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.