Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Minority of Cool

The film Shaft was an excellent example of Cool Minority. John Shaft played a hero of sorts. He was not the full-fledged hero that is generally depicted in movies that contain a hero, but he was a real hero. Shaft was the kind of person that stood up for what he knew was right. He was not afraid to bring justice, and he wasn’t going to tolerate injustice. Shaft was a man you could respect and would like to see as a hero because even though his values and morality aren’t exactly up to the highest standard, they still exist on a very real emotional level that the viewer can relate to. Hollywood has duplicated this kind of hero many times and in many ways.

The first film that brings the same Cool Minority quality with it is The Pursuit of Happyness. The film represents the same sort of aspect as Shaft just with a completely different plot. In this story we meet Chris Gardner. Chris is a salesman that has unwisely put all his eggs in one basket by investing all his family’s savings money in a more expensive version of the x-ray machine. Consequently it is selling poorly and causing problems and distress in Chris’ household. His wife eventually leaves, leaving only Chris and his young son, Christopher. I know you’re probably wondering “when does this get cool like Shaft?” Well, it really doesn’t. Chris goes through heartache after heartache, loss after loss. He does, after much suffering get a coveted intern position a at a stock broker company, but he still has to deal with tons of shit in order to reach that position. Chris is Cool Minority because even though he was knocked down time after time, even going a stint of time being homeless, he still finds the will to fight, to do something better, to pursue his happyness. He remains a wonderful father throughout making sure he does everything he can for his son, Christopher. His values always remain intact. His always the same man despite the obstacles he must overcome.

Another film that demonstrates Cool Minority is Stand and Deliver. This movie is significant to me because Jaime Escalante, a high school mathematics teacher takes a nearly impossible task and completes it very successfully. He overcomes all odds in order to teach the children of the inner city mathematics. The students that he teaches also represent cool minority because in order to complete the rigorous math program, summer classes and serious dedication were necessary. Many other students from the inner city spend their summers either working or becoming pregnant. These, students, however are exemplary in that they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary in order to be the best students and people in general that they can be.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

John Shaft > Chuck Norris

To me the film Shaft was one giant, COOL stereotype. From the way the main character, John Shaft, walked, talked, and dealt with his supposed fellow detectives to the way he laid down the law in the bedroom, it was clear that he was the embodiment of cool culture circa 1970. John Shaft was just interested in doing his jobs, and doing his jobs well. It seemed that no matter what it was, Shaft was good at it. From talking to his white detective friends and police without being a snitch to chatting up the local people, John Shaft made it look easy and made it seem cool. He also got Isaac Hayes to write him one of the most bad ass theme songs of all time.

Shaft is an interesting character because it seems as though he wants to be the good guy, but at the same time he wants to keep up a certain “I don’t give a damn” appeal. He pulls it off quite well, and that is probably one of the reasons the film was successful. It lends his character a certain duality because it allows him to be the private eye, detective John Shaft, while at the same time he is able to shove aside the stereotypical detective role and be just a really tough guy that you wouldn’t want to have pissed off at you.

Because of the middle ground shaft walks he is approached by Bumpy, a black gang leader that is looking to hire Shaft in order to retrieve his daughter from the Italian mob which has kidnapped her. He agrees to pay Shaft a significant amount of money and pay for Shaft’s hired men in order to get his daughter back. This is significant because as soon as Shaft takes on the job he has a passion to get her back. In my opinion this is his will to be good at everything taking over. Shaft transcends the abilities of normal private eyes because he is far enough into the culture that it is easy for him to maneuver around tight spots in such ways that other detectives could not. He is not afraid of the culture because to put it simply “he runs that bitch.” Shaft is the epitome is order. He controls situations and is willing to take risks. Sometimes, as seen in the movie, the risks can be painful, seeing as how Shaft did get shot. (which may have made his character even cooler) However this just proves to be further motivation for him to get back in there one more time and finish the job he started. John Shaft is a master of his own destiny. I’m pretty sure if there was a modern character Shaft could be compared to it’s Chuck Norris.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rebels with a Cause

Throughout the film Easy Rider we were subjected to a barrage of the 1960’s counterculture lifestyle. The movie gave us insight as to how those championing the counterculture lived, as well as some of the values that they embraced during that era. More importantly though the film described the idea of rebellion. Rebellion is very significant throughout history. Many times the development of new nations are due to rebellion. Our existence as the United States of America is due to our rebellion. However, the film also showed the hate and discrimination that spawns because of rebellion in order to suppress what has come to rise against the accepted lifestyle of the moment.

One of my favorite movies that has to do with rebellion is 300. Although at first it doesn’t so much seem to be a movie about rebellion as much as a movie about conquer. The Spartans are standing against Xerxes and the Persians in order to secure their way of life, as opposed to becoming assimilated into the Persian culture as so many other groups of the time had accepted. They choose to rebel and not let their lives become controlled in spite of a magnitude of difference between their own militia of 300 Spartan warriors, as compared to a Persian army composed of well over 100,000 warriors. They demonstrated a defiance and attitude that had yet to be encountered by the others the Persians had set out to destroy. The resilience is significant because it ultimately led to a much larger army than the original 300 Spartan warriors who initiated the downfall of the Persians. By acting as a beacon to guide and magnify the intensity of their struggle the Spartans convinced others that the price of their freedom was far greater than the price of death. No matter what the cost the Spartans would not live a caged life, and it is apparent throughout the movie that with the right motivation a small group can become a large majority.

Another movie that involves a far different type of rebellion is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This is definitely the more common type of rebellion. The high school cool guy decides to skip a day of school, and from there all hell breaks lose. However, at the end of the day everything turns out just fine. The reason Ferris is cool is because he embodies an emotion that every person has encountered at one point or another during their life. It is just inevitable that school will not always be your top priority or your favorite thing to do. Consequently, every person identifies and roots for the kid who defies the natural boundaries put forward by our daily lives in order to be free for a day, even though it’s only something as insignificant as skipping class. Although this type of cool is far less substantial than the previous example of cool because it lacks meaning and purpose, it is still significant because it’s the same sort of “damn the man” attitude just enacted on a much smaller scale.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are You Hippie?

This week we watched the film Easy Rider. The film is significant because it places emphasis upon the idea of freedom and living your own life. In the film the two main characters are played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, a couple of stoners living in the 1960’s during the hippie movement. Throughout the movie we are shown the many types of freedom that come with the lifestyle that these particular wayfarers and their counterparts have come to embrace. But more importantly we see the significance of the counterculture and what was happening to it at the time.

The biggest downfall of the counterculture was due to the fact that many of the people who claimed the word counterculture were based on the archetype of the Dennis Hopper character. The people who fell under this particular mold were into the movement because it was freedom from the norm through drug use and general good times. By becoming a separate entity from conventional life they could embrace all the good times the counterculture had come to represent. The problem with this is that it left behind the ideas that the counterculture was supposed to idealize. Issues such as the state of the environment, the segregation of blacks in the south, and self expression, which were pushed to the back of the mind by drugs, sex, and rock and roll. The biggest proponent of the downfall of the movement was LSD. As demonstrated in the movie, LSD was not a good time. It led to a bad trip where not a whole lot made sense. However, it maintained popularity among the hippies ultimately frying many brains and destroying any significant chance of change the counterculture may have been able to produce.

The counterculture did have some partial positives. It taught people that it was alright to live differently. Not everyone is meant to be bound into a world that constantly repeats itself day after day. The people who represented this type of lifestyle were truly groundbreaking because they could force themselves to forego the comforts that life could offer in order to obtain something far simpler for their simple lifestyle. One of these reasons we said that the two main characters from the movie failed was because they were trying to use money from a drug deal to begin their new life. They weren’t going for the simple ideals that the culture seemed to embrace. Had they done so they would have stayed at the developing commune they encountered in the beginning of the film. However, to put in a good word for Peter Fonda’s character it looked as though he was content in that position. He knew the lifestyle that he wanted, but he let Dennis Hopper steer them away from what was right. Ultimately the two were killed because of the lifestyle that they embraced. Although the hatred was exaggerated it makes the prejudice that was placed on the group as a whole grossly apparent and disgusting.

Although I don’t embrace the idea of the counterculture, I think that if you can use drugs and still be a functional member of society then why not do it? It’s something that is fun, it’s different, and altogether it’s generally a good time, however I know from experience that no drug leaves you completely functional. Therefore when I try to sympathize with their way of thinking I find nothing but opposition.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stuff You Really Couldn't Do Without

Last week in class we watched the film Blowin’ Up. It was significant because of the culture that was displayed throughout the film. We got a keen insight to the London culture that was occurring around this time. There are many significant examples of cool culture displayed throughout pop culture.

The first is one of my favorite movies depicting the culture of the world at one point in time, The Decline of Western Civilizations Pt. II: The Metal Years. The first is significant because it gives a deeper look into the culture of Glam Metal during the ‘80s. Touching not only on the thoughts that the fans of the music have, but also revealing the thoughts of the musicians that made the ‘80s glam metal scene what it was. One of the most revealing interviews of the film was with W.A.S.P. guitarist, Chris Holmes. During the interview Holmes describes the lifestyle he lives: Constant partying, sex and drugs whenever the he wants, and all the excess the glam metal scene had to offer. He finishes the scene by guzzling a bottle of vodka, while dumping another on his head. The interview is intense to say the least. It is the culmination of what the ‘80s metal scene had become. There was no substance to it anymore. The songs were put out only for their commercial success, not what the musicians felt. It was time for the glam movement to end because by that time there wasn’t much left. This is significant to the idea of cool culture because it documented the final breaths of the glam scene on sunset strip. For the large part after the movie was released people who previously identified with the music shied away from it in order to find something more substantial and real. Many say The Decline of Western Civilizations Pt. II: The Metal Years was the cause of the downfall. When people saw the reality behind what they supported they could no longer indulge without being disgusted by themselves.

Another example of cool culture is the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. This film is representative of cool culture because it describes the American culture from a different perspective. Although many find the film horrendous and offensive, it is meant to be depicted that way. We see our culture everyday in the same light, however when Borat is able to pick apart our daily activities in a comical manner we should be able to laugh about it and see it differently. The final scene in Borat depicts his return home with his new bride, a prostitute named Luenell, and all the Americanization that had undergone in the village: i.e. Christianity (the Kazakh version of which includes crucifixion of Jews) and the introduction of computer-based technology, such as iPods, laptop computers and a high-definition, LCD television.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm glad I didn't stay 18 forever.

To me there are many places in our world that aspire to our generation’s idea of hip, cool, and the current moment. We live in that place everyday, literally. I am talking about college. I know college is a very general place in the world, but that truly is the “it” place for our generation. Many of us are convinced by the age of fourteen that we will be going to college when we graduate from high school to pursue our life’s work, to culminate our ambitions. Not only is it hip and cool to be in college now, but it is also responsible. Never before has the idea of cool coincided with the idea of responsible. To me this is very significant because it emphasizes the importance our society places upon education.

People can go to college for very different reasons in our society. For one they can go there in order to do what they are supposed to do by furthering their education and ultimately bettering their lives. This is what everyone wants us to do. We are offered scholarships to experience the magnificence of college in order to continue our country’s wealth and dominance. However, they can also go there to experience the “it” that our generation places on college. The negative side to the “it” factor that we place on college is that it conspires to represent the cool, partying side of college. Not that there is anything wrong with a good time, but it is when we begin to excessively indulge in the partying lifestyle that college has to offer that we suffer completely.

So what is college? College is life. It’s our beginning. The introduction of our experience to our world. We are here to figure out how to be adults. It is with this beginning of freedom that we can see whether or not we’re truly ready to become independent, functioning members of society. It is also friends, late nights, parties, fun times, lessons, experiences, differences, and every other thing we could wish to learn. You truly develop your personality at college, the greatest experience our society has to offer. I am truly thankful for the emphasis our society places on education because without it I’d probably be stuck in Lonoke farming.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Kind of Cool that will Always keep you coming back for more

Cool love may be the most powerful form of cool because it encompasses two very strong emotions with which the audience can identify. Love is powerful because it is passion. All the movies that you’ve ever watched that involved love probably involved a guy or girl doing something crazy or improbable in order to convince their significant other that they were the right one. Even the earliest stories such as Romeo and Juliet were about the passion that love instills. Defying family names in order to quench your heart’s desire has become all but essentially to a romantic movie. To throw cool into the mix is just ludicrous. Now, we have a powerful fiery emotion, love to combine with a cooler, more controlled emotion in cool. This is why ultimately love can be seen as one of the most powerful influences over the human mind. However, there are still many types of cool love, so I will tell you about two very different ways in which this love can be displayed.

My favorite type of cool love is the romantic comedy. I know it doesn’t have the same suspense or drama that normal love stories convey, but they speak to me because they are much more relatable. It’s easy to see the goofy, awkward guy walk into love and get the girl, or at least it is for me because maybe deep down I hope that this will happen to myself someday. But the movie that I’m most directly speaking about is 50 First Dates. The reason this movie, to me, conveys the ideal romantic comedy is because of the type of situation it presents. In the movie Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) loves Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore) so much that he is able to make something as life-altering as amnesia, which resets her memory everyday, and help her live her life to the fullest degree of happiness. To me this is significant because it represents Henry’s dedication to Lucy. He doesn’t care if she doesn’t remember him because that just gives him another chance to win her over. This is romance to the extreme. He chooses someone that can’t even remember his name, but there is something about Lucy’s personality that speaks to his soul. Making the option of finding someone else all but impossible. Henry is admirable for all his characteristics. The fact that he could love a single person so much makes the movie great in itself, but the fact that he is cool and dorky makes even greater.

The second type of cool love is demonstrated by the man with the plan, Han Solo. Han Solo’s love for Princess Leia is far different from the love seen by a romantic comedy. Their love spawns from a class difference. Han sees Leia as something that is unattainable just because of their differences. Leia, on the other hand, views Han as a pig. He is all about being cool, and acting debonair, which ultimately lures her into Han’s fatal trap. Everyone knows the scene I’m talking about when Han is being taken away and Leia confesses her love for him. He then proceeds to utter the coolest line a man could possible articulate in the situation, “I know.” Although many women may be disgusted with Han’s words he will forever be remembered as a badass because he not only won over the girl, but he got the girl to come to him. A far different approach from the dedication seen in the romantic comedy, Han uses a bad boy attitude to attract Leia. As you can see there are many different forms of cool love. Love is not objective, it comes in many forms, patterns, and styles. It will always be there. It will always be cool.