Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The 1986 film Platoon about the Vietnam war, starring Charlie Sheen was written and directed by Oliver Stone to counter the 1965 film The Green Beret directed by John Wayne which was written during the war and was used to counter the strong anti-Vietnam opinion among the public at the time and managed to obtain full co-operation from the military and the President Lyndon B. Johnson. Now that the war was over Stone wanted to portray what life was really like for soldiers who fought in the war, as Stone served in the military and fought in the Vietnam War and Wayne did not.
A professional film critic Roger Ebert describes this film as portraying the worst part of war with no 'standard hero' and describes the narrator of the film; Charlie Sheen's character as being 'quickly at the point of physical collapse, bedevilled by long marches, no sleep, ants, snakes, cuts, bruises and constant gnawing fear.' Ebert says that the film does not make war look fun, and that is what Stone wanted, it seems he did not want to glorify war by making it with 'energy and a sense of adventure.' The film shows what war was really like.
Even this film poster that was used shows the dispare of the soldier and was used to recreate a famous photograph in 1968, during the war which has been named one of the greatest military photographs.
Following on from last week’s discussion on 1980s music, I have posted another Billy Joel video. This is his 1983 song “Goodnight Saigon” which is a moving tribute to friends of Joel who fought in the Vietnam War. Whilst I don’t see this as a protest song, following on from watching “We didn’t start the fire” last week, Joel seems to be able to use his song writing skills to draw attention to issues he feels strongly about. I also see a thinly veiled criticism, both in terms of American involvement in the war initially and the treatment of veterans on their return. The lyrics of one line of the song “They left their childhood on every acre” refers to the young age of the soldiers that fought and died, as another 1980’s song by Paul Hardcastle shows, the average age of those going to Vietnam was “Nineteen”.
The video uses a live performance of the song interspersed with images of soldiers, helicopters and guns together with backing vocals provided by a group of Vietnam veterans which also suggests to me that Joel was highlighting the plight of those coming back from fighting and feeling alienated from society. The song was released at a time when American society was beginning to become much more aware of the plight of the veterans, many of whom had been badly neglected on their return from war.
I found lots of comment on this song – some critical as Joel never served in the military and others, some veterans, who appreciate the sentiments he is trying to portray. Personally, I found the song to be a genuine expression of Joel’s thoughts on the conflict but as with any song, it is open to individual interpretation.
The film shows that once he is overseas his "gung-ho enthusiasm" and patriotism turns to horror and confusion when he accidentally kills one of his own men in a firefight. His downfall is furthered by a bullet wound that leaves him paralyzed from the chest down. He returns home, spends an appalling, nightmarish stint in a veterans' hospital, and follows an increasingly disillusioned and fragmented path that ultimately leaves him drunk and dissolute in Mexico. However, Kovic somehow turns himself around and pulls his life together, becoming an outspoken anti-war activist in the process. The film is long but emotionally powerful; many consider it Stone's best work. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/born_on_the_fourth_of_july/
The reviews of the film received many positive reactions and even today on Rotten Tomatoes the film holds a score 89% of positive reviews by critics. Many critics also praised Tom Cruise's performance and Oliver Stone's direction of the film. Stone would later be awarded with an Oscar and a Golden Globe for directing while Tom Cruise received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
The Vietnam War was the first war the was hugely televised globally and its portrayal in the media was the first of it's kind in raising angst against a military mission abroad in the USA. These feeling continue today with the Vietnam war and more recently the troops in Afghanistan.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The series of Films, Rambo depict a huge legacy of the War, but also uncover very relevant issues surrounding suffering soldiers. 'First Blood' was released in 1982, the first of the Rambo series featuring Silvester Stallone was an awakening to America. The film exposed relevant issues surrounding treatment of Vietnam veterans in modern society. It had become acceptable to hate the war, so people did, but this left veterans in a very difficult situation, and viewed as war criminals and not heroes despite their personal suffering and sacrifice. John J. Rambo was a Special Forces Officer who is still reminded of his war days through harrowing memories and fears. On a trip to Hope, Washington, Rambo is met with intolerance and insolence, he is not welcomed as a hero but as someone to be shunned from this small town society.
This nonacceptance towards the Vietnam War echoed popular judgement in America at the time, Rambo attempts to create a realisation through the entertainment industry, along with making the American rebel cool. Rambo is a memorial symbol of the Vietnam War through entertainment media, depicting perhaps exaggerated, but relevant issues surrounding Vietnam veterans living in the United States.
The book Fallen Angels is by Walter Dean Myers and was published in 1988. It tells the story of a seventeen year old called Richie Perry and his experiences when he fights in the Vietnam War in 1967. The book focuses on displaying the horrific nature of the war, with Perry witnessing many of his fellow soldiers die as well as members of his own company torture and kill innocent people. Therefore Fallen Angels firmly portrays a negative reaction to the war, with the waste of life and the true realities of combat becoming key themes throughout the book. As a result, it displays that the Vietnam War was not worth the sacrifice and by describing how terrible it was for the soldiers involved and what they had to go through, it condemns the abuse and treatment returning veterans received when they first returned from Vietnam
Fallen Angels is similar to the film Platoon which was released in 1986 which also focuses on the negative side of war. Both texts portray sergeants and generals as either being ruthless and not caring about their soldiers, or as not being not fit to command, thereby questioning the leadership of the American forces in Vietnam.
In conclusion, the aim of this book was to show the reality of the Vietnam War and as a result portrays a negative image of the war. As this book was aimed at young adult readers, it could have also had the aim to prevent the next generation of young Americans from joining the army if another war arises in the future.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
But since I gave you all a little something that I knew you lacked
They still consider me a new jack…
The follower of Farrakhan
Don't tell me that you understand until you hear the man
1989 saw the end of the 80's, and it also saw the release of Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire'. Billy Joel is a notorious history buff and his number 1 hit lists a plethora of historical people and events in his verses, from Truman to Watergate. Aside from being a massive hit, We Didn't Start the Fire marks a moment in American History. Coming at the end of the 80's, the single almost put a full stop on the decade, whilst providing it with an important summary. This is in relation mostly to the chorus, and the line 'We Didn't Start the Fire' can be understood in a number of ways. For example, it could be an almost apologetic statemtent on behalf of America for events that have been caused in the past. Or, it could be an example of American exceptionalism, and a portrayal of Reagan's America. Or, as Billy Joel mentioned in one interview, it could be a nostalgic look at world history and a presentation of a lack of meaningful history created by the 80's generation. Whether this is true or not however, is left to debate.
As for a song that will be around in 30 years, i have chosen Katy Perry's Firework. This is for no other reason than that it adheres to all pop conformities, and realistically nothing keeps a song around more than it sounding good, and even if Katy Perry's look dates in 30 years with time (surely not, right?) nothing stops the power of a good pop song.
The Replacements - Here Comes a Regular
Well a person can work up a mean mean thirst
after a hard day of nothin' much at all
Summer's passed, it's too late to cut the grass
There ain't much to rake anyway in the fall
And sometimes I just ain't in the mood
to take my place in back with the loudmouths
You're like a picture on the fridge that's never stocked with food
I used to live at home, now I stay at the house
And everybody wants to be special here
They call your name out loud and clear
Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one here today?
Well a drinkin' buddy that's bound to another town
Once the police made you go away
And even if you're in the arms of someone's baby now
I'll take a great big whiskey to ya anyway
Everybody wants to be someone's here
Someone's gonna show up, never fear
'cause here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one who feels ashamed?
Kneeling alongside old Sad Eyes
He says opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut
All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy
The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts
First the lights, then the collar goes up, and the wind begins to blow
Turn your back on a pay-you-back, last call
First the glass, then the leaves that pass, then comes the snow
Ain't much to rake anyway in the fall
In the post-punk era alternative rock bands were on independent record labels and were being played on college radio as documented in the song 'left of the dial' by The Replacements in a nod to turning the radio dial to the alternative stations. Alternative rock was popular with disaffected youth culture and those excluded from conventional society and the Reagan regime, with no prospects for the future, working in dead end jobs and turning to drugs and alcohol as escape. Alt. rock reflected the alienation of the minorities within the dominant popular culture. This song captures the real mundane life of humdrum America and the failure of the American dream as they are waiting for someone to call their name and be 'special' but they're just a 'regular' person and also being a regular customer at a bar. There is also disillusion with the capitalist and consumeristic lifestyle in the lines 'All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy'. The condradictions of the American dream can be seen in the arrival of 'grunge' in the early 90s (a successor of alternative rock) in the rise of Nirvana, as at the same time as their album 'Nevermind' went to number one the lead singer Kurt Cobain was sleeping in his car with no home.
This is part of a BBC documentary about Alternative rock:
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
This is one of Cyndi Lauper's most famous and successful songs; 'Girls just want to have fun', a song that has been described as one of the feminist anthems of the 1980's. It was significant for many reason, firstly for the message it portrays through the song as well as the music video; that 'girls just want to have fun' and not become a housewife, like her 'mother' at the beginning of the video, or the good, sensible girl that her father wants her to be. The video makes a point that it is girls of all races that can have fun, Cyndi Lauper's group of friends in the video include girls of all races. It also shows the men following the girls, dancing in the street, leaving their jobs, rather than the girls following the men to work, and men from different backgrounds, builders to business men, and of different races.
Cyndi Lauper and this song are also significant because of the influence it had on popular culture at the time and feminism & feminine attitude. It also set fashion trends and paved the way for other artists such as Madonna who went on to later sport similar fashion choices to Cyndi Lauper in her music videos such as 'Like a Virgin' which went to number 1 in 1984, a year after this song went to number 1 all over the world. Madonna became an icon for her music, but also became an icon for her fashion in the 80's.
What is also interesting is that Cyndi Lauper the lyrics for this song from the original song written by the musician Robert Hazard as she felt the original dealt with the girl pleasing the man.
This song represents the 1980's because it touches on the emergence of third wave feminism that defined women as powerful and in control of their own sexuality, but also the fact that women are of many different colours, ethnicities, religions, nationalities and cultures.
I have chosen Pink's 2011 song 'Fuckin' Perfect' as she deals with issues of beauty and the idea of beauty in American society today. The video was used to raise awareness of teen issues such as bullying, depression, eating disorders, self harm and suicide. The video follows a young girl who is left out by her peers and begins to steal and becomes anorexic in an attempt to fit in with the girls who are seen as beautiful. It also sees the young girl beginning to accept herself by going against society's idea of beauty and cutting off all of her hair and eventually you see her as as an adult and happy. The song, along with a few others that year went on to influence MTV to introduce a new category at their Video Music Awards titled; Video with a message. Although it lost out to Lady Gaga's 'Born this way' it has still paved the way for more songs that deal with issues other than love. I think this song represents today because it deals with the issues of today, just like Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls just want to have fun' dealt with the issue of the 1980's of feminism and gender roles, this song and video deals with the issues that are present today, which are the image of beauty portrayed by the media, and the issues that teens have to deal with such as depression and self harm.
Therefore I think this song is a fitting attribute to contemporary America and globally, not just for the music industry but for what is going on in the world. With not only the lyrics describing how Beyonce will leave her mark on the world and the song being a "career song", which was seen by some critics as strange because she is still very young. But also the video itself shows Beyonce's life over the past few years, how it has changed and what has made her career so far. It is for these reasons that I think this song can be seen as a representation that could still be seen thirty years from now.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Cameo are a Funk/R&B group from New York which formed in 1974 but enjoyed their greatest period of success throughout the 1980s.
During the 1980s there was a change in music genres as music reviewer Alex Henderson describes, “Having a killer horn section was something that a lot of 1970s funk outfits prided themselves on, and it was no fun when, in the 1980s, they were told that their horns sound dated and that urban contemporary audiences only wanted to hear synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines.” Due to Cameo changing their sound in order to cater for this new type of music, they became pioneers of the genre, while still retaining aspects of popular music in previous decades. They released tracks which featured highly in the general charts as well as becoming dance hits such as word up, candy, she’s strange and back and forth. By becoming staples of the dance scene, Cameo represented the section of 1980s youth which wanted to go out and party every night.
Cameo were a very eccentric group, with their videos regularly featuring comedy elements, such as mad dancing, bizarre fashion and celebrity cameos. They also lightly mocked other popular music genres at the time such as rap. As a result the group seemed to have developed a “don’t care” attitude which was reflected in their songs,repeating points about doing what you want and not caring what anyone else thought. Cameo therefore relates to the youth culture of 1980s, where doing what you want and partying regularly was the goal, linking to the attitude of the characters in Less Than Zero.
The second video I’ve chosen to represent the contemporary is a moment like this by Kelly Clarkson which was her first single after winning the first season of American idol in 2002. I’ve chosen this video as it represents the growing trend of talent shows which are now hugely popular and now take place annually all over the world, looking for ranges of talent, music, dance etc. In regards to American music, there have been many programmes all featuring a similar format, with American Idol featuring a series every year since 2002 and new shows such as the Voice and American X Factor debuting in 2011. These types of shows have therefore dominated both the television schedule and news headlines of recent years and as a result define this period of America. It also represents the commercialism of present day American society, in which everything is done to make a profit, be it in several music contests every year in order to find that one big money making star, or in the financial markets which could lead to negative consequences such as the recent recession.
The 1980s gave us an insight into some of the greatest rock and alternative music, the emergence of glam rock and stadium rock brought out some of the greatest artists of our time. Bands such as Kiss, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi emerged and grew extrememely popular. With a focus on Kiss and their 1987 hit, 'Crazy Nights'. It is one of their most famous songs, an inspirational, stadium anthem that has not lost it's relevance or popularity. Stadium Rock remains as popular thirty years on because of its timelessness, its relevence to people, it's catchy, memorable lyrics and exciting videos thanks to the development of MTV. Stadium Rock brought rock and roll into show business and the increased popularity of going to music concerts which were becoming bigger and better made it even more entertaining. Shows needed to be big, glamourous and loud. These Kiss songs were written to be played loud and have become anthems through their undying popularity. The 'Crazy Nights' Album was released in September 1987, Reagan was President of the United States, U2 were becoming popular in the United States and controversial issues surrounding the IRA in the UK and Ireland were rife. Music can be an outlet for political and domestic issues in the world at the time, it can be both controversial and insightful.
It is difficult to find a place in today's music where Kiss were in the 1980s, arguably we have so many different genres and sub-genres, in an age of youtube sensation, making it possible for young voices like Justin Beiber and Rebecca Black to be heard, has music simply become a 3 minute gimic? Not exactly, there will still be memorable music from our generation in thirty years time, arguably artists such as Ed Sheeran from the UK, but from America, perhaps Green Day will be the rock band we remember in thirty years. '21 Guns' is a relavant song uncovering social issues and feelings of apathy towards politics and war. They are known for their political angst and through some of the lyrics of '21 Guns' it has often been referenced as a questionning to US Military agendas, particularly in the War in Iraq, many of their songs have denounced their feelings of Patriotism, particularly in the 'American Idiot' album released in 2004. We have seen a surge of post 9/11 music and particularly within rock and alternative which allows the more controversial opinions and ideas and also often relates to the young working class. Through bands such as Green Day, Good Charlotte and Linkin Park we are exposed to this idea of the modern punk and the underclass who are under the thumb of the US government.
The first video I have chosen for this weeks task is "Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer". "Livin' on a Prayer" is Bon Jovi's second single from their Slippery When Wet album. Written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora with Desmond Child, the single, released in late 1986, was well-received at both rock and pop radio and its music video was given heavy rotation at MTV, giving the band their first #1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. As a solo artist, Bon Jovi has received numerous awards for his work, including a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination for his solo hit, "Blaze of Glory". He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Monmouth University in 2001. As I mentioned earlier Jon Bon Jovi's music was unusual as it was a mix between pop and rock. This rock aspect was strange as he was not controversial, the only spur of the moment act was sneaking off to Las Vegas to marry his high school sweetheart. Despite his "normality" his music was hugely popular and continues to be even today.
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, born March 28, 1986, better known by her stage name Lady Gaga, is an American singer and songwriter who was born and raised in New York City. Lady Gaga came to prominence as a recording artist following the release of her debut album The Fame (2008), which was a critical and commercial success that topped charts around the world and included the international number-one singles "Just Dance" and "Poker Face". Lady Gaga is recognized for her flamboyant, diverse and outré contributions to the music industry through fashion, performance and music videos. She has sold an estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time and her singles some of the best selling worldwide. Her achievements include four Guinness World Records, five Grammy Awards and 13 MTV Video Music Awards. In my opinion Lady Gaga is by far one of the most controversial artists in today's society. With constant costume changes, backup dancers, and provocative visuals, Gaga's music videos are often described as short films. "Being provocative is not just about getting people's attention. It's about saying something that really affects people in a real way, in a positive way," she professes. Exploring bondage and sadomasochism in addition to highlighting prevalent feminist themes, "the three central themes that shape Lady Gaga's music videos are sex, violence, and power", says one critic.
Unlike Jon Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, is controversial however Bon Jovi will be remembered now and Lady Gaga will be remember in 30 years time. I feel that Lady Gaga's music will be evaluated from a feminist point of view and is definitely a large influence in today's society.