose control, have no memory of the “fun” you had last night, and give you a hang-over in the morning. Cussing is another pointless habit people form. I wonder if people really know what they are saying when they cuss. And grinding, I honestly wonder how this is called “dancing”. I always feel so dirty and violated and used after the three times I’ve gone “dancing”. You don’t even face your partner! I thought dancing was all about getting to know your partner in a fun atmosphere. No, to me, “dancing” today just seems to be a rehearsal or sample of what is going to happen after the dance.

After those items, the lists start to be a mixture of what I like and don’t like. I’m not really pro or con Apple products. I can’t imagine being without my IPOD, and my home is all Apple computers. It’s a great brand. I am just one of those people where if the machine works, I’m satisfied. I’ve got a school computer now, and while most people complain about it, I’m happy with it. I don’t have to have the latest, most advance piece of technology to feel satisfied. I’m going to use what I have until it is just worn out.

Next are political and personal critiques. Everyone seems crazy about and even obsessed with Obama, and our culture is getting more and more liberal as time continues. There is both good and bad with these two. Obama hasn’t done a bad job, but I have been disappointed with a few decisions that have been made (and I really wonder why his dog choice was such a big one). The same is with being liberal. I consider myself as between liberal and conservative, but I fall more on the conservative side. Being a Christian, there are just some aspects of the liberal side that go against what I believe in. This leads to one last point I am going to make, the accepting vs. rejecting. Rejecting someone is completely wrong; this is one “square” characteristic I don’t like. But, like in the rant above, there are some ideas that I don’t accept. The rest of the list I believe is pretty self-explanatory.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Coming Out is In?

So, in continuation from the last entry, I am going to start with the question posed by the referenced blog: if we discovered that those we see as relatively good people are revealed to have questionable lives after hours, would we respect them any less? Maybe we should also go one further: what about those whom we already know to do that stuff? Homosexuality is the action to address in this entry. There is the personal reaction, which depends on each person and his or her views. Then, there is the public reaction; how the masses accept the person. I can’t predict how each individual person would react, but I think I have a pretty good idea about how society would.

Directly related to the first question, think of a character that has captured the hearts of parents and children everywhere with her “just keep swimming” attitude. Yes, Dory, that forgetful, funny, friendly fish on Finding Nemo was brought to life by none other than Ellen DeGeneres, the successful comedian who came out of the closet in April of 1997. The linked article explains quiet a bit about what all she went through, and I’m not surprised. After she came out, the public was confused about how to react, so she was rejected by most of our culture, or at least made fun of. It seemed that her proclamation as a lesbian canceled any good entertainment she had provided before. This isn’t the point I want to end on, though. DeGeneres rose above people’s prejudices and won her spot back. She now hosts her own show and is doing very well.

This is where I believe society is heading in respect to the homosexual acceptance. For so long, they have been spat upon and rejected as the scum of humanity. Think of the movies Blow Up and Saturday Night Fever where homos were jeered at and seen with contempt. I feel that the intensity of this rejection has subsided quite a bit over the past few years. We still have a long way to go, but overall, society is becoming more accepting of homosexuals. We are seeing them as the people they are, not some freaks with weird desires. It seems that “coming out” is a common occurrence as people become more comfortable with who they are and who others are. It is no longer un-cool to be homosexually-affiliated. In fact, it seems to be a very cool, individual-defining thing to not be titled straight. You can be fully Homosexual or Bi or anything. Gender is no longer simply male or female. The specification makes people stand out and have a cool independence about them.

The queens in Paris is Burning are just wanting to be accepted for who they are, as does any one in the world. I don't know if I would say what they do is deemed "cool"...yet...but the end footage of the news coverage of the Drag Queen Ball fundraiser was a mighty step into acceptance. I would say that the coolest thing about these people is that they stand up for who they are. Instead of submitting fully to society, they make a special event to flaunt their identity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

That's a Drag

So, this week’s movie, Paris is Burning, was definitely an interesting one. I have seen perhaps one drag queen in my life (that I know of), and I really don’t know what I thought about that. I’m definitely ok with homosexuals (I mean, they are people, too), but seeing one where I couldn’t tell if the person was a he or she, that was…uncomfortable. And really, I am ignorant as to what to call them: he or she? I think we are all kind of lost when it comes to homosexuality, even the homosexuals. That is why this movie is interesting.

In the Balls, these people are allowed to be anything they want to be. They want to be a soldier, go for it. They want to look like America’s Next Top Model, why not. They want to show the world what stars they are; the floor is theirs. These Balls seem like they’d be a lot of fun, actually. I mean, there are all sorts of categories, basically any category you want. The freedom and spirit seems contagious. However, if you look closely, the freedom really isn’t there.
These queens compete to be most “real,” which is ironically a competition to see who looks the most authentic when dressed up, not who is the best representation of who THEY are.

In this documentary, Realness was judged on whether the person could walk out in public without question about their sex. So, these queens aren’t allowed to be exactly who they are; they have to take up a mask and be who society wants them to be. These Balls, which are supposed to be a place where they can let their hair down, so to speak, judge them with very standards they are fighting. The only difference is that everyone knows that the person is gay.

While these queens were being interviewed, the audience learned about what these queens want. Julie was definitely right when she said that these queens sounded like pre-teen or early teen girls wanting fame and fortune. Now, this could be the poverty speaking, but I also think that these aspirations are influenced by society’s standards as well. If they aren’t going to be guys, then they have to be the complete opposite: very feminine like the female stars. It would be so rough being one of these queens. Society AND the Balls don’t reward them for being who they truly are. To finish up, here is a blog that I ran across. The question it asks is the question I think society is asking.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


It never fails. Me and the girlfriends are out having a good time. We are either eating out, or stopping by Wal-Mart to get junk food and all of the necessities for a girl’s night. The final decision comes: what movie should we watch? Here is the fail-proof part: the one movie that I just wouldn’t care to see (usually a romantic comedy) is the very one that is heavily considered. Now, sometimes I am pleasantly surprised, but other times, I have been proven right; I would have enjoyed another movie more. Of course, the movie I would like to see is the one completely opposite of my friends’ choice: the action movie. The action movie is nearly always my first choice.

I just find action movies so cool, but I never really thought about why I liked them. To start with, everything is big: the characters, the problems, and the stunts. The heroes of this genre have superhuman abilities (and these can be obvious as in super powers or subtle as in a hyperbolic ability like intellegence), and will typically come out winners in the end. The problems are ones with cataclysmic consequences if not resolved. Finally, the stunts of the action movie genre seem to spearhead many of the advancements of movie technology. Think of The Transporter, Watchmen, Die Hard, or The Fast and the Furious. All involve physics-challenging/defying, massive exploding sequences that make you exclaim “Cool!”

Robocop is an incredibly cool movie because it incorporates all of the above features. Murphy and his new partner, Anne Lewis, both stand out from the start. They appear fearless, independent, tough, and able to fend for themselves. As the movie continues, their loyalty to their cause as police officers is revealed to be unflinching. Such strength is to be admired and even desired.

Murphy’s coolness can be called into question through his situation, though. After dying, he is made into the ultimate cyborg cop. How much of his cool is made and how much of it is himself? His superhuman strength and other physical abilities come from his manufactured side. This is very much like taking the suit in Iron Man and wondering how cool it is. The abilities are awesome, but they are only abilities. Ed-209 in Robocop has the same abilities as Robocop, but the machine doesn’t have Robocop’s drive or knowledge, the human side. It is what Murphy does as Robocop that makes him cool; he stands for justice, even if it destroys him, twice.
Robocop also faces a big problem: the corruption of corporation. His abilities and cause are challenged as he has to face those who created and control him. If he fails, justice itself will have been bought out, and the city would go to ruin. Such a dismal situation can be depressing, but we cling to hope that good will prevail, and we aren’t disappointed. Cool points go for a happy ending. We are raised up in our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

Then, there are the special effects that give this action movie its genre. While they aren’t much compared with what we have today, the robots, explosions, technology, and crime fighting spark our imaginations and take us to the edge of our seats. Life can be so mundane, so having these out of the ordinary situations on the screen is exciting, new, and cool. Robocop definitely delivers all of the requirements of an action movie, but it is also successful in being cool.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Laughing Matter?

I really enjoyed watching Robocop. The violence could have definitely been toned down in my opinion, and I always wonder why there has to be cussing, but the movie was otherwise fun to watch. I think I enjoyed it so much because of the satire. Just as a reminder, satire is the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice or folly. Basically, through the seriousness of the movie; ideas are actually being made fun of or warned against. There were a few satirical points that really got me thinking, but on that really got my attention was the focus on overpowering.

Throughout Robocop, there is a show everyone watches with a catch-phrase, “I’ll buy that for a dollar.” It is an idiotic, sexual, demeaning, and without any meaning. The main character always seems to have birthday parties thrown for him by “Hooter’s” girls who always end up having cake on their persons. Out comes his line, “I’ll buy that for a dollar.” This side of the movie reminded me of Idiocracy, a futuristic movie showing how humanity is getting dumber and dumber. In this movie, the favorite show is called “Ouch, My Balls”, and it is precisely about how the title sounds, a man constantly being abused by hits to the groin. These two shows cause the characters of the movies to crack up and be purely entertained. But what is so funny about these shows? Nothing. The “I’ll buy that…” show melts the audience’s brain and also replaces that brain mush with abusive and demoralizing ideals. Women are nothing but dumb toys to “buy for a dollar” and men should just use them like props. Sex is the shallow drive of life and humor; it is the model to follow. Anything deeper than that is not entertaining, therefore not worth entertaining. The news follows this line as well. While not sexual, it is filled with violence and tragedy juxtaposed with pointless news. It gets your attention, but what does it teach you? If you think these are examples made specifically for the movies and not a reality yet, think about these shows: "Jackass" and any of the “love” shows on MTV.

All of this is a warning against the power of the media. This Robocop’s media is telling you to be destructive, women are sex toys and cheap, and to “get [your enemies] before they get you”. As we watch the movie, the audience can see these ideals overtaking the characters’ lives. Crime is going up as morals and society’s standards plummet. The people are desensitized to the junk in the media, and this flows into their real lives. During class, we discussed the effectiveness of coupling the robotic features with the human flickers in Robocop. I think this was very effective and pertinent to the meaning behind the meaningless media and ideas of the movie. The people are basically made into robotic, greedy, villainous pigs that are very effective in destroying what is in front of them. But, there is hope, the human side. This is the side that seems like the memory of a memory; we may simply feel it like Robocop feels his previous life’s memories, but it is there. It drives us to set things right and question what we are meant to do. Instead of following the media’s destructive ideals, we can turn that program off.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just Dance

Saturday Night Fever was an interesting movie. With songs like “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “If I Can’t Have You,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and “K-Jee,” you can’t help but tap your toes, sway your shoulders, and bob your head. With such a boogie-ing tune as the background, you’d think that the movie would be about having a good time on the Disco floor. This is only a corner of the picture this movie is painting, though. As a slice of life, Saturday Night Fever follows Tony Manero as he prepares for a dancing contest. This movie does more than just dance; it takes the audience past the happy dancing floor and into the troubled lives of the dancers.

Overall, I actually didn’t find many things cool in this movie. I enjoyed watching it, but there was nothing I found worth emulating. First of all, Tony’s ability to dance, which made him top dog in the dance world, wasn’t all that impressive to me compared with the other dancers. He just had a few solos and was constantly told how well he could dance. Even at the end of the movie where his big dance hit should have come; he just slow danced around the floor. Tony was also a very needy person with no determination. He constantly needs his importance reaffirmed; he always wants people’s approval. When he is with his friends, Tony always reiterates that they “can’t do anything without him.” A great depiction of his quest for attention is during the second Pirates of the Caribbean, when Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Commodore Norrington are fighting over the chest containing Davy Jones’ heart. Elizabeth Swann is left to guard the chest, but she doesn’t want to; she doesn’t want to be left out. So, she starts shouting and throwing things at them, demanding that they stop fighting. When the men ignore her and continue to fight, she feigns fainting, hoping her shift back into “delicate lady” would get their attention. Tony tries to get the attention of the people outside of the dance floor, his family for example, and this usually happens with his shouting at them. When he doesn’t get the attention he wants, he goes back to what worked before; he returns to the dance floor. Nothing comes out of his actions.

What would have made Tony cool is if he had been determined to do something and not need all of the attention he demanded. If he had been like Jody Sawyer in Center Stage, a girl whose life revolves around dancing, he would have had that specified cool. Specified cool also give the character a new level of cool because it eliminates the character’s need for approval in some ways; the joy of dancing for Jody is what drives her on, not the praise of those around her. Tony just seems like a guy heading nowhere who likes the small spotlight on the dance floor, until the end. He finally sees that his dance paradise is a fake one, and that he is destined to go nowhere. We don’t see Tony as a success, but we are left hoping. We see him changed and starting down a cooler road.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mum the Words

Picture a concert. Perhaps one you’ve been to or one that you wish you had gone to. What did you imagine? Your favorite band? The excited crowd around you? The body-moving volume of the music? What kind of music is the concert featuring? Rock? Rap? Country? What about instrumental?

Music is something I absolutely adore, and instrumental music is like candy to my ears. Popular music has some good qualities to it (goodness, I always have my radio going), but instrumental music, or the music without words and mostly involving string and brass instruments, is truly something special. Now, most people I talk to will listen to instrumental music if they are working on homework, but I wonder how many listen to it beyond that time. The longest playlist on my IPOD is instrumental music, and I even have other playlists devoted to soundtracks. Instead of David Cook or Barlow Girl playing, I will oftentimes listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack on the way home. To me, instrumental music has an essence that can never be captured by a lead voice, and I hope to share this with others.

To start with, turn up your volume and listen to these songs by Jennifer Thomas, Casting Crowns, Nuttin’ but Strings, Rihanna, Steve Stevens, Bela Barto, and my favorite composer, Hans Zimmer (you will have to push the "play" button for some). Did you get enveloped by the sound? Did you tense when the notes clashed? Did your heart pound when the tempo raced and volume blared? What about in the softer parts? Did you feel deep when the sound turned heavy and melancholy? Did you feel carefree when the melody turned joyful and even quirky? Words can be beautiful, inspiring, and a great part of music, but I feel that you tie down music the moment you put words to it. With instrumental, music is free to move around and inside you; it can mean anything you want it to. It can awaken passions and dreams. It can set you free.

What I also love about instrumental music is its life! To start with, there is the work and passions that goes into a piece that is so moving. Some suites are as long as or longer than 30 minutes. Like an organism, notes turn into phrases, and phrases turn into movements, which then turn into the piece. This piece is also divided among dozens of instruments, and these instruments are divided among dozens of people. These musicians play their parts, and together breathe life into the song, the story, the painting, the spirit of music.

I still haven’t given this music justice. Words can’t describe fully the passion and life in instrumental music. It is like trying to fully appreciate a play by just reading it in a book. It’s like caging a wild animal instead of admiring the beast in its natural setting. Instrumental music is supposed to be experienced and allowed to live.

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Hot, It's Luke Warm, It's Cool

As previously discussed, Shaft is a movie all about being in the middle. The main character, John Shaft, is a black private eye thrown into the criminal and racial world. He is cool because of the lines he can confidently stride, but what exactly is it that makes this middle-ground preference cool?

First of all, think of Riddick. My sister can’t watch The Chronicles of Riddick enough; she thinks that it is so cool. Why? Because Riddick is so dog-gone tough! He can take out any obstacle, whether it is just one man or an entire army. Striding a few lines like Shaft, Riddick is both criminal and somewhat of a hero; he mostly looks out for himself, but he also shows hints of caring for others. Being in the middle ground can really take its toll. Both of these men are thrown into danger’s way to protect those who can’t look out for themselves. Now, Shaft is definitely more of a hero than Riddick because Shaft is defined on the justice side instead of the criminal side, but these two are hardened by the middle-ground. For Shaft, the racial tensions, criminal tensions, and lifestyle tensions force him to develop a think skin. He is made physically tough from his job fighting crime. After being shot several times, he is able to resolutely bounce up a few hours later to take vengeance and finish the job. He is also emotionally tough both from his social middle-ground and his job. He receives insults and jibes from both sides of classes and races because he doesn’t fully belong to one group, but this doesn’t bring Shaft down. No, he just jabs right back and puts those people in their place. Nothing brings Shaft down, he can always rise up.

While the middle-ground throws many daggers and forces the character to become tough, it also opens many doors that would otherwise be closed. Shaft is oftentimes the only answer to the racial or class problems in the movie. Since he can walk on both grounds, he is the only one who can keep the peace. To be the only solution to a problem, to be the only one who can get the job done, that is pretty cool! Another example of this coolness can be seen in Disney’s Pocahontas. Pocahontas is the only person who can make the white men and her people live together in harmony and the same goes for Shaft. Just imagine what would happen if these two characters weren’t around in their stories.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Somewhere In-Between

I really enjoyed the movie, Shaft. It was exciting, smart, in-your-face, and striding a few lines, just like the main character, John Shaft.

The audience follows John Shaft, a Black private eye who is the catalyst between the Whites and Blacks, the Gangs and the Mob, the law-abiding citizens and the criminals. The movie starts with Shaft being hired on the side to solve the kidnapping of Bumpy’s daughter. Shaft is also being tailed and always seems to get out of a tight spot by the skin of his teeth. The end is a fight between the Black gang and the White Mafia.

To me, it seemed as if this movie was all about being in the middle. First of all, there was the style of the movie. Picture the 70’s: groovy music, slick cats, screaming psychedelic decoration, Discos. Shaft features the 70’s big hair, big fashion, and big attitudes. As we see Shaft’s house, there are brightly patterned walls but also that very neat and tidy feel, as was something promoted in the suburbs. Just look at the house in “That 70’s Show;” it’s not brightly colored, but very clean and tidy. There was also the typical 70’s lingo being used along with modern music and ideas such as more adult content and White women being with Black men. All of these descriptions seem to really make this movie up to date in relation to when it was filmed; however, Shaft also has one foot in the past. The Mafia are fashioned as if they were back in the 30’s, Tommy guns and everything.

This leads to the other example of what this movie is in between: races. Shaft is a movie from blaxploitation, a style of movie created for Black audiences. All of the protagonist and majority of the main characters are Black. Back to the example above between the Mafia and the Gang, making the “Black side” modern while keeping the “White side” out of date could represent a tension between Blacks moving forward while Whites remain stuck to the ideals of the past. This movie also seems to explore how the two “sides” can mix: Shaft is a man with a Black face but a White job; his name is John, a very common White name, but his speech is like his “brothers”. All in all, the movie raises some intriguing ideas about where the line is and how far being between the two sides is possible and cool.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Above and Beyond

In the previous blog, I discussed how motorcycle gangs could have come about. It all started with pilots coming out of the sky and entering back into society as changed men. The changes of these men seems incredibly cool and appealing, and many of these characteristics can be seen, some what, in the youth of the 60’s, during the Hippies movement.

Easy Rider is a great movie to view these attitudes in my opinion. Wyatt and Billy are two counterculture characters making their way across America to find “the life”. Majority of the movie is just them, their bikes, and the road. Various hitch-hikers come along and provide Wyatt and Billy with insights and good times. However, as they enter into society, trouble and disaster strike as the public bristles in the motorcyclists’ presence.

First of all, these two are truly free. As George Hanson told them after they were shunned out of a restaurant, the public detests people like Billy and Wyatt because they “represent true freedom,” and the public doesn’t want to think that it isn’t free. I found this true freedom the first very cool thing about these counterculture characters. Their appearance is the first clue to their independence. Long hair, motorcycles, strange dress, these two definitely stick out in a crowd. They don’t care what others think about how they look. They are also confident and comfortable on their own. As I watched the movie, I got the idea of an old western; the lone cowboys enter the town, outsiders not a part of the villagers’ world, showing the towns people that there is more than the safe, settled mundane life they have. The girls are drawn to these outsiders, to their independence, confidence, and new freedoms; the guys are threatened by this challenge of how things should be.

While both Wyatt and Billy represent true freedom, they each represent a different take on living that freedom. Billy is a focused man; he has plans, and he is going after them no matter what. He is loud; he is rowdy, he is ready to have a good time, he is living. Think of Bender from The Breakfast Club. He is also a symbol of the material side of life. Billy is always worrying about the money and any changes to their plans to go to Marti Gras. After they visit the brothel, have good food, and get high, he feels as if they have found the life. They can “retire in Florida”. Wyatt, on the other hand, is one trying to find the meaning of life, kind of like Crush from Finding Nemo, although, Crush is more present than Wyatt is. He is quiet, easy going, observant, and almost outside of himself while he watches, not experiences, the adventure they are having. He accepts others as they are and doesn’t seem attached to anything. It seems very cool to get everything that you want or being that quiet, observant person who understands what is going on, but this movie shows that each type of cool is flawed. Both characters ended up unhappy, one had experienced life, and the other realized that they had really messed up. It seems that what is ultimately found cool in Easy Rider is the peace you have, like the settled farmer or the first hitch-hiker’s settlement. You should be happy with life.

Friday, March 13, 2009

From Up High to Far Out

I think one of the coolest things I learned from Rick speaking to us about the 60’s was when he said that pilots first started motorcycle gangs. I had never thought about how motorcycle gangs got started, but now I can definitely see the correlation between the two groups. This is depicting a time before the pilots of motorcycle gangs flew, but the movie, Flyboys, really shows what kind of people signed up for the job of pilot. During World War I, flight was the riskiest position; the life expectancy of a pilot was six weeks. These men were crazy, daredevils, and braver than most. They were of a different quality.

Flight also changed these men, and I believe it still changes whomever are in the cockpit. When you are flying, there are no boundaries, no roads to follow, no limits. When you are flying, you are free. You realize how silly the worries of the world are when you have the wind swirling around you and the ground running below you. As one of the pilots describe in the trailer of Flyboys, up there, no one cared who or what you were.

So, imagine taking these changed men and grounding them back into society. They can no longer soar over different countries without the politics of boarders or walk around town as an equal. They were stuck back into society’s slow, silly problems. I can understand them missing the freedom and speed of flying and the companionship of their fellow pilots. Thus, motorcycle gangs seem completely logical and bound to be created. As Rick said, motorcycles allowed pilots to feel the fight of the wind and the speed of an advanced machine. The gangs allowed these changed men to feel a part of something and able to relate to a group.

On the flip side, I can now see why the tension between society and motorcycle gangs rose, as is shown in Easy Rider. We all hear the prejudice against motorcycles from our parents, if they are “good, upstanding members of society”. However, the movie didn’t seem to have a problem with the motorcycles themselves; it was the people on the bikes. This just takes us back to how flight changed the pilots. Society didn’t seem as appealing to the pilots, and the pilots seemed like villains to society because of their disregard of society’s priorities. I can definitely see this attitude being contagious to youth, but I will discuss the coolness of the attitude later.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Now You See It, Now You Don't

So, I saw The Sixth Sense for the first time this weekend. My mom really likes this movie, and now I see why. Until the end of the movie, you are wondering if Cole is really seeing dead people or if he is crazy and having hallucinations. The whole movie is about seeing what you want to see. This is what plagues the “ghosts” that Cole is seeing; they don’t know that they are dead, so they don’t see anything as it would be with them dead. The ending really ties this together, but you’ll have to watch the movie if you haven’t already to know what I am talking about.

The main character of Blow-Up also sees dead people, or a dead person to be exact. Thomas is a man living in London during the 60’s, a time in which London thrived. A happening and THE place to be of the time, what can London teach us about being cool?

IS LIFE HOW WE MAKE IT? Knowing what is really there is portrayed as cool in this movie. Thomas wonders around London as a photographer capturing the “real London.” What is captured in a picture is really there; that is the truth, thus is Thomas’s philosophy. However, we learn that all that he sees may be questionable. The movie’s namesake, Thomas blowing up a picture to see what is really there. Was a guy murdered? The photo seems to show a body in it after many, many blow ups, and Thomas even sees the body that night. But he doesn’t get a credible shot of the body, which disappears the next day. We also start to question his sense of reality at the very end when he (and the audience) starts to hear the tennis game played by the mimes. Just as the ghosts in The Sixth Sense only see what they want to, does Thomas only see a murder in his picture because he wants one? He talks about leaving London because “it is doing nothing for [him],” but does he really want to leave? He could be fabricating the excitement of finding a murder to show that London still has potential. This movie is calling into question the validity of what we see. I think this movie finds it cool to call into question what you see.

SPONTANIOUS and EXTREME. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of planning involved in the storyline of Blow-Up. There is no self control; everyone is free to do what they want. Thomas is never still; he is either driving around, taking pictures, having his way with models, going to concerts and taking a guitar handle just because someone else wants it, developing pictures, buying random objects that he suddenly has to have, looking for dead bodies. The mimes at the beginning and end of the film are always rushing around and having a good time. All of this action is like Dirk from the movie Sahara. Dirk is always on the move. Given that it is an action movie, but his character will be eating lunch with you one minute and then running off to a Mosque the next, just as Thomas does with his photo book publisher. There is also the other extreme side of no movement at all, like at the concert. People are just dead there, maybe trying to see the “deeper, true meaning behind the music”? In his studio, Thomas tells the lady who wants his picture to sit still and listen to the song he is playing on his record player, not dance allowed. It would see that there are two conflicting types of cool; either you always move and flow with life, or sit back, be still, and observe what is really going on.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What's Happening

She sits at a generic, wood desk with three windows on her custom-built Apple computer screen. One is her paper for her Global Studies class, another is the college’s library database, and the other is her Facebook page, which is what she is currently looking at. “Girl, check this out!” she yells over the bouncing Flo Rida blaring from the IHOME. Her roommate walks over from the other side of their dorm room. “What’s up?” the roommate asks. “Don and Isabella broke up, Pat is in Russia, and look here, Jessica and Pete had their baby!”


Good food, good company, and a good Friday night! The restaurant was packed and brimming with the sound of chattering plates and conversation. There was nothing like going out to eat with friends to escape the week’s worries. There was a lull at his table, and he thought he heard a beep. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out a Blackberry and saw that he had one missed call and a text message. What’s up tonight? He hits the reply button. Dude, @ olive garden, jst ordered, come join, dancing later @ party! A few seconds later, On my way!


It was a day of history in the making. A cold and clear January day, only getting up to 55 degrees, people stood in a mass of coats, scarves, blankets, gloves, hats and hopes. The crowd stretched on like a carpet rolled out from the Capitol for America’s future to walk on. All eyes, all ears, all minds, all hearts were fixed on that one place and moment when America’s new captain would take the wheel. America needed a change, and he was the change America had chosen. He didn’t look like any other president America had had before, but he was able to raise Americans’ hopes and offer a new focus after a long time of despair and clouded destinations. With celebrities behind him and the people in front, he stood and spoke.

My generation is growing in a technological world swirling with activity. We are practically one with any gadget that comes out, always knowing and demanding something smaller, better, faster, and multi-purposed. We are more connected than any other generation world-wide. Because of sites like Facebook and MySpace, we can keep up with our old high school classmates and have friends that we have personally never met on the other side of the world. We love being connected, going out to eat or watching movies or partying to socialize, along with texting and typing messages to each other. We are a generation who wants to accept others; we are tired of the racial tensions and willing to accept the homosexual crowd. We don’t want to be excluded or excluding. I also think that while we tend to only want to have a good time, we are also concerned with what is happening to the world around us and are awakening to our power to make changes.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Manic Pixie Dream Girl"

Jules and Jim was perhaps the most complicated love story I have ever seen. The Love Triangle is a very common element in those romantic comedies just because everything gets so jumbled and confused. Made of Honor is a very good example; Tom and Hannah are best friends, but Hannah has grown to really like Tom; however, she hasn’t ever told him because he has never shown any “love” interest in her. Well, that all changes when she goes off to Scotland for six weeks; Tom realizes that he actually loves her. It is too late, though. She has moved on and is going to marry a Scottish that she had met. Now both men are trying to hold Hannah’s hand.

Well, Catherine is in a very similar situation in Jules and Jim. I would even declare this movie as a love pentagon. We’ve got Jules and Catherine first getting together while Jim secretly admires Catherine. Then there are Jim’s girl back in France, Gilberte, and Jules and Jim’s best friend, Albert, who get caught up in the mix. This tangled and twisted love pentagon has one point of fixation, though: Catherine. I would say that she portrays the only cool ideas because she is the only one who gets what she wants in the end. Her character is trying to show how women can be cool; although, some of these ideas seem to be extreme. It seems women can be cool on two ends of the spectrum: they are either “just like the guys” or they are “confident women”. Catherine is “just like the guys”.

Independent and carefree, Catherine is very much like a pixie. She can play the part of a beautiful woman, as we see when she is first introduced as a dazzling, perfect image of a woman. However, the very next time we see her, she is dressing like a man and seeing if she can get away with it, like in the two songs, Shania Twain’s “Man, I feel like a Woman” and Superchic[k]’s “Anthem”. Both songs portray strong, independent, I-don’t-care women who go against society’s standards and do what they want. Jules and Jim just follow Catherine’s chaos, entranced by her siren’s song. They, and all of the guys who fall for Catherine, are drawn to her freedom and carefree attitude like moths to a light. Think of the Dark Phoenix (third paragraph) in X-Men 3; she is fun-loving and completely independent of other’s rules, but she also has a dark side, one that destroys all whom she loves, just like what happens with Catherine. Jim is killed, Jules is left with a broken heart and daughter, and Albert is left by himself. So, why are these features cool? In the beginning, they are cool. Catherine doesn’t care what others think; she doesn’t hold to the traditional roles women are supposed to play. Seeing a woman able to escape those societal chains is inspiring; you want to be as free as her. You want her joy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Long Live Cool?

Before we started Jules and Jim, we were asked to focus on questions pertaining to the film; one was, “Even though the movie spans historical time, it is still about the moment. Is cool lasting of ephemeral?” This really got me thinking about the amount of time something is cool, and apparently it puzzled all of us because we had a big discussion about it.

If we go back to F John’s lecture on cool, it would seem that certain styles of cool become un-cool with time. Just think about your parents trying to be “hip and cool, yo”. What was the latest trend to them is so last century to us. We grow out of this trendy kind of cool. For example, how about the TLC show, “What Not to Wear”; it is strictly about those who try to “keep the old cool”. Moms wearing miniskirts, gogo boots, beads and jewels and sparkles galore, business women wearing cartoons to the office, young women wearing granny clothes, all of these atrocities and more can be found on this show. There was one mom on the show who had a 10-year-old comment that she had the same pair of jeans as the mom! These women show that one specific cool may be alright at one point, but not further down the road. We talked about holding on to a cool, and I think that we concluded it can’t be done. The cool moment will never be the same if we try to hold on and recreate that same cool.

We talked about this with movies. Take Jules and Jim, for instance. I first found Catherine very cool because of her spirit; however, as the movie progressed, I started to get tire of her intensity and lack of change. Her cool wore off as time progressed. I attribute this to the wearing down of the surprise. Catherine’s free, spontaneous spirit ironically became less of a surprise. Towards the end of the movie, her actions didn’t shock me as much as at the beginning. So, perhaps the answer to this question is simpler than I thought: Cool is ephemeral.

However, what about the classics? Are they cool? Is there a difference between cool and classic? I think that the classics hint that cool can live on. Think about

Star Wars,

or 007.

These characters are seen again and again and again without ever seeming to grow old. So now it seems that cool is lasting.

Well, as I stated before, there isn’t an easy answer. Some forms of cool are temporary while others are eternal.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How Cool is That?

Well, not very when I think about the movie, Double Indemnity. Now, I would say that it was an enjoyable movie, but I don’t think I’d call it great. It had action, suspense, flirting, wit, and a breaking of the rules. What it lacked, though, was cool main characters. I felt very disappointed as I watched Phyllis and Neff develop. Now, I know that I talked favorably of this movie in the last blog, but it was mainly filming techniques and ideas instead of how cool the movie is that I liked. So, Neff and Phyllis both end up very uncool, where Keyes is the coolest person in the movie to me. Neff and Phyllis both have the potential to be cool, but other characteristics of them cancels that potential out.

Neff. I will award him the title of “least cool”. Really, the only thing that I find cool in the guy is his intellect. I liked the back-and-forth between him and Phyllis; he showed wit and a quick mind. This scene is a very important one in that Neff quickly figures out Phyllis’s plan to kill her husband in order to collect his insurance. This is where Neff loses his cool, so to speak. At first, he showed promise in calling Phyllis out and rejecting her offer, but her murderous perfume slowly intoxicates his mind until he decides to do it. Neff seems unstable and too malleable by those who strongly influence him. In one minute, he is against murder because it is wrong; the next, he is following Phyllis’s idea and plotting the perfect murder. He’s not going to sell insurance to Mr. Dietrichson, and then, he does. He is extreme when he makes a decision, but there really doesn’t seem to be much of a fight of morals. Neff just seems empty like the stormtroopers in Star Wars.

Then there is Phyllis. She will get the “Thanks for Trying” award. She definitely had more cool qualities than Neff, but I think most of this comes from her being a powerful woman. Phyllis isn’t like those women who got hysterical, emotional, or shaky, like in Casablanca; basically, she didn’t act like a teacup poodle or some other small yappy dog. Phyllis doesn’t take orders well and is willing to do anything for her happiness, like killing all of the Dietrichsons. Her strength and frightening character makes her cool in a power type of way, but in the end, she just remains a murdering villain who doesn’t care about anyone but herself, save for a glimpse of care for Neff.

Now, our most prized award, the “Coolest Cat” award, goes to Keyes. This man is the coolest in the movie. He is smarter than both Neff and Phyllis, set in his ways and is independent, but he also has a line that he won’t cross. Even at the end, when he could help Neff escape, he doesn’t. No, Keyes turns his friend into the police. He can see, or feel, when something isn’t right. We discussed how he is in the “dirty” insurance business, so he really isn’t a “hero” type of person; however, I disagree. He set about trying to find people who were cheating the system, but he didn’t seem like he was going to cheat a person out of a real claim. Keyes is the light in this dark Noir film.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Noir These Movies to Me

When I was in high school, there was a rule in my house that we couldn’t watch TV Monday through Thursday during the school year. A lot of people gape at me when I tell this tidbit, but it really didn’t bother me; there was always something else to do. Well, this rule caused me to not get into TV series like everyone else since those shows usually aired during the week. There was one show I liked to catch on Sunday nights, though: “Whose Line Is It Anyway”. I couldn’t get enough of the humor, wit, and spontaneity of the show. The songs were good every once in a while, but I loved the skits like Props, Scenes from a Hat, News Report, and Green Screen. There was one game in particular that I suddenly thought about after watching Double Indemnity, and that was Narrate. Before this week, I had no idea of what film noir was, that it even existed. I guess I knew about the style; it is classic enough to be referenced or imitated, but I had no idea of how big this movie style was and still is.

As I read about film noir in “Notes on Film Noir” by Paul Schrader, I thought that I wouldn’t like this style of movie. I am one for happy endings and a strong, honest hero. I like the hero rising above his temptations and trials in the end. As I said, when I learned how dark film noir is, I was skeptical.

So, after that explanation, I enjoyed the movie more than I thought. Double Indemnity was suspenseful, intriguing, and spoke to the some-what darker side of me. I do like those movies where people try to beat the system. I would never think about doing it, but the idea is fun to watch as other people attempt it, like in the movies Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job, and Mission Impossible.

I also like the filming techniques of this movie. The distinct and well-known shadows used in this movie really add to its tale. Obviously, the dark tone was emphasized by the shadows, but they also added to the characters themselves. Neff and Phyllis are sneaking around, trying to get away with their murder, and the shadows help that air. There is also the absence of shadows with Keyes to represent his morale qualities. I would have to watch the movie one more time to completely back this up, but the filming perspective. I thought that, instead of being at eye-level, the camera seemed to be at a lower angle, making the characters and their problems seem giant. Double Indemnity was a dark movie without a happy ending, but I enjoyed it for the inquiries it inspired and the ground it dared tread upon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

That's Just Not Like You

Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam is a funny film about the frustrations and failures of trying to be cool. Allen Felix, the socially awkward, main character of the film, idolizes Bogart and tries to imitate the actor’s cool style with no success. He tries to be rough and aggressive, suave and confident, in order to get a girl. However, he fails miserably and only wins stories of his embarrassment to tell to Linda Christie, the wife of Allen’s best friend who will become the object of his affection deep into the movie. As the cliché theme of this film, “just be yourself” is repeated over and over again and is the way Allen gets the girl. Instead of going into what was portrayed as cool in the film, why don’t we follow the theme and look at what wasn’t cool.

Allen kept trying to be someone he wasn’t; in fact, he was trying to be the complete opposite. Where he was clumsy, nerdy, awkward, and clueless, he wanted to be smooth, in the now, accepted, and savvy in the ways of courting. He saw those characteristics of Bogart as cool and the way to be. Just look at his friend, Dick Christie. The man was all business, confident in himself, disregarded the thoughts of others, and got the girls, a copy of Bogart; however, this perfect portrayal of what Allen views as cool is actually boring. All Dick does is work and tell people how to contact him so that he can do more work. Bogart, with his individualistic image, can be seen as incredibly uncaring and unattached; these negative qualities are really brought into the light through the extreme character of Dick.

Then, we get to Allen’s humorous imitation of Bogart. His example just shows how un-cool it is to imitate another. You can’t learn to be or adopt a specific type of cool; it’s not convincing. This reminds me of Vince Vaughn in the movie, Be Cool. Vaughn plays a White character who thinks he’s Black. He tries to talk Black, dress Black, and act Black, but that type of cool doesn’t fit him. He just can’t pull it off. This is the same way with Allen and anyone who tries to make himself fit a specific type of cool. So, imitation is definitely not cool and can bring all types of problems. Allen got the girl, if only for a moment, by just being himself. It’s extremely cliché, but the theme of this movie has some truth to it.

And now, for your entertainment (or help), here is how to be cool…click these words.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mi Cool es Tu Cool

Who do I view as cool? Who’s example do I follow to be accepted in society? This question flashes me back to eighth grade during the wonderful Benchmark essay section. Ah, didn’t you just love those standardized tests? I, for one, kind of did; I mean, you were out of class for about three days because of a few hours of testing a day. Another bonus, you didn’t have homework and no other tests. If you did go to class at the end of the day, the teachers wanted you to do your best on the Benchmark, so they usually let us watch a movie or just chill. Back to the question, though.

This question always seems to crop up in some form, like who do you admire or view as your hero. Isn’t that just a model of cool you wish to copy, like Allen does with Bogart? Basically, this is asking, “who do you wish to be?” Well, I could never answer this question. There isn’t just one person that I wish to copy, one type of cool that I follow. Sure, when I was younger, I would answer this question with the cliché answer, my parents or grandparents or friends, but I noticed that I changed my answer every time. No, as I grew and thought about this question, I realized that I don’t follow just one person’s cool, I have taken what I like in other people and constructed my own cool person. I guess I played a little Dr. Frankenstein.

So, what does my monster of cool look like? The legs, arms, and body are strength. I have always admired a strong person; some one who is physically strong, mentally strong, and spiritually strong. I like someone who can keep control of themselves and the situation. My creation can defend and take care of herself and face any obstacle placed in front of her. I also admire someone who is very smart and wise, who seems to know about everything and know what to do. She knows who she is. Strong faith is also part of my creation. I want to know what I believe and live it without wavering.

The head of my creation is out-going. I have always been on the introverted side of the out-going scale. I want to be like those who can hold a conversation, tell a joke or story, and be the life of the party. I want to have a good time and for others to have a good time with me.

Finally, the heart of my creation is passion and devotion. I greatly admire those who have a cause and risk everything for its success; I look up to those who stand up for what they believe in, who have passion for life and live for their purpose. They care about good and have faith in humanity, and nothing you could say would change their mind.

That is my monster of cool, my example to follow. People are all flawed; there isn’t one person that could be the one I go to for all of my problems. No, but as a people, all of our flaws can be destroyed by the combination of our strengths. I use those around me as inspiration.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cool on the Inside

You walk into the club to have a few drinks with friends and listen to the live music. The times are rough, what with the war and all, and this is the only place where you can escape from the day’s troubles for a while. The people in there seem really happy; their worries and burdens are replaced with hope and freedom. The service and entertainment are superb, and you can’t find one complaint about the place. You pull a server aside and ask if you can give compliments to the owner of this place. The server’s response is, “he doesn’t drink with customers.” Insulted, you think, “what a jerk!”

Thus is the first introduction we get of Rick in the movie, Casablanca. A man who “sticks his neck out for nobody” and “doesn’t drink with customers,” Rick doesn’t seem like a very cool guy, but as the audience gets to know him, he becomes so much more. One cool thing about Rick is his independence. The only rules he follows are the ones he has set up, and the only council he listens to is his own. Everyone goes to him for help like the Ilsa and Victor, the Bulgarian couple, Ugarte, and even the politicians and police. Rick is THE man of the town. He doesn’t take advantage of his status, though. This kind of guarded independence is similar to the independence exhibited by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. While Rick’s help is oftentimes withheld unless there is a good reason verses Aragorn’s more active tendencies, both do what they see as the best solution to a problem despite what others may advise. They are willing to accept the difficult conclusions and do what must be done. This characteristic is very admirable because they stand firm when others cower or choose a more selfish path; Rick saves Ilsa and Victor at his own risk and sacrifice, and Aragorn constantly risks his own life for others.

This independence leads to another cool feature of Rick: his passion and call of duty for the “underdog”. Rick may put on the “tough guy” persona, but he is secretly a softy. All of the characters above save for the politicians and police are somehow helped by Rick. Ugarte had his request with the papers honored, the Bulgarian couple won enough money to leave to America, and Ilsa and Victor were able to safely leave Casablanca, all thanks to Rick. And what did he get out of all this? Snooping police, a deficit in money, and all sorts of legal consequences like having to sell his place, be arrested and killed, and go into exile. These characteristics remind me of the 3 Doors Down song, Citizen Soldiers. Rick is always in the background, sacrificing and protecting those he cares about. Under the stoic exterior is a passionate, self-sacrificing, cool interior.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Casablanca--"Here's looking at you, kid"

Well, I just saw Casablanca for the first time. I was first expecting the movie to be about a white mansion in Mexico or Spain because of the name; I didn’t even think of the country. I was obviously mistaken but very impressed with the movie. Before the movie started, a few of us talked about what it was about this movie that made it special. F John mentioned how this movie was a great one, but it seemed to hold something special for girls. I wanted to see if that was true, and if so, find what that something extra was.

Even as movie that was made in 1942, Casablanca was a superb movie. It had action, romance, comedy, and suspense; all qualities that I adore in a movie. Compared with The Public Enemy, which we watched last week, the advancements made in the film business within those eleven years is unbelievable. We went from scratchy sound and picture, still cameras, and the feeling of watching a play instead of a movie to advanced lighting, sound, and picture, moving cameras, and a movie-like atmosphere. The quality difference between these two movies is like the quality difference between the first three Star Wars movies and the three most recently made.

The movie quality isn’t what made Casablanca such a classic, though. It is the story and the characters. I never realized how many lines had been taken from this movie and into our culture; lines such as “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and “I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” I nearly laughed out loud when the scene where Ilsa is found in Rick’s room trying to get the papers because that is the very scene used in the anti DVD pirating ads. So, I’ve been introduced to some parts of Casablanca without even knowing it! Apparently, this movie is a big deal; it is cool.

So how about Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick; what makes him so cool? When we are first introduced to Rick, we are already drawn to him. Running his club with a suave aura, Rick seems mysterious, together, and independent. He seems to know everyone and everything that is happening, but he is also not very involved. He is the man behind the curtain watching things go and pulling the right strings. Through the movie, it seems that Rick grows in character, going from a man who “sticks his neck out for nobody” to someone who risks everything to see that Ilsa and Victor get to America. A drastic change! I don’t think he experiences this change during the movie, though. I believe he was always that character who would secretly help others. Even in the beginning, when he didn’t drink with customers or help anyone, he agrees to hold Ugarte’s high-clearance papers which he stole from two German officers after killing them. Rick may have let Ugarte get caught, but he also kept the papers and didn’t sell them immediately after for his own profit. If he was found in possession of those papers, Rick could get into serious trouble. As the movie continues, we see Rick help peole out, such as letting that family win in gambling so they could have enough money to get to America. So, I don’t think that Rick develops through the movie; I think that he just becomes more apparent as a “romantic and sympathizer,” something completely against how he tries to appear. This secret softness and heart for the underdog, along with his confidence and straightforwardness, is what makes Rick, and Bogard, so cool.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Good Bad Guys

So, what makes Tom so cool? Is he even cool? I mean, in the end, he dies, and it’s not cool to die. There are parts of Tom that are cool, though.

Following the dissident cool model, Tom has a criminal independence that would probably be appealing to a lot of people. He is able to do whatever he wants, no matter what the laws are. As a kid, Tom wants money; he takes items to sell to Putty Nose. He may have been disciplined by his father and harped on by his older brother for his actions, but he turns the situation around into something he controls through his submission. When his father is about to whip him, Tom asks, “You want ‘em up or down this time.” He doesn’t fight to get away or beg for his father’s forgiveness; he throws his father’s authority into his face by turning the situation into something TOM permits.

Tom doesn’t change as and adult. He is still into crime and getting what he wants. Although, as we watched the movie, I wondered what it is Tom really wants. He doesn’t want money; he doesn’t want girls (until he meets Gwen); he just seems to want the next job. This reminds me of the Joker from The Dark Knight. As you can see in the video, the Joker doesn’t want anything that normal criminals want; he just wants the thrill of the job. I believe that this is the same for Tom. Save for the fact that he is a bully, Tom’s disinterest in the usual motives for crime makes him different, puzzling, cool.

Another characteristic about Tom that I found cool was his loyalty to Matt. These two are always together. Every time someone makes a comment about Tom being alone, because he was the person who headed all of the jobs, he responds, “I’m always alone when I am with Matt” so as to include his friend. He takes revenge on Putty Nose years after the man abandoned them following a job gone wrong. The final show of loyalty to Matt was when Tom stormed the enemy’s headquarters towards the end of the movie to make them pay for Matt’s death. While this wasn’t a major theme of the movie, I found his loyalty to Matt helped me sympathize for Tom, an otherwise heartless man. Although it is an extreme example, Tom’s actions reflect those of Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. Just as Tom’s actions are invoked by the loss of Matt, Davy Jones wrecks havoc on the seas because he lost his love. This loyalty of the two men helps the audience sympathize with them a little, despite the terrible things they had done.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

In the Beginning

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…


Ok, so maybe the setting isn’t “in a galaxy far far away” and the year wasn’t that long ago, but the introduction would probably fit the story of our time very well to a person from the late nineteenth century. In Star Wars, they use lasers to fight with, had robots to do their bidding, spaceships to get them across the galaxy, futuristic medicine, and the list goes on and on. Could you possibly imagine having any of that technology right now? A spaceship that could take you across the galaxy in just a few moments would be revolutionary, the start of a new age, and yet, to the characters of this series, it is normal. Thus is the way with motion pictures, or film. We have videos everywhere: on the TV at home, on the internet, in Wal-Mart, in our cars, on our cell phones, on our iPods or mp3 players, on airplanes, even on the side of the road like the new UCA sign. To us, films are normal, but to that person in the late nineteenth century, the idea is revolutionary.

As I watch a few of the first films made, I’ll admit that I got bored at a few parts; such as when the crowds are walking out of the building at the beginning of the Lumiere Brothers' First Films. The film just seemed to be the same thing over and over again. And then, I thought about when my family watched The Pink Panther. We got to the part where Steven Martin is trying to say “hamburger” in his hyperbolic French accent, a hilarious part. Well, my brother liked it so much that he stopped the movie, went back to the beginning of that scene, and watched it again and again and again. It was after about the sixth time that we finally pounced on him to let the movie continue. If it is unexpected and enjoyable, I would want to see it over and over again. It was the same way with early films; they may have been about simple, repetitive, everyday things, but the audience was seeing these things without even being there! Motion pictures were like technology from Star Wars to them. The Lumiere Brothers’ films, Edison’s films, Melies' films, they were the coolest thing around. And even now after watching several early films, they hold a nostalgic cool to me because of their simplicity and life.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Way I See It


Ok, the question has been asked: what is cool? This inquiry has proved to be incredibly complex, but let's face it; cool IS complex. It will never remain the same thing; it is constantly morphing, evolving, or even regressing. At some point in time, cool is this; however, come back later, and it will be that. Although, time isn’t the only factor influencing cool’s fickle form; the people who define it are the ultimate enforcers of what cool is. There in lies the complexity. The number shown above is the population of the earth today. Do all of those people like the same thing? Know the same things? Believe the same things? Do the same things (and I mean this to be outside the basic eating and sleeping activities)? Absolutely not! Everyone is different, feeding their individual streams into the churning river of cool.

So let’s get very basic. Let’s zoom our microscope in to observe one little part of cool: my version of cool.

What do I find cool?

When you think about this question, the answer is difficult to explain. My version of cool is influenced by so many others. For instance, the other day I was talking with some friends about what we used to play when we were kids. Do you remember Giga Pets? My Little Ponies? Beanie Babies? Skip-it? Scooters? Pokemon? Furbbies? Game Boys? Christmas was so much fun when you would run into the living room and find THE toy of the season under the tree, and it wasn’t so much fun when you didn’t get that toy like all of your friends. But did I really want the toy, or did I want it because of my friends?

In light of that train of childhood thought, I can give a first example of what I find cool: fairytale medieval times. The reason I add the “Fairytale” part is because I exclude a lot of negative aspects of the time like disease, lack of some good technology like indoor plumbing and climate control, tyrants, and the horrific condition of the poor, which made up a vast majority of the people alive then. What I think is so cool from those times is the idea of chivalry, of earning your way, of honesty and honor, and of being a village, a place where people looked out for each other. I think swords and sword fights are totally cool. The idea of raising animals, growing gardens, and making things is awesome. I love the lack of skyscrapers, traffic, and pollution and the abundance of nature, time, and available company. The final thing that I find cool from the medieval times is something I actually plan to learn: falconry.