It was recently announced by Deadline that, beloved Marvel character, Spider-Man would no longer be present in the MCU due to legal issues with Sony. Since the Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man films back in the mid-2000s Sony has owned all film rights for the usage of the Spider-Man character. However, in order to include Spider-Man in the MCU, Disney, who owns Marvel Studios, made an agreement with Sony. Up until now that agreement had long stood and carried them into Spider-Man: Far From Home.
The deal was simple and went something like this: Marvel would only attain 5 percent of first-dollar gross. So that initial box office day Sony receives an overwhelming amount of that. It seems like a bad deal until you realize that their agreement also meant that Disney would get one hundred percent of all merchandise sales. Which if Frozen was any indicator means that Disney would receive adequate compensation for the usage of the Spider-Man property.
Now after the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home and the announcement of the fourth phase of the MCU, Disney came back for a new deal which ultimately shook their creative ties with Sony. Disney’s new deal entailed a fifty-fifty co-financing arrangement between the studios. However, seeing that Spider-Man: Far From Home had just become Sony’s highest-grossing film of all time, they obviously declined the offer entirely. So now it would seem that all future MCU endeavors would have to continue without Spider-Man and any film using that IP would no longer include Kevin Feige as the lead producer.
However, this isn’t the only messy part of the story. Sony Pictures took to twitter to tie up a few loose ends and explain their thoughts on the matter specifically about Feige. The internet wasn’t ecstatic about it, to say the least. The hashtag “SaveSpidey” is now trending on twitter guided by a large group of people that have no idea what they’re actually talking about. Many are quick to villanize Sony for their apparent lack of understanding but simply just taking a step back to analyze the situation further will make the situation more clear.
Firstly, its about money for both sides. Many are claiming Sony is greedy simply because they didn’t want to extend the deal toward Disney more than they already were but one has to understand that this deal has stood for as long as Spider-Man has been in the MCU. That’s a three-year deal Disney was trying to completely flip on its head right after Spider-Man: Far From Home became Sony’s top-grossing film since Skyfall back in 2012. It’s astonishingly obvious why Sony would be hesitant about sharing their most valuable property.
Secondly, Sony has always owned Spider-Man. The Sam Raimi trilogy of Spider-Man films is essentially what kicked off the superhero film craze that has since become an industry standard. They got to the property first and did it playing square. It is their property which they are licensing out to another company. What they’re doing isn’t slimy or corrupt, it’s business.
Thirdly, it was Disney’s decision not to continue the deal and Feige’s to leave. There were plenty of negotiations that could have been met but Disney was simply not interested in that. It was reported in the Deadline exclusive that, Sony representatives did attempt to make configurations to their original deal, likely ones that would have accommodated their already established agreement. However, those were declined as well. So they reached an impasse and Disney ultimately dropped out and Feige severed ties with Sony himself. All due to the fact that they couldn’t take half of a property they never owned, to begin with.
It’s incredibly easy to shift the blame on to an unpopular company. Sony, who completely failed with their Spider-Man reboot back in 2012 and 2014, hasn’t received the best press since and isn’t the only offender in this situation. I implore everyone to look at the finer details before judging the two companies. Is Sony the lazy money-hungry entity trying to take credit for another company work or are they simply trying to take control of a property they own from an industry powerhouse that already owns many others? Well, that’s really up for you to decide, because with great power comes great responsibility.
Euphoria is another one of those, teenage centric, celebrity produced, originals that, in the same vein as 13 Reasons Why, attempts to capture the true wonder and mystery of adolescence. Over the span of a few months, its garnered a very large fanbase and many are calling it one of the most brutally honest depictions of teenage life on television. While I beg to differ since this show was created by a man who hasn’t been in high school in 16 years, beneath all the dramatization there are a few painful truths that lie beneath.
Based on an Israeli series of the same name, Euphoria was created by Samuel Levinson, an American actor, screenwriter, and director. Much of the show was based on the original series as it prominently features teens struggling with a life that mainly consists of drugs use and sex. However, Levinson’s personal struggles with drug abuse during his formative years also served as inspiration for those sections. That is the main crux of the story. The drug abuse, the misery that is bound to come with it, the struggles of attempting to quit, and the despair of failing several times.
When asked by an ATX representative about what separates Euphoria from the ongoing slew of dark, teenage melodramas, Levinson gave a non-commital answer saying he believed it was up to the audience to find their own answer. While this isn’t necessarily false it’s definitely unsatisfactory. So in an effort to defend a show I genuinely enjoyed, I will attempt to answer this question as well as how it holds up against actual contemporary highschool.
Firstly no, Euphoria is not the most realistic depiction of teenage life. It nails some things, completely misfires on others, and at some points just barely misses its mark. I will always maintain that the most realistic depiction of teen life is one that will actually cast teens as its lead actors. However, what Euphoria manages to ger right are typically what matters most to its central plot. Let’s discuss that first.
The drug addiction elements are right. The main character, Rue, throughout the show faces the ongoing challenge of substance abuse. The pain her family, friends and fellow NA members feel are very much indicative of how their real-life counterparts feel. Most people around me ended up falling into drugs during my high school life and along with them, I was forced to suffer the consequences. It’s the most gripping part of the story and therefore is most informed by real-life experience. I was never stupid enough to fall into such tendencies so my experience was very similar to Maude Apatow’s character Lexi Howard.
Lexi is a bystander, silently watching, and sometimes subject to the antics her drug-crazed, hormone influenced friends and family often find themselves getting into. She’s the one with the least amount of issues on the show and is also my favorite character. One may call her lazily written but there are a lot more Lexi’s out there than one would think. In the last episode, her character starts to get deconstructed which is all too real. She is mainly seen interacting with Rue despite the fact that her older sister, Cassie, is another prominent character in the show.
Cassies struggle has to do with her reputation and how her life is affected by it, which is another pretty realistic part of the show. During the show, she dates another character Mckay who just so happens to be in college. This is pretty common in high school but the most faithful facet of it has to do with how Cassie is typecast. She has to deal with the “slut” stereotype and because of that, she is treated differently by most men in the show. It’s somewhat painful watching this character interpreted. The only other couple on the show is Nate and Maddy which encapsulates the on again off again abusive couple. From their relationship derives the internal struggles between both of them characters which are pretty real in themselves.
I suppose if there was one thing that the show really struggled with it was with its writing. Toward the last stretch of episodes, the writing really begins to unravel and reveal awkward plot elements and holes. What Euphoria fights with the most is a classic case of “people don’t talk like that” or in this case “teenagers don’t talk like that.” While it may sound like I’m generalizing a lot here there really are some moments where the kids don’t really talk like kids.
I understand that there are some liberties that have to be taken as an adult writing for youths. However, some moments are utterly uncharacteristic. I do like that each character has their own level articulation, in the sense that some are very clearly more eloquent than others. However, in some cases, this has put Levinson into a corner and at times he’s had to make some characters more rational than they should be. Personally, I think Rue shouldn’t be as intelligent as she is in the show. She’s a drug-addicted teenager who as far as I know never excelled in school. While that doesn’t necessarily inform social ability as far as I’m concerned she should be grunting to communicate. It’s especially annoying during her moments of narration, she speaks like she’s reading off a script and not like she’s coming up with these thoughts herself.
I understand the initial question I posed was what made Euphoria stand out among its contemporaries however I wanted to explain those things before I answered it. I think what sets Euphoria apart from other shows like it, is that unlike them it doesn’t feel like a product. 13 Reasons Why has a commercial purpose, it attempted to jackpot off the current trivialized view of depression society has. On the other hand, Euphoria is very much a story personally tied with Samuel Levinson. Yes, it’s based off another show but Levinson purposely parallelled his life to it in order not to muddle its artistic integrity.
Euphoria isn’t a cautionary tale about drug abuse, although one could certainly take it that way. It’s more so telling the story that’s gripped its creator since their childhood. Look at the artistic choices in the show, its cinematography and focus on spectacle rather than the message. Even the last episode, despite being structurally faulty, the very final scene is so stylishly flared that its impossible to not recognize the passion and heart behind it. Euphoria is this surreal package that is just as confusing as the point of your life that it focuses on. It’s a good illustration of the simple fact that for as long as time continues to tick, the mystery of adolescence remains a mystery.
Inspired by a recent breakup Ari Aster has unveiled the follow up to his directorial debut film; Hereditary with an equally disturbing cult horror film simply titled: Midsommar. The film treads slightly different ground from his previous focusing entirely on an unsettling cult hidden deep within the Swedish forest. It’s in a similar vein to the cult seen at the end of Hereditary except they’re much more gruesome and frightening.
The film tackles themes of grief and the many struggles associated with a relationship. The film itself is very much as Aster describes it, “a breakup movie.” Whereas Hereditary focused on the horrors associated with family Midsommar takes a much more personal approach and focuses on two characters who are dating.
Once again, much like Hereditary Aster uses these dynamics in order to deconstruct them as a whole and for a second time, every young character seems to be really into drugs.
Throughout the film, the main couple, Dani and Christian, struggle with their intrinsic differences. The audience watches as their relationship slowly unravels before them all culminating into an astonishing climax and ending.
It’s everything you’d expect from a cult horror film but much more. Ari Aster’s cinematography and writing sensibilities seem to only get better with everything he sets his mind to. Lucky for cinema his time of filmmaking has only begun.
In many ways, Tony Stark and The Mad Titan Thanos are very similar people. However, in many other more significant ways they are fundamentally different. There was a popular meme that circulated that posed the question of six children and three chairs. Many famously said that Thanos would rather kill three of them while Tony would build three more. While it’s certainly meant to be more humorous than anything else, this also perfectly demonstrates the crucial disparity between Tony and Thanos. Regardless of their similarities, they will always be marked by one stark contrast, pun intended.
The battle between Tony and Thanos is one of the few solo battles any avenger gets with the mad titan. Its purpose is instrumental to the overarching character progression of Tony and the overall tone of the film. Infinity War is very much about Thanos rather than the Avengers. The story is about his journey, to achieve what he believes is a perfect balance. Throughout the film, the audience is constantly reminded through his misadventures that behind almost every villain is a person who truly believes they’re right. Recall that once confronted about his heinous actions by his daughter Gamora, Thanos claims he’s the “only one that knows” that the resources of the world are finite.
The battle between Tony and Thanos is as much about brains as it is about brawn. The power of Tony’s sheer intellect has surmounted itself into his nanotech, armor that can literally morph itself into anything he desires. Thanos’ infinity gauntlet is the epitome of his endeavors he spent who knows how long meticulously planning. It’s abundantly clear both of these men are intelligent. Thanos himself claims that they’re both “cursed with knowledge.”
While the audience has been aware of the underlying similarities between the Mad Titan and the Ironman this is the first time we’ve been made overwhelmingly aware of it. From this, its clear Thanos considers Tony and equal in some respects. Tony refuses to accept their similarities and in his usual snarky fashion responds to Thanos with, “my only curse is you.” Then, the fight ensues.
The fight itself is rather short, at only a minute and a half long. However, much is shown in that battle that adds to both characters. Tony was the first Avenger to make Thanos bleed, a feat that is made much grander once you realize the Russo Brothers have gone on record to say that Thanos has invincible skin. This truly shows the extent of Tony Stark’s power and intellect and, on the other hand, how even at his most powerful, Tony still couldn’t win. Even so, Thanos is impressed if not a bit patronizing. When he tells Tony that he has his respect it almost sounds completely genuine. This line also serves as a reinforcement of the duality between the two.
The battle between Tony Stark and Thanos is one of the most important of the MCU. It’s defining, climactic and most of all, entertaining. These are two larger than life characters bought together by what seems like fate finally meeting face to face. It’s as grandiose as it sounds, and a true spectacle. If only it didn’t end so bitterly.
I believe the nicest part of watching a John Wick film is that you don’t need to watch them in order. I watched John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum with almost no knowledge of the previous two films and I was still able to enjoy it thoroughly. Were a few plot points and relationships unclear to me? Sure. Did that affect my overall enjoyment of the film? Not in the slightest. In fact, John Wick 3 accomplishes a lot more in its relatively confining genre than its other contemporaries. Action films are about very few things. I’ve overheard a lot of my friends call films like John Wick “brain dead movies.” While that may seem like a rather demeaning term I believe it succinctly describes an entertaining concept. It’s rather refreshing to not have to think so hard about a film and enjoy it for the pure spectacle that it really is, and I think the John Wick franchise captures that idea perfectly.
Another one of the many things the John Wick series of films does well is theming. At the start of John Wick 3, the audience is immediately thrown into the dark side of New York. The parts where angels fear to tread and only the worst criminals would even dare to inhabit. It’s a rather cold open but I think it fits nicely considering the rather dark tone of the film. This immense focus on world building is what makes John Wick a cut above the rest. When the stage is set so purposefully it makes the inevitable action that is bound to come along with it a lot more comprehensive and enjoyable. As I said before, even with no explanation I was still able to get into the film and its plot with relative ease and I believe that’s what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. John Wick uses its simple story very effectively in order to make itself more accessible.
While I still haven’t watched the previous two films it’s my understanding these things have been a precedent throughout the series. Here are a few other things John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum does well that I’ve been told has been done well in the previous films.
Fight scenes with no music
A film with no score is like a body without bones. It is an integral part of storytelling that can be used for better or for worse. It is incredibly difficult to score a scene however it is equally as difficult to know when not to score one. However, John Wick 3 is one film that understands when not to score. Many of the early fight scenes in the film have no soundtrack at all. The only sounds that occupy the empty space are the grunts of Wick and the various foley sound effects. Music is typically used to make a scene more tense and exciting but John Wick subverts this common practice opting to take a much more immersive approach. This, in turn, accentuates the ambient sounds and physical noises of the characters. Necks snapping, flesh tearing, arms breaking, and in one scene, horses kicking, all of it sounds and feels so real. As a member of the audience, you really feel like you’re in the film watching it happen live. Long takes and handheld camera movements also add to the overall sense of immersion of the film and when combined with no music John Wick truly feels authentic.
Amazing sound design
Every sound is so loud it feels like everything has been dialed up to eleven. Remember the first gunshot in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and how that was so loud and impactful? Well, imagine that for an entire film. Every gunshot fired, every bone that breaks, every piece of glass that shatters can be heard with a disturbing amount of clarity. This, once again, adds to the authenticity of the film. It makes every punch and hit seem that much harder. There were times where I actually found myself reacting to the punches on screen. The quality of the sound effects is also incredibly polished. There was obviously a great deal of care put into making everything sound and feel realistic.
This is one of the more strange things about John Wick 3 but its something I found to be one part comedic and another part fascinating. Often times in films the subtitles are like this omniscient part of the screen. In English speaking films whenever there’s a scene that calls for subtitles I always wonder why they even needed to do it. I’ve maintained the idea that subtitles ruin the immersion and my overall suspension of disbelief. However, John Wick 3 has a different way of doing subtitles. Instead of doing static text at the bottom of the screen, the subtitles themselves are alive and part of the scene. A lot of latent intent can be derived from reading the animated text. It’s quite difficult to explain this idea adequately without any visual aid but honestly, it’s more something to experience than to simply see.
Overall John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is a good film. Action movies are often grouped within their own little field of mediocrity but what ultimately sets them apart are the choices made by its filmmakers.
Recently, I watched, jazz musician and YouTuber, Adam Neely’s video on Whiplash titled “Whiplash (as reviewed by a jazz musician)” which aimed to critically analyze the film from the lens of a jazz musician (obviously). As I watched the half-hour video I noticed a few areas where his analysis may have become a bit confused and because of that, I decided to create this article as a coupling to his piece. This is in some respects is a response to his video. There are moments where I will reference his video, and possibly discredit it, however that is not the complete purpose of this article. Neely is analyzing the film from his perspective and in no way is his interpretation of the de facto definition of the film. He doesn’t attempt to claim that anywhere in the video and you won’t see me try to claim that here either. With that disclaimer out of the way, I will now explain what exactly I will be doing.
I noticed in several interviews director, Damien Chazelle expressed that Whiplash was autobiographical of sorts. Much of the film was inspired by his experiences in his competitive high school band. With this in mind, I decided to interview five real senior high school band students who had seen Whiplash to better understand the relationship between the film and real-life school jazz bands. For the sake of privacy, only their initials will be used to differentiate between them, to negate any redundancy some answers won’t be used, and many responses have been edited in some way for clarity. These are high schoolers were talking about, and clarity is the last thing on their minds.
1. What’s your role in studio band and what instrument do you play?
AA: I play trumpet, wind ensemble.
AS: I play trombone and baritone. I’m a mentor lead.
JB: I play saxophone and I’m lead alto in jazz.
BA: I play kit in the top jazz ensemble.
AM: First chair, top band. Alto sax and soprano sax.
2. Did you enjoy Whiplash?
AA: Yes, sir.
AS: Whiplash was a genuinely enjoyable movie, had some amazing acting.
JB: Yes, I enjoyed Whiplash, the plot was pretty basic but the characters really drew your attention.
BA: Yes, I enjoyed Whiplash very much. I think it’s a great film, everything from the technical finesse Chazelle displayed to the raw emotion Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons were able to convey absolutely floored me the first time I saw it: I had never seen anything like it.
AM: I thought it was a pretty good movie. I enjoyed the overall plot and I thought the casting was very well done. The soundtrack was also really enjoyable.
3. How realistic is Whiplash to real studio band?
AA: Not at all to any school band and I doubt a professional would even be that hardcore.
AS: It’s somewhat realistic. It gets a lot of the general ideas in but a lot of the slang and terminology used by jazz directors was used incorrectly or used way too much. Like when Fletcher kept saying double-time swing. No one ever says that.
JB: Whiplash to real studio band has some real aspects. Mostly the tactics he (Fletcher) used weren’t traditional to the real world. For example, you wouldn’t say 5678 you’d say 1 and 2 and 1-2-3-4 emphasizing beats 2 and 4.
BA: Whiplash definitely bent to the truth more than just a bit. I’ve never encountered a band director like Fletcher, I’ve never been in a jazz band that was run that tightly, and I’ve done my fair share of practice, but I’ve never gone to the extreme lengths, Neiman went through in the film for a chart.
AM: While I’m more of a classical musician than a jazz player, from what I’m able to tell they’re similar in a lot of aspects but slightly dramatized.
4. Would Fletcher’s attitude be accepted in a real classroom?
AS: His behavior would not be acceptable. It’s downright cruel and the methods our director’s use don’t involve ridiculing or screaming at musicians to get things right.
JB: Fletcher’s attitude would not be acceptable in a classroom in this generation at least because it would “hurt” people’s feelings. The tough-love sort of relationship is usually associated with (jazz) back in the ’60s-’90s.
BA: Fletcher’s attitude would definitely not be tolerated in a classroom. Everyone I’ve encountered in my years of playing music is generally really chill and down to earth people. I’ve seen my band director get mad, and we’ve annoyed him plenty of times by playing badly or goofing off, but he’s never gone anywhere near Fletcher’s level of animosity.
AM: By some students, yes, but not by all. It would weed out the truly dedicated from the recreational musician. Although the cussing and the insults would have to be way toned down, the idea of always expecting more improvement and never truly saying “good job” is pretty consistent with a real classroom setting.
5. Has it affected your desire to pursue band? Has it inspired you?
AS: It hasn’t changed my desires to pursue music in any sense, maybe even lowered it because throughout the movie you can see the way the main character’s ambition to be great becomes an obsession where he’s straight-up consumed by his art and shuts everything out to become great and that’s the scary reality of pursuing music as a career because you have to be dummy good to get anywhere.
JB: Watching the movie at first in middle school did inspire me to pursue music because I thought all of the charts were cool, although it scared me as a child, it made me want to push myself.
BA: When I first watched the film (middle school) I was heavily inspired by it, it made me wanna practice more. Over time the film’s novelty has worn off.
6. Do you see yourself in the main character; Andrew?
AA: A bit, cuz I need to be pushed to be successful.
AS: I don’t see myself in him mainly because my “career” in jazz is more of a hobby and with him, it’s his lifestyle.
JB: I do see myself in Miles Teller (Andrew) in that I’ve had similar experiences. Not to the extent of violence and cussing but the yelling, and abuse which lead me to push myself harder in music and become the musician I am today.
BA: No, I don’t see myself in the main character.
AM: I do relate to the aspect of always being hard on yourself and having ambition.
7. Are there any inconsistencies in the film that you noticed initially?
AS: Only real inconsistencies were the jazz terminology and instrumentation stuff but that’s mainly just nitpicking.
BA: A big marketing point of the film was Miles Teller having to take drum lessons for the film; while it definitely shows how smooth and organic everything looks, there are a couple moments where his playing isn’t anywhere near what’s happening in the soundtrack.
AM: Fletcher’s motives weren’t justified enough. While it was wrong to take his tactics to such extreme lengths, his motivation was only to forge the best musicians possible. That’s what any band director would want.
8. Do you like the way they portrayed jazz?
AA: Yeah, because the reason for all that craziness and emotion in the movie is (due to a) genuine passion for music.
AS: Overall the way jazz was portrayed wasn’t really supposed to be a “This is what jazz is!” type thing. It was a huge dramatization of the harsh realities of when art becomes an obsession and extreme lengths artists go in order to be one of the greats…. (however) some directors in jazz band can be like dictators when trying to (get someone to) be great.
JB: Yes, I like the way they portrayed Jazz, not so much, the unrealistic practice methods but the music like “Caravan” and “Whiplash” pertain to what you see most big bands play today.
BA: Portraying the world of Jazz as super cutthroat maybe wasn’t the best choice, but it worked for the film. I also appreciated the emphasis they put on how much you really need to practice to be “one of the greats” but again it took it to the extreme. It also disregarded some people that are just naturally talented at jazz and become great through sheer skill as opposed to chops.
AM: In general, yes. There’s passion ambition, creativity, improvisation, and grit. That’s what I love about jazz most, and I see it in sections of the movie.
I believe it’s clear that Whiplash was made by Chazelle due to his honest passion for music. Many of his original works have to do with music and two of them have a huge emphasis on jazz. I spoke to all interviewees personally and most of them told me they watched Whiplash at a very young and impressionable age. Is it correct to say that this film changed their opinion of jazz? Perhaps. Is it fair to say that this would ruin or manipulate someone’s opinion of jazz? I don’t believe so.
I believe many are aware of the tactics the industry must use in order to make a medium more interesting however, that’s not to say that jazz doesn’t at least sometimes feel like it looks in Whiplash. Everyone has an individual experience with music and depending on who you are, it may shape your life forever. I don’t think Neely should be worrying about how a movie about jazz makes someone feel. Instead, he should focus on how jazz actually makes them feel.
At the end of the day, perhaps we all must understand that it’s about the art itself, not what other people are saying about it.
Back in September 2012, Northwestern Medicine released a study through the Journal of Neuroscience that confirmed the lack of fidelity memory truly has. Your brain works a little differently than you may think and the memories you hold are ever changing. Every time you remember something you’re not thinking back to the time when it really happened. Instead, you’re actually remembering the last time you remembered it. Such is the dilemma of Tim from The Virgin Suicides. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola The Virgin Suicides is able to capture the mystery of adolescence so flawlessly it made me so nostalgic I was nearly brought to a brief period of melancholy.
I feel like I, and many others, attempt to imagine our lives in terms of fiction, but when it comes down to it our past always seems to blend together into this lovely mess of shattered memories. This isn’t always by choice, however, sometimes it’s out of necessity. We frequently find ourselves obsessed with things we have no hope of understanding and this is an important motif rampant within the film. Tim constantly attempts to describe the Lisbon sisters with dense metaphors and colorful language that doesn’t seem to even make sense to him. And despite that, they’re all so pretentious they have no real value in even explaining the true intricacies of live human beings. Before the Lisbon sisters moved in there was no word of them anywhere. They were simply an enigma to the population around them.
In the end, we had pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained. Oddly shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name. What lingered after them was not life, but the most trivial list of mundane facts.
Similarly to the tragedy of 9/11 everyone seems to remember time in terms of before and after the Lisbon sisters. We describe America as a post 9/11 society, and before that time was essentially nothing, it’s the past, a dark one we choose not to remember. We obsess over it, we have a day specifically to remember it on. The same can be said about the Lisbon sisters in the context of the film. Tim and his friends’ obsession only seem to grow deeper and more convoluted after the Lisbon sisters die.
At the beginning of the film, after the youngest Lisbon sister, Cecilia, attempts to commit suicide and ends up at a hospital, a small exchange between her and her doctor not only set the tone for the film to come but also introduces a highly significant motif. The doctor while checking her says,
What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.
and Cecilia responds,
Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl.
This is how Coppola introduces the topic of adolescence. More so the unfamiliarity of it all. Whilst trying to understand the Lisbon sisters, Tim and company spend a lot of time misunderstanding them. There is a myriad of reasons why, but unironically its all too easy for Tim and his friends to misunderstand those as well.
We knew the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love, and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.
Womanhood, the exit from female adolescence. Something the Lisbon sisters, after witnessing the death of their youngest sister likely felt all too quickly. However, with that rapid shift then comes a new mystery: the mystery of adulthood. I believe this is what Sofia Coppola wanted to get across when. She chose to adapt Jeffrey Eugenides 1993 novel into a cult classic. Life has many secrets, so many intricacies, things you won’t even notice once you’ve completed your journey. Once its over, its over, and the world continues to spin at an indiscriminate pace.
Even when Tim and his gang become adults they are still stuck on what may have happened that night. The night they simultaneously came the closest and the farthest from the Lisbon sisters. And so the case of the Lisbon sisters continues onward, from the past into our future, never to be solved. Not by the audience or by Tim. Not even by Coppola herself. In the purest sense of the word: a mystery.
In some aspects, The Truman Show is a better representation of our current world than the one it was meant to reflect. Originally released in 1998 the film centers around Truman Burbank in a society that, unbeknownst to him, is completely fabricated. The time period is enough to establish the film was supposed to reflect the post-cold war era, where Americans were still paranoid after trudging through years of potential nuclear war. It also was created during the time when reality television was becoming something of a phenomenon. Programs like Survivor and Big Brother became massive commercial powerhouses spawning versions of itself worldwide.
As their influence began to reach farther the more they became more and more a part of everyday life. At home or in public, conversations shifted to be about the people onscreen. We now had a weekly stream of programming that gave us something to talk about. And it was all real. Right? Well, that’s the thing. We don’t know how much we can separate the fact from farce. I suppose that’s the salient allure of reality television. To attempt to read between the lines of a show that in its simplest form is just a by-product of its superior predecessors.
However, the show within The Truman Show attempts to circumvent this potential discrepancy by making its main character as authentic as possible. The only downside is that to make him feel and act real, he must not know everything around him isn’t. Truman’s first inclination of this truth comes at the beginning of the film when a stage light falls in the middle of his picturesque suburban neighborhood. The light is marked “Sirius” after the real-life star system. It’s widely known as the worlds brightest star. This would prove to be the catalyst for a new wave of discovery for Truman.
Many cite the appearance of Truman’s deceased father as the reason for why he begins to question the reality he’s been conceived in. Even the director of the fake television show says the same thing later in the film. However, many are quick the write off the strange happening that occurs right at the beginning. Not only does it allude to something much more sinister for Truman, but it also resonates with the audience as well.
The whole premise itself is rather ironic and opens up a lot of conversations about existentialism, societal values, and consumerism. Is Truman’s life really worth living if everything is a lie? What does The Truman Show tell us about our reality that we can’t seem to figure out ourselves? Well, there’s certainly a lot to unpack in those sentiments.
Existentialism is a philosophical theory that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. As an audience can we say Truman is really living a free life governed by his own will? The natural response would likely be no. As his entire life has been determined by the producers and writers of his show. There are set rules he’s playing by. Rules he’s unaware of. So isn’t it fair to say that because he has these rules he’s unaware of he’s still technically living his own life? Regardless of the predetermined events he still has the ability to live, the things that happen to him are simply out of his control. However, isn’t this the case for everyone? Not just Truman. Here in lies the central argument used by Truman show fans. It’s why within the film there are people who want to free Truman and others who don’t. In fact, it’s the director, Christof’s, rebuttal to Sylvia when she argues for the release of Truman.
He could leave at any time. If his was more than just a vague ambition, if he was absolutely determined to discover the truth, there’s no way we could prevent him.
It’s that use of the phase vague ambition that makes Christof’s words seem so persuasive. In truth, we all hold some sort of vague ambition to go out and do something. American culture since the beginning of time has been based around the idea of “The American Dream.” It’s the de facto ethos that drives society. Its what makes the character of Truman so inspiring, not only in our world but in the fictional world of the movie itself. To many in the film, Truman is seen as a hero of sorts, a cultural icon whose influence is shown in the movie to have spread well beyond America. It’s here where the audience learns about what society values.
I’ll never forget the final words the movie plays out on. When all is said and done and Truman finally reaches the end of his 29-year long torment he utters his catchphrase whilst looking straight into the camera before heading out into the great unknown.
In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!
Now, this alone would have been enough to appropriately end the cinematic masterpiece that is The Truman Show. However, the true final line of the film solidifies the overall intent director Peter Weir had when he created this film. The true final words the film ends on comes from two policemen who were shown watching the show throughout the film. As Truman leaves through the black door, the transmission is abruptly cut and one of the policemen remarks:
Let’s see what else is on.
As all great things begin, they must also end. And in the end, we’re left with a promise of something else that may be on. The insatiable audience is left craving more and yet we search for something else. The next craze to obsess over before another one follows in its wake. History continues to repeat itself. Truman was simply a passing fad that seemed to have overstayed its welcome. As the world became used to the prospect of reality television we became increasingly apathetic to its potentially damaging effects. Not just to the actors in these shows but the people watching them.
There have been several instances of reality television stars experiencing intense hardship after appearing on reality television. Real World: New Orleans alum Preston Roberson-Charles detailed the overwhelming wave of negative feedback and struggles he experienced after appearing on the show. However, there’s also a flipside to this painful truth if you consider the fact that our current President, Donald Trump, initially gained notoriety due to his appearance on the reality television show The Apprentice. While the prospect of a future president coming exclusively from reality television seems very unlikely, the thought is enough to spur some interesting debate. You never know, often times fact is stranger than fiction.