Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock: I didn't need another reason to wish I had been born 40 years earlier.

I am convinced that I was born 2 generations too late. I was born in 1981, which means I don't really fit in anywhere. I am technically a child of the 80s, but don't really remember a lot of the big events, trends, etc of that time. My nostalgia lies in the 90s, and really, what is there to be nostalgic about? TV was just OK, technology hadn't really emerged yet, and we didn't "DO" anything of great historical value. That's pretty much how I feel about my generation overall- what have we done?

I have always felt that I would be more comfortable if I had been born around 1940. That would put me in my late teens/early 20s around 1960, which is the time I would have been in my prime. The clothing, lifestyle and general attitude of the late 50s/early 60s is what I wish we still had. Not everything gave you cancer, you could discipline your children, and life was just easier. Sure, they were worried about the bomb, but how is that different from now?

This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival. In honor of that, I watched the Woodstock movie for the first time this weekend. When I say this film moved me, I mean it MOVED me. I almost can't put into words how much I wish I had been alive for this. The late 60s, though decidedly different in atmosphere than the early part of the decade, are still incredibly inspiring to me. To see half a million people coming together for the love of music and the message that we can do anything as a nation...that is something I don't think we've ever felt in our lifetime. 9/11 brought a glimmer of that, but it was quickly overshadowed by blame and apathy once more.

The music of the 60s is powerful like no other time. The earnest, love, and just the feeling of hope is just amazing. Throughout the 4 hours that this movie lasted (the TV version), I was moved to tears more times than I can count on my two hands. Joe Cocker's spastic, amazing version of "A Little Help From My Friends," Joan Baez singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and talking about her husband who was in prison at the time but still confident that he would prevail. Richie Havens opening the show with just his acoustic guitar and his foot tapping out the beat. Hendrix playing the national anthem. Santana, who was apparently so strung out on mescalin that he thought the neck of his guitar was made of snakes, and still played amazingly well. And his drummer's solo....possibly the best performance of the whole weekend. The list goes on.

The audience interviews are amazing. Everyone's happy to be there, even when they are covered in mud and hungry and tired. They are all there for the experience; almost no one complains. The media tries to make it seem like it's a state of emergency, but really it's not. The government tries to send in the army, but still there is peace. Everyone's on drugs, and some people got hurt and a few unfortunately died, but overall the chaos is under control given the sheer amount of people in this field. Toward the end it seemed to unravel, but still there was so much love. For every person that freaked out because of a bad trip or just because it was overwhelming, there were 1000 people who knew it was going to be ok and just did what they need to do to help the people around them, whether that be food, emotional support or medical help. They were protesting the war through music, and boy did they make their point loud and clear. All you need is love...sometimes that really is true.

I am nothing if not passionate about music. During Santana's performance, there is a split screen of one girl in a striped shirt just standing there alone, with everyone else around her sitting, and she is just dancing like no one else is there. She doesn't have a care in the world; she doesn't need anything else. I think if I had been there, that would have been me.

Woodstock showed me the reality of a generation that felt they could do anything and used music to get their point across. Sure, it might have been the drugs talking. But kids today are on drugs too, just like my peers were when we were kids. And we've never done anything like this. We have nothing to leave behind in history that is of this magnitude. Woodstock is an amazing part of history and we'll never have anything like it again. We're too commercial now; this could never be pulled off today. It's sad, and it makes me nostalgic for a time that I never knew to begin with. Those hippies were really onto something.

Woodstock: 5 out of 5.

Withnail & I: Kinda like Harold & Maude, but not really

Watched Withnail & I last night. It was recommended to me by a couple of people, but I know it's not one that the masses will be familiar with. The short plot is 2 broke, unemployed actors who are best friends decide they need some time away from home and use one of the guy's uncle's summer cottages in the country. Hilarity, homo-eroticism and dead fish ensue.

At first watch, I definitely liked it. I love British humor and it reminded me of Harold and Maude in a lot of ways. Set around the same time period (but made almost 20 years apart), it just "felt" similar to me. The style of humor was similar, the visual aspects were similar, even the scores seemed to fit the movies in the same way. I don't think Harold & Maude was actually based in the UK, but it felt that way to me.

The bulk of the movie takes place in the country with these two guys trying to get away from home and their problems, but their problems seem to follow them there. They are still broke, they still seem unlucky, and they still frustrate each other even though they are best friends. There is a great subplot with the gay uncle following them there in order to get closer to the friend. They finally decide it's time to go home when "& I" (as he is named in the credits; I realized toward the end that I didn't actually know what his name was...I found the name Marwood online but don't remember hearing it in the film) gets an audition for an acting job. When they get home they find that all their problems are still waiting for them, and though Withnail is happy to just stay home and continue to get drunk, Marwood wants to move on with his life. It helps that he has something to move on to, while Withnail has nothing. Their lives have come to a crossroads and even though they care for each other, they know it can't stay the same.

I know a lot of people haven't seen this movie so I won't say anything more except to say you will probably like it. It's worth a watch for sure - I want to watch it again because I have a feeling I will like it more the more I see it. It didn't strike me the way Harold & Maude did the first time I watched it, and I didn't think it was quite as funny, but I'm definitely glad I watched it.

And one more thing...don't threaten me with a dead fish.

Withnail & I: 3.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jaws - Social Darwinism at its best?

My first movie for this blog is 1975’s Jaws. Starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws tells the story of a New York beach town that is met by doom when a great white shark moves to town and starts committing premeditated homicide on fat Americans. I chose this film because it’s Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I figured I would pay homage. Jaws was made from a novel by Peter Benchley, which was inspired by a true story of a shark attack in a New Jersey lake.

When I told people I would be watching this movie for the blog, a lot of people told me it was a “perfect” movie. I guess I can see how people would say that, but for me it fell just a little flat. I enjoyed it overall, but I don’t think it’s perfect.

The movie wasted no time on the action, with the first victim dying less than 3 minutes in. I really liked that it didn’t take long to get right into the story- I’m not a fan of a ton of long, drawn out exposition in a movie. Right off the bat, though, I got angry at most of the characters.

It was really frustrating to me how political the town was – the character of Chief Brody was trying really hard to keep these people safe, and it was more about money and not disturbing the fun holiday weekend for everyone. Although it was making me mental to watch the attitudes of all these people, it hit me that it was probably very realistic. That is probably exactly what would happen in real life. And that made me very sad.

The thing I hated about this movie is that everyone was annoying. I had no empathy for any of the characters in this film, which was hard to deal with. They were all stereotypical selfish, lazy stupid Americans who cared more about their own leisure than human life. So when people started dying, I felt like they deserved it. Even when the kids died I didn't feel bad- their parents' pain seemed startlingly deserved to me. Almost as if the shark was performing his own natural selection.

Hooper, clearly, was the best character in the film. That didn’t surprise me – he was great. I loved how matter-of-fact he was about the whole thing- it was just “I can help you, or you all can die. Your choice.” He and the Chief were the only ones who made any sense throughout the whole movie.

The scenes with the shark were fun – watching it for the first time almost 35 years after it was made obviously makes me biased toward special effects. It clearly was not the best quality

My favorite part about the whole film was the score. I absolutely LOVED the music, and I thought it was one part about the movie that was truly perfect. It was dark and moody, then all of a sudden it was uplifting and jolly, and it kind of catches you off guard.

Overall, I did like this movie. It got to my emotions, but not in the way I expected. It wasn’t scary and I didn’t connect with the characters, but it pissed me off and I found myself caring about what happened even if I didn’t care about the people.

I give Jaws 3.5 out of 5.