Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Second Rule of Fight Club is, DO NOT Blog about Fight Club

In the previous blog, I discussed many of the various elements of cool that Fight Club encompasses. Although these individual elements can be found in other films, I can’t think of any movies that incorporate all or even most of them. Fight Club takes cool to another level. Everyone has their own opinions of what are the coolest movies of all time. Many people have even complied lists and post them on various sites for discussion. Some movies are debated, but I don’t think anyone can deny the cool of Fight Club.

It is extremely difficult to compare Fight Club to other films because it is a unique combination of so many different genres, as well as types of cool. Fight Club is much like Identity (2003) in the fact that the main character in both has some sort of personality disorder. The narrator becomes Tyler Durdan when he blacked out or thinks he’s asleep. In Identity, Malcolm Rivers is a psychotic killer that has multiple personalities that interact with each other in his mind. Whenever one of the murderous characters kills another in his head, he kills someone in real life. The use of personality disorders creates interesting films and makes for tremendous twist endings, like in both of these films. The twist ending is an extremely cool element, but Fight Club is a much cooler film than Identity.

Fight Club
obviously has many elements a fight movie. Fight movies are all about the action and the violence. A good example of a typical fight movie is the recently released Fighting. Not one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen, but some pretty impressive fight scenes. Fighting captures a similar style of bare-knuckle fight scenes that are in Fight Club. The characters in Fighting enter fights for the prize money and for pride, completely different from the men in Fight Club. The thrill and excitement of the fight scenes in both movies is the same even though the surrounding context is not. Pride and money are not noble motives and for that reason Fight Club wins again in the cool contest. David Fincher created a revolutionary film that combined a wide variety of genres and types of cool together with innovative cinematography. Fight Club is modern classic that should be on everyone’s top film list.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The First Rule is Do Not Blog about Fight Club

I have always heard people quote Fight Club, but I have never actually seen the film until this week. I was pleasantly surprised because I was honestly expecting a fight movie. As soon as realized the twist in the ending, I was kind of shocked and immediately thought I need to watch this again.

I believe that Fight Club was a great choice to end the semester because encompasses so many different aspects of cool that we discussed. One of the most prevalent elements of cool throughout the film is cool satire. The film satirizes capitalism and consumerism. The main example that the film uses to represent consumerism is Ikea furniture. In a similar fashion to Robocop, the satire in Fight Club provides lighthearted humor to an otherwise extremely intense movie. Towards the end the film also satirizes the subversion that is essentially the solution to the first problem. Project Mayhem becomes a cult and the film satirizes the members’ undying devotion to Tyler Durdan.

Another important element of cool in Fight club is cool escapism. The narrator escapes from his life by creating Tyler Durdan, a separate personality that comes out when the narrator blacks out and thinks that he is asleep. Tyler is the narrators escape from the life of a consumer, working a boring 9 to 5 job. The narrator’s escape through Tyler, can be compared to the escape that Tony Manero, from Saturday Night Fever, feels when he is on the dance floor.

Many of the elements of cool we have seen in film throughout the semester are also present, but in smaller amounts. There is cool love like in the film Jules et Jim. The narrator, Tyler and Marla have a pretty dysfunctional love triangle just like Jules, Jim, and Catherine. Cool imitation is also present. Allan looks up to Bogart in Play it Again, Sam and tries to imitate his cool. In Fight Club, all of the members idolize Tyler and try to be as cool as he is. Cool criminality is definitely a part of Project Mayhem. Like the gangsters in The Public Enemy, the members of Project Mayhem the city by committing a variety of crimes in the night. All of these elements of cool wrapped into a single films makes for one of the coolest movies I have ever seen in my entire life. I can’t believe I had not seen it prior to this week. Fight Club definitely made my favorites list.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tarantino is Cool

Quentin Tarantino was a high school dropout working at a movie rental store that became one of the most influential directors. Reservoir Dogs (1992) was Tarantino’s first film. His new take on the heist movie is totally cool. He was the first to use such an extreme amount of gore and obscene language that brought back the idea of an adult movie (R rated). This amount of gore paved the way for many horror films such as Hostel, the Saw series, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tarantino also uses the non-linear fractured time line in Reservoir Dogs to add interest and mystery. The fractured time line is rare, but can now be seen in films like Seven Pounds and Following. Tarantino also focuses on long seemingly pointless conversations away from the action in order to further develop characters. All of these characteristics allowed Tarantino to successfully change the idea behind crime/action movies while creating an incredibly cool movie at the same time.

It’s hard to think of any directors that are a cool as Tarantino because no one has combined all of these elements to create such a revolutionary film. One film that was obviously influenced by this new idea of the crime/action movie is Burn After Reading (2008) written and directed by the Coen brothers. Although Burn After Reading focuses more blatantly on the comedic, it includes a lot of the pointless conversations that help to develop characters and almost every major character is dead by the end of the film. Many of the characters are killed as a result of misunderstanding and they do not know something that the audience does in the same way that Mr. White is killed because he doesn’t realize that Mr. Orange is the rat. It is also similar in the extreme amount of obscene language and includes a lot of lewd subject matter that is not necessarily related to the plot. Although Burn After Reading is pretty cool, the one element that this movie is lacking is the fractured plot line so it lacks some of the mystery.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"What's Hot" vs. "What's Not"

“Hot” / “Not”

Spirituality / Agnosticism
Facebook /My Space
Playing in a band / Playing in the band
Capitalism / Socialism
Target / Wal-Mart
Intelligence / Stupidity
Sex / Prostitution
Snowboarding / Snow skiing
High GPA / Studying
The Colbert Report / The Late Show
PC / Mac
Soldiers / War
Rock music / Rap
Nerds / Dorks
Drugs / Addiction
Nonchalance / Desperation
Trees / Tree huggers
Vintage clothes / Abercrombie and Fitch
Equality / Affirmative action
Being the best / Thinking you’re the best

This list is in no particular order and is only my opinion of what’s cool in today’s culture. I’m sure there are several items on the list that people are bound to disagree with me about, but I think it’s pretty accurate. The first item on the list happens to be one of the most controversial: Spirituality vs. agnosticism. Although it seems that agnosticism seems to be a growing trend in the United States, I would like to argue that it is not cool. Being an agnostic is basically refusing to take a stance one way or another. I’m not trying to argue that religion is cool, but that not standing up for your opinion or not using your brain for long enough to have your own opinion is not. To claim that agnosticism is cool would be the same as saying laziness or lack of original thought is cool. I believe that laziness and lack of original though would definitely make the “not” side, therefore agnosticism should do the same.

Some of the pop cultural items on the list such as rock music, nerds, snowboarding, and Facebook are temporary. They will change over the years and are more susceptible to personal opinion. I realize that some people think rap music is cool (even though they are wrong). If you had people from different areas and different generations compile a similar list, the pop culture items would vary quite a bit. On the other hand, I think there are certain things that will always be considered cool, such as equality, intelligence, and being the best. As well as things that will always be uncool, like war, desperation, and hopefully socialism.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Paris is Burning

Paris is Burning was filmed to introduce the transgender ball culture of the African American and Latino community. The film was released after homosexuality had become a popular subject in the news with the AIDS crisis and after Madonna had released a new song “Vogue” about the voguing dance movement. The notion of homosexuality was no longer unheard of, but it was widely rejected conservatives, religious groups, and others. AIDS was even used as an argument for God’s disfavor against homosexuality. Paris is Burning is one of the first films to portray members of the LGBTQ community in a role other than for comedic relief.

Since the release of Paris is Burning, there have been many films on that include homosexuality for purposes other than humor, and some films have a member of the LGBTQ community as the main protagonist. One such film is Philadelphia (1994), where a gay attorney, named Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), with AIDS is discriminated against and fired for his condition. Other lawyers will not represent him in a discrimination case because of their own homophobia, and he is forced to begin working on the case in which he will represent himself. Eventually Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) realizes that Beckett is being treated unjustly by society and decides to help in with the case. Philadelphia puts out a similar point to Paris is Burning. Both films show that transgenders or gays are real people, not so different than you and me, and should be treated better. However, they accomplish this in very different ways.

Paris is Burning
is different than other films on this subject because it is a documentary of the lives of drag queens in New York. It is important that it’s documentary because it gives an accurate depiction of what was going on and not some filmmaker’s interpretation of the actual events. Although there is not a well defined plot line that draws the viewers in to story, the fact that they are real people makes the documentary very impactful. The film simply presents the lives of its subjects and lets the audience make their own opinions. The documentary tends to be a fairly rare form of film, especially among films that are released theatrically. Recent documentaries that have gained great fame include Super Size Me (2004) and March of the Penguins (2005). Documentaries do not do so well in the box office because some people have preconceptions that they are boring, but these movies all have one thing in common. They present a certain point through actual footage of real events.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Got to Be Real

Paris is Burning (1990) is a documentary about the homosexuals, drag queens, and transgenders of New York City in the 1980s. The film is a wonderful peek into the brightly colored world of balls, vogueing, and life in the streets. The people that are shown in the film are living in the most poverty stricken neighborhoods of New York and most were abandoned in some way by their parents. The members of this community should be admired for facing adversity, finding a new family, and striving for a better life. Although this culture is intriguing at first glance, I am not sure that it can be considered cool.

The underground houses and balls formed their own culture and their own idea of what they found cool. The styles and fashions that this group found cool were on obvious display through the balls. The winners of the competition were those that looked the best and had the coolest outfit. The main criterion that was used in judging these competitions is “realness.” Realness was a term used by this community to grade how well you’re able to blend or well you’re able to portray a certain role. The competitions had a huge array of categories that range from masculine roles such as military or college student to extremely feminine ones like school girl or beauty. This concept of realness is ironic because what is actually judging is how good you are at being fake (or at least being something you’re not). The coolest drag queens were the legends and up and coming legends, who were the most convincing or real.

Coolness, however, is not only determined by your own group of friends, but cool is dependent on the opinion of the public community as a whole. From footage in the documentary, it is obvious that transvestites and homosexuals were not well received by others in New York City at the time it was shot. Often people or groups that become cool are at first rejected by society. Think of the grunge music that also started in the 80s. The first grunge bands were looked down upon by society, before the genre gained popularity. In reference to how cool was defined at the beginning of the semester, the drag community would fall into the category of dissident cool. The members of the houses ignored the negative comments and continued to live their lives in whatever fashion they felt like. Now many members of this culture have become extremely successful in the fashion industry, therefore I find that this cultural has followed a common pattern of cool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cool Satire

Robocop is not your average eighties action flick. The satire about political practices works perfectly with the action genre. The main targets of the film are over privatization, and the deterioration of humanity. Satire and action work great together because action movies are already completely over the top with explosions, chase scenes, and of course some blood and gore. Since satire uses exaggeration to make a point, it fits hand and hand with the action genre.

Other genres can also work with satire, and one of the most common is comedy. Donna used the example of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Satire is easily incorporated into comedies because satire is comedic itself. Even though Robocop is an action movie the satire causes many comedic moments in which I laughed out loud. One of my favorite comedic satires is Airplane (1980). Airplane takes the disaster film genre, and through extreme hyperbole turns it into a genius comedy. The situation of an airplane crew getting food poisoning and not being able to the land the plane is totally ridiculous. The satire is not as profound as it is in Robocop because it is simply commenting on another genre. Although Airplane does not provide any great political or economic revelations, it is equally as entertaining.

My favorite satire film of all time would have to be O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). O Brother, Where Art Thou? is an adventure film that uses satire to show the public the evils of the South. The film parallels Homer’s The Odyssey, and makes references to the classic satire Sullivan’s Travels. The dangers of the South are revealed through Big Dan a con man who pretends to be a Bible salesman in order to rob people of their money. It is later revealed that Big Dan is a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The film also comments on less than noble politicians with Pappy, the Governor of Mississippi, whose true colors are shown when he’s not standing behind the microphone on the campaign trail. I think that O Brother, Where Art Thou? should be considered a classic because it combines the adventure genre with the comic elements of satire, and manages to comment on Southern society at the same time.