Thursday, February 26, 2009

OMG... What Just Happened

This week in class the topic of cool is cool love. We sat down to watch the movie of Jules et Jim at 6:00 pm central standard time, the movie ended at 7:45. At this time I couldn't help but just sit there and ask my self "Is the movie over? What was that? What just happened?" I understand that the film was part of the French new wave film movement, and I also know that many people feel that this film is wonderful and cool... but I just didn't get it. I did enjoy that way that François Truffaut was able to take the pieces of stock footage that he had and use it to his liking, this tactic was able to pull together clips from actual war footage and other places to convey the feeling that Truffaut wanted. The way that the film was made and the ideas that were behind the production were definitely cool.

As for the story being cool... I'm just not seeing it. The only thing that I saw cool in in the movie was the friendship that Jules and Jim shared. One was German and one was French, during the war, the only thing they were worried about were not killing the other. No matter what, they were friends. There friendship doesn't change until Catherine appears. They both like her, but Jules asks Jim not to go after her, which Jim obliges. They treat her like a queen for a while, and they are all content. Everything seems cool for a while until after the war, then we find out Catherine's true nature. Catherine does what she does when she does it. This quality could be seen as cool, but she does not care who she hurts in the process. This little factor takes away part of what makes her cool. I see cool as a force like karma, you add the good and bad and if it is positive you are cool. Catherine just had to many negative actions for me to view her as cool. Then she turns completely crazy and pulls a gun on Jim, someone she said she loved. Not only that, she drives both of them off a bridge, not cool. The movie just has to many points that I see as not being cool for me to say that it was cool.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Air of Cool in a Dark Place

With the many years between current films and the films of WWII, there is no surprise that the film noir movies of the past have had a direct impact on the movies of today, and why wouldn't they. Film noirs are dark, have seedy characters and sexual tension, and have a fem fatal that is sometimes to die for. Now, if we look just at the quality of being dark, then that is not really going to help find the film noirs. There are many films that use a dark setting and dynamic shadows to show an eerie sense. I feel that the main part of the film noir is not just the darkness, but the fact that almost every character has something to hide, something dirty, something that could be possibly cool.

If we focused on the darkness many films could be seen as film noir, Sweeney Todd, Fallen, anything that Tim Burton does. But this is why I see the defining point of film noir is the character action. When almost every character in a movie has a dark character, has something to hide, or is just plain bad then the movie becomes a film noir. Now when I think of movies with characters that have those traits I immediately think of Sin City. Sure, the movie is dark and shadows were blatantly made to look dramatic, but the characters just made me feel dirty when I saw the movie for the first time. It is about a corrupt city where one man is looking to save a girl from "The Yellow Bastard". The feeling that everyone is just a bad guy goes throughout that movie. After thinking of this movie, I began to think that many writers and artist of graphic novels have film noir qualities. This then goes over to film with films just like Sin City or Batman Begins. The graphic novels are black and dark, and this leads over the the big screen when they get made into movies, as so many of them do.

I was thinking of a great movie where the characters have something to hide and I thought of one of my favorite movies of all time, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. This movie has everything that a classic film noir has, dirty characters, dark settings, a detective that hates cartoons and just wants to find out the truth, a fem fatal, and a mimic of Keyes in Baby Herman. It has everything to make a noir a noir, and it did it in a very original way.

I stand behind my original thought that the characters that are in film noirs are not cool by them selves, but the movies in a whole are very cool.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Dark Place is Cool

This week in class we watched a classic film noir movie, Double Indemnity, a movie where almost everyone is guilty of something. These type of movies were released during the time of WWII and hit Europe after the war was over. This is when many people started seeing similarities in the movies made during this time. It seemed that all of the movies had dark shadows and had a grimy feel to them. Dark shadows, dark people, and especially dark women. And I guess that is what would make it a black film.

So in the class we are suppose to be looking at the different types of cool and what makes us think that they are cool, but while watching this movie the male and female leads were anything except cool. Phyllis is a conniving, corrupt, crazy woman and Neff is willing to plan to kill her husband without being asked. Phyllis's husband is a drunk and portrayed as a looser. The only person that has a shred of dignity is Keyes, and to me, he is the only cool person in the film. There is just something about Keyes that makes him cool. I don't know if it is his ability to solve even the strangest of cases, or that he wants to believe that Neff didn't have anything to do with the murder because he was his friend.

I would have to say that the movie is cool, but most of the people are not. I like the dark shadows and the way that the movie is made, but the characters and shady are definitely not cool. This movie showed me that a movie could be a cool movie but have lame characters.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monkey See... Monkey Do

With the constant pop-culture influence on everything these days, it is very likely that what is seen, heard, or read is directly influenced by a previous person's work, or a direct update of the work. This is common, and I am not saying that it is wrong. After all, imitation is said to be the most sincerer form of flattery. Imitation can be as blatant as goths, Elvis impersonators, Cosplayers, or mini-Kiss. But I am sure that almost everyone has someone that they look up to and base there persona on. This form of imitation is seen in the movie Pitch Black. The character Jack wants so badly to be like Riddick. He (later found out to be she) fashions a pair of goggles to imitate Riddick, wishes to get a "shine job" on her eyes, and in The Chronicles of Riddick gets put into a prison that Riddick had been previously in. She idolized Riddick and wanted to be just like him.

Another type of imitation is the imitation of a belief or idea that one person sees. This has been seen through the years including the spread of communism with Marx, the followers of Che Guevara, and many more. You see this view in V for Vendeta. Sure at the end of the film, there is a mob of people that are dressed just like V, but that is just a visual cue that they all believe in what he is speaking out about. These people believe in the same ideas that are being spoken out by V, but are unable to speak out because of the corrupt government. The idea and the man are looked up to and passionately followed by many.

With so many people looking up to others in society, what would happen if someone that you looked up to lets you down? What if the person that you think is so great ends up to be just ok? Most people would feel let down and find someone else to look up to... but in extremely small amounts of these cases, the person that was let down could turn into a super villain who has the life goal to kill the person they looked up to. That's right, I am speaking of Buddy Pine/ Syndrome from The Incredibles. Buddy looked up to Mr. Incredible when he was a child, but when he was let down he turned into a villain that vowed to kill Mr. Incredible. Now, I am not saying that everyone that is let down by a person they look up to will try to kill them in the end, but there emotions will take a hit. Everyone looks up to a person so you could say that individualism goes only as far as who you copied it from.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Voices in my head... Cool?

This week we watched Play it Again, Sam with Woody Allen. Throughout the movie Allen sees Bogart in his head telling him what to do and always taking his cues from him. So the question was brought up by Donna, who is the voice in my head? This should be an easy question to answer, ok... who is in my head when I want to be cool? That's easy, I think of... hum... not so easy a question.

So, who would I think of? Well, I don't thin that it as simple for me as just to pick one person like some people can. I think that for the voice that tells me how to be "that guy", I would have to pick Danny Zuko from Grease. He gets the girls, he knows cars, he is cool. So that's the guy that when I am talking to people, or just don't want to look like a looser that's who talks to me.

But, when I think of doing something odd, or building something, I thing of Adam Savage from the Mythbusters. Yes I know that this might be one of the nerdiest things that I could have said in a class dealing with cool, but he is awesome. Anyone that gets to do the things that he does and to build the thngs that he does, that is the epitamy of what I think cool is. So, when I am trying to not be a looser, Zuko, and when I am trying to build... Savage.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sacrifice for Cool

This weeks brand of cool is the "cool sacrifice". It is common in recent movies to see a character that has to make a sacrifice that greatly impacts them. The sacrifice that I am speaking of is not like a virgin being thrown into a volcano to appease the gods, being eaten by native peoples to release you from your mortal bonds, or getting rid of something that you could live without. I am talking about having to give up something that shakes you soul. The reason why the personal sacrifice tactic is used so much in the film industry is because people can feel empathy for the character that has to make the sacrifice. The pain, anguish, mental dilemma, all things that a person would not want to experience themselves but can identify with.

One large category of the self sacrifice is when the main character has to give up something that is very important to his/her self. This usual has to do with the loss of the main character's happiness, as seen when Rick has to let Ilsa go for the good of the resistance movement. This act of self sacrifice shows that Rick is willing to let his heart be hurt so that a larger picture can be painted. This is also seen in Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At Worlds End. At the end of the movie, Will Turner stabs the heart of Davy Jones and becomes the captain of the Flying Dutchman. Sure, Turner is now immortal, a ship captain, and a very cool guy, but he can only see his love Elizabeth Swann one day every ten years because he freed his father. He has to only be able to see his son and his love once every ten years, but he kept his promise to his father.

Another archetype of the self sacrifice is giving one's life for something that they believe in. This is seen in the movie Armageddon. Bruce Willis' character chooses to get left behind on the asteroid to blow it up manually, letting his daughter's fiancée to live and saving the earth. In I am Legend, Will Smith kills himself and a large hoard of The Infected, allowing Anna and her brother Ethan to escape with the cure for the infection. These people are seen as cool for giving up their entire being to save something they think is more important than themselves. I believe that this lets people view the main character as a Christ figure. The giving of ones life to save the life of others (according to the Christian doctrine). No matter weather the sacrifice of oneself is only emotional or for life, the sacrificial character is definitely cool.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Casablanca is Heavy

So this week we watched Casablanca, a movie that I have already seen about five or six years ago. When I saw it then I have to admit that I absolutely hated it. I am not sure whether or not I just was prejudice against black and white films back then or what, but when we watched it last night, I thoroughly enjoyed it. All things considered I am surprised that I liked it. I usually hate romantic movies and want to avoid them at all cost, but Casablanca does not focus the movie's whole plot around Rick and Ilsa's love story, but uses his past to show why Rick is the way he is, and to let the audience know the sacrifice that Rick is having to make.

Starting very early on Rick is a very cool character. He is extremely neutral, which could be a symbol of the policy of the US during the start of WWII. Rick is so cool because he does what he wants, when he wants, and it does not matter what anyone else thinks he is going to do it. He sticks his neck out for no one. This mentality is what sets Rick apart and shows that he is cool, he is a heavy character, he is Rick and this is his Cafe. Rick is a bad ass, the definition of cool, and continues to be one throughout the film. It is not until Ilsa comes into the Cafe that we see Rick change, and we find out why Rick acts the way he does.

Even though Rick is a heavy character (which probably comes from Humphrey Bogart's other previous roles in gangster movies) he shows a side of himself that many people can agree with. Rick has had his heart broken and does not want that to happen again. The flash back that he had let me see Rick as a doer. He does what he can to get what he wants, or in this case does not want. This is why at the end of the film Rick lets Ilsa and Victor leave. He helped them because he knows that people look up to Victor and he must thrive to make a difference. However, Rick has to sacrifice his love with Ilsa to achieve this goal. At the end of the film, Rick is still cool, but for his sacrifice, not for his "I don't give a damn" attitude.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Struck by a Smooth Criminal

This week we saw The Public Enemy, an early gangster movie that was filmed in 1931. From the text box at the end of the film, it is clear that this movie was made to show the dirtiness of the criminal life and to tell people that the only way to eliminate it was not to partake of it, support it, or benefit from it. Though the movie definitely had an anti-gangster message to it, I just couldn't help but see a certain coolness that the character Tom Powers has. He becomes successful, he gets the money, the girls, the cars, the power, it seems like the police won't touch him, and his name is even Powers. What cannot be cool about this guy? He definitely has that factor that gives him that dissident cool. But why do people identify with this?

I think that most people see the gangster appeal with a pair of rose colored glasses because the whole lifestyle is about breaking the law, and that concept of being something other than a law abiding citizen has an air of excitement about it, and I see it as well. The movies make it out to seem that if you are a gangster then you can have it all. Movies like Scarface, Reservoir Dogs, and The Godfather all show the great side of being a gangster. You get the respect, the power, the money, everything that you can ask for... right? Most of these movies also show a downfall, mostly death, that the gangster has to face. But the success, power, action it appeals to people. So the media market has picked up on it and started marketing a video game with this premises. That's right, I'm talking of the Grand Theft Auto series. This game is designed to let a person to live out their fantasies of carjacking people, shooting other gang members, doing odd mafia jobs, or what ever you want (I'm sure that the games have a story line you are suppose to follow, but i never had the patience to finish one of those games).

There is another part the cool that comes from being a gangster that I feel does not get thought of as much, the "Robin Hood" type of gangster. Sure they are breaking the law and usually have many cool traits about them, usually being that they get the girl in the end, and this is a slightly more
transcendent cool. This is seen in the movie American Gangster. Sure, he is a gangster, and yes he is breaking the law, but he gives some of the money back to the community and that is very cool. So wether it is the want of material possessions or the want to keep the balance of power, people find gangsters cool. Gangsters are cool, but remember it is a hazardous job.