Wednesday, May 20, 2015

10 Things I hate about "10 Things I Hate About You"

10 Things I hate about “10 Things I Hate About You”

By: Brian Cotnoir

I have been a substitute teacher for 4 years now, and in that time I have covered all sorts of classes.  Some Days I get to teach something I really enjoy like History or Gym, and other days I have to teach stuff I really struggle with like Geometry or Anatomy, and then some days I don’t have to teach anything at all because the teacher I’m covering for just leaves me a movie, and all I have to do is sit back and watch.  IT was just the other week I was subbing in a High School English Class that I was forced to endure the suffering of having to watch “10 Things I Hate About You” 4 times in one day!  Much to my horror and dismay, the students in every class actually enjoyed this cine-massacre.  It was moronic, it was poorly written, it had so many flaws, and me being the smart-mouthed cynical film critic that I am, I have compiled my own 10 Things list of 10 Things I hate about “10 Things I Hate About You”.

1.) Half-A$$ed Shakespeare References

But Clearly the writers of this film aren't
10 Things I Hate About You” is a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The Class I was covering for was reading the play in class, and why their teacher thought this this would be better to watch in class than the 1967 film “Taming of the Shrew” with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, is beyond me!  To quote the late & great film critic Roger Ebert: “’10 Things I Hate About You’ is inspired in a kinduva way, by ‘Taming of the Shrew’, in the same sense that ‘Starship Troopers’ is inspired by ‘Titus Andronicus’”.  Roger Ebert hits the hammer on the head with this one, I mean just because there are a few subtle references to Taming of the Shrew, doesn’t mean that it’s a direct representation of it.  The references to Shakespeare in this film try to be blatantly obvious, but you would still have to point out most of the references to the students.

2.) Tokenism

Now this isn’t just a specific problem with “10 Things I Hate About You”, but it was indeed a problem with most teen films from the mid-1990’s to early 2000’s; tokenism.  Every movie has its fair share of token characters to show diversity in an otherwise white-washed film.  Cameron is the stereotypical Nerdy scrawny new guy, meant to represent the “everyman” in film.  His new friend Michael is the token nerd/master schemer, Patrick is the token bad boy, Kat is the token tough chick, Mr. Morgan is the token Angry Black teacher at the White Suburban High School, Chastity is Bianca’s token black best friend!  I mean it’s like the screenwriters of this film came together and said “Character Development?!  We don’t have time for that; all our characters will have overblown stereotypical traits so that nothing will be confusing or original for our audience!

3.) The Moronic Cliques

     So there’s a scene early on in the film where Cameron is being shown around the campus by Michael where he introduces them to the most unrealistic group of High School cliques ever seen.  There are the white boys who have dreadlocks and act like Black Rastafarians, there are the group of kids who dress up like cowboys with stenson hats and lassos, the Future Business Leaders club that all dress and act like a bunch of 1980’s Yuppies, and this group of rich preppy kids who are addicted to coffee so much that there’s actually a coffee station on School grounds.  I have never in my life seen a poorer or more unrealistic representation of High School students in my entire life.  If there were actual kids like this in High School then I’m pretty sure they would get their a$$es kicked on a daily basis!

4.) Every kid—and I mean every kid—in this film is such a tool!

Not only are the actors in the High School Cliques Moronic and Annoying, but so is every individual character in this film as well, and I mean this in the most sincere way: I wanted so badly to beat every student at Padua High School over the head with a brick.  Every single character in this film is an annoying, one-dimensional tool!  And shockingly enough the one character who is the least annoying and least fake is Joe Donner.  That’s right; the films antagonist is the least annoying and most realistic character in the film.  I have seen plenty of guys like Joey in High School, but every other character in “10 Things I Hate About You” is like the parody of a high school character.

5.) Heath Ledger’s Accent

No, just that you couldn't do a good
American accent at this point in time
Oh Heath Ledger this was at a time in your career where you could just barely pass enough to be an American teenager, but your failure to keep your accents straight reminded us all, oh wait he’s not an American teen, he’s an adult from Australia!  Now some people will argue there’s the point where Ledger’s character Patrick says that he speaks with his accent is because he lived in Australia until he was 10, but that is a cop out explanation!  They said the same thing about Olivia Newton John’s character in “Grease” (in the play here name is actually Sandy Dumbrowski; not Olsen like in the film, and she’s not from Australia like in the play too).  Look Heath, you went on to become a Great Actor and I am so sad that you are gone, but every actor has that one early role that they may feel ashamed about, and this probably was the one for you.  Sorry.

6.) The Most Over the Top and Unrealistic High School Party ever

The Party scene in this movie is the Most over-the-top and unrealistic High School Party I’ve ever seen in film.  How do that many teenagers show up at once and not arouse suspicion from neighbors or authorities? Also how is it that Cameron and Michael were able to toss out that my flyers to a party and not one of them end up in the hands of a teacher or school official?  Also, the party was partly staged by Michael to get revenge on a boy named Bogey Lowenstein.  How is it that not one person asked Bogey about the party?  How did he not find out that the whole school was going to show up at his parents’ house for a party?  Nothing about this party is realistic.

7.) Negative Portrayal of Feminism

This "Kat" has got some claws (ba dum ch!)
I was reading an article on Buzzfeed called “The Kat Stratford Guide To Being An Awesome Feminist”, and as I was reading the post I couldn’t help but notice that almost none of the things said in the article advocate that she is a feminist.  A feminist—by definition—is a person who supports feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.  Kat doesn’t do anything to say or show that she is looking for equality, if anything she comes off as more of an “heinous bitch” as Ms. Perky put it.  If you wanted to argue that Kat is an Independent Film icon in film, I would agree with you one-hundred percent, but a “Feminist” she is not.  Kat has this attitude in the film that she is smarter, better, and more mature then most people; especially men, which would make her more of a misandrist than a feminist.  And in some ways, I feel like Kate is the female equivalent of Randal Graves from “Clerks” because both are rude, anti-social, and over opinionated.  Oh yeah, these two would be the Couple from Hell if they were ever to get together!  

The Kat Stratford Guide To Being An Awesome Feminist

8.) The Most Annoying and Moronic Father in TV/Film since Homer Simpson

Oh Dear God is Walter Stratford an annoying and moronic character.  I mean, wow!  Were the screenwriters of this film even trying?  Walter Stratford isn’t a loving or worrisome single father, he is overprotective of his two daughters to the point that it borderlines on child abuse.  Actor Larry Miller gives possibly one of the least funny and competent performances I have ever seen in a film for his role of Walter Stratford.  He should’ve at least been nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Actor in Supporting Role!

Oh God, Do I hate You!

9.) Generic recycling of “She’s All That

Now, I remember where I've seen this
plot before!
10 Things I Hate About You” wasn’t the first time a film studio tried to make a modern retelling of a work of classic literature.  During this time teen audiences were also treated to films like Baz Luhrman’s 1996 adaptation of “Romeo + Juliet”, the 1998 modern retelling of Charles Dickens Great Expectations, and “Cruel Intentions” based on the classic French Novel Dangerous Liaisons.  If I make take another quote from “Roger Ebert’s review of the film because he sums it up better than I ever could: “...the movie is charming, despite its exhausted wheeze of an ancient recycled plot (boy takes bribe to ask girl to prom, then discovers that he really likes her—but then she finds out about the bribe and hates him).  I haven’t seen an idea like that in almost two months, since “She’s All That”.  That’s right even Roger Ebert calls bullsh!t on this film

Roger Ebert's review of "10 Things I Hate About You"

10.) Moronic Teen Romance

This films “Romance” element is too dumb even by teen movie standards.  It is made apparent that from the time Cameron lays his eyes on Bianca, he wants to bang her...and you know what so does everyone else in the school as well.  And my word does he go out of his way to try and win this girl over, from pretending to know French so he can “tutor” her, to convincing a random stranger that he wants to date Bianca’s sister, Kat, and he even gets his friend Michael involved in his plot to get this girl too.  Why?  What does Michael stand to gain by helping Cameron get into Bianca’s pants?  Seriously, name one couple that you know that got together in High School that are still together, I bet you can’t.  I mean, seriously Cameron goes out of his way to try win this girl, and what is the guarantee that she will love him back in return.  I have never been a fan of Romance in movie, and I’m even less of a fan when it’s in a Teen Romance movie. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

5 Films that Define My Generation

5 Films that Define My Generation
By: Brian Cotnoir

     Every generation of people has their iconic movies.  The films that when people look back on years later and make people go: “Yep, that’s how things were back then.  This is who we were, and this is what we did”.  I am 25-years-old at the time I writing this article for you, and I have pondered, and researched, and watched many films that have been made since the time I was born, and I’m proud to say that my generation has produced some insightful and impactful films that I believe accurately represent everything we are and everything we stand for.  Today we are going to honor those great films of my generation and take a look at the significant impact they’ve left that have helped define my generation.  Every film on this list has been made in the past 25 years; I believe that’s long enough to qualify these as generational films.

1.) Clerks (1994)

So after High School some of us went on to better things like college or the military, but others of us went right into the workforce, and much to our disbelief we ended up working some real bad dead end jobs.  Jobs like those held by characters Dante and Randall in Kevin Smith’s debut film “Clerks”.  Now true, I could’ve (and probably should have) included the 1991 film “Slacker” on this list, since Kevin Smith frequently stated that “Slacker” was the film that inspired him to write “Clerks”, but there really isn’t much of a plot to “Slacker” so that’s why I chose “Clerks” instead.  In the 1990’s a great number of us became known as slackers; people who were unmotivated, had no ambition, and just waited to see how things played out.  Some of us became content with our mundane and minimal jobs, while others began to sulk.  Dante represents a large group of people in some ways: the person who peaked in High School, the underachiever who stayed at his minimum wage job while his friends and classmates went on to college and other things, and is only left the reminisce about his glory days, while others come in and remind of what a failure he has become and probably always will be. However, some of us were like Dante’s co-worker, Randal: the happy idiot, who couldn’t care how crappy his life is because he was having too much fun goofing off and making jokes at other peoples expense.  “Clerks” has become one of those iconic films that has made scores of people in my generation take a moment to reflect on where they are in life and whether or not they’re where they want to be in life.

2.) Reality Bites (1994)

The same year that “Clerks” was released we also got the film “Reality Bites”.  It’s the story of a group of young 20-something college graduates who are trying to find their place in the world.  College is the best time of your life; it’s all the freedom of being an adult with all the responsibility of a High School Senior. Now graduating college is a big deal, but it can also be a little scary.  For the past 4 years, you have been told by your Professors, classmates, family, and friends that you’re going to go on to do great things once you graduate, and then once you finally do graduate you find out the real world isn’t as accepting and welcoming of you as you had hoped.  You’re not going to always find that high-paying job right out of college, no one wants to take you seriously because of your “lack-of-experience-in-the-work-place”, and the cherry on the sundae: you now have alarming amount of student loan debt that you cannot afford to pay back!  The cast of “Reality Bites” features a number of great characters that represent different members of our disenfranchised peers.  You have the under-achieving scholar, Leliana, the slacker/aspiring musician, Troy, the corporate sell-out/Yuppie, Michael, the fretful closeted gay adult, Sammy, and the Promiscuous Best Friend, Vickie.  This is one of the Best casts I’ve seen in any film, and it’s amazing to see how well this film holds up even after 20+ Years.  A friend of mine wrote a more detailed article about “Reality Bites”, and that link is below for anyone who is interested on learning more about this film.

3.) Singles (1992)

Well now that you’ve got that life together and heading in the right direction, you now have to begin another difficult task: finding someone to share it all with.  “Singles” is a film set in Seattle a height of the Grunge Movement, and is the story of 6 adults who are all trying to find love, and the lengths they will go through to find love.  There’s the cute energetic coffee barista, Janet (Played by Bridget Fonda) who desperately seeks attention from the dirty, selfish aspiring grunge rocker Cliff (played by Matt Dillon).  There’s Debbie a successful young business woman who uses the latest dating trends in a never-ending search to find Mr. Right.  And finally there’s Steve and Linda, a seemingly “perfect couple” who keep letting events form their pasts hold them back from committing to each other. I think everyone knows someone or who has been in a similar relationship: the person who constantly seeks affection from the emotionally distant slacker, the person who thinks they’ll find their true love by relying on things like technology (dating sites, videos, etc.), the couple that is perfect for one another that everyone wants to see together, and takes forever to get together.  “Singles” is an awesome film written and directed by Academy Award Nominated® Director, Cameron Crowe, and this film was also the inspiration to the Super Popular and Beloved TV Sitcom “Friends”.

4.) Office Space (1999)

But even if you don’t find love right away, you can still make valuable use of your time, like putting all your free time into your career...your stressful, uninspiring, soul-crushing career.  There was a time in your life when we were all younger that we swore that we would never be one of those Office Rats working in a cubicle for some “Big Soulless Corporation”; no, not you.  You were going to have a cool and important job that you were going to make a lot of money doing the thing you love the most, and you were going to be successful...but then student loan debt started to pile up, and you had trouble finding work, and they were the only place hiring so you said to yourself, “it’s okay, this is only going to be temporary.  Once I find a decent paying job in my field, I’m going to kiss this place goodbye!”.  But then a few months become a year, and then that year becomes a few years, and then you start to fall into a routine, working a daily grind from 9-5 every Monday-Friday.  Pretty soon, this job you said you couldn’t stand becomes your primary source of income and you become increasingly paranoid about what you’re going to do if you ever lose this job, and then finally enough time passes by that you sit there at your desk trying not to cry asking yourself “What have I done with my life?!  This is nothing like what I envisioned all those years ago!”.  And no film captures that pain and misery as well quite like 1999’s cult classic “Office Space”.  The story of a man named Peter Gibbons who—after a botched hypnotherapy session—begins to break free of the boredom on monotony of the office work space.  Peter’s bleak outlook on his job and how much of his life he’s wasted at his job is a very accurate representation of how much disdain some people hold for their jobs and their employers, however, some people take their bottled up rage and take it to a whole new extreme...

5.) Fight Club (1999)

...People like Edward Norton’s character in the movie “Fight Club”.  Based off of the popular novel by Chuck Palahniuk, “Fight Club” is the story of a nameless Narrator, and the daily struggles he goes through to make it through life.  He has an office job with a boss that he hates, he suffers from low self-esteem and chronic insomnia, and for fun (and mental health reasons) he spends his evenings at Cancer Support Groups pretending he is dying of cancer in order to gain sympathy and love from strangers.  The life of this unknown Narrator changes after he meets a mysterious man named Tyler Durden and the two of them start a secret underground fight club for angry disenfranchised white-collar men.     So many of us are dissatisfied with our lives that we create fantasy avatars in our minds of who we wish we were.  Everyone’s created a Tyler Durden in their life: he looks the way you wish you looked, he says the thing you wish you could say, and he even f*cks the way you wish you f*cked.  Who among us at work hasn’t secretly fantasized about telling of their boss off or lying to an attractive person in order to get them to like us? “Fight Club” is a film that has not only left an impact on our generation but—with society’s rising dependence on corporate built technology—future generation as well.

     It’s crazy to think that these 5 films—all made in a 7 years span—have helped shape and define the lives and attitudes of an entire generation of people.  Some of them even manage to intertwine and support each other’s philosophies and messages, but in the end they represent everything we as a generation wanted.  We all wanted to find success by doing things our way. We all wanted to have a happy relationship and a successful career, but somewhere along the way made the realization that it had to be one or the other.  We all wanted to be the next big thing in music and get popular and famous playing our own music in coffee houses and night clubs.  I am so glad that I live in the time I do now, and I hope that years from now these films will show how great my generation truly is.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

4 Reasons why "American History X" isn't as good as I remember

4 Reasons why “American History X” isn’t as good as I remember
By: Brian Cotnoir

Isn’t it strange how something you once really liked loses some of its luster over time?  For me, personally, this is most true when it comes to film.  Films I once thought were great when I was kid, now seem to have more plot holes and issues then I remember.  That doesn’t mean I stopped liking some films just because they’re not as good as I remember it just means I look at them in a whole different perspective. My biggest epiphany to this rule came after recently re-watching one of my favorite films “American History X”.  Man, oh, man do I like this movie.  Ever since I saw it for the first time in High School it has become one of my favorite films.  I’ve seen it dozens of times, and it was my favorite film up until a couple of years ago.  I made every person I knew watch this film if they hadn’t seen it, and I was pleased that a majority of the people I showed it too enjoyed it as much as I did. However, that was in High School.  I’m now a 25-year-old adult, and my taste in films has greatly changed.  All though, I still enjoy “American History X”, I will admit that this film has some flaws that I failed to recognize years ago.  So here are my 4 Reasons why “American History X” isn’t as good as I remember.   

1.) You don’t feel bad for any of the victims

     So Derek Vinyard—one of the Main Characters in the film—goes to prison for murdering two black gang members who were trying to steal his car.  He shoots one to death in his driveway, and the other he seriously wounds, before dragging him to the sidewalk and stomping his skull in.  This is one of the most gruesome kills I’ve ever seen in film, and yet I never felt sorry for the guys that Derek killed in the film.  If I caught two guys trying to break into my car I would be absolutely furious...maybe not furious enough to murder them, but I certainly would beat the hell out of them (at least until I felt they had bled enough).  Now, yes, Derek’s actions in the film were still racially motivated and horrible no matter how you look at it, but I still feel the screenwriter for the film David McKenna could have written the victims as more human and innocent, which leads me into my next point…

2.) It glorifies Neo-Nazi’s

Ultimately this film is about Derek’s redemption and his transformation from Neo-Nazi gang leader to upstanding citizen who tries to dissuade his younger brother from following the same path.  However, it does—somewhat—glorify Neo-Nazi’s.  Derek’s younger brother Danny recounts a time at a local basketball court where Derek and his Neo-Nazi gang members had a run-in with the two black men that Derek would later kill.  They get into an argument at the basketball court where they both exchange heated racial slurs.  Derek makes an agreement with one of the men (who always reminded me of Buggin’ Out from Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”) that whoever loses a pick-up basketball game on the court is never allowed to play or show up there ever again.  Derek leads his team to a triumphant come from behind victory, thus making Derek and his gang looks more glorious than ever.  And again, because the men that Derek and his team beat in the game are portrayed as a group Angry Black Thugs, it gives some people who are watching the film that Derek and his crew might be anti-heroes instead of regular villains.

3.) Why wasn’t Dr. Sweeney looking out for Danny, when he was trying to help Derek

Dr. Bob Sweeney was Derek’s High School English Teacher; he is now Danny’s High School Principal—and acting History Teacher.  Shortly after Derek is brutally sexually assaulted in the prison shower his former gang members Derek is visited in the Prison hospital by Dr. Sweeney.  Derek pleads with his former educator and mentor to help him become paroled.  Dr. Sweeney agrees to help Derek, and he informs Derek that his younger brother Danny has heading down a similar path. So Question:  If Dr. Sweeney is helping Derek—an imprisoned Neo-Nazi—get paroled, why doesn’t he help Danny to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to him.  I mean, it’s not like Dr. Sweeney and the Vinyard brothers are total strangers who just met.  They know each other.  Hell, Dr. Sweeney sees Danny practically every day at school.  You can’t tell me that Derek couldn’t have written a note and instructed Dr. Sweeney to give it to Danny.  Now, there’s a part in the film where Danny explains that Derek told his family not to visit him in prison, and if they showed up he wouldn’t see them anyways, but seriously Derek couldn’t make an exception?  He could’ve told his family to come visit him, and that way Derek, Danny, and Dr. Sweeney could have a conference to show Danny what could happen to him if he didn’t leave the Neo-Nazi gang?  Plus—and I’m just speaking out loud as a realist—there was no guarantee that Derek would get paroled for his crimes, so why couldn’t Dr. Sweeney have put just as much effort in to making sure Danny didn’t fall down the same path?  Which brings me to my final point...

4.) Danny doesn’t get to show what he learned, and ergo he learns nothing!

SPOILERS: If you haven’t seen the movie and want to you may want to 
skip this part

Derek has a heart-to-heart conversation with Danny where he tells him the story of what happened after he entered prison.  He tells him of all the hardships and the assaults he endured and how frightened for his life he was in prison.  He tells him how he learned to change his ways—with some help from Dr. Sweeney and a black prisoner he worked with named Lamont—and how he doesn’t want to see his younger brother go through the same hell.  So Derek convinces Danny to change his ways, and the next morning he is to go into school and turn in a paper that Dr. Sweeney assigned to him about what he learned from Derek’s incarceration.  However, Danny doesn’t ever get to show his paper to Dr. Sweeney because he was shot to death in the bathroom by a black gang member that he had a run-in with the day before.  You could possibly argue that it is—somewhat—poetic justice, but yeah, since Danny’s now dead, he has officially learned nothing!  It’s also true that not every film needs to have a happy ending, but after sitting through this entire film where all these people trying to get Danny to change, it almost feels like it was all for nothing.