Friday Sep 22

KyleCogar Kyle Cogar is a professional writing major at Waynesburg University. He writes for the campus newspaper for the Arts & Life section. Kyle has two years left at Waynesburg and will continue his education at graduate school so that he may become a professor of literature and creative writing.
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I often find myself curious at how the media influences the general population. A unique example of this is in film and television. Films have generated controversy over the years through the subject matter or the amount of sex and violence that appear within the films. Sex and violence, two already controversial topics, are often significantly magnified on film to increase the level of shock appeal. In some films, violence and sex are meant to convey a message. The violence is used to show how horrible a person is or how much someone has suffered in their life and the sex is shown in an unappealing way in some films to show the degradation within society.

Personally, I think sex takes away from the film but in some occasions its necessary. For example, in films like Schindlers List and A Clockwork Orange, sex is shown in a degrading manner. Schindler is shown to engage in premarital sex to show that a person known to be a savior of Jews was a very morally flawed human being, also showing a bit of irony in the situation. Alex DeLarge is shown to be a sexual deviant so that the audience hates him at first. However, by the end of the movie the audience almost sympathizes for Alex in the way that he is tortured.

Most films nowadays are filled to the brim with sex and violence, making them moneymakers but not artistic masterpieces. However, I have noticed that this is mostly prevalent in American Films. The European films are incredible in their own way. They still show sex but it isn’t frank. The sex scenes I have observed in Euro films are often discreet in the way the camera hits the people going at it and the way people are often in the shadows. The violence in Euro cinema is similar. It is often very realistic and not over the top, like in American films. You won’t find a car spontaneously combust after getting shot by Tom Cruise in the back tires. The explosions are realistic, so realistic you’d think an actor just died.

I’ve dwelled on film too long; time to talk about television. Television nowadays is absolute crap and I mean that in every way possible. Reality television is the worst thing to happen to television since Farscape and Firefly got cancelled. This unholy trash is celebrated by the youth of America for some reason unbeknownst to me. There is one show in particular, so horrible I cannot say it by name, that makes me embarrassed to be Italian. However, people find this show entertaining for some awful reason. Why? It is six almost thirty year olds showing the world how bad their parents raised them and I don’t care if it offends you by saying that. However, one silver light among the darkness that is television exists: The Colbert Report. The Report is hosted by Stephen Colbert, who used to star on the daily show with Jon Stewart. The character Colbert portrays is a die hard, gun obsessed Republican is both a doctor and knighted individual. However, despite his somewhat questionable politics, he has a large, devoted following of fans that applaud him at his every turn. In 2010, he proved how devoted his fans were by hosting a rally called the “Keep Fear Alive” rally. The rally was in essence a parody of Glenn Beck’s rally a few weeks earlier.

So what is the point of what I have been saying? The point is movies and television can have a cultural impact due to the large number of people who love a specific movie or television show. If a movie breaks new ground in plot or cinematography, then future movies will copy that style to try to be as successful. If a television host or show has a devoted following, then that show will continue to be a part of pop culture through its fan base and its actual plotlines.

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A Clockwork Orange: Art or Filth?

 

When you say the title “A Clockwork Orange”, usually two things come to mind: the violence or “I’m singin in the rain…” However, this is a film that has continually divided both movie and book audiences. Is the film an art film or its unusual content and perception of the dystopian world in which they live or is it a piece of trash that should be forgotten. I have to go with the former.

Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation is considerably different than the book mostly in the depiction of the characters. The characters have no last names in the story whereas the protagonist of the film is christened “Alex DeLarge”.  There is no mention of the white jumpsuits, Mardi Gras masks, or black combat boots. The clothes in the book are mentioned to be very colorful and fashionable. However, the clothes are simply part of Kubrick’s vision of Anthony Burgess’s novel. Another Kubrick mention is the presence of the sexually and anatomically inspired artwork and architecture throughout the film. The purpose of this seems simply to add more shocking content to the movie, to make it more memorable.

The film stars a young Malcolm McDowell as Alex but contains a cast of lesser knowns who pick up the supporting roles. McDowell is pure sociopath in his role as Alex, at least to some.  The protagonist or antagonist  based on how you look at it, beats, steals, and rapes his way across the screen in a shocking swathe of brutality. Is it possible for the audience to feel anything other than disgust for this human being? Is it possible to feel sorry for a fifteen year old vandal and hedonist? Kubrick challenges that in the shocking depiction of Alex in prison at the end of the film. Alex is strapped to a chair and forced to watch gruesome acts in an attempt to “scare him straight”. It eventually works as Alex is actually terrified to commit acts of violence or even to listen to his music. Who can forget seeing that boy with the hooks pulling open his eyelids and screaming in terror at what he sees? He is trapped in a world where he can’t defend himself. By showing him in a vulnerable state, Kubrick almost makes the viewer feel for Alex. Alex’s streak of bad luck continues in the final minutes of the film where he encounters the man whose wife he sexually assaulted. I won’t say the ending due to the fact that I do not want to ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen the disturbingly brilliant masterpiece.

Alex ‘s hedonistic character is one that has become more commonplace in film. In the 1995 film “Kids”, the entire male cast seems to be copies of Alex. They enjoy committing acts of violence while also committing acts of rape and sexual misconduct on a younger group of kids. The movie, like “A Clockwork Orange”, was savaged for it’s depiction of sex and violence in teenagers. However, as time goes on it begins to become more commonplace for films to feature teenagers getting hopped up and being set loose on the world.

So going back to the original question, is the film art or trash? Well, it can also depend on when you are looking at it. If someone who saw it in the seventies were asked, the answer will more than likely be trash. However, if you ask the youth of today if it’s trash or film art, chances are high that art or freakin awesome will come up. I admire the film for its ability to shock people, even today, with its frank depiction of violence, and a psychotic protagonist, a person you love to hate. The film is art that was released too soon. If it were to be released today it might have fared better than it did back then. Its status as a cult film is evidence to the fact that todays youth, including myself, find the film fascinating, and compared to films of today, it must be noted that the violence is actually fairly light. However, I digress. The film is indeed a piece of art, albeit a piece released too soon for an unprepared audience.

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