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Annie Hall

Amusingly Awful Romance at Its Finest
In typical Woody Allen style, this film is a comment on pretentious New York City inhabitants, fake and materialistic Hollywood-ites, and neurotic love relationships. Alvy is a somewhat overly intelligent, somewhat pompous, incredibly neurotic and slightly depressed comic. Annie is a woman who only gets pleasure out of smoking pot, is not too intelligent, and is too shy and nervous for her own good. Having these two characters fall in love seems slightly insane in itself, but then again, that's what Woody Allen was going for with this film. In many ways, this film could be seen as kind of a comment on how film portrays romance—how unrealistic romantic relationships had been portrayed by Hollywood and how the unhappy ending is usually the more prevalent in reality.

California (more specifically Hollywood and L.A) in this film is portrayed as a place full of overly tan, vanity obsessed, materialistic celebrities and their agents. Alvy, being the model New Yorker, hates California. Some of the most amusing lines in the film are between Alvy and Annie concerning the others' hatred for the two cities. Alvy's opinions on L.A all seem to hold up, however, so do Annie's opinions on New York. They're entirely polarized cities and the fact that Alvy and Annie don't choose the same city as their city of preference only emphasizes their differences even more. These two people are polar opposites, just like L.A. and New York—they don't belong together. Annie and Alvy are not the type of couple that Hollywood usually had fun portraying. They are not the Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett couple from Pride and Prejudice, they are not Romeo and Juliet, they are two people who are completely wrong for each other and know it but somehow can't seem to figure it out. Every time they break up, they fall deeper into their depression because it's another failed relationship, another thing they couldn't make work. They're constantly bickering and fighting, and it doesn't really seem like love anymore after a certain point. It's the kind of love that only two mentally unstable and off base people can understand (and considering Allen's real life love situations, it becomes obvious that he is one of those people). This film is re-defining romance, re-defining how people look at relationships. It doesn't work out for Annie and Alvy in the end, and they both seem to be slightly okay with it. That's how things would have worked out for them in real life, and that's what Allen wanted to portray. If he had been a conventional Hollywood director with classic notions of grandeur and romance, then he would have had them live happily ever after. It's refreshing, for once, for the audience to figure out that not everyone gets that. Not all romances end with a ride off into the sunset.

Annie Hall is also a critique of American culture and the elite intelligencia. Alvy and most of his acquaintances in New York are the kind of cynical and judgmental people who are so intelligent that it makes everyone else of moderate intelligence seem like morons and scum. Alvy (even as a child, as we see in multiple flashbacks) has very high standards for people he would consider worthy of being able to share their opinions. One of the most humorous scenes in the film is when he and Annie are in the line to see a film about Nazi Germany and WWII and there is a pretentious man in line behind him spewing off his opinions on directors. When Alvy confronts him about his seemingly terribly wrong opinions, he pulls out one of the directors to back him up. Alvy is the standard that the audience is supposed to hold everyone else up against. He is a neurotic man who never has nothing to say and is usually able to voice his opinion in a witty manner. The irony of this film is its greatest feature. The depressive and cynical comic, who is too into himself to give anyone else the time of day, meets and falls in love with an unintelligent and somewhat boring girl from the mid west who would usually do nothing for him. How could it not end up amusingly awful? Woody Allen is truly at his finest in this film.

A Woman Under the Influence

Dying swan
A Woman Under the Influence is one of those films that moves the audience so much that we forget we're watching a film. Gena Rowlands' performance as Mabel in this film is heart wrenching in the most sincere sense of the term. Cassevetes does a wonderful job reducing all of the fancy film techniques that have become so popular in film today and focusing solely on the experiences of the characters. Peter Falk also delivers a stellar performance as Mabel's husband, Nick, making the audience wonder which of the two of them is the craziest. While Cassevetes never comes straight out with a reason for Mabel's insanity or for the way Nick treats her, the reasons are heavily implied by the actions of both of them, their parents and especially by the things Mabel says when she is having one of her episodes.

Rowlands' performance is electrifying. From the very beginning, the eye is drawn towards Mabel, running around trying to get her kids ready for a weekend with their grandmother. The first hint that something is off (besides her jittery and nervous behavior), is when she goes to get her son's bike from the other end of the driveway and ends up riding it (somewhat) to the car. Something's odd about her, but at the same time, magnetic. We can't take our eyes off of her, wanting desperately to get inside her head and see what she's feeling. What follows is a seriously depressing view of motherhood, life as the wife of a working class man, and womanhood in general. Mabel tries incredibly hard to be the perfect mother, the perfect housewife, the perfect daughter, the perfect woman. But in her mind, she is always falling short and no one seems to hesitate in pointing it out to her. She's endlessly disappointed with her life and seems to be obsessed with fun. The night she sends the kids off with her mother to spend a romantic evening with Nick, she gets stood up. Nick is a hardworking guy, but he's not happy about it. He seems to understand at least a little bit that Mabel requires extra attention in order to stay sane, and when he can't give that to her she goes over the edge. So when Nick is called into work on the night of their romantic get together, Mabel turns to a stranger in a bar for the attention that she is in need of.

The excursion Mabel takes on that night is the first real evidence the audience gets that suggests she's a bit more than just neurotic. She gets confused, calls the man Nick, invites him back to her house, freaks out when she realizes the kids aren't in the house even though she was the one who had sent them off the previous evening. There's something seriously wrong with Mabel and by the time Nick and his co-workers arrive at the house the audience is feeling confused about the situation, but also sympathy for Mabel herself. Nick seems to understand that there's something wrong with Mabel, but he doesn't want to admit it. He invites all his co-workers over for dinner with the two of them (far from the romantic dinner they had planned for the night before), and Mabel has an episode. The men are afraid of her it seems, or at least incredibly uncomfortable by the questions she asks them and the situations she puts people in. She means well, but she crosses the line between fun and inappropriate several times and Nick finally scolds her for it. Once Nick scolds her, we see the other side of the crazy Mabel character. She starts babbling, making incoherent statements and odd noises and hand gestures. She's trying to express her frustration with the control Nick has over her, with how he wants her to act. She's struggling between the version of herself that she loves, and the one that Nick wants her to be. If it was up to her, her and Nick would have lived a happy life together having fun singing and dancing every day of the week. She has some episodes where that is all she will talk about—fun, dancing, singing, and the love she has for Nick. But once someone yells at her or says something negative to her, she's brought back to reality and the frustrations of life become too much for her to handle.

A major theme that was represented in the film was the effect of music on the characters. There are numerous times when the characters were walking around singing to themselves, mostly opera. The opera seems to be a release for these characters (Mabel and some of the working class men that Nick works with). It's an escape from the realities of their world, which is what Mabel is most interested in. Also, the theme of the dying swan comes up several times in the film. Mabel plays the music from Swan Lake for the children and her to dance to, but focuses on the part where the swan is dying. When she returns from the mental hospital, before she cuts her hand with a disposable razor, Mabel jumps on top of the couch, humming the tune of Swan Lake and dancing, talking rather incoherently about the dying swan. It becomes very obvious that Cassevetes wants the audience to recognize Mabel herself as the dying swan. She is the beautiful being that is dying, who is trying to revel in her last sane moments on earth, but is losing them fast. All she ever wanted was to be seen as that swan to others, only beautifully alive rather than gracefully withering away.

The Parallax View

The Parallax View Response Paper Annie Gleba The Parallax View is very much representative of the national turmoil/paranoia felt in the 1960s after the string of assassinations of public figures that occurred during that time. It is especially representative of JFK's assassination in 1963. Pakula does an excellent job creating the feeling of paranoia within the audience members, especially during and before the key scenes in the film, so that we can always sense them coming. Similar to Francis Ford Copolla's The Conversation, the main character (Harry Nelson, played by Warren Beaty) is the embodiment of human paranoia, and therefore creates that same feeling in the audience.

The film opens during a Fourth of July parade in Seattle, Washington. A popular senator and his wife are seen riding in a car at the end of the parade, and the television announcer nearby comments on how good they both look. When the couple walks by the reporter, she again tells the couple that they look just as good as they did in the magazines. This entire scene is very reminiscent of the JFK phenomenon. JFK and Jackie O remain two of the most glamorous American couples, even after their deaths. The nation was obsessed with the apparent perfection of the couple, as the people in this film appear to be with the Senator and his wife. What follows is even more reminiscent of JFK—at the top of the Space Needle, during the celebration of the 4th, the senator is gunned down while standing right next to his wife, and dies. The assassin is chased to the top of the building and ends up plummeting to his death. Or does he? The audience can already sense something is up; we know he's not the right guy and are silently pleading for someone to notice the real assassin leaving. Of course, this doesn't happen.

The next scene opens with the view of a panel of men sitting in a dark room and individually lit. The "committee," as it is called throughout the film, is just a number of talking heads to the audience. They tell the press that there was no conspiracy behind the senator's death, and that they performed extensive investigations into the murder. The press is not allowed to ask questions, and the public is urged to block out any thoughts of conspiracy. Right away we are introduced to a corrupt government. We learn to be suspicious right away. We start of suspicious of the talking head politicians and remain so throughout the film. The closing scene mirrors this one, deeming Harry to be the crazed killer of the vice president and we, the audience, are left helpless.

The entire film plays off of the corruption of the government and agencies in connection with it. The assassins are being helped in the film, the Parallax Company only assisting the guilty by feeding the public an innocent person in his place. It is a very negative view of the nation, and it doesn't provide any hope for the future. Harry tries his best to get to the bottom of what really happened at the Space Needle, and ends up getting himself and his editor (whom he'd convinced to help him) killed off by the same people he was looking for. In this film, (and as Pakula suggests, in life), the individual is completely overpowered by the corruption of the people in control. Nothing anyone can do can overcome the dishonesty and corruption of the government—not even the politicians who aren't corrupt (they just get killed off too). All of the politicians we meet in this film are corrupt or get killed by corruption. America is a dangerous place for people who care in this film, and Pakula obviously used this vision of American to represent the feelings of the nation's people during the 1960's.

The Conversation

The Conversation Response Annie Gleba Francis Ford Coppola does a superb job of making the audience feel incredibly uncomfortable with his film The Conversation. The film is entirely based on the feeling of paranoia and constant awareness that the nation was feeling during the time the film was made (the early 1970s-during/after the Watergate scandal). The main character of the film, Harry Caul (played brilliantly by Gene Hackman) seems to be paranoid as an occupational hazard; however by watching him and others throughout the film, the audience ends up sharing many of the same thoughts that Caul presumably has.

The opening of the film dives straight into the voyeurism that is represented throughout. We are watching a crowd in a park, and closing in on an individual. We're able to hear all the distant noises from the crowd, but we're also able to hear louder noises that seem closer. We are the voyeur. We are the eyes and ears of one of Caul's assistants. We see and hear what the spy sees and hears, and we will stay in the position of voyeur throughout the film. The first time it gets to be very uncomfortable to be in this position is the scene when Caul arrives at his apartment. He walks into another room, but our focus stays in the same place. We can hear him talking, we can hear him moving around, but we can't see him. We're merely a peeping Tom, observing what we can from a fixed position. This becomes even more uncomfortable when the position shifts and we watch Caul unbutton and take off his pants after a long day of work. These are very personal things we're witnessing, it seems wrong to be watching, but that is what Coppola wants us to feel. Coppola wants us to play the part, wants to put all of the stresses of the paranoid voyeuristic character (like Caul) on us, so that we end up relating with him more and more throughout. We're being conditioned to feel uncomfortable.

Caul (and eventually the audience) represents the sort of paranoia and distrust that was largely felt by the people of America during this time in history. After Vietnam and Watergate, the numerous assassinations that occurred in the 1960s, etc, the country was on edge. It seemed one could never be too careful. Caul is the epitome of careful—he doesn't want anyone to be able to have access to any personal information of his, and is deeply suspicious of everyone he comes into contact with. He's lonely, yes, and his paranoia prohibits him from ever being able to have a real/loving relationship with anyone (he loses Amy, a girl he had presumably been seeing for this very reason), however he is safe. When he starts to trust (like the woman he slept with in his office, his fellow bugger friends), he embarrasses himself or loses power over situations that he wanted to have ultimate power in. At times, it seems as though Caul is paranoid about the wrong people/things. For instance, he's suspicious of Amy—he spies on her doorway before he goes to open the door, he never shares anything with her, but he's not suspicious with the easy blonde that he sleeps with and she's the one who ends up betraying him by stealing the tapes that he had gone through so much trouble to protect and keep to himself. Also, he is always concerned about being bugged or spied on himself, but he doesn't think twice when a fellow colleague sticks a pen in his pocket for no reason (and since the audience has now become deeply paranoid by this point we cringe at his ignorance).

This film hit hard. During one of the ending scenes, when Caul is in the hotel room looking for signs of the murder he thinks he has caused, the audience is just as on edge as he is. We share every fear, every sigh of relief, gasp of fear, and feeling of shock that he has during this scene. It is the epitome of uncomfortable, and Coppola's point of making the audience aware and paranoid is thoroughly understood at that moment. It's a smart film, although a bit slow-moving, and makes a strong comment on the American mentality during this time and on the power of film in general.


It's Chinatown.
As is often the case with any Jack Nicholson film, Jack was the greatest part of this film. While it is said to be a crime thriller meant to keep audiences on their toes with its action and drama, which is not really the effect that Chinatown has on the audience. This film actually makes more of a statement on the social and political situations in the United States (in this case L.A). If audiences walk into this film expecting a mindless crime thriller, then they will be sorely disappointed.

In a broad sense, this film is about America as a corrupt capitalist society. Jack Nicholson's character J.J Gitte seems to be one of the only characters in the film who sees the water drought in Los Angeles for what it really is—the controlling of a vital source of life for a civilization by the rich and powerful. The rich and powerful owners of capitalism are represented in the film by the character of Noah Cross and (most of) the members of the Water Department. These men are able to use money and power of influence to re-route the city's water to certain places in order to make themselves even more money. It's a classic case of the rich getting richer by stealing from the poor. J.J sees through this and as a private investigator used to dealing with cheating spouses, he gets himself in way over his head while investigating the death of Noah Cross' partner (and son-in-law), Hollis Mulwray. Hollis, it appears, was one of the good guys, one of the liberal men like J.J, wanting to do good. It was his decision to give the ownership of the city's water to the people instead of himself and the corrupt Noah Cross.

The characteristics of Noah Cross and J.J Gitte are almost entirely opposite from one another. Also, the way that these two men treat women seems to be indicative of the way they treat others. Throughout the film, references to J.J's past working in Chinatown seem to be ever present. It comes to our attention that J.J left Chinatown when he tried to "save someone from getting hurt" but couldn't. It's to be assumed that he tried to help out a woman that he had feelings for, failed, and that she died. This is exactly what happens to Mrs. Evelyn Cross Mulwray. He falls in love with her (or at least lust), tries to help her, and it ends up turning out exactly as his past Chinatown experience. J.J tries to do good, but there are so many powerful situations beyond his control that he simply cannot. Noah Cross, on the other hand, controls everything. Throughout the film we come across many different people who's actions have been influenced by Cross. It then comes to our attention that Noah Cross raped Evelyn when she was 15 years old, that she got pregnant, and that the child—Katherine—is both Evelyn's sister and her daughter. It is no understatement to say that Noah Cross literally controls everything around him—including his daughter and what to do to her. He seems to embody the epitome of cruel, whereas J.J embodies the epitome of naïve goodness.

Chinatown itself is another symbol present in the film. Chinatown appears to be the place where everything goes wrong for the good guy. There's no law in Chinatown, there's nothing to stop the rich and powerful from getting away with whatever they want. It is the end of goodness, as is represented by the murder of Evelyn Cross Mulwray by one of the cops. J.J's associate walks up to him as he is staring at Evelyn's dead body in the car and listening to Katherine's screams as she is taken away by her cruel grandfather/father. The situation is entirely hopeless, so all he can think to say to J.J is "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown." It's a powerful last moment of the film, but it still offers no relief to the audience. We know that J.J won't be able to stop Cross' plans to steal a majority of the city's water to help himself profit during a drought, we know that Katherine will be raised by her "grandfather" and perhaps suffer the same fate with him that Evelyn did, and we know that there is no solving the fact that the nation (symbolized by Chinatown) will never stop being run by the corrupt because the good are powerless to stop it.

The Last Detail

The Last Detail review
The Last Detail is a very well-developed road film about 3 Navy sailors—Billy Buddusky ("Badass"), "Mule" Mulhall, and Larry Meadows. Meadows is on his way to jail for eight years for unsuccessfully trying to steal forty dollars from a charity box for polio. It's a truly tragic story, but Jack Nicholson's acting (as Badass) and the sidetracks on the way to the prison tend to add a bit of relief to the depressing reality of Meadows' eventual imprisonment.

Throughout the film the audience feels sorry for Meadows—it seems that he really has a problem with stealing, as is made clear in the beginning of the film. He knows it's wrong, but he doesn't really seem to be able to control it. Badass seems to feel sympathy towards him, knowing what he has to look forward to isn't the kind of punishment that he deserves for such a petty crime. Mule on the other hand, is more by the book. He doesn't want to give into Badass and let Meadows have a good time before he goes to prison, he just wants to get him there and get it over with.

The Navy seems to have a different meaning to Badass than it does to Mule. There is one point in the film when Badass is telling Mule about the one time he was married, how his wife had wanted him to be a television repair man and he didn't want to, so he ended up in the Navy. Mule then tells Badass that he's supporting his mother, and that she couldn't be more proud of him. Clearly to Badass, the Navy was a sort of last resort—to Mule, on the other hand, it was the best opportunity that he had at the time. This conversation seems to have the underlying theme of the differences between races that runs subtly throughout the film. There are several scenes which refer to Mule's skin color—even the fact that his nickname is "Mule" is a reference to it. It seems that without the Navy, there wouldn't be much hope for Mule. Badass sees this same sort of quality in Meadows, stating at one point that perhaps jail is the best place for him, considering his other options (living in a poor town with his drunken mother, or going to Vietnam and dying).

Meadows is a depressingly naïve kid. There are many scenes in the film that display Meadows as just a young, mixed up kid. When Badass first suggests getting a couple of beers, Meadow says he's not old enough. This line seemed really poignant, considering the fact that he is in the Navy during the Vietnam War—he's old enough to go and get killed for his country or to be put away in a military prison for eight years, but not old enough to have a beer. He's a virgin kid from a poor, nowhere town. He is the epitome of innocence, and it is up to Badass to expose him to life before he has to be put away. It's important to Badass for Meadows to experience things before he ends up wasting his life away over a meaningless act of criminal activity. The relationship between these three men becomes so strong that Meadows tells Diane (a woman he meets in New York City after she hears him "chanting" and introduces herself because she chants too) that Badass and Mule are his best friends. He really appreciates everything they've done for him which is why they trust him not to run away throughout the film, even though he eventually tries (perhaps his experiences made him wise to the fact that chanting for freedom wasn't going to bring him freedom at all).

In the end, it seems that Badass and Mule didn't really help him all that much, but perhaps hurt him. In the beginning, Meadows didn't seem too effected by the fact that he had to go to jail. However, at the end he drags his feet and gets teary when he is finally outside of the jail. He knows about the life that he'd be missing while he is in jail for such a stupid reason, and he doesn't want to go. Had Badass and Mule just followed their orders, perhaps Meadows would have remained naïve enough to be able to go to jail without a heavy heart.

The Last Picture Show

Last man standing
Set in a fictional town in Texas, this film is full of imagery of the dying west and the way of classic American life that people in the small town had become so accustomed to. It opens with the shot of a run down movie theatre, then spans the length of the whole run down town, and ends up focusing on a young kid in a run down truck. The situation appears very grim and rather hopeless.

The film focuses on the life of Sonny, the kid in the run down truck that we are introduced to in the opening. Sonny is a poor boy, who has been somewhat abandoned by his parents. He's friends with the other poor kids in the town—Dwayne, and Billy most notably. Billy is deaf, and a bit on the slow side—he's Sam the Lion's son and Sonny has a real soft spot for him. Sam the Lion pretty much owns the town. We find Sam and Sonny to have a complex relationship, and one that will end up providing a circular theme for the film. Sam owns the town's pool hall, movie theatre, and café and is well-known and loved by everyone. What Sam says, goes, and we get this image of Sam as the kind of old cowboy ruling over the land. The town has a kind of old glory day feel about it—the teenagers go to the movies at night and kiss in the back rows, they make out in cars and all seem rather innocent in their naiveté. However, there are more secrets to the town than are made apparent at first and we realize that this town is far from the perfect image of the west that we have been accustomed to in films up to this point.

For example, Sonny gets into a sexual relationship with his basketball coach's wife when she gets too sad for anything else to make her happy. Jacy, the town's classic blonde, ends up being very sexually confused and troubled due to the odd relationship between her and her drunken mother, who is having an affair. The town rich kids are all messed up, having naked pool parties and sleeping with one another. Basically, it's a town that is the result of a changing society with changing ideals. There are a number of times in the film, where the noise from a television is the only sound the audience hears. It seems as if television is part of the changing values of the town—especially after Sam the Lion dies. Once Sam dies, everything seems to take a turn for the worse. He leaves Sonny the pool hall and leaves the theatre in the hands of the old lady who had basically been running it before. Eventually, she needs to shut down the theatre, and even blames television as the reason why people don't want to go to the theatre anymore. Dwayne goes away to the army, he and Sonny get in a fight, and the preacher's son is even arrested for attempting to molest a little girl. It appears that with the death of the cowboy figure of the town, the whole town goes downhill, and at the same time, Sonny seems to be taking his place. He starts rolling cigarettes like Sam had, has his wild days with Jacy (coincidentally the daughter of Sam's old lover), runs the pool hall, and seems destined to simply follow in Sam's footsteps. The last scene, where Sonny returns to the house of his 40 year old lover, there is a loud laughter coming from the television. The conversation is serious, Mrs. Leachman is on the brink of nervous breakdown, Sonny has just witnessed the death of his friend Billy, Dwayne had just left for Korea, and Jacy was off at college. Sonny is the only one left, the last one standing. And the only sound of laughter coming from the sad house where Sonny is destined to spend the rest of his days with a married woman is coming from the television. The wild, wild west has been reduced to people in their houses wishing to be as happy as the people on the television. Instead, they have been doomed to live unfulfilling lives that will never live up to the standard of life in the old time western films in the closed down Royale theatre.

Five Easy Pieces

Can't get no satisfaction.
Five Easy Pieces is a film that is about loss of identity and dissatisfaction. This theme of dissatisfaction comes out in throughout the film—Bobby (our main character) is dissatisfied with his girlfriend Rayette, with his way of life, with his old way of life, with everything. Nothing seems to fit for him, and he is constantly in search of a place that works for him.

Early in the film, Rayette says to Bobby "You're just never satisfied," or something along those lines, to which he responds, "That's right." This is where the theme begins to take hold. He is not satisfied with his place as a blue collar worker with oil rigs, as can be seen by the art on the walls of his house when the film opens. After numerous images of the traditional blue collar worker (strong men working with their hands posed against a sunset, for example), we see Bobby return to his house with Rayette, where there seem to be sophisticated pieces of art hanging on the walls—at least more sophisticated than a person of his status at the time would know of. Also, Rayette is constantly listening to country music and constantly trying to sound like Tammy Wynette. Bobby makes a comment at one point about how terrible the music is, which is a result of his musical background that doesn't become known to the viewer until a bit later in the film. However, these subtle hints at education far superior to those around him are meant to hint to the viewer that this is not where Bobby belongs, and most likely not really where he wants to be. The boiling point of Bobby's feelings seems to be when he discovers that Rayette is pregnant and where he outright tells his friend Elton that he is better than what he's become. He has become too dissatisfied with the way his life has played out and turns back to his old way of life by visiting his sister. A simple gesture, but one that will throw him back into the upper levels of society where he came from.

It's somewhat obvious by Bobby's relationship with his sister that he was not content living the life of a rich man either. It's assumed that he wanted to escape the life of a rich and talented musician (for whatever reason), and do something completely opposite, which is how he ended up with Rayette and with the life he had at the start of the film. It seems he's constantly running from his past, which he ends up admitting to his brain dead father right before he leaves. When he does find satisfaction, it is with his brother's fiancée Katherine. We can tell that he is content with her—he stays in bed with her after they have sex, he talks to her, he listens, and she puts him in his place. She's the only person that gets through to his thickheaded, mean, stubborn ways and makes him think. However, there is no satisfaction to be found in this relationship either due to her relationship with his brother.

At the very end of the film, Bobby looks in the mirror of the gas station bathroom and studies himself. It appears he is trying to figure out who he is and what's really going on with himself. Whatever he decides is not entirely certain—the only thing he is certain of is that he is not cut out for a life with Rayette and the endless drone that was his blue collar life. The film has a somewhat open ended ending—it leaves the audience with kind of a dismayed view of what could become of Bobby with no money, no nothing. However, I think that this ending is the only one that really suits the film—Rayette was an annoying and obnoxious woman and not cut out for life with Bobby (as was illustrated when she was at the dinner table at his family's house)…Bobby was not ever satisfied with his life with her, and he was used to always running back to the road to find his satisfaction. The audience is left with the impression that Bobby will keep traveling the filth that is America (as the hitch hiker from California would say) until he finds his satisfaction just as other young Americans searching for their identity.

Midnight Cowboy

Loss of a dream
Midnight Cowboy is a film about a fake cowboy from Texas named Joe and a crippled bum from the Bronx named Rico and their struggle to make it out of the dredges of society. Throughout the entire film there is the hope of a better tomorrow—an unrealized hope, in the end.

The concept of the unattainable American dream is very prevalent in this film. It begins with Joe's flight from Texas—looking to leave his sordid past behind him and move on to greener pastures. What he gets are the hard, cold streets of New York City, which are not as promising as he'd hoped for. He continuously is reminded of his past, no matter how he may try to escape it, and is not able to make his dream of becoming a rich man a reality. He wants to be a hustler but he is too ignorant of city life to be able to figure it out and too sexually confused (it would seem) to be able to do it well.

Enter Rico Rizzo, a crippled, dirty, lowlife bum who would do anything to make a dime so that he could move to Florida—the focus of the two men's American dream for the rest of the film. Rico (nicknamed "Ratso" due to his scheming nature) tries to help Joe out with his hustler dreams, but to no avail. Joe often has to resort to male customers, which perhaps says something about his sexuality.

Right before Joe is about to go home with his first paying woman customer, Rico has a bad fall down the stairs. Joe (who had just unknowingly experimented with marijuana) was worried but forced by the necessity of money to go back to the woman's place with her. There, he is unable to sustain an erection for long enough to successfully finish having sex with her at first. To me, this crippling feature in Joe parallels Rico's crippled state, and the fall that had occurred directly before. Also, it seems further evidence that Joe's preferences lie in men—when is finally able to perform, it's only because the woman accused him of being gay and he was trying to prove her wrong. He is continuously defensive of his sexuality, which is characteristic of someone who is trying to overcompensate or hide their true preferences.

The relationship between Joe and Rico is quite the peculiar one. They argue, they share intimate moments (Joe often nurses Rico's sicknesses throughout the film), and they share the same dream of success and wealth. They head off to Florida at the end of the film—Rico in a worse and worse state. Just as they're entering Miami, Rico dies with Joe contemplating the way their life could be once they arrive. With Rico dies the dream Joe had for the two of them—building themselves up the old fashioned way and being able to live together happily. The dream had to die because it could never really be alive to begin with. There was no way in the 1960s that two men could live together happily (whether as friends or lovers, and it's not entirely clear which Rico and Joe were) and successfully when they started off in the state they were in. The film leaves the audience wondering how Joe will try to move on to escape yet another painful chapter of his past behind.

Easy Rider

Ignorance Kills Freedom
Easy Rider is a film that is based on the hippie ideas of freedom. It is an incredibly powerful movie when you view it in these terms. The film is centered on two main characters—Billy and Wyatt, two hippies with long hair and a revolutionary style who make a cocaine deal in the beginning of the film and then begin their journey across the West to Mardi Gras on their motorcycles. Throughout the film they are faced with different elements of discrimination against them purely because of how they were dressed and how they looked. This fact is introduced early on in the film when they try to go to a low-rate motel to get a room and the "No" on before the "Vacancy" is lit up as soon as they ask for a room.

Billy and Wyatt are constantly portrayed as kind of new age cowboys throughout this film. With motorcycles in place of horses, these two biker hippies cut across the Western plains, complete with brilliant sunsets and scenery. The photography in this film is gorgeous and says a lot of Hopper as a director. The scenes where the two men (eventually three men, since Jack Nicholson eventually joins the two of them) are riding through the land are usually accompanied by rock and roll music. The music is vital to the vibe of the film—it encompasses the freedom that the characters feel riding through the countryside, smoking pot and just digging life. The music represents them and they represent what the music stands for as well.

What I took to be the film's turning point was the scene where George (Jack Nicholson) and Billy are discussing hippie culture and their ideals, mainly freedom. George is trying to explain to Billy that to the majority of the population at this time, freedom is dangerous and frightening. They see Billy and Wyatt and get scared—they don't like to admit that there could be a freedom such as the one that Billy and Wyatt and the hippie culture represent, because that would mean admitting that they aren't free individuals either. This seems to be the point of the film—the freedom that Billy and Wyatt were after and represented posed a threat to the rest of society, and it is for this reason that most of the people they interact with in the film have an animosity towards them. After hearing this, it does not seem surprising that the three get beaten in the middle of the night, that George is killed, that they are constantly discriminated against, or that ignorant farmers in a one-horse town kill the two free men at the end. Although they were, in fact, polite and upstanding people (with the exception of the coke deal and the pot smoking), the ignorant people of the towns that they went to never gave them a chance and instead judged them to be trouble makers and rowdy newcomers. In essence, they were killed for having more freedom and individuality than American society at the time allowed.

The Graduate

Small acts of youth rebellion
The Graduate is generally praised as one of the ultimate youth rebellion films of the 1960s. True, it was made in a time when many teens were searching for some way to rebel against various aspects of society--parents, government and other standard conventions of American society. However, it is not entirely as rebellious as it is made out to be. Benjamin Braddock is a college graduate, confused and lost. There are many occasions throughout the film where the audience can sense his feelings of entrapment and confusion. "I'm a little worried about my future," is a line that is consistently repeated in the beginning of the film when he is seemingly trapped at his welcome back party. The entire party sequence is filled with images of being trapped. The camera is extremely close to all of the people, every time Benjamin tries to get out of the room where he is he is blocked off by another guest, and he is being flooded with others' acknowledgements of his past successes. When Benjamin finally escapes to his bedroom to drown out the noise of the party, we get the sense that he is truly lost and very worried that he will be a disappointment to his family and all the people who are at this party. The opening sequence of the film, when he is in the airport on the moving sidewalk and "The Sound of Silence" is playing, we get the sense that up until now he has just been kind of floating through life, being told what to do and being taken in one direction or another without having any real say in the situation. The three acts of rebellion that seem apparent during the film are this: his relationship with his father's business partner's wife, Mrs. Robinson, his feelings for her daughter Elaine Robinson, and the waste of his mind. The relationship with Mrs. Robinson is very rebellious in the sense that it's an affair, and an affair with someone whom he has supposed to be respecting and looking up to during his life. Mr. Robinson gives Ben advice in the beginning of the film and it is at that point that we really understand why it would be so truly radical if he slept with Mrs. Robinson (besides the fact that she's old enough to be his mother). Later on, after being told to stay away from Elaine by Mrs. Robinson, he falls in love with her anyway and goes to extreme lengths to be able to share his future with her. It is apparent that he really just needed a connection with someone more his age who could understand all of the decisions he had to make and the confusion that he was suffering from. After he meets and talks to Elaine it is clear to him that although he may not know what he wants from life, he knows that he wants Elaine in his life. The biggest act of rebellion that is seen in this film seems to be the waste of his educated mind. Benjamin wastes away his summer floating in the pool of his parents' house and sneaking off to a hotel to have sex with a married family friend. He does not use the education he has just received to try to find a job or to make a difference in some way. Instead he feels comfortable with his life, at one point telling his father "I would say I'm just drifting…it's very comfortable just to drift here." These "rebellious" acts are not entirely the same acts of rebellion that the real youth of America were performing at the time this film was made. Benjamin does not have long hair or dress in any way to make him stand out like the hippie generation of the time, he does not make any political or radical statements with his rebellion—only rebellion from the conventions of suburbia during this time. It is clear that he does not want to become like his parents, it is clear that he does not want to look at life as though he is looking through the lens of the scuba diving suit that his father bought for him. He is not trying to make any radical change in the world, but in himself, and that is really where the rebellion comes into pay.

Bonnie and Clyde

An Important Part of American Culture
In order to fully appreciate Bonnie and Clyde for its cinematic brilliance, it is important to disregard any information about the real Bonnie and Clyde that is known. This film is not a historical recollection of the "adventures" of Bonnie and Clyde. It is, in fact, a Hollywood re-telling that romanticizes the crimes of this infamous couple. The real Bonnie and Clyde were not fashionable victims of a cops and robbers game—they were criminals and murderers. Therefore, when taken at face-value, this film can be enraging, but if the gross exaggeration of the couple's way of life is ignored, one is left with a very artistic, meaningful film that displays a time period of American culture that is vital to history. Bonnie and Clyde is more the story of American rebellion and anti-government feelings during the late 1960s than a story about two criminals trying to escape the endless reach of "the law." This is one of the first films to be made after the Hays Code was ended, meaning that it was allowed to be overtly violent, sexy and graphic. It was also one of the first films that was able to openly display officials (policemen, the government, etc) as "the bad guys" instead of "the good guys." Some of the most memorable scenes in Bonnie and Clyde are ones in which the government or "the law" is mocked openly. For instance, when Clyde is teaching Bonnie how to shoot a gun at an abandoned house and runs into the family who used to own the house before the bank took it, Clyde shoots the sign that says it had been taken. He then gives the gun to the old man who owned the house, who also shoots it and then passes it along to an old black man who had helped him tend to the land for his turn. It was a very powerful scene that represented the feelings that many Americans had about their government not only in the 1930s during the Depression, but in the 1960s during the time of the Vietnam War. The general feelings of distrust and resentment that Americans had towards their government during this time were also displayed by the mockery that was made of the Texas Rangers and other policemen in Bonnie and Clyde. The humorous scene where Bonnie and Clyde pose for a picture with the handcuffed Texas Ranger does a particularly good job of this, as does the scene where a policeman from one of the banks that they robbed was interviewed and treated like a hero, even though he let them get away. All in all, I believe this film to be a very important part of American film history. Although the history of the real Bonnie and Clyde was not accurately depicted, Bonnie and Clyde, with all of its violence and sexuality, most accurately depicts American culture and attitude during the 1960s.

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