Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: American Tragedy

By Alec Horowitz

Michael Jackson will always be remembered as the iconic king of pop. He had the bestselling album of all times. His music videos are classics, from John Landis’s “Thriller”, with Jackson in the street, dancing with zombies, singing “It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the night” to Martin Scorsese’s “Bad!” and songs like Billy Jean, with the ironic lyrics proclaiming the “kid ain’t my son!” to the bizarre commericialism, no one can deny that Jackson’s cultural impact is huge. He leaves behind an amazing body of work. From the ABC’s of the Jackson Five to the moon walk. Though, he also leaves behind something a bit more unusual too. He lives behind a mystery, a mirror of the dark side of American obsession and a story that can simply be described as tragic.

Jackson also leaves behind a story of a man who injected himself with chemicals to change the pigment of his skin. A man who didn’t understand that sharing a bed with children wasn’t appropriate. From his bizarre behavior of holding his children over the edge of a hotel, to his front-page scandals and a trial where he was accused of molestation, Jackson was something more than just a successful pop star. It would be too easy to pin Michael Jackson as a creepy pedophile. The media deemed him “Jacko!” and comedians had a blast making fun of him. Though, what made about Michael Jackson’s scandal clad career different from other careers is that Jackson was obviously a mentally ill man. He always seemed unaware of the serious problems he faced.

All you have to do is look at what Michael Jackson became with his pale skin, and his childlike behavior. He became a gentle monster, dancing on the roof of a car right before he was to go on trial , like he was treating it like a music video. It brings back the image of the bizzare scene where Jackson stands on top of a car, screams, breaks the windows and holds his pants in the middle of the music video, "Black and White". What do we make of Michael Jackson now that he is gone? Do we remember the cute kid? Do we remember the man doing the moonwalk? Do we remember the pale skinned man he became? Jackson is someone I have enjoyed over the years. His music was wonderfully done. He was a major talent. Looking at different phases of his career and life, he seems like was three different people and each person just went deeper and deeper and became just more bizarre.

He made us dance. His music will live on forever. Though, the man became was a mystery. I don’t know what to make of him. He was forever trying to chase a childhood he never had. He made his home his fantasy. He made his home into never Neverland, and the little boys he had around him were the lost boys. Michael Jackson was obsessed with Peter Pan. He seemed to have wanted to be Peter Pan, and he wanted the boys to be around. Though, maybe Jackson sadly even missed the point of his own obsessions, as he was overcome with his mental illness and had less and less touch with reality.

Michael Jackson made his fantasy a prison he built himself. His fantasy world became his obession. His Never Never land became the dream that never existed, and the childhood he chased but could never catch. Michael Jackson wasn’t Peter Pan. He was forever, deep down inside, behind the mask of the King of Pop. He wasn't Pete Pan, as he loved to think of himself as. Jackson did grow up, but he tried to fight it.

He was hanunted by his father's cruel abuse. He was tortured by mental illiness, unaware of the world, as he worked hard to create a private fantasy world of his own. He was the mirror of the darkest half of American culture. He was obessed with youth. He was abused and haunted by a youth that was all showbiz and no play. Jackson was a victim of himself and a victim of a culture that became him and infected him. His life a American treagedy. His being became a American freakshow. At the end of the day, he was somewhere between a child and a man. He wasn't Peter Pan. He was one of Peter Pan's lost boys. Michael Jackson had his heart in the right place, and a talent that could be just described as genius. Though, when it came to reality, he was tragic. He told his grip on reality to beat it. Just beat it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Great Movies: Best Years Of Your Life? Think Again?

By Alec Horowitz

What a cruel and heartbreaking movie to watch. Though, what a refreshing realistic piece of work that honestly talks about how school was for so many of us. You won't find any romanticism about childhood or what it's like to go through school in this film. The 1995 debut film by Todd Solondz, “Welcome To The Dollhouse” is about one of the most realistic films ever made about school. The story is about a bullied 7th grade girl, her nerdy brother, her crush on an older guy who has a local band, and her parents who worship the ground her attractive younger sister walks on. Your more likely to find truth in this girl played by Heather Matarazzo than any of the usual clichés that often populate high school films. In a time when teenager movies focus on a teenager’s biggest problem of whether to have sex, “Welcome To The Dollhouse” stands out as a relatable and realistic film. Maybe it’s because it is an independent film that allows it’s main character, a lonely and troubled 7th grader named Dawn, to make us say to ourselves “Yeah, that was me as a teenager".

So many scenes in this film resonate with the truth about how cruel childhood can be. One scene that speaks volumes is a scene where Dawn is standing over her sister’s bed and she finds a hammer. She considers using the hammer on her sister, holding it over her head. Then she decides not to, and puts the hammer down to her side, and looks at her younger sister laying in her bed. A lesser movie would have had a moment where she says something clichéd about how she loves her sister deep down inside. Instead, she just looks at her sister and makes a statement of true feelings. “Your so lucky” she says. In another scene, Dawn asks her sister, who is named Missy, why she hates her. “Because you are ugly,” says Missy.

Dawn realizes she isn’t the only one with sibling problems. One of the kids who harasses Dawn in her school, goes so far as to say he’s going to “rape her at the end of the day.” Brandon brings Dawn out back the second day to the fences by the school, where he plans to “rape” her as he puts it. Instead he doesn’t do what she expects. He instead opens up to her about his brother, who he says is a retard, or as his brother is officially called, “mentally handicapped”.

Dawn than finds her sister is kidnapped and her parents pay even more attention to her sister than ever. She goes out, looking for her sister in New York City. In one of the most cringing scenes, Dawn is put up in front of the school, encouraged to thank them for their support while her sister was missing. We know that they didn’t support her and so does she. Though, she goes through with the thank you speech, but without a forced smile. Lets not forget that Dawn is only in middle school. She asks her brother if things improve in high school. He gives her a piece of advice about high school. “They call you names, but not as much to your face,” he says. As a former teenager, I couldn't of said it better.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Review: It's Logicial, Captain

By Alec Horowitz

Four Stars

The new ‘Star Trek’ starts off like a common adventure film that yells ‘J.J. Abrams’. A ship going down and a mother having a baby is rushed through the corridors of the space station in a wheel chair. Yes, we Trekies know what is coming. For those of you new to ‘Star Trek’ and haven’t seen the films, read the hundreds of novels, and have all the action figures lined up next to your computer, let me explain: this new child is going to be James Kirk. Kirk is going to grow up to become the misled kid who needs a place like Starfleet Academy to set him straight. Ok, because we have many new people to our mist of Trekies, let me explain. Starfleet Academy, though, it feels like Hogwarts in a few early scenes. It came way before Harry Potter and that media franchise.
Though, I want to appeal now to the fellow Trekies who are angry about a reboot of our flawless perfect beloved cannon. Fellows, lets give this new ‘Star Trek’ a chance. I, for one, loved it. This film is going to introduce ‘Star Trek’ to a whole new generation. True, maybe there aren’t as many long scenes of people just talking to each other about science fiction mumbo-jumbo, as we would like. I say lets start off with a colorful action film like we have here. The kids can get into longer talk scenes in the squeal. Don’t worry, it will come, and one other thing, Trekies: yes, I’m sorry but William Shanter and Leonard Nimoy can’t play these characters forever. As William Shanter will tell you himself: get a life.
Now that I’m done talking to Trekies, let me talk to the rest of you. This is a wonderfully fun film. Like ‘Harry Potter’, which finally made being a wizard sexy, the new ‘Star Trek’ film does the same; it makes being a Starfleet commander sexy. It’s been a long time since being a Starfleet commander had some sex appeal. Yes, early on in the film, I was a bit worried. Some product placement, a car chase in the Iowa corn fields and in one scene seeing Starfleet Academy look a bit like Hogwarts had me worried that this was going to try too hard to be hip. Then the film redeems itself before it loses ground completely to hipness. Zachary Quinto does a good job of continuing the tradition of an emotionally unemotional Spock who struggles with his attempts at human emotion, being torn between two worlds.
Chris Pine makes James Kirk an attractive kid, worthy of having his poster hung up in any teen girl’s bedroom. Zoe Salana is really great looking as Uhura, and her kissing with Spock does remind you why nerds love Star Trek. Heck, in real life, many nerds are like Spock. Pine Spoke is that cold alien, who shows small signs of human emotion. Also, the attractive James T. Kirk doesn’t seem to be getting the girl. The cold, intelligent and emotionally defunct Spoke does. Now, only in a Star Trek universe, does that seem logicial.
Anywhere else but 'Star Trek' does being a nerd seem so cool (expect for maybe Harry Potter). If Spock and James Kirt where competing for Uhura in a real setting setting, maybe high school, instead of the USS Enterprise, Spock seeming to have a relationship heating up with Uhura, instead of Kirk, would be, dare I say, illogicial captain?