Monday, March 30, 2009

Shaft breeds spoofs not followers

Shaft was the first of its kind, but the movement it started has spread into a multi-genre of film. And this genre is completely distinct from the mainstream of film. These films have developed away from normal films with all black casts and their own sort of film culture. Some of these films include Undercover Brother, Brown Sugar, and Baby Boy. The African American film genre is biased towards their own culture. From the hood to family trouble, the culture in the film is definite. It could be divided up in to movies about the inner city, family life and inter-racial strife. The inner city movies are those that try to capture the culture of what that life is like. Family life is more of a recent development, especially in comedy with actors such as Tyler Perry. Racial strife would be movies like Guess Who.

A film that reminded me of Shaft was Undercover Brother. It was a spoof of the Bond films, but the cool that he was trying to impersonate was defiantly that of Shaft. The "brother" as they would put it was a man that could woo any woman. Undercover Brother was a man that was ahead of all the rest. He was so smooth that criminals could not touch him. They exaggerate this also. Like I said, it was a play off of the Bond series, but it was still really funny. Hidden throughout the movie is African American cultural references: the “pick” of black power, the parachute pants, and the enormous gold chain.

Baby Boy is not a movie that reflects the cool of Shaft, but is one that reflects the iconic cool of the urban culture. The main character reflects a common contradiction to cool. He had two children, both were by different mothers, and he still lived with his mom. He could not be considered cool. When faced with the loss of his home and the little control he had over the women in his life, he found out that the power never really mattered. His personal journey leads him to what many would describe as him “becoming a man.” He had to kill a rival man that abused his kid and wife. He finally gets a home of his own and a job. Throughout the movie he is made out to seem cool but the movie is written to direct the attention to him taking responsibility for the people in his life.

In the African American film genre the definition of cool changes because of the difference in culture. What Shaft did was pave the way for black film to take on its own essence. If you look over the vast history of black film you can see it move more distant from the norms in predominantly white film.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who is that sex machine? Shaft!

What is there to say about Shaft other than he is FREAKING AWSOME! His character is similar to the noir private eyes. His persona is one of two worlds. He is a part of the white and black cultures of New York. His identity is one that is full of the slang of the Harlem slums and the coined wit of the civil rights movements. He does not conform to the white society and suck up. No, He is his own man.

Shaft displays a multiple numbers of cool. He transcends race to interact all races. Shafts prize people are those that everyone interacts with everyday. His values seem to be those of any good man the only difference is in the means that he accomplishes them with. His methods are very noir; by this I mean that his means are a little more rough and dirty. The police cannot go and do the same things with such ease. He is not on the wrong side of the law but he is doing all the things the law can’t do such as move easily throughout Harlem.

Now his sex appeal with the ladies and even the men in one case is completely macho man. He asserts dominance over anyone one in his vicinity with such tools as wits, charm or physical violence. Shaft never has to try with the ladies; he can even catch criminals while seducing them. His competency is another factor that his presence gives off. The style of cloths he wears is 70’s fabulous. I only wish I could pull off the dark brown leather trench coat. That and a brown turtle neck with a leather gun holster.

Shaft is one of those films that I really will never forget. The entire movie was iconic. From the funky intro to the last phone call to the police the movie would be one referenced in film for the next 40 years. The language in it reminded me of a west side story. The language is not fluent but choppy and repetitive. But the roughness of the movie makes for a more memorable movie.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cultural Comentary

Easy Rider was a movie that was made to capture a moment in time. The movie fully captivated all the aspects that were happening with America at the time. The late sixties had an amazing movement that started in the west and was sweeping across America. There are few films that that are capable of capturing what is happening in the world. A few movies that come to mind are Dazed and Confused, The Graduate, and The Dead Poet’s Society.

Dazed and Confused was a movie about high school in 1976. The movie was trying to capture the counterculture and the main culture and one youth’s decision about both. One of the side stories was about the youth’s immergence into the high school scene. One character in particular is representative of the drug counterculture. He like to smoke weed and rock out. He was one of the “cool” kids. This film did a good job of bringing up the issues such as hazing, drinking, and drug use. The movie demonstrated how peer pressure was the main drive in the drug and drinking culture of the day. The culture of the day for youth was rebellion cool, and this movie does a great job demonstrating it.

The Graduate is a movie that was made only a few months after Easy Rider and was released before it because of complication with the film making process. The movie showed another side of a problem of the culture that was happening in the U.S. around the late sixties. The Graduate was a tale of a man that had recently graduated from college and was unsure of which direction his life was going. His problems are further perplexed by the sexual tension that looms over his neighbor’s wife. He ends up sleeping with Mrs. Robinson and then falling in love with her daughter. So many of the college youth were lost; they went to college thinking it was the only logical step they had. “What was the next step?” The movie also demonstrates the sexual tension of the house wife during the late sixties. It is an indication of the watch parties that would be taking place in America.

The Dead Poets Society is a land mark film in my book because it brought into question whether schools should inspire boys to think on their own. In the most prestigious academic academies they believe that the process of education was not about teaching students to think on their own, but to believe what they tell them. The teacher played by Robin Williams sees this issue and tries to rebel against the culture of the education system and was looked at as a trouble starter. The rebellion that he starts in his students is one that demonstrates a type of cool talked about in Easy Rider.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fight Freedom with Fear

Easy Rider is a movie that captured what was happening in America in the late sixties. "It was the best of times and it was the worst of times," Dickens would say. The youth of America were questioning the world they were coming into. Drugs in America were on the rise and it was allowing people to escape to an alternate reality. The youth wanted something more and sex, drugs and Rock and Roll was the answer. With such bands as Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead coming around youth wanted more from life and politics. People saw injustice and also a problem with traditional life. All of these ideas were culminating when Easy Rider came out. The movie was able to capture all that was occurring at the time and pack it into the movie.

At the beginning of the film the Wyatt and Billy are buying, transporting and selling cocaine. They are beating the capitalist society at its own game. To them it is just a means to an end, the quick way of making their dreams come true. The drug deals went well and they receive an enormous sum of cash and they are then free to go find America.The first place they come to is a small farm where a large mixed family was living off the land in a very traditional way. To them this is a sort of utopia. They are in a place of acceptance where some can live without having to rely on the main stream of society. They are in a sense what the commune wanted to be. The farm was a symbol of what some of the things they went looking for in America.

The next place they come to is commune. They are lead there by the hitch hiker they pick up on the road. He is quite the groovy individual. He is very smart and does not expect people to just do things for him. The commune is a place of acceptance and a collage of ideas. There are people reading Mao and another doing Ti Chi. The mime troop is suppose to be representative of the Diggers. They are the collage of what was coming out of San Francisco at this time.

After they leave the commune they come to a town were a parade is happening where they try to participate and get arrested. In the Jail they run into George. He is a Southern layer with a drinking problem. George decides to join up with them on their trip to New Orleans. He is my favorite character. George's view is the closest to the embodiment of what their trip was really about. They were the embodiment of freedom at this time. People were scared of what they represented. He warns them one night that if they are not careful that some one upon seeing this freedom may kill them because it causes people to question whether they are free. That same night George is killed by those very people.

After this point the movie starts to spiral down quickly. The peak of the movie I believe centered on George's speech. The everyday American Ideal at this time was that people were all free. People celebrated their freedom after the war. But when people that were the embodiment of change come threw it leads them to realize that they were only living a partial reality. It is no different today. If a person never escapes their own known reality by experiencing another culture or someone else’s form of reality they never really have a validation of their own reality. When people go through their entire life without having their way of life questioned as soon as it is they become frightened. They become cultural imperialist and xenophobes. This fear causes some atrocious things to happen. It lead to the end of the main characters and to their easy ridden.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Texas (This is for all those that hate and don't Appreciate)

Texas is one of the most culturaly stereotyped places in America, and for a good duration of time this sterotype was considered cool. Childeren across America wanted nothing more than to be an American cowboy fighting outlaws in the west or to become a Texas Ranger. Texas is just one of those places that screams cool (unless you are one of those Texas haters that hates all Texans because of our outlandish love for the Great State of TEXAS!) lol The culture alone is a sterotype that I have experienced in many differnt films. The first is one of my all time favorite kids' movies.

Tall Tale's main ficticious charecter is Pecos Bill.He and this movie retell a folk tail that originated in Texas. He was supposedly raised by cyotes and could lasso a tornado. He was the leading moral charecter in the movie that motivated a protagonist to stand up for what was right. His charecter is wearing an over exaggerated hat and all the other fixins of a Texan. He frequenlty mentions Texas and all the things that have happend there. He promotes the steortypical culture of Texas. Pecos' portrayal is a coment on a the cultural cool of Texas.

Second is Dallas, a T.V. show from the late seventies through early ninties that is a great example of a Texas stereotype. The charecters all had an overly drawn out accent and exaggerated cowboy hats. This show was popular here in American but was more popular over in Asia. Texas became a place to go whenever you wanted to go to America. If you dont believe me, ask an international student which state is more known in over seas countries, Texas or Arkansas. The T.V. show was a great example of a stapel of cultural cool.

One of the more recent examples is Walker Texas Ranger. I lived in Dallas during all the years that Walker was on, and I only wish it was that interesting. The show made the town of Dallas seem a lot more exciting than it was. Chuck Norris will probably never be parted from Texas. They drew every little detail of Texas out: from the cowboy boots to the trucks that we all apparently drove. It is true that Texas Rangers have a standard issue horse, badge, boots and cowboy hat, but they don't always wear them. It amazes me that the show was so popular; I personaly loved it as a kid, but I can't stand to watch a single episode now (especialy the Chuck Norris sung intro).

The last cultural staple of Texas is the the Dallas Cowboys, yep the football team. Have you ever noticed all the attention that the team gets? When you think football, one of the top teams you will come to is the Cowboys. When you think Cowboys, you think Texas. The Dallas Cowboys have the most known cheer leaders (They even have their own TV show), emblems and names. When you come to Texas what do you expect to see? You expect to see Cowboys weither it be the Dallas Cowboys or men out wearing chaps.
Texas is one of the most publicised states in the nation. When people hear Texas, icons fly through their minds. That is because Texas has an overwelming cultural capital. They were once one of the most culturaly cool places in America, and that title alone grants it respect.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We are lall truely M.A.D. Would you like a cup of tea?

My cultures (specifically my age group) began with a kick—the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Mutually Assured Destruction mentality! Our child hood was filled with President Bill Clinton and drudge music. Metallica and Snoop Dog was played on high with an enormous increase in the White urbanization. “It was the best of times and the worst of times” as Dickens would say. The technology bubble was on the edge of bursting, and with the final pop it gave the economy its first surplus in years. Business was booming and foreign affairs were on the up and up.

Walking up and down the streets you would see the increase of the restoration of historic buildings. The youth would be wearing predominately black cloths. The white youth was obsessed with not caring because that what was cool. There was a rise in the nerd culture. The comic book obsession went through the roof. Being smart became a little more socially acceptable. With child television shows like Smart Guy and Daria, children got the impression that smart was cool.

The year 2000 brought about another big scare: THE END OF THE WORLD. Y2K hit and Nostradamus predicted that the end of the world. The computers were going to shut down and anarchy was going to run rampant. After that we believed as Americans they were safe as long as our computers keep working.

Until the day that New York was filled with smoke. The eyes of the world turned to New York and they were afraid for their lives, their children’s lives, and their national security. The fear led to President George W. Bush taking control of America's safety. In a day The Department of Homeland security was created and the Patriot Act was passed. We went to war with Afghanistan because the Taliban ruled there and their leader was Osama Bin Laden. The war on terror spread to Iraq.

America became obsessed with the thought of the troops and how bad that president Bush was. The lyrics of songs were filled with hate for the President— Muse, System of A Down and Green Day to name a few. In the beginning it was a social taboo to disagree with the war. Artists like the Dixie Chicks were hurt by their comments showing their disapproval of Bush. The war had affected all forms of culture.

Today there is a new leader that embodies “change,” President Obama. America is wanting out of the war. People everywhere are in love with change. Rap and R&B songs are filled with compliments to the new president and he in his first hundred days is portrayed as a president of the people. Ever since the Twin Towers fell, the presidency has had a major effect on pop culture.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Love is ignorance

In Jules et Jim, I saw something that was new to what I thought of cool. I did not believe that love had any place in the movie. But I did see something that held a deep resemblance to cool: ignorance. When the Jules and Jim fell in love they became ignorant of everything. They rose above their social situation. They were no longer a German and a Frenchman; they were two friends in love. In F. John's first presentation, he told us that the slaves were the original cool. This was due to the fact that they could rise above their situation. I believe that Jules and Jim found that in love with women and with each other. Their love brought on ignorance and that in turn bread bliss which made them transcendent cool. The bliss of love is shown in a few of my more favorite films; Moulin Rouge and The Girl Next Door.

Moulin Rouge is a fabulous musical. The music and choreography was superb and the choice of stars made the film a success in my eyes. The most important aspect was the storyline. The leading man, Christian, is a writer that falls in love with a prostitute, Satine. But Satine has a wealthy duke after her. Satine is forced to go along and entertain him but she retains feeling for Christian. Because Satine and Christian fall in love, they seem to transcend the situation they are in. They become more than a whore and a writer; they are two lovers and the world appears to be theirs. But that ignorance leads to the demise of the characters and eventually the rich man catches on that he is coming second. The movie ends on a sad note but it demonstrates that love is disillusioning.

The girl next door gets written off as a raunchy guy movie. The storyline is based
around the assumption that all teenagers think about is porn--not a story line you would think could teach you something about love. The main character is a successful young high schooler that has no time to be just that a high schooler. He meets the girl next door. She is a beautiful girl that is fascinated by the way the boy looks at her. He views her as a an attractive young woman and not the porn actress she was. They fall in love and he shows her what it is like not to be objectified all the time; in turn, she shows him what high school is all about. The both transcend the rolls that they are in. This causes them trouble, but in the end, it is the only thing that pulls them through. The bliss, the moment they experience, is something to be found and not made. They learn by being in love and they gain the ability to transcend.

Love is a fickle thing, but no matter what, it has the ability to lift you out of your situation. This bliss gives you the ability to properly assess your situation and gives you an edge in life. Love may not be cool, but love is bliss; bliss is ignorance, and ignorance leads one to transcend and become cool.