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Go buy the DVD, now!!

Brittney Werts

 

James McTeigue‘s 2005 film “V for Vendetta” staring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman tries to bring Alan Moore’s comic book character to the big screen. Though his ideas come together well in one hundred thirty two minutes, they maybe a bit too much for your typical movie goer to absorb in such a short period of time. However, I feel it is a must-see movie for all Americans, not just because of its action and amazing plot twist, but for the symbolic undertones and call for change.

 

The film traces V’s rise to power as he puts together his plan to change the state of his country. Several events force V and Natalie Portman’s character, Evey, together. Throughout the film you see his skill of manipulation and how he grooms her to be his successor to carry on his ideas.

 

Through the course of the film we get a closer idea of who V really is. Though we never find out his true identity, the back drop of the film reveals how V became the “humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate.” The more and more we uncover, we see just how the nation came upon its chaotic state and our curiosity behind V’s motives are satisfied. Through the myriad of events-the blowing up of buildings, kidnapping, shooting, stabbing, biological experimentation and vicious harangues from a hostile Hitleresque leader, we too are drawn into the movie. Perhaps this movie is more entertaining than I led you to believe, but I’ll let you be the judge.

 

I will tell you however, that the movie serves well as an ingenious and masterfully woven quilt of social commentary. From the social issue of the fear of homosexuals, to the political issues of government leaders abusing their power and even biological research on human beings, the film causes us to question the current and possible future state of our nation. In the opening dialogue from on England’s BTN news anchors Prothero, he mentions that “the former United States” has in his eyes become “Ulcered Sphincter of Arse-erica.” You immediately want to ask yourself, “how did we get to such a state?” I feel that McTeigue is deliberately making a warning to us. The events depicted in V for Vendetta, mirror those of a post 9/11 United States and are a possible omen.

 

The theme that the media plays a major role as a mass influencer is clearly seen in the film. The fact that there is only one news station shows that there is no objectivity. The station is “coincidentally” run by Dascomb, one of Chancellor Adam Sutler’s minions, this shows how the government plays an even bigger role in what the masses can and can’t know.  With his quote “our job is to report the news, not fabricate it… that’s the government’s job,” Dascomb is illustrating this theme even further.

 

            Another theme that is displayed well in the film is that nothing is a coincidence. As the plot unfolds before us, we see just how each and every character is connected. We also see how, the story, given the social troubles and woes, could happen, just about anywhere. During their initial meeting V states that he, like God doesn’t “play with dice and doesn’t believe in coincidences.” The dialogue in the movie is a little stressed as it goes on further to use the word “coincidence”.  As the story of V’s life is finally coming together, the officer, Dominic even goes so far as to say that the “coincidences are making him sick”, at this point in the movie I was quite frankly sick of them too. However, visually the film makes up for it with a scene on the eve of V’s big night where, with the symbolic help of red and black dominioes in the shape of a “V”, we see the connection of each us and how together we can reach a goal.

 

            Another theme in the film is that change comes through violence. Whether you totally agree or disagree with this thought,  McTeigue emphasis is clearly shown through the film. He does acknowledge that there maybe some people who disagree, so he tries to gain sympathy on V’s behalf, by telling us that V’s motives are partialy in rememberance of Vallerie. By using an innocent woman who wanted nothing more but want to be with her lover, as a motivation, it is clearly a ploy to gain sympathy. However, McTeigue is unappoligeitc about the violent ends V goes to, to reach change. He even opts to justify them with a voice over from Malcom X during the ending credits that talks about using violence in self-defense.  That’s what V’s character lived for; defending himself against a harsh and oppressor government.

 

            The theme of governmental manipulation was also played out well in the film. McTeigue chose to show us, the possible negative events they may come into play in America,  if we don’t do something about the government. Censorship, invasion of privacy, and fear tactics were heavily emphasised in the film. We saw how Detrich’s show had to have an  approved script or it wouldn’t air, and also that there were phone taps and investigators listening in on people’s conversations. Deranged with power Chancellor Adam Sutler  want s  “everyone to remember why they need” the governemnt. He did everything in his power to make absolutely sure of this and in the process created complete and utter chaos. By pumping fear into the land with man-made virsuses, curfews, surveillance to “protect” national security, and terror all over the news media, he slowly created a weakend and fearful yet, obedient nation. It was also a nation with people ‘s rights clearly being violated. By manipulating the people into fear and obedince he had complete control of the land. The film showed us the theme that the government can abuse it’s power and destroy a country and everything it once stood for.

 

 

One element of the film that was poorly done and clearly just for Hollywood, was the “love” Evey had for V. It wasn’t unnecessary to help bring the story along nor do I feel that it made the story any better. In fact, I feel that it slowed the movie down and caused confusion as to Evey’s true motives for her final actions in the film. I’d like to think that her “love” for him played a minimal part in her decision and that she chose to do what she did because of her own convicitons. The two seemed a bit off beat on screen when Evey’s feelings of “love” came into play. She seemed indecisive as to how she really felt. Her indesiciveness made her acting during these scences terrible and the whole idea of love between them unbelivable. It was clearly a request from Hollywood and didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

 

            The sound for the film was rather dull, aside from the appropriate ending song. “Street Fighting Man,” from the Rolling Stones couldn’t have been a better choice to embody V’s character because that is exactly what V was.

 

            The cinematography in the film was well done. The editing technique that simulatnetously showed V and Evey’s characters after they experienced their change, showed us that they had a lot in common and that Evey was just starting her journey as a future defender of justice. In on of the most action packed scences of the film, we visually marvel at how well V’s sword training pays off. McTeigue’s choice of using actual footage of past riots and protests further showed us the possiblity that current day America could become the future England in his film.

 

The parellels of events in V for Vendetta definitely raise several questions and I feel that was McTeigue’s ulitmate goal. From the wide spread hysteria due to war, terror, and disease, to the conversion of a peaceful country into a totalitarian regime, the film makes us wonder if America could be next. V for Vendetta asks you what are you going to do as a citizen? V’s quote, “People should not fear their government. The government should fear its people,” sums up the movie in a nutshell.  Throughout the film V was on a quest to put fear back into the government for what they did to him and England as a whole. I would highly recommend this film for those who take an interest in social and political issues, but even more so for the average Joe. V for Vendetta will definitely stir some people emotions, and that is ultimately the goal of the film.

 

Brittney Werts

August 7, 2008 at 4:14 pm Leave a comment

Controversy At Its Best

Mother Fanny Schneider and father Isaac Barnett Mailer, welcomed Norman Kingsley Mailer into his world on January 31, 1923, in Long Branch New Jersey. The parents had no idea that over the next few year that they too, like much of the American Public would praise and criticize the work of their son. Whether applauded or condemned, if nothing else, the writings of Norman Mailer was controversial. The two Jewish Immigrants from Lithuania have much to be proud of – seventy five years of work to be exact.

At the tender age of nine, Mailer wrote Invasion From Mars, a 250-page-story that he kept in his notebooks. A few years later in 1939, he graduated from Boys High School and won entrance into Harvard University at the age of sixteen. Leaving Brooklyn, where he was raised, he headed off to Cambridge, Massachusetts for the next four years. During this time Mailer would study aeronautical engineering until he’d receive is B.S. of Science with honors. While at Harvard, Mailer participated in Story Magazine’s annual college writing contest for students. His story “Greatest Thing in the World,” won and became the impetus that would change his adolescent hobby into a life long career.

In 1944 Mailer was inducted into the U.S. Army where he served as a gunnery sargent in the South Pacific during World War II. In 1946, he was discharged and took up a few classes at the Sorbonne in Paris. Over a fifteen month period there, Mailer reflected on his experiences in Leyte, Luzon, and Japan during the war. His vivid memories of the war, were portrayed in The Naked and the Dead (1948), who’s “triumphant release made him an overnight international celebrity” at the age of twenty-five.

Mailer’s huge unexpected success from The Naked and the Dead, catapulted him into the public eye and set the bar higher than usual for his next novel. Living in Hollywood, he wrote about the McCarthy Era and social tension in his 1951 novel Barbary Shore. Unfortunately critic’s expectations hadn’t been met, and they chalked Mailer up to be nothing more than an “one book wonder.”

Distraught because of the bad reviews and divorce from his wife, Mailer left Hollywood. He soon settled down with actress Adele Morales in Greenwich Village and the two were later married.

Their marriage took a turn for the worst after Mailer sunk into a deep depression. His third book, The Deer Park also flopped and he became increasingly violent and turned to drugs and alcohol. Contrary to popular belief that Mailer habitually beat his wives, there is only one known and documented case. After an all night party in Manhattan Mailer, grew violent and stabbed his second wife Morales with a “dirty three-inch penknife.”

During the 1960’s Mailer found a new purpose and shifted his focus to depict the rising counter-culture. He became a “New Journalist” who used novel writing techniques to depict real events and people’s lives. In his 1968 Pulitzer Prize Winning novel, Armies of the Night, he reminisces over his participation in the historical demonstration at the Pentagon in 1967. He along with Noam Chomsky and a slew of other celebrities were arrested for their radical views and dissent for the Vietnam War.

“Any war that requires the suspension of reason as a necessity for support is a bad war.”

(Armies of the Night)

When asked whether she agreed with Mailer’s quote about war, Nassau Community College student Laura, simply said “NO.” In my opinion the quote paralles the Vietnam War with our current war in Iraq and I agree with Mailer, that if a war looses it’s original purpose, it shouldn’t continue to be fought. Laura and I, are just some of the many people who don’t know where to stand when it comes to Mailers views. In the 1960’s there were many people who didn’t agree with Mailer’s political views, but that didn’t stop him from his quest to speak his mind.

Mailer continued to write about the sexual revolution, social upheaval, drugs and violence, in the Village Voice, which he named and co-founded in 1955. He used it as a means to give the public an alternate view. Mailer was a modern day citizen journalist who gave the people the facts about racial tension and anti-war movements in his underground weekly magazine.

Opposed to conformity he spoke out against “The Man” in Esquire and Commentary magazines. He condemned his conformist peers by saying: “There is no greater impotence in all the world like knowing you are right and that the wave of the world is wrong, yet the wave crashes upon you.”

(Armies of the Night)

When asked about this quote and its application to the modern media, Nassau Community College Professor Amy King said, “There should be a lot more citizen journalists and fewer sell-outs.”

Much like citizen journalists, Mailer felt he was obligated to give truth to the people. He decided to take his political ambitions a step further and ran for the Mayor of New York City in 1969. Though he used the catchy slogan – “No More Bullshit”, Mailer’s campaign as Independent Candidate was unsuccessful, yet he stil managed to obtain 5% of the vote.

Practicing objectivity, Mailer covered both the Republican and Democratic Conventions as a journalist. In 1963 he wrote The Presidential Papers based on the Kennedy Administration.

Moving on from Politics, Mailer focused on a new subject of controversy_ The Feminist
Movement. In Prisioner of Sex (1971), he discussed female inferiority when dealing with reality. Author Kate Millett, labeled him a male chauvinist in her book, Sexual Politics. The critics agreed.

Following Prisoner of Sex, the critics thought the sun was setting or Mailer’s career, but he proved them wrong with yet another brilliant novel- The Executioner’s Song. Norman Mailer’s 1979 one thousand page “true life novel” depicted the life and death of Utah murderer Gary Gilmer. Gilmer was executed by firing squad on January 7, 1977 and Mailer’s telling of these events, won him his second Puliter Prize. It was later turned into a film staring Tommy Lee Jones.

Norman Mailer’s earlier experiences with screen and play writing for works such as, The Deer Park (1955), didn’t go so well. However with the success of The Executioner’s Song, Mailer’s interest in the cinema was revived. In 1984, he wrote the detective story, “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” and later directed the film version.

Later in his life, Mailer again experienced unease with the state of American politics so he sought for truth and visited the Soviet Union. He said that the Soviet Union wasn’t the “evil empire” America preached it to be, but instead a “poor, third world country.”

Bestselling Harlot’s Ghost was a tale of C.I.A. agent which grew out of Mailer’s research of the KGB during his stay in Russia. While also in Russia Mailer discovered previously unreleased documents and used them as background for Oswald’s Tale (1995). These never before seen secret documents help Mailer write about J.F.K.’s alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

As a retrospective of the events and people that helped shape American History, Mailer’s 1998 collection, The Time of Our Times paints a portrait of America through celebrites and major events. It is Mailer’s own collection of works where he touches on several controversial issues at once.

In his later years Mailer choose to stick to fiction, but still remained controversial.
Mailer profiled the lives of Jesus and a young Hitler in The Gospel According to the Son (1997) and Castle in the Forest (2002).

After Two Pulitzer Prizes, four feature films, over forty books, dozens of essays and poems, we can conclude that Norman Mailer had a lengthy career. He was always at the center of controversy for his writings on vast cultural taboo subjects. Whether he was respected or renounced for his writings he was always courageous. He sought for truth and to give the people alternative views. He loved writing and exercised his freedom of speech. Though he may have been labeled as controversial, Norman Mailer spoke his mind and gave the literary world six decades of some of the best writings it has ever seen.

–Brittney Werts

August 3, 2008 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

Doing What She Loves

When you first sit down with Samantha De Victoria, one of the first if not the first questions she’ll ask you, is “When is your birthday?” With this, you’ll immediately see her mother’s influence in her life. Being raised by a mother who is “really into spirits” in a Feng Shui home, and the owner of Italian rocks that ward off evil, it’s easy to see why Sam is a free spirit. Sam’s mother first introduced astrology into Sam’s life by giving her, “Aquarius Annual Guide to the Stars”. Sam has since bought it yearly and reads it daily.

Sam acknowledges that astrology is powerful and uses it as a guide to romantic relationships. Her mother’s prediction that the relationship between Sam and her Ex-Boyfriend would fail, was the start of Sam “hating Virgos.” Her mother’s prediction proved to be true and Sam vowed to stay far away from them because she “doesn’t get along with them at all.”

I’m a Virgo, and I was a little uneasy when I first became aware of Sam’s hatred for my kind. This feeling quickly disappeared as I got to know Sam a little better. I found out that we both have best friends named Katrina and that we even go to the same mall, myself to shop and Sam to get a feeling of “happiness”.

You can find Sam at X-Sport Fitness in Roosevelt Field Mall at least two times a week. She works up a sweat and completes a strenuous work. She excitedly states that “After an hour on the treadmill, I just feel-happy!” “My trainer said that it’s the endorphins.” You would think that Sam worked out more than two times a week because she seems to be happy all the time. This is easy to see by her contagious friendly easy going smile.

Aside from exercise, Sam’s other source of happiness comes from doing what she “loves” at the Joseph Christopher Salon and Spa. She’s come a long way from cutting her friends hair in Pre-School. She’s “always loved it.” That’s why she went onto beauty school, graduated from there, and “trained for two whole years, before getting her own chair at Joseph Christopher.”.

The art of making people look good, runs in Samantha’s family. Both of her grandmothers were beauticians , but don’t call Sam one. “I’m not a Beautician, Beautician seems trashy, I’m a Stylist,” she proudly stated. She quickly corrected me because it seemed as if I was undermining all her hard work. Sam just wont have it!

Sam is so proud of her occupation and accomplishments and the fact that she gets to do what she loves. When asked if she would give up her career as a Stylist, if the stars told her to choose her another path, she boldly responded “No.” “I love what I do and no one and nothing can change that.” See, there’s a method to her madness.

Samantha trusts her mother’s influence and astrology to aid her when it comes to relationships. On the other hand , Sam and Sam alone are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to her dreams. Though she may seem a little superstitious at first, Sam is actually a grounded -free spirit. She’s an average teenager who is following her heart and doing whatever it takes to pursue her dreams.

Unlike most of us, Sam found her passion early. Her earliest and most fond memory of cutting hair, was one from kindergarten. Sam spent a week in detention for cutting a fellow classmates long hair, after they refused to let her borrow a pencil.

The journey of “fixing train wrecks” started over a decade ago, and Sam is hoping to continue, ultimately until she can work for Public Relations with Redken. She’s currently attending Nassau Community College to get an “edge” over the competition. Same hopes her college education along with all her work cutting hair and styling up-dos for wedding brides, will eventually pay off.

–Brittney W.

July 11, 2008 at 8:59 pm Leave a comment


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