American hedonism closes its eyes to death, and has been
incapable of exorcising the destructive power of the moment
with a wisdom like that of the Epicureans of antiquity.

- Octavio Paz
Death is un-American, and an affront to every citizen's inalienable
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

- Arnold Toynbee
the_band_huge
the_band_huge
"As long as such self-serving hypocrisy
motivates America's response, Ukraine will
only sink further into needless bloodshed,
and that blood will be on America's head."
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
the_band_huge
In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors,
since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors,
for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal
applies only upwards, not downwards.

― Bertrand Russell
Global Coke
Global Coke
"What those 'racists' are reflexively and rightly reacting
to is the soulless chill as the fire goes out beneath the
melting pot. Those who think America can thrive as a
'cultural mosaic' are worse than fools; they're Canadians."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Global Coke
Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe.
It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster,
in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe
have grown to appalling dimensions.

― Frantz Fanon
What the United States does best is understand itself.
What it does worst is understand others.

- Carlos Fuentes
Poor Mexico, so far from God
and so close to the United States.

- Porfirio Diaz
the_band_huge
the_band_huge
"Indeed, everything about the American southland was magical
and exotic to the young Canadian musicians, from the sights
and smells to the drawling manner of speech to, especially, the
central role that music played in people’s everyday lives."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
the_band_huge
America is a mistake, a giant mistake.
- Sigmund Freud
America is an adorable woman chewing tobacco.
- Auguste Bartholdi
chimerica
chimerica
"This is the tone of the China Century, a subtle
mix of Nazi/Soviet bravado and 'oriental'
cunning -- easily misunderstood, and
never
heard before, in a real enemy, by the West."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
chimerica
Coke and 'America the Beautiful'
Coke and 'America the Beautiful'
"And for the others who argued for English-only
patriotism, I note that there are more than
57 million Americans (about 20% of the nation)
whose first-language is not English...."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Coke and 'America the Beautiful'
predator-firing-missile4
predator-firing-missile4
"This is the behavior, and the fate, of paranoid
old-world tyrants like Hitler or Saddam, not liberal new-world democracies like America pretends to be."

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
predator-firing-missile4
America is the only nation in history which
miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to
degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.

- Georges Clemenceau
I found there a country with thirty-two religions and only one sauce.
- Charles–Maurice Talleyrand
A people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle,
and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.

- Edmund Burke
America is the only country ever founded on the printed word.
- Marshall McLuhan
"The removal of racist sports nicknames (and mascots) seems outrageously belated
-- why, exactly, has this civil rights cause
taken so long to gain momentum?"

JOIN THE DISCUSSION
The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the
United States reactionaries use to scare people.
It looks terrible, but in fact it isn't.

- Mao Tse-tung
They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but
they kept only one; they promised to take our land, and they did.

- Red Cloud
In America sex is an obsession,
in other parts of the world it is a fact.

- Marlene Dietrich
I would rather have a nod from an American,
than a snuff-box from an emperor.

- Lord Byron
One day the United States discovered it was an empire.
But it didn’t know what an empire was.
It thought that an empire was merely the biggest of all corporations.

- Roberto Calasso
Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather
be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

- Alexis de Tocqueville
newtown
newtown
"No one, I thought, could watch those scenes, of young children slaughtered en masse, and so many parents grieving, without thinking that this, finally, would tip some kind of balance in the country."
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
newtown
If you are prepared to accept the consequences of your dreams
then you must still regard America today with the same naive
enthusiasm as the generations that discovered the New World.

- Jean Baudrillard
I am willing to love all mankind, except an American.
- Samuel Johnson
America, thou half brother of the world;
With something good and bad of every land.

- Philip Bailey
"What can be more powerful than disinformation in the Information Age?"
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
England and America are two countries separated by the same language.
- Sir Walter Besant
Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honored by
posterity because he was the last to discover America.

- James Joyce
Now, from America, empty indifferent things
are pouring across, sham things, dummy life.

- Rainer Maria Rilke
If the United States is to recover fortitude and lucidity,
it must recover itself, and to recover itself it must
recover the "others"- the outcasts of the Western world.
- Octavio Paz
The youth of America is their oldest tradition.
It has been going on now for three hundred years.

- Oscar Wilde
"America really is, for most Americans, all things considered, a good place to be, and all they really want is for everyone to enjoy the same privilege and pleasure."
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
When good Americans die they go to Paris;
when bad Americans die they go to America.

- Oscar Wilde
jobs drug dealer
jobs drug dealer
They're nothing more than traffickers; and as the smart traffickers'll tell you, you don't use the merchandise. They are just inoculating their kids with a tech-drug serum, to immunize them against the very merchandise that put the **** bowling alley in their basement.
jobs drug dealer
America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that
lie before us, the burden of the World's History shall reveal itself.

- Georg Friedrich Hegel
America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room.
Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair.

- Arnold Toynbee
Americans always try to do the right thing after they've tried everything else.
- Winston Churchill
The thing that impresses me most about Americans
is the way parents obey their children.

- Edward, Duke of Windsor
Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering
what average opinion believes average opinion to be.

- John Maynard Keynes
Europe was created by history.
America was created by philosophy.

- Margaret Thatcher
America is God's crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of
Europe are melting and reforming!... The real American has not yet arrived.
He is only in the crucible, I tell you - he will be the fusion of all races.

- Israel Zangwill
American dreams are strongest in the hearts of those
who have seen America only in their dreams.

- Pico Iyer
America: It's like Britain, only with buttons.
- Ringo Starr
The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.
It has never yet melted.

― D.H. Lawrence
I have two conflicting visions of America.
One is a kind of dream landscape and the other is a kind of black comedy.

― Bono
The American mirror, said the voice, the sad American mirror
of wealth and poverty and constant useless metamorphosis,
the mirror that sails and whose sails are pain.

― Roberto Bolaño

December 6, 2020

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Author Topic: Cinematic Founders


Jane Upton
New Member
Posts: 1
Jane Upton
Cinematic Founders
on: October 25, 2013, 13:41

As a companion to Geoff's discussion of Literary Founders, here's my choice for a Cinematic Founder, the movie that, for me, was most crucial in crystallizing my imagination of the United States...
Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch
I first saw this movie in Manchester, in the early 70s, as a teenager. It horrified and enthralled me. My growing awareness of America as an explosive bumbler in world affairs (I was just beginning to become interested in international politics, and was following events in the Vietnam War) was immediately linked to this movie. I was beginning to see (and, I'll say, now still see) America as naively committed to the idea of its own eternal innocence, and to the reasonableness of its use of force to defend and extend that innocence -- dangerous presumptions that result (predictably for external observers) in the nation's wide-eyed astonishment when things go terribly wrong and violence breeds more violence, and more, and more. All the later 'splatter movies', Dirty Harry and the Bronson films etc., which I continued to watch (while often feeling horrified at the reactions of the other members of the audience) seemed to reproduce the original 'revelation' provided for me by Peckinpah's version of 'America.'



Tom-
Venetis
New Member
Posts: 1
Tom Venetis
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 25, 2013, 15:23

If we are speaking of cinematic founders, my suggestion is that we should begin not with an individual film or film maker, but in the rise of cinema itself in the United States. We should begin with "nickelodeons," or "nickelet" which began the shift from the vaudevillian stage in the later part of the 19th century and early twentieth century, to what we can begin calling the entertainment industry, the machine used in creating the myths and 'History' of the Untied States in the public's consciousness.
For a nickle, the smallest denomination of currency of the time, a person could witness anything from a fight to actors playing out pieces of American History, say George Washington crossing the Delware or Lincoln in the White House during the Civil War. It is those early attempts at historical recreation, more importantly, the creation of a national narrative through cinema's very early and still theater-bound rules, that is critical for understanding how cinema would very soon become a founding document for creating a universal historical narrative for the United States. It was only a decade after the huge popularity of the nickelodeons that we see the rise of what can be called modern cinema's vocabulary and with it the cementing of certain national myths and racial stereotypes, exemplified in D.W. Griffith's 'Birth of a Nation.'



G Aguillon
New Member
Posts: 1
G Aguillon
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 25, 2013, 15:47

For me it is the classic Rebel Without a Cause, for the obvious reasons: America as a place of rebels, non-conformists, outlaws and outliers. America as James Dean himself: wounded and brooding, because its ideals are too pure, but radiantly dangerous and seductive.



Nao Nomura
New Member
Posts: 4
Nao Nomura
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 25, 2013, 22:33

The Witness! The portrayal of Amish culture in the movie is quite well done, but what fascinates me most is the mainstream American's fascination and imagination of the "other" within their own culture expressed in popular culture.

And of course, Superman that reflects contradictions in American society.



Geoff-
Hamilton
Administrator
Posts: 172
Geoff Hamilton
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 26, 2013, 19:30

Wonderful choices (each of which -- esp. Superman -- were 'Foundational' in my own experience)!
Tom's post about cinema's role in creating a national narrative reminds me of the way in which, growing up in a small Ontario city, cinema itself seemed American (that impression is, I'd assume, widely shared across much of the globe, though I guess things are changing now with the rise of Hollywood rivals).

For my cinematic Founder, I'll go for... E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, which was mesmerizing not just because of its charismatic alien, but for the portrayal of seemingly unparented children, left alone to shape their own fortunes ('They get to do whatever they want!').



Jason B
New Member
Posts: 2
Jason B
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 27, 2013, 00:49

In terms of relatively concrete and political concepts of America, the Michael Moore films have clearly influenced many of my students here in Slovenia. Students gobble up Sicko and Bowling for Columbine and come away with a sense that they (we?) understand American politics completely.
Lasting influence? Hard to say. For the past few years, however, any classroom discussion of health care has been informed - on the students' side - by these films. ...and I don't even teach American studies!



Brian-
Jones
Veteran Their American
Posts: 25
Brian Jones
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 27, 2013, 18:22

Quote from Jason B on October 27, 2013, 00:49
In terms of relatively concrete and political concepts of America, the Michael Moore films have clearly influenced many of my students here in Slovenia. Students gobble up Sicko and Bowling for Columbine and come away with a sense that they (we?) understand American politics completely.
Lasting influence? Hard to say. For the past few years, however, any classroom discussion of health care has been informed - on the students' side - by these films. ...and I don't even teach American studies!

This all seems dead-on to me, Jason, and very well put.
Even with my far greater (Canadian) exposure to American culture, I would say that Moore certainly evokes my (and many people's) most virulent impression of America.
I suppose he seems an icon of American 'free speech' to many, and thus a sort of sacred cow; but still I am amazed that Snowden should be vilified for self-effacingly telling the truth--'thereby endangering the lives of Americans, at home and abroad'--while Moore's self-serving propaganda continues to do Americans, America, and by extension the world at large, far greater damage.
-------
G. Aguillon: America as James Dean himself: wounded and brooding, because its ideals are too pure, but radiantly dangerous and seductive.
I was (mostly) with you on the first half, G, but would have thought that most cultures had their share of these 'Romantic' figures, no?
-------
(I'm so obviously with you, Tom, on 'America as cinema', that I shall remain silent, to avoid charges of Neuschwansteinism.)
-------
Nao: The Witness! The portrayal of Amish culture in the movie is quite well done, but what fascinates me most is the mainstream American's fascination and imagination of the "other" within their own culture expressed in popular culture.
And of course, Superman that reflects contradictions in American society.

Only in America could the Amish be the 'other', and a guy in a funny costume, from Krypton, fit right in.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'contradictions' here, Nao; care to explain?
As for the Amish, for whom I have the greatest respect, they seem to me to stand in an interesting contrast to the Islamic (and American) fundamentalists, especially in the separate peace they've found with--and within--the heart of America, even at its most violent. Witness their response to that unthinkable slaughter of their children in the one-room schoolhouse in Pennsylvania:

On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, "We must not think evil of this man." Another Amish father noted, "He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he's standing before a just God." Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."
A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts' widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts' funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.
(Wikipedia)
And this separate peace is nonetheless integral, I think, to the heart of America. Somewhere deep down, beneath all the Mooreish sound and fury, they know the Amish have it right.
They too wish to embrace and to forgive, to heal and rebuild, to be peacemakers and agents of mercy and gentle justice.
And then they get blown up.
But still they somehow, against their own natural revulsion (and 4 out of 5 Republicans), struggle to embrace Cordoba House, a stone's throw from Ground Zero.



Nao Nomura
New Member
Posts: 4
Nao Nomura
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 28, 2013, 02:40

I second Jason for Michael Moore films. At the same time, documentary films (not only Moore's but others as well) always remind me of the concept of "partial truth" in ethnography that "documentary" is also socially constructed and that cultures are more complicated. I will get back when I have more time to think with what I mean by "contradictions"!



AnyaH-vdL
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
AnyaH-vdL
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 28, 2013, 03:47

I'd agree about the Michael Moore films, which were quite influential here, but mostly for an intellectual left-wing audience, and also about The Whitness and would like to add The Graduate and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to the category of films which depict being "the other" in your own culture.

As we're already talking about super heroes, what about dance movies (Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Footlose, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing)? For me, as for many German teenagers in the late 70s and early 80s, those were my first exposition to American culture in the cinema. They are certainly not politically influential and I hesitate to include them in the category of "founders" but they can tell you quite a bit about youth culture in the US. I also learned a lot about being "different" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Also, can we include TV series in this category? Because I remember that I first got an impression of the cultural differences between Germany, Britain and the US by watching The Streets of San Francisco and the British series The Professionals, which ran on German TV roughly at the same time in the late seventies. If you compare those to the relatively sedate depiction of police work and mostly upper-class culture by German TV series at the time, it was quite an eye-opener. Or maybe TV series should be in a category of their own? I can certainly think of foundational TV series, which shaped our impression of the US, just think of Star Trek or Dallas and Dynasty.



Wyatt Dick
Veteran Their American
Posts: 42
Wyatt Dick
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 30, 2013, 09:11

I grew up in Canada, in an upper middle class suburb of Ottawa. America was our neighbor. There was no language barrier between us, and so America was everywhere. No one film or book could ever introduce me to America; it was as if I was born knowing all about it. Or so I thought. And as a white, upper-middle-class suburbanite, most of the Americans in film and on television seemed just like me. Sure, America was bigger, and so they had to run the world. But we Canadians were helping them do it; and I figured we'd probably be doing the same things in the same way if the job had somehow fallen to us.
So when I think back to what movies changed how I saw America, I think of the films that first challenged this faith I had that Americans were just like us--that I was essentially a part of America. Two films that did this for me were Apocalypse Now and the Deer Hunter (and later Platoon and Full Metal Jacket). I saw these films when I was young—maybe too young. I think I was around 13 years old. I rented them both on the same night, making a theme of it as I often did.
There was something about the Vietnam War that felt foreign; that made America feel foreign to me for the first time in my then young life. Some of this feeling may have been generated simply by the powerful portrayal of characters from different backgrounds--from different races and 'classes'. But it was more than that. These characters were showing me the differences between our countries in a way that '70s and ‘80s television sit-coms, full of prosperous and educated white people, did not. It was as if the educated and wealthy white upper middle class in our countries had sort of glommed together. We were, in some sense, all the same. But these characters from an ‘other’ America were moved by deep currents—deep American currents—that were wholly unfamiliar to me. I wasn’t even sure we had any deep currents in Ottawa.
The Godfather trilogy and, to a lesser extent, the spaghetti westerns of Clint Eastwood had a similar effect, confirming this feeling of otherness I first felt watching the Vietnam War movies; filling it out by adding new dimensions to it. But my strongest memories are still of watching Apocalypse Now and the Deer Hunter for the first time.



krstevenso-
n
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
krstevenson
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 23, 2014, 18:49

I think I would have to choose Gone With The Wind as my cinematic founder. Gone With The Wind is the classic American war drama and romantic film. Without a doubt, romance and war are two of the essential themes in American culture. The Civil War was a major historical event in America, which inevitably influenced the immense popularity of this film. Also, taking into account that the film is told from the perspective of white southerners-- the dominant group in society at the time-- we can infer the great success of the film from this factor as well. The portrayal of the Civil War, accompanied by the quintessential American (white, heterosexual) romance between Scarlett and Rhett, made for a huge on-screen success. This film definitely paints a perfect picture of traditional American culture and the values embedded within that culture.



amruelland
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
amruelland
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 23, 2014, 18:53

Forrest Gump is a classic film that completely embodies what life was like in America in the 1960s. This movie shaped how I not only viewed America as a whole but how I viewed societies role in the major movements of the 1960s. This movie really shows the differences between Canada and the United States during this period, it made America seem very foreign in comparison to Canada. The film showed the struggles that many people were faced to deal with in this period, it brought my attention to how America developed from the Vietnam war and anti-war movement. This is one of the first films i watched that allowed me to see a different side of America, it stepped away from the classic romantic comedies that i had watched previously, and brought my attention to how different and complicated America was during the 1960s. This film shows a side that is not offered in many educational movies on the realities of life in the sixties dealing with war, protests, drugs, and AIDS. This film touches on so many social and political issues and how America went about dealing with them, it really challenged my idea of America being a superb powerhouse and made me realize that as a nation America has a lot to work on.



markcruz
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
markcruz
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 23, 2014, 22:34

For me, a lasting cinematic take on the American experience is best summed up in Dennis Hopper's 1969 film Easy Rider. It depicts the decay of the freedom that America once promised. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper play bikers living in something of a rebellious fantasy, they travel against the grain of an America that will tolerate them no longer. The film is an excellent example of 'americana;' wide shots of the desert, open plains and motorcycles all represent a romanticized ideal of a country for many. However, the tragic ending of the film says something about the true nature of America, that it does not deliver on all of its promise.



simpson
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
simpson
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 24, 2014, 16:40

Bull Durham (1988)

Love, wisdom, redemption and exceptional talent filtered through the most all-American lens, professional baseball. Kevin Costner plays a journeyman catcher asked to mentor an idiot with a million dollar arm, played by Tim Roth, in the Carolina leagues. Costner hates that his professional career has been reduced to teaching some punk how to make it to The Show, something he only achieved once, and only briefly. Roth hates that he has to listen to this gruff old man tell him what to do. Of course they both fall for the same woman, Susan Sarandon, and compete for her love and attention. Costner's the kind of talented guy who was just good enough to keep playing baseball all his life and did all the right things. Roth is the kind of idiot birthed with once in a generation talent and no clue how to use it. The conflicts between privilege and determination, lust and love, young and old — that's America, at least to me.



liz.k
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
liz.k
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 24, 2014, 20:53

For me when I think of the cinematic foundations of America I think of Robert Altman's Nashville (1975). This movie is an excellent spectacle of American nationalism and American exceptionalism. In this film, the American Dream is delivered saturated in a layer of satirical commentary that almost comes full in realistically portraying the American country western/folk scene of the 1970s. There is no doubt that the film is declaration of americana as it touches on issues of sexism, racism, adultery, power relations, as well as the defiance of the law and social norms in order to pursuit one's own desires and dreams. After seeing this film for the first time, I felt that despite the lengthy venture, that I would definitely and gladly watch Nashville again. The movie left me with a lasting impression of Americans as nation who is cool calm and collected on the outside while it crumbles internally, imploding further with each year that passes by. Many of the characters in the film displayed a strong sense of competitiveness and general hysteria around avoiding failure and achieving indefinite success for themselves; sure symptom of capitalism. To me, a lot of the content in this film lined up neatly with American values and ideologies loosely connect to the Christian worth ethic. The film itself is a wonderful spectacle of flashy and thought provoking costumes, grand performances, and emotional explosions , all while maintaining a floor of critical commentary in relation to the state of American society in the 1970s.



Kathleen-
Fox
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
Kathleen Fox
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 4, 2014, 21:27

Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is an American drama film that was co-written, produced by, directed by and starring Orson Welles in 1941. Contemporary movie buffs understand Welles' archetypal connection to Quentin Tarantino; meanwhile, historians continue to consider Welles' role as cinema's 'renaissance man'. Arguably, Citizen Kane's revolutionary role in modern cinema still resonates today. For the most part, Welles' innovations in cinematography and story telling have proven his work to be foundational of modern film production. Whenever I am lead to consider modern film's relationship with modern literature, it is always Citizen Kane that resurfaces. This is likely because of the way in which Welles revolutionized the narrative's place within film. For the first time, the character of Charles Kane and his flashbacks provided audiences with an escape into their own memory; perhaps, it is film's greater capacity to move large audiences that continues to drive individuals to theatres. (on a separate note, it is this effect that reinforces film's connection with emotional universalities) The movie eschews traditional narrative styles by providing multiple narrators that are unreliable and manipulative. While modern film was evolving a tendency to challenge traditional cinematic conventions, as was American modern literature. Even before Citizen Kane was produced, American authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Charlotte Perkins Gilman were challenging the role of the narrator. Moreover, I think this specific similarity between film and literature is something worth considering when discussing the reality of criticism; critics have not only popularized the comparison between film and literature (particularly, as films and books compare as works of entertainment rather than art) but the industry of journalism has made this comparison habitual. Overall, considering how much of this conversation can be credited to Welles' narrative work, it seems fair to suggest that Citizen Kane's screenplay is also deserving of literary recognition.



acormier2
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
acormier2
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 5, 2014, 12:18

Grease. In terms of clothing, language, food, music, and the stereotypes and social structures that appeared in the movie, Grease really shaped my idea of what it was to be American, and especially the ways in which America has changed over the decades. I saw America as it was in the 50s and was able to compare it to how America is now, observing the social and cultural progressions that have occurred. I also saw a certain type of social mobility in the film; when Sandy wanted to turn into a greaser, she did just that without much struggle. It seems to reflect the American Dream in some ways; you can do whatever you set your mind to and succeed.



ZTownsend
Novice Their American
Posts: 5
ZTownsend
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 5, 2014, 13:32

I saw that Superman was mentioned, and I found myself thinking of Captain America (2011). The first film is fairly recent, so I wouldn't say it 'crystallized' my vision of America but reflecting back on it, the film, which took place during World War II, showed how all Americans came together regardless of gender, status, or ability to support the war effort, and the theme of the movie, which is the 'underdog' rising, draws parallels to America's own struggle with Britain.



jmlevesque
Novice Their American
Posts: 6
Janelle
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 5, 2014, 14:51

American Beauty (1999) is a film which cinematically captures the plight of American modernity, expressing it, as modern writers have, as a precarious space where what was once authentic and rational has been replaced by the simulacra of fragmented realities—a society wherein traditional social mores and milestones no longer represent a linear trajectory toward happiness. In addition to its overtly American title, its overarching theme is the pursuit of happiness, making it a sort of allegory for the declaration of independence, and an emblem of American life.

Happiness is pursued in many conflicting ways in American Beauty (notable are materialism, career success, and hedonism) ultimately reflecting its status as a hypothetical construct and a subjective goal which is often pursued blindly under the guise of American ideology. The result is the irony of deep unhappiness which becomes weaved into the modern American narrative. However along with this bleak picture of America are vignettes of Lester Burnham's nonconformity in his conscious efforts to become happy by his own means through living a hedonistic lifestyle of drugs and taboo sexual encounters. He represents the hopeful potential for individualism and self-derived happiness, in spite of the conventions and ideologies that make up the American dream. Lester's character can be viewed as an Emersonian, a fish against the current, rejecting the trappings of modern American life.

The American ideal of the family is so familiar that it evokes a cookie-cutter picture of suburban living, heterosexual marriage, and children. American Beauty is successful in dismantling the institution of the family as it is seen in the American public eye, revealing the intimate details that occur behind closed doors. Lester is a square peg within the "perfect" family, and the bridge between appearance and reality—the public and the private. His tendency to question his reality and reject ideology was undoubtedly the task of so many great literary figures of the modern era.



melissafio-
relli
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
melissafiorelli
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: October 23, 2015, 18:40

The concept of "cinematic foundation" is both broad and yet very refined in its scope. On one hand, a variety of classic American movies quickly emerges in my mind that perfectly fit this title. However, selecting one that takes the title as "cinematic foundation" seems like a daunting task. Naturally, my mind wanders to my favourite American movie of all time, "Good Will Hunting." Though at first glance it may not appear as foundational as the likes of "Gone With The Wind," "To Kill a Mockingbird" " or "A Street Car Named Desire" it nevertheless has always provided me with a clear picture of American life.

At the core of this movie is the concept of the "American Dream," an obsession that seems to infiltrate every individual in America. For those of you who have not yet seen this classic film (and who I urge strongly to see within the near future), a quick summary seems beneficial. Essentially the movie follows the life of a young, poor and unambitious, though wildly intelligent man, who by unfortunate circumstances, is forced to cross paths with a passionate professor-turned- psychiatrist. This young man named Will, is nothing more than a janitor in a prestigious college, who unlike much of America, seems to be unconcerned with the "American Dream." Despite this, and with the help of this passionate professor, Will is motivated to use his extraordinary intelligence to aspire for much more than the rudimentary, and follow his personal "American Dream." In this sense, "Good Will Hunting" paints a wonderful picture of America as a land of opportunity, a foundational element I have always associated with America.

On a deeper and more personal level, this movie redeems the title of both my number one movie and an American "cinematic foundation" for the manner in which Robin Williams' and Matt Damon's characters find the beauty in everyday life. The quote that has forever engraved itself in my mind is when Robin William's character discusses the beautiful flaws of his deceased wife , "she knew all my little peccadillos. People call these things imperfections, but they're not, aw, that's the good stuff. And then we get to choose who we let in to our weird little worlds." It is this simple and yet deeply American mind set of viewing otherwise negative situations in a positive light that makes me choose this movie as cinematically foundational. Moreover, after having read works by the great American poets, Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens in my 20th Century American Literature class, their similar positive tone further reaffirms this foundational American mind set of unrelenting positivity.

Although "Good Will Hunting" may not depict the classic American home in the suburbs of America, this movie will remain as cinematically foundational in depicting American life for the way in which it conveys not the landscape, but instead the heart and passion that is at the very core of America.



SarahVanSi-
ckle
New Member
Posts: 1
Sarah Van Sickle
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 4, 2015, 12:06

I think Casablanca is a classic film that shaped cinema. It has so many iconic phrases that people still use today ("Here's looking at you, kid" and "We'll always have Paris"). I watched it in one of my classes in high school and almost all of my classmates enjoyed the movie, even though it is in black and white and is from 1942. Rick has been compared to President Roosevelt, so the film is very American.



MoriahA
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Moriah Altmayer
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 20, 2015, 16:14

At a young age I was introduced to the movie Independence Day. Ah, so many things I could say about the movie today, including that is highly unnecessary for television networks to air it every independence day. This movie shaped my knowledge of America. In the movie the Americans are the ones who figure out how to destroy the alien ships, showing the "innovative nature" of America and the how America obviously still wants to perpetuate their ability to end wars. Yet, as a young child watching the movie, the understanding I grasped was that America is a place of violence and it is unsafe. Sure the movie ends on a good note, yet my vision was fixed. Now, I see the movie as a cheesy and overdone movie that shows Americans trying to prove that they are still one of the best country in the world, which is a highly debatable point.



AlishaP
Novice Their American
Posts: 9
AlishaP
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: November 30, 2015, 23:00

In grade 7, I remember reading and watching The Outsiders (1983) from Francis Ford Coppola. It was one of my favourite movies to watch because of its American cast, humour and story about friendship and redemption.
This movie follows the story of Ponyboy, his friends and family as lots of teen drama and angst occur. He and his friend Johnny find redemption after committing a crime – which they are able to do by saving children from an abandoned church. Unfortunately, his friend dies and leaves him with the message to “stay gold” referring to Robert Frost’s poem.
His friend Johnny, wants him to stay out of trouble and do better. His life purpose was completed and now he wants Ponyboy to do much better and succeed in school. This is the classic idea of the tragic hero – he sacrifices himself for the greater good. The concept of the “American Dream” is one that all of the characters want to achieve, but their social standing and situation are in the way. They all want to have better lives, homes and a strong family unit to rely on. This is something that many movies have in common, which is why people enjoy them and can relate to some of the characters.



MoB
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
MoB
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 1, 2015, 16:30

I saw the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? once when I was a little kid, and definitely read it—mostly thanks to all the southern accents and loud manners—as kind of cartoonishly American. I watched it for the first time since then a couple nights ago and was really impressed with how perfect and layered a representation it is of American pastoral nostalgia. The time period of the film’s setting wasn’t clear to me at first, and I initially placed the story in the 19th century. Its actual time setting starts to come into focus with the introduction of the radio. Folksy music is played in transition from one scene at Pete’s relative’s (a perfect “backwoods settler” type) to another, and in the second scene the music fades, becomes tinny, and a radio announcer says (something like) “can’t get enough of that old timey music!”. In its introduction of the radio the movie places the story in the 20th century by association with technology, portrays the exploitation of a puerile and sentimental pastoral fixation (the musicians are endorsed by a character running for governor who identifies with the music as advertising), calls attention to the mechanism of the film itself by drawing attention to the transitional nature of the music , and also to the film’s motive by in a way declaring itself as also appealing to its audience’s impulse towards the “old timey”. Through this complex referencing to the film as a contemporary object within it’s temporally removed story, and the few scenes (the montage and the siren scene come to mind) suggesting an idyllic American timelessness, the movie actually manages a really interesting portrayal, almost an exposure more than a representation, of whatever it is I had understood as cartoonishly American when I first saw it.



stephen
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Stephen
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 2, 2015, 00:04

The Goonies, a film that follows a group of teenagers as they go on an adventure in search of treasure. The film even though it is a children's film, is one that paints a picture of the middle class American and they struggle that they go through living in America. This is even relevant today as the middle class is disappearing. While not as iconic as Grease it is still a film that still shapes the view on both American youth, and American ideals.



LillianOBD
Novice Their American
Posts: 6
Lillian
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 2, 2015, 13:34

While not the first movie that I have ever come in contact with which gave me an impression of the United States, I think the film San Andreas (2015), perfectly encapsulates the America I've come to know. Starring Dwayne "the rock" Johnson this 3D action thriller centres around the fictional scenario of a massive earthquake. Johnson the hero must work against nature and all odds to rescue his wife and daughter. Over the course of 3 hours Johnson, saves and entire stadium full of people from an after-shock, drives up a tsunami wave in a small boat and uses a helicopter to rescue his wife from the roof of a collapsing building that is on fire. In his role as an all American super-hero Johnson typifies the exceptionalism within the american consciousness that is recognized world-wide. One (american) man is capable of defying nature in order to protect the things that we are taught to value in the American Culture. In this modern-day movie, a puritanical streak can still be detected, Johnson must rescue his wife, because her soon to be new husband is inept, in the end Johnson and his wife reunite and the rival dies- thus the sanctity of marriage is preserved. Johnson's daughter in the film, demonstrates the american ingenuity and resilience which other countries do not posses when she is forced to protect two young british boys who she falls in with in order to escape the quake. The american female must pull a large piece of glass out of the poor british boy's leg as he is too squeamish to do it himself and literally carries him on her back to safety. At the end of the movie, the happy reunited family stands on a hill looking happily into the sunset as an american flag waves in the breeze. This film typifies the continued influences of exceptionalism and puritanism which founded America in the first place and for me encapsulates perfectly how americans view themselves and what sort of idea non-americans are supposed to get from these sorts of representations.



Freya
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Freya Fernandes
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 2, 2015, 22:04

There are so many great American directors that have influenced cinema. I am an English major, and a Film Minor at the University of Toronto, so studying some of the greats has been fantastic and truly inspiring!

Of course the Hollywood studio system gave the world some of the most loved films in the world, such as Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and West Side Story. Modern filmmakers such as Spielberg and Moore have given us Forrest Gump, and Bowling For Columbine. Recently I had the chance to see Twelve Years A Slave, and it was a haunting, tragic, and powerful story of slavery in the South. The history of America is so rich with stories, and I'm sure there are many more stories to tell! These films all capture both the spirit and the imagination of America, a land of many dreams!



JulianaB
Novice Their American
Posts: 9
JBubs
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 6, 2015, 11:50

For me, the first movie to really demonstrate American attitudes came from Forrest Gump, which also happens to be one of my favourite novels. To start off with, I know some people dislike Forrest Gump for the same reason that I love it: it takes pieces of every genre and mashes them into one cohesive story. Coming of age, the triumph of the underdog, the war hero, the romance plot to underline everything, Jenny's drug use to demonstrate the 60's, and 70's in America, and Forrest's appearance in the abolitionist movement.

I've been watching this movie all my life, and it's a funny realization that the most quotable parts of the movie tie very closely with different representations of America. "Run, Forrest, run!" This comes in an early scene in which Forrest is being bullied for his mental disability, and in that moment, with his wonky legs, no one can save him but his own two feet. While bullying wasn't something new to me, it was this depiction of a disabled person triumphing over the abled that really stuck it for me. This scene also demonstrates some of Emerson's attitudes towards self-reliance.

Forrest's friendship with Bubba surprised and delighted me as a child, that they could have such a simple friendship in a time when they historically wouldn't have been close. Forrest unconsciously breaks down barriers and creates friendships with people of every background.

The movie demonstrates countless moments of rehabilitation and triumph. It presents characters at their lowest; Lieutenant Dan's post-war depression (due to the loss of his legs), Jenny's heavy drug use that almost causes her to commit suicide, and yet it gives them a chance at redemption. With the help of a simple, caring, loyal man like Forrest, they pick themselves up again. Both are major characters who are represented as some of America's "lowest" citizens. It demonstrates some of the attitudes towards users and the disabled: women call Lieutenant Dan a freak, a low point for his character, and yet considered in contrast with the scene where he jumps off the fishing boat, and swims "with God", he has finally accepted his situation and the hand he has been dealt. From that point on, he no longer feels sorry for himself, and continues on his pursuit of happiness.

There is a real special scene in which Forrest is attending university at the same time that they are allowing people of colour to join his school, and most of the reactions are angry and negative. Forrest looks on the scene, completely puzzled. What's the big deal that they're joining our school? As the woman of colour passes by, she drops a notebook without noticing, and Forrest leaves the crowd of angry protestors and returns her notebook. Not only is he breaking away from normative thinking at the time, he is supporting the education of POC and of women.

I'd like to suggest that it is Forrest's "simple mind" that allows him to love everyone and break down these barriers. In a school bus full of white children, it is a girl who offers her seat to him. In a school bus full of white men, Forrest offers his seat to Bubba. Forrest demonstrates the goodness of a human heart, in a world that will throw rocks at you, belittle you, and continually tell you that you're stupid. Lastly, this movie represents all the possibilities that America has for you: "Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get."



Brian-
Emmerson
Experienced Their American
Posts: 11
Brian Emmerson
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 6, 2015, 15:23

I feel I should put out a film I was introduced to at a young age that provided a counter-ideology to American perceptions. Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of American cinema, but one that had a significant political effect on me was Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun. It's a rather grim portrayal of war, but not in the on-location sense exemplified in films that portrayed more realistic depictions - such as Saving Private Ryan - or even glorified the valour of soldiers and a country. Johnny Got His Gun focused on one soldier stuck in limbo, having lost his limbs and most his senses from a bomb, reduced to a blind, deaf, and mute head-and-torso. It exemplified war horrors in the aftermath with the main character stuck in a purgatory of living yet being unable to see, hear, or interact with their surroundings - all he could do is think and breathe. It is quite an extreme, but reflects anti-war attitudes that became prominent in the country, especially as the country was currently involved in the Vietnam War. I feel, though, that the condition of the main character trapped in their body can be applied to soldiers entirely - as pessimistic as it may sound. I come from a family with ties to past wars - my grandfather, who is still alive today, served in the entirety of World War II and survived the Dieppe raid - but despite my family connections and respect for those who serve in the military I cannot deny the sense that soldiers are, by purpose, denaturalized and devalued as people and are merely repurposed as bodies to be used. For the main character of Johnny Got His Gun, he loses practically all his abilities to interact with his world, and is reduced to a mind trapped in a body with no release (although he does manage to breach this through the feeling on his skin and morse code). I feel as though the ideal soldier is one that is dehumanized, and Johnny Got His Gun shows dehumanization in the literal sense. The film's a bit preachy, but it left an impact on me, and I can always recall the one propaganda heavy line - "For democracy, any man would give up his only begotten son."



Olivia-
Penney
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Olivia Penney
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 7, 2015, 13:23

One of my favourite genres of movies to watch are war movies, particularly about the conflicts during WW1 and WW2, knowing that my grandfathers, great uncles, great aunt, and great grandfathers all played different roles in these various conflicts, my grandfather being part of the Canadian Troops that helped to liberate Holland. Whenever watching these movies about World War Two in particular, I would always feel a certain "American" flavour surrounded them, probably because they were all about American troops fighting valiantly, and winning. ("Saving Private Ryan" comes to mind) I was always disappointed that there were not movies, that were accessible to me at least due to availability or language, about different countries. A few that do come to mind are "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Joyeux Noel" (thank goodness for subtitles) as well as the Canadian "Passchendaele". That being said I do think that "war movies" are a very interesting examination into what being "American" means, as conflict often has the side effect of nations coming together and looking to define themselves.



Kristina-
Vassilieva
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Kristina Vassilieva
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 7, 2015, 21:46

One my favorite American movies is Into the Wild. It simultaneously embodies and rejects two great American ideologies: freedom and consumerism.The protagonist abandons his life in society to be free of its corrupting influences and live on his own in the wild. His travels remind me of many things including early settlers struggling to survive in harsh conditions and of people displaced in the 1930's by the Great Depression seeking better fortunes. His journey embodies the American Dream and the quest from freedom. However, when ever has the American Dream involved the forsaking of material possessions? In this way, it is also a rejection of habitual American excess. This movie seeks to define what it means to live inside or outside modern American society and is refreshingly critical of American national identity and the way what it stood for has changed since the American revolution.



SN_America
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Ahsan Moghul
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: December 7, 2015, 22:25

Recently after reading Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, I really have been thinking about the discourse of the American Dream. Malcolm X would remark that all he could see was the "American Nightmare" and its seems more than ever that Gatsby, Myrtle and George represent many of us in an age of affluence; we are all outsiders looking in on a culture of exclusions. The rise of reality tv shows such as American Idol, sadly allows for the illusory change to "make it" in an age when the majority of us will live and die in the class we find ourselves in. All of this reminded me of the persistence of the Dream that holds us hostage but we do not have the courage to deconstruct. Take for example the film Forrest Gump, it is a wonderful ride with Tom Hanks on the American experience; however this dalliance with nostalgia is a simulacra that keeps us fixated to yearn for that America where anything is possible. Forrest Gump is a conservative narrative, painting the SDS and Black Panthers as chaotic hoodlums and covering up closure of the American Radical Imagination and provides and invigorated neoliberal American Dream that we are beholden to. Jenny becomes the totem of a wayward generation, cinematically shown as cruel to Forrest, as she mucks about in American counterculture. An antidote to this covering up can be found in Tony Kushner's Angel's in America; which shows the historical carnage of Forest's tender moments during the Aids crisis.



Kristina-
Vassilieva
Novice Their American
Posts: 8
Kristina Vassilieva
Re: Cinematic Founders
on: April 8, 2016, 16:06

After watching The Martian I was reminded of the American concept of settling a frontier. Space is the next frontier which is being explored as a potential for settlement or colonization. The character Matt Damon plays has to fend for himself in the hostile, unwelcoming environment of Mars to figure out how to survive. This echoes Turner's concept of the American frontiersman as an independent and able explorer. A similar theme is explored in other movies about space like Interstellar. After having nowhere left to explore and settle on earth, Americans are taking to space in order to find a new frontier. To me this suggests a lingering nostalgia of the frontier days which has become entrenched in American mythology and continues to be romanticized. In The Martian, the main character ponders how wherever he goes, he is always the first. This privilege of being able to claim the first impressions of a new landscape are similar to the exploration narratives of the first settlers of the Americas. There is wonder at the landscape, a feeling of awe at the expanse, potential and emptiness. The reality however, was that the Americas weren't empty and had vast populations. They were ignored because this romantic ideal of open country was just too good to pass up. This raises the question of whether the frontier should always be pushed, and whether new territory should always be settled. Perhaps the hope that one day humanity could colonize another planet takes away from the concern of solving the problems on our own.

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