February 8, 2013

I’ve got a bad case of the insomnia, I’m bored and restless, so let’s do this, New Sincerity:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Sincerity

Right out the gate, the last Tumblr post I did gains some hindsight since New Sincerity is kinda close to what I call the “mythic” in certain fantasy films like Conan The Barbarian and The Neverending Story. There’s a sense of wonder to these films and the mythic storytelling, the earnest sincerity of Conan’s father telling his son of the Riddle Of Steel, or the battle against the Nothing which represents the death of human imagination in The Neverending Story, both of these could be called sincere, but not New Sincerity. I think the kind of sincerity found in fantasy films like Conan The Barbarian, The Neverending Story and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy isn’t New Sincerity at all, in fact I think they recapture the mythic earnestness of old legends and myths because the directors and writers simply believe in the story they’re telling enough for it to shine through.

Examples like 300 and say, Transformers The Movie aren’t as sincere as the former examples since as far as I can tell, 300 probably doesn’t cater to Frank Miller’s unironic vision of the West versus the foreign hordes, and many of us are aware that Transformers The Movie, at least the animated one, was created to kill off well loved Transformers characters to introduce new characters that children would buy the toys for. I do love Transformers The Movie, especially its soundtrack.

I think earnest, sincere works of art are made by people who care more about making a good work of art than worrying about whether it’s sincere enough or what critics will think.

February 8, 2013

Conan The Barbarian (the Arnie version) and The Neverending Story are both classic fantasy films of the 1980s. However I don’t think their world views are discussed in contrast with each other enough.

In The Neverending Story, a knife is used only once, and it is considered important that the quest to save Fantasia was completed without the aid of a weapon for the most part. It’s safe to say that its German origins from what I hear may have influenced this narrative choice, Germans hate war, they lost two of them and usually try to seek non-military solutions to problems unless the situation is very desperate.

Conan The Barbarian is the complete polar opposite. It’s a very grim, nihilistic world view fantasy world John Milius brings us, but unlike other dark fantasy I could mention (cough, Game Of Thrones, cough) it bothers to have a sense of humour. Did I mention that both Conan The Barbarian and The Neverending Story employ mythic storytelling elements as part of the aesthetic? Oh yeah, I love me some mythic storytelling.

In recent years I think only 300 and The Hobbit Part 1 have bothered trying to resurrect mythic storytelling in what’s pretty much fantasy films, 300 included. But The Neverending Story employs the mythic with a sense of awe and wonder, as well as a love of imagination and a respect for the classics of genre storytelling tropes, knights, Indian braves that hunt buffalo, Captain Nemo in his submarine. Imagination is the boundary of Fantasia, that is to say no boundary because human imagination is limitless. The Nothing represents the death of imagination, wonder and beautiful things. It probably represents mean spirited cruelty and apathy too, but to a lesser extent.

Conan The Barbarian on the other hand lives in a rough world, you either be a master of the sword and a warrior, or a dead man. All others who try to live in peace with the Earth are slaughtered. John Milius clearly doesn’t like hippies. Maybe it was Manson, Jim Jones or his massive, earnest hard on for the warrior ethos. We might never know, but I sure as shit love Milius’s representation of the warrior ethos in Conan more than Michael Bay’s idolisation of the modern military or 300’s Spartan worship. Milius’ love of the warrior ethos comes from a much less forced or poorly researched place, he clearly believes in this and has held these beliefs for non propaganda reasons. Then again I never saw Red Dawn, so maybe I’m wrong.

Conan also has the distinction of having the best “my religion is better than yours” scene in cinema. The reason for this is there’s no sense of animosity, or hatred there, and you can totally imagine a conversation similar to this might have happened thousands of years ago in the real world. It’s friendly trash talking, not heresy. Fantasy worlds allow us to have these discussions more easily, real life is complicated and hard to figure out.

December 28, 2012

So when I say I liked The Hobbit in the same way I liked the revival of mythic storytelling in modern cinema in 300, I mean that The Hobbit improves on those filmic mythic storytelling methods in every way, especially since I don’t have to feel guilty about fascist subtext like with 300. It felt like I was at a fantasy genre opera, and I should have been wearing a cravat.

The Hobbit Part 1 is the most high brow fantasy cinema experience I’ve had this year. Bring wine and cheese, drink it in, I assure you in my endorsement of this bold experiment.

November 27, 2011
The Scarface Effect

Some manly heroes of youth just don’t live up to adult standards.

The heroes of the Pure Pwnage webseries which I grew up with are among them. For starters, not only are Jeremy “teh pwnerer” and FPS Doug nightmarish parodies of the “power gamer” stereotype, but the machismo Jeremy in particular exhibits reminds me a bit too much of a guy I used to know who kinda went off the rails a few years back, fitting, since the actor who plays Jeremy looks enough like him to be uncanny.

This is the same guy I used to know who introduced me to Scarface.

Scarface may be a sacred text to the hip hop community, but I only started enjoying it long after my fellow men had stopped idolising Tony Montana since he was kind of a manipulative bug of a bloke who had little honour, but not before my generation somehow made Grand Theft Auto: Vice City one of the more profitable turns in a video game franchise back when GTA was still a contender for the new big cash cow.

Tony Montana’s kind of a horrible role model for children, not that he asked to be one. In fact, he’s protective of children in a way that other gangsters are not, which evokes later on in pop culture how the rapper Eminem used to be one of the illest mofos alive but ended up holding a terrible secret that would damage his street cred, he lived a double life not as a killer roaming the streets but instead a much more “lame” secret identity of being a single father in an era when many hip hop songs like the ones on Dr. Dre’s 2001 album were much more misogynistic about the issue of unplanned parenthood.

Eminem in comparison to Tony Montana was kind of brave for outing himself as the arguably responsible single father he truly was, even though many of Eminem’s fans think Halie’s Song is the most piss weak of his The Eminem Show record’s tracks, I’d safely say that Halie’s Song despite its explicit lyrics is a track I’d recommend to every new father of a daughter currently alive on this Earth.

Badassery in modern pop culture is noted by very nebulous accreditations, sometimes it’s as easy as simply being named Bruce Wayne and happening to be the superhero Batman by default, other times it’s more difficult as more internet lore-y heights of ridiculous testosterone pumping are needed to be attained to be worthy of what Angry Joe once called the “Badass Seal of Approval”.

Why is Eminem punished for taking responsibility for his life and the direction it’s headed instead of going down the self destructive route of Tony Montana, and to a more realistic extent the tragic example of Kurt Cobain?

Well, to answer that, we’d have to come to terms with the fact that hip hop culture doesn’t consider responsible parenting with greater emphasis on positive aspects of male psychology as appropriate hip hop origin stories for a gangster.

This is why Tony Montana’s probably been idolised for so long. When you’re about fifteen or so, he seems like the coolest dude in the world, but when you watch the movie he appears in as an adult, his dubious morality doesn’t really hold up and you wind up disappointed that your idol had feet of clay. It happens.

Ten years from now a generation of men will react the same way when they discover that their precious King Leonidas in 300, played by Gerard Butler, was in fact nothing more than an elaborate, macho facade put on by the same man who played The Phantom of the Opera in an Andrew Lloyd Webber movie musical.

That alone’s demoralising enough to an uncomfortably homophobic demographic of internet tough guys, but once it sinks in that the Spartan warrior culture wasn’t as awesome as Frank Miller told them it was, The Scarface Effect, as I’ll call it for convenience, will be in full effect. The macho man awesome just won’t hold up.

So what of Pure Pwnage, and the “power gamer” stereotype it both made fun of and glorified in its campness? Well, I’m sad to say that Jeremy’s humping his computer after he pwns some guy at Starcraft isn’t funny in quite the same way as it was when I was fifteen. The good news is that such bombastic displays of macho male behaviour become hilarious when viewed through the eyes of an adult, and are helpful for men to revisit to try and figure out how they got to where they are now, good or bad.

Nostalgia’s a thing of the past, but it helps ease you into the future.

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