Thursday, February 26, 2009

Personality That Kills... Seriously, You Better Run!

The film Jules and Jim was a roundabout film that ultimately aided in my disgust of women that act like whores. To me the biggest problem with the film was Catherine. The reason Catherine was such a horrible character was because she played every guy she (I honestly don’t know what to call it. I hope to God it wasn’t loved) liked. First she met Jules. Jules suited her fancy for a little while because she enjoyed his innocence. They married and had a child, but all the while Catherine was unfaithful to Jules as punishment for things he had done that are beyond the scope of sane human understanding. Although, I won’t entirely lay the blame on Catherine. Jules was a moron to stay with her after the treatment he had received. Catherine further irritates me, though, when Jim comes back from the war.

Jules and Jim both think there is something magnificent about Catherine besides from her “serene smile.” The way she lives, the exuberance in which she finds life is the most important magnetism to her personality. The almost child-like bliss she conveys from something as simple as running along a bridge, these are the little things that greatly affect Jules’ and Jim’s desire for Catherine. But with this shining world mentality also comes ignorance and a certain lack in character that we find in Catherine. She is not as most normal adults who are willing to forgive and make up. Catherine feels as though she needs to justify anything that she finds not fair or unacceptable when it comes to her male counterparts. Now, this is just stupid. Whoever heard of cheating on a guy for writing a letter about ending relationships? Of course, I don’t understand why Jim would go back to sleep with Gilberte one more time, but what about Jules? What did he do to warrant the treatment he was dealt? He seemed like a perfectly nice guy. You don’t commit to someone in marriage and then turn your back on that vow just because time has gone by. Catherine is a very simple person.

She is basically a child that has an adult‘s body. All that matters to her is herself. She has no regard for the feelings of others, which is why it is so easy for her to act the way she does. That is also why I think she killed Jim. Once he rejected her, and she was no longer “Queen Catherine,” she became unsatisfied. That’s why she pulled the “hey I’m pregnant come see our baby” to try and get him back. She didn’t love Jules or Jim or even Albert for that matter she just wanted their undivided attention. Women like Catherine make me sick. Men like Jules, Jim, and Albert also make me sick. They feed the flames of the fire that she has set on their souls. Consequently I knew from the moment they were all riding their bikes on the road together that their death was imminent. Someone had to die in order to end the cycle of betrayal. To me it was the best ending the movie could have afforded the viewer. However, Jim was an idiot for getting in the car with that psycho.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Darker is Always Cooler.

When I think of Cool Darkness two pop culture references specifically come to my mind. The first is the movie Donnie Darko, and the second is pure, unadulterated, evil, Metal!!! The two pop culture influences are particularly influential to me because they represent something more than what the surface attempts to depict. The delve into the darker portion of the human psyche to inspire those who are willing to think beyond the lighter more innocent side of life.

Donnie Darko represents Cool Darkness. Throughout the movie Donnie wrestles with the idea of the validity of life. To me this is cool because he didn’t accept the social standard that was thrust upon him to accept what is assumed to be called right. However, in order to achieve the cool that Donnie achieved he had to venture into the darkness of our world questioning the ideas of everyone else in order to find the true answer. This brings significant darkness to Donnie’s character because he is portrayed as a troubled youth in the beginning. Add to it the fact that he sees a personified bunny suit that talks to him in his dreams further reinforces the idea the questioning of his mental stability. Eventually after searching for quite a while Donnie finds his answer to the truth. With his answer to the truth he is his able to sacrifice himself for the well-being of his family. Donnie Darko is cool because he found his truth at the opposition of every other person. He defied them all to reach beyond the scope of their reality to find the truth, and he ultimately died with his truth in order to save everyone else.

Metal music is also a wonderful source of Cool Darkness. The reason metal is looked down upon as dark is because it has always been synonymous with the Devil because of the dark roots of the music. The black attire, the metal and chains, the lyrical interpretation, all point to demonic or dark thoughts. However, many people have come to escape the societal stereotypes of the music in order to truly enjoy what they have found. To me metal is about loud guitars, extreme vocals, and drummers that can absolutely blow your mind. To break it down into simpler terms the musicians that play metal are the best of the best. They play bigger, louder, faster, and harder than anyone else to inspire to others the way that they feel inside. As music is designed to be it helps people connect on a primeval level. The basic instinct of human nature that inspires our bodies to sway and follow the rhythm lends to the metal following. It helps people to understand that there are other people out there who feel just like they do. Whether or not it truly makes you a part of something more than just being a listener is debatable, but the fact that it does make you feel that way is what has made metal so successful on a large scale. Metal helps kids find common ground. Ultimately it is this common ground that makes metal as cool and as dark as it truly is.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Cost of Life is Death

This week we watched the film noir Double Indemnity. Normally this is the part where I go through and find things I liked about the movie, however this week I must say that I didn’t like much about the movie. The reason the film didn’t suit my tastes is that everyone had to be dirty. There were no characters with sound morals or unbroken integrity. Consequently the entire movie was one downer after another.

The main character of the film is Walter Neff. Neff seems like your average run of the mill salesman. He is very charismatic, easy to talk to, and not the ugliest guy you’ve ever seen. However, when me makes a routine visit to renew an auto insurance policy he bites off more than he can chew when he meets Phyllis Dietrichson. Dietrichson draws Neff into her plan to take out an insurance policy on her husband, Mr. Dietrichson, and ultimately kill him to collect the insurance money. Dietrichson, in my opinion, is a good character, but only because she pulls off the idea of the femme fatale. She uses Neff by using her own sexuality to draw him into a web of destruction that for some reason Neff seems to glorify. Neff knows it’s not a good plan because of men like his boss, Barton Keyes. Keyes is basically the only character in the story with any sense of right and wrong, however I think even his judgment is skewed because of his love for money. With the distorted views the characters bring to the table the fates of Neff and Dietrichson could be concluded as soon as Keyes was introduced. Neff knew the plan was futile. He was trying to cheat death in a sense, but he failed.

So, what is cool about this film? I can’t really tell. Am I supposed to take pleasure in the seedy underbelly of our world? Am I supposed to bask in the glory of betrayal and corruption? I can’t. To me these are attributes that are looked down upon, not glorified. If there was a caption at the beginning of Public Enemy why wasn’t there a caption at the beginning of this? At least at the end of that film it seemed as though the main character had realized what he had done was wrong, and had come to terms with himself. However in this film he doesn’t even show remorse. He betrayed his friend/boss, killed the woman he thought that loved him, and ended up dead. To me, the end is all but fitting to conclude the broken tale of a man that could have been more, but chose a life that was so much less.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Can I Do That? Why Yes. Yes, You Can

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If cool is based upon the idea of imitating those you revere then imitation must be the coolest of the forms of cool…? Well, I don’t really know, but I hope to have a better idea by the time I finish writing this entry. To me it always seemed that people who imitated others were people who couldn’t think for themselves, however as I’ve gotten older I’ve found that it is truly impossible to be original. With so many different people and so many different ideas you are bound to be thinking the same thought or idea as another person thought at some point throughout our existence. So, I guess imitation is a really cool form of cool. Imitation forces us to display our idea of cool in the midst of every other person, no matter what that person thinks of our imitation. We wear our values on our sleeves forcing others to see and accept us everyday no matter what they think.

The coolest form of pop culture to spawn from imitation is Rock ‘n Roll. Music is cool on many different levels. It is cool because it inspires creativity in those who listen to it. It serves as an outlet for people to express their feelings. But above all music is cool because it causes people to imitate it. Every band you’ve ever listened to has had influences whether it’s Queen, Bon Jovi, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or any other type of music you could contemplate. Consequently music is cyclical. One generation of music influences the next, and the trend continues to flow. An example of this is the band Coheed and Cambria. Many of their influences spawn from classic rock such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Police, and Iron Maiden. Although the band sounds altogether completely different from these influences they still have a base in this sort of music because it is what inspired them to make their mark in the music industry. To take that mark even further many of my friends in Lonoke were inspired to learn to play the guitar after they heard Coheed and Cambria’s “Welcome Home.” As you can see musical imitation is a cycle. Every generation throws in their little differences and in the end we get fantastic music.

Another example of Imitation in pop culture is reality television. To me, this is not nearly as cool as music, but it still deserves to be mentioned. The earliest form of reality television was The Real World. From there reality television has grown out of control as shows like Survivor, American Idol, The Bachelor, and many others worthy of mention have come to dominate the weeknight television lineups. These shows have become so popular that more people vote for the winner of American Idol than those who vote in the presidential election. It’s really hard for me to believe that all those shows had their metaphorical seed planted when The Real World aired May 21, 1992. Try as I might, though, I can not disregard these shows. Although they do not acquiesce to my liking I can respect the fact that the majority of Americans find them enthralling.

Things have been being imitated since the beginning of time. Many times it is due to a good idea, however sometimes this imitation is the cause of a reaction in each and every one of us when we find something undeniably, fantastically, awesome. Cool is cool for just that reason it makes us feel like we're awesome. Things and ideas will always be cool it's just a matter of how we feel and what we like. Our individuality is the source of these thoughts and inspires us to find meaning in life.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I am Joel Wright.... 's Friend

The person who guides me in my incessant quest for cool is my ex-A.P. U.S. History teacher, Joel Wright. Joel Wright has shaped the person I have become today. He gave me a great friend ,who understood what I was going through as a teenager in Lonoke, AR. As everyone knows it is very easy for kids to be lead astray by things such as peer pressure, social acceptance, and even sometimes just plain boredom. Being from Lonoke I was subject to all three of these commonalities. During my freshman and sophomore years in high school I very much indulged in the temptations presented by these three factors in my life. Doing everything from drinking and smoking to skipping school for no reason. Consequently, I was becoming a person I didn’t know. Someone I had nothing in common with at all. My idea of fun was not being unaware of the physical world around me, however many of my fellow peers felt that this particular type of unaware was relief, and even today many of them still do. Fortunately, Joel found me before I had completely forgotten myself.

Joel came to Lonoke High School in my junior year. For the first few weeks of class I referred to him (outside of class, of course) as the douche bag with a speech impediment. However, as I began to get to know Joel I realized how awesomely, ridiculously cool he was. He epitomized everything I, the old Logan, wanted. I began hanging out with him everyday at lunch. Where we would sit in his classroom and talk about everything we could think of from politics to philosophy to my lifestyle. It disturbed him to see the duality to my personality. The outstanding student in the classroom as compared to the typical stoner outside of class. He asked me the most important question of my life while sitting in that room, and to this day is still one of the most important questions I’ve ever been asked, “Why do you choose to do that?” I had no answer for him. I did not know why. There was no logic to my behavior, and I was ashamed to realize that I was just trying to fit the social schematics of Lonoke. Joel wasn’t a stiff. He isn’t against having fun, or doing things you shouldn’t, but he didn’t want to see me ruin myself because of the attitude of every other kid in Lonoke. I listen to Joel over all other people because he is my friend, my idol. I hope that someday I am able to impact someone with as much magnitude as he had upon my life. I hear Joel everyday. He is my decision. I am a version of him. I am based upon the archetype of Joel Wright, and I have no qualms with that observation.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Light Sacrifice

Sacrifice is a recurring theme throughout the world of pop culture. To use the element of sacrifice is to play off the emotions of your audience. By making the main character make some sort of sacrifice, the audience can marvel at the character’s grandeur, which ultimately makes the character that much more real or important. Many times these books, movies, television series, or even comics become largely successful due to the character’s placement of values, which normally involve the placing the well-being of others before the well-being of yourself. The character who I watched make sacrifices for some ten wonderful years is Harry Potter.

Harry Potter is the epitome of the cool sacrifice. Born to fight an epic villain, Voldemort, where every true fan knows the prophecy that states, “either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.” (sorry about the whole Creed thing, very inappropriate.) Harry Potter’s fate is marked to him the moment Voldemort attempts to kill him as a baby. From then on he is marked to be Voldemort’s equal. He is the cursed child, fated to die at the hands of Voldemort. Lacking the power and magical ability that Voldemort has accumulated for himself over his lifetime, Harry is always viewed upon as fighting a losing battle. Constantly losing his friends and family to a magical war that can only be solved by fulfilling his destiny , as the reader knows it to be, his and Voldemort’s death. As the series comes to a close the reader sees Harry accept his fate as death. However, it is Harry’s acceptance of what he knows he must do as compared to Voldemort’s defiance of mortality that separates the protagonist from the antagonist. Harry accepts his fate by sacrificing himself for the betterment of the world. Harry Potter is a true hero. Sacrificing himself to end the pain of others, he is the coolest idea of sacrifice I have witnessed in my twenty years of life.

Another character that demonstrates cool sacrifice is Bruce Willis in his role in Armageddon. Bruce Willis plays the character Harry Stamper, the best oil driller in existence. Willis and his crew are put on board with trained astronauts in order to ensure that the asteroid is destroyed properly. After fast-paced space training Willis and his crew are launched into space. While in space a series of events that were originally planned for the crew go awry, and it seems as though the crew will be sacrificed in order to detonate the bomb on the asteroid. Fortunately though, fellow astronauts that Willis thought originally to be dead survived what seemed to be an impossible crash. Once again though, the crew is defied by the asteroid when previous conditions for detonation have changed and it seems that someone must stay behind in order to destroy the asteroid. Willis ultimately sacrifices himself, even though chance chose someone else. He sacrificed himself for his daughter, for his country, and for the sake of the group. Willis made making a decision that put him in a far from favorable place seem as though it was the least important part of the trip. He was more interested in the well-being of the others than in himself. By making the decision he did he saved the world, and emphasized the importance of sacrificing yourself for the betterment of the world.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To me, the film evoked sympathy for the main character, Rick Blaine. In the beginning, he demonstrates that he only looks out for his own self-interests by letting Ugarte go to jail after he tries in vain to buddy up to Rick. Later, he contradicts his original sentiment helping the man and wife win money in order to get their letters of transit to travel to the United States. To me this is significant to Rick’s character because he tries to play the tough guy, however his image is thwarted when a situation that involves honesty and truth presents itself. Ugarte represented neither of these traits being a murdering thief who tried manipulating Rick to gain his support. Another example of his selfless activity occurred before the movie took place. By describing Rick’s involvement in running guns to Ethiopia, as well as fighting on the nationalist side of the Spanish Civil War the viewer gets a better picture of Rick’s true personality and where his faith lies. Rick is definitely a romantic.
Rick’s romanticism becomes a key element to the plot when his old flame, Ilsa Lund and her husband Rick Laszlo arrive at Blaine’s bar in Casablanca. Tension rises when Ilsa asks the piano man, Sam to play her and Rick’s old song from France. More importantly though, her arrival brings about a transformation in Rick. He is no longer the neutral player we had seen before. He has become a man that feels, someone who knows true love and has lost it. It always strikes me to see a man cry. Especially when the man is someone who is as iron as Rick. A man that hides himself behind a mask of concrete to keep his feelings walled inside himself. To see him release was to witness his transformation. After he let down his wall to realize that love is something special that comes as quickly as it goes he began to become a better person. A person who can empathize with others. Someone who sees a situation for more than its affect on oneself, and more so its affect on the entirety of the situation. To me this is what allows him to ultimately let Ilsa leave. To do something better for someone you love is to be noble. He put himself aside to deal with his predicament in the correct manner. Sometimes it takes sorrow to create a better, more-ordered end. Rick is immortalized as a badass through the movie because of his ability to overcome what he has lost, as well as his willingness to let go of what he could have had. He is a character worthy of my respect and emulation. Rick Blaine is truly cool.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I'd be a Gangster.

This week in class the film we watched was The Public Enemy. The film surprised me because it contained many of the same elements that any typical viewer would expect from a modern film from the particular gangster genre. I hate to say it, but just about every gangster movie I’ve ever seen has been based off the archetype of that movie. I find this disturbing because I don’t expect any creative variety. The story lines are slightly different, but they follow the general action of the movie to a tee. The nobody crony catches a break that takes him into a higher stratosphere of criminals, until eventually he finds a way to transcend those he works with to make it to the top. Once that particular character reaches the top there is some sort of epic tragedy, and his rise is followed by his immediate fall. Take Scarface, for example. Al Pacino was a poor immigrant that rose up through the ranks of the drug trafficking enterprise to become rich beyond all measure. What’s cool about that? He’s a deplorable human being with terrible morals who makes awful judgment calls, but he’s still cool because we’re drawn to the glitz and glamour of the lifestyle he personifies. Even now people still like to emulate Tony Montana because he was a badass.Characters like Al Pacino are never destined for success because there is always someone just as ambitious as they were yearning for the chance to reach the top.

There are many references to this movie that could be made such as Scarface, The American Gangster, and even Boyz n the Hood. However, what I find relates most to this movie is the Grand Theft Auto series of videogames. The reason this identifies so well with the particular genre of movie is that it is based off the same mafia/gang mentality that the movie is trying to portray. My favorite game in the series would have to be Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The reason this is my favorite is that it gave me a look at the gang side of gangsters. In this game you take on the role of C. J. Johnson. A young African American who has been recruited by his brother for the neighborhood gang. Slowly C. J. works through all the middle men, eventually killing off most of them, to arrive at the top as ruler of the city. The reason this game was so popular was because it encompassed a type of cool most middle-class white children had never seen before. Not only was it a forbidden kind of culture, but it was looked down upon. Peddling drugs, killing cops, and fighting rival gangs was not the type of influence parents wanted their kids to have, but after playing this game my eyes were open to the reality of the world. The world didn’t only exist in Lonoke, AR, but it was vastly different everywhere. What I was conformed to was a type of small town life, that after playing this game, seemed very much mediocre. Although, I didn’t hop on the bandwagon and start selling drugs and shooting hookers I did learn that there is much to experience. My little part of the world was just that, little and insignificant.