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Context Film / MediumCool

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1%%²%%²%% Administrivia/ZeroContextExample entries are not allowed on wiki pages. All such entries have been commented out. Add context to the entries before uncommenting them.²%%²%%²[[quoteright:300:]] ²[[caption-width-right:300:''"Look out Haskell, it's real!"'']]²²->''"Mama! Mama! / Someone said they made some noise.''²->''The cops / have shot some / girls and boys.''²²->''You'll sit home & drink all night.'' ²->''They looked too weird ... it served them right."''²-->-- '''[[Music/FrankZappa The Mothers of Invention]]''', [[ "Mom & Dad",]] from ''Medium Cool''²²''Medium Cool'' is a 1969 American film about the unhealthy interaction between a [[CorruptCorporateExecutive corporate media]] in search of {{spectacle}} and violence and a [[TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized restless and angry populace]]. It predated ''Film/{{Network}}'' by about [[SpiritualSuccessor seven years]]. It's notable as one of the few films directed by prolific cinematographer Haskell Wexler (who's also credited with the cinematography and the screenplay).²²It takes place in Chicago in [[TheSixties the summer of 1968]]. The film stars a young cameraman who is basically TheLastDJ within his news organization, struggling to get the word out about what's actually going on in the streets. Fans of media criticism will note that the subsequent [[GovernmentConspiracy whitewashing]] of his reports is largely accurate. When we meet him, he's apolitical and driven, [[{{Cowboy}} with his own code,]] seeing the role of the journalist as a quest to "capture" the moment on film as it really happened. As he accidentally gets to know some of his subjects, CharacterDevelopment ensues.²²It's also famous for a simple reason: it's just about the only {{Mockumentary}} fictional film ever to be deliberately shot and filmed '''''during''''' the course of a historical event: The 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention and police riot, during and after the assassination of UsefulNotes/RobertFKennedy which [[FromBadToWorse preceded it]]. ²²That's right: [[RealLifeWritesThePlot they filmed all the scenes "in real"]],[[labelnote:*]]As Creator/JamesCameron might incredulously put it[[/labelnote]] with the scripted actors and cameramen wandering through historical events. AluminumChristmasTrees abound for contemporary viewers, since as we all know, RealityIsUnrealistic.²²Interestingly, when the film was first scripted, it wasn't intended to be about the [[NewAgeRetroHippie Movement]] versus TheMan at all. The director wanted to shoot a piece [[ShakyCam in docu-cam]] about the indifference of the media towards the problems of the poor in inner-city Chicago, focusing on [[DecoyProtagonist an Appalachian family]].[[labelnote:*]]Chicago and Baltimore once had large Appalachian slums.[[/labelnote]] After all, UsefulNotes/MartinLutherKingJr was promising a major march on poverty in lieu of racism that summer, similar to his March on Washington in '63, to urge the next administration (which [[WhatCouldHaveBeen he hoped would be RFK]]) to take the money from UsefulNotes/TheVietnamWar and use it to re-fund Great Society programs.²²However, after both MLK and RFK [[ChandlersLaw got shot]] during the course of initial filming, director Haskell Wexler had made friends in [[OnlySaneMan Fred Hampton]]'s Chicago Black Panther Party during the course of making the film (one of the scenes is an interview with the Panthers basically playing themselves). They informed him that a massive demonstration was underway for the summer of '68 and Wexler decided to center the climax of his film ''[[RealitySubtext around that]]''.²²The title is from a famous {{Postmodern}} thesis by media critic [=Marshall McLuhan=], ''[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin The Medium is the Message]]'': namely the idea that there are [[MediumAwareness "hot" mediums]] such as theater that are highly interactive, and then there are more "cold" mediums, [[Wiki/TVTropes like television]], which [[strike:lull the audience into a stupor]] require little interaction from the audience. ²²TheInternet, which has room for huge amounts of interactivity but mostly confined to correspondence with [[InternetJerk ill-informed people]], would thus be an example of a populace that prefers its Medium Cool. With lukewarm spots [[WikiTropes such as wikis]], like the one you may be editing now. The Situationists like Guy Debord would probably ask why [[TVTropesWillRuinYourLife you are in here on the computer]] when you could be out forming a [[FlashMob flash-mob]] or impromptu theater, of course.²²The film was rated "X" by the MoralGuardians for ''political content'' on its release (the film contains little sexual content or swearing), the first film to do so (swiftly followed by ''Film/MidnightCowboy''); thus making the title reference all the more meaningful.²²Creator/RobertForster stars as John. Verna Bloom, who stars as Eileen, appeared as Mrs. Wormer ten years later in ''Film/AnimalHouse''. A young Creator/PeterBoyle, already bald, appears briefly as the manager of a gun range that caters to women.²²----²!!Tropes featured in this film include:²* AluminumChristmasTrees: ²** The popularity of Roller Derby.²** The journey of the {{cowboy}}-like motorcyclist in the opening scene to deliver reels of film to the studio (this was before TV cameramen had satellite hookup) chronicling some random car crash. Film at 11.²** The fact that most poverty in America at the time, including inner-city poverty, was (and still is, in many places) white.²** The depiction of the DNC protestors, being footage of the actual protest, features few {{New Age Retro Hippie}}s; the crowd is mostly [[BombThrowingAnarchists clean-shaven radicals]] and college students.²* AnarchyIsChaos: The protestors, roaming around Chicago, screaming "Fuck the pigs!", "The whole world is watching!", and the like. Causing a lot of chaos, accomplishing--not so much.²* AsHimself: The crew were somewhat nervous shooting the "Black Panther interview" scene, since the Panthers were basically playing themselves doing a TV interview and [[YouBastard accusing the media]] of indifference to the problems of the inner city.²* BookEnds: The film starts with John and his sound man taking pictures of a fatal car crash on the highway, and not calling for an ambulance until after they've gotten all the pictures they want. It ends with John crashing his car into a tree, injuring himself and killing Eileen, while tourists in another car drive by and take pictures.²* ColorCodedForYourConvenience: In the climax of the film, the female protagonist is shown wandering through the midst of the actual police riot (with the real camera-men in tow behind her). To avoid losing her in the crowd, she is dressed in a bright yellow dress.²* CreatorCameo: That's Haskell Wexler as the cameraman on the scaffold who points his camera at the audience in the last shot of the film.²* CreditsGag: Studs Terkel, veteran Chicago journalist who apparently gave assistance to the filmmakers, is credited as "Our Man In Chicago".²* DecoyProtagonist: The hero's LoveInterest, an impoverished Appalachian woman and her child, who he meets during the course of reporting on a story.²* {{Fanservice}}: The scene where a naked Robert Forster chases a naked Marianna Hill around John's apartment, before sex ensues. Very daring for 1969.²* {{Hipster}}s: The protagonists visit a (real, of course) psychedelic rave, very dry-ly scored to Frank Zappa's [[ Who Needs The Peace Corps]]:²-->What's there to live for...? Who needs the peace corps?\²America Is Wonderful! Wonderful wonderful wonderful...\²Hi, I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group!\²Every town must have a place where phony hippies meet!\²Psychedelic dungeons popping up on every street!²* IfItBleedsItLeads: DiscussedTrope. A frustrated TV guy talks about how all his in-depth journalism gets terrible ratings, because all people want to see is "30 seconds of someone getting their skull cracked."²* InterplayOfSexAndViolence: John and Ruth go to a violent roller derby, the sort of event that has members of the audience screaming "IN THE CROTCH!" This is immediately followed by John and Ruth having sex.²* JitterCam: The shaky, bouncy handheld camera is first seen in the sequence early in the film where police are shown taking training exercises against simulated protestors. It's seen a lot more in the latter portion of the film as chaos reigns on the streets of the city, with hippies fighting cops as Eileen wanders around looking for her boy.²* TheLastDJ: Our journalist hero, who is an up-and-coming correspondent in his [[CorruptCorporateExecutive monolithic media]] organization. He is horrified when he's told that his television station has been turning over its footage to the Chicago PD and the FBI.²* TheMan: The cops and TV reporters. A Black Panther challenges John, asking why he comes to the ghetto to film a 15-minute news story but has no interest in 300 years of black history.²* {{Mockumentary}}: Filmed documentary-style ''during'' the course of actual events, with RealLife passerby.²* NewAgeRetroHippie: UnbuiltTrope and thus, surprisingly averted. {{Discussed| Trope}}, however, by Music/FrankZappa on the soundtrack:²-->''[...]'' First I'll buy some beads,\²And then perhaps a leather band to go around my head.\²Some [[BraidsBeadsAndBuckskins feathers and bells, and a book of Indian lore]].\²I will ask the Chamber of Commerce how to get to Haight street,\²[[MushroomSamba And smoke an awful lotta' dope]].\²I will [[DoesNotLikeShoes wander around barefoot]].\²I will have a [[CloudCuckoolander psychedelic gleam]] in my eye [[EnforcedTrope at all times]].\²I will ''love'' everyone. I will ''love'' the police as they [[LyricalDissonance kick the shit out of me on the street]]...²** Most of the demonstrators in Chicago '68 were members of the New Left and not hippies, although Abbie Hoffman got all the attention in his famous "incitement to riot" trial. Hippies were there, however.²* NiceJobBreakingItHero: The police turn on journalists filming them and some DNC delegates.²* NotNamedInOpeningCredits: None of the actors are listed in the opening credits, to make it feel more like a documentary than a narrative film.²* ParentalSubstitute: The protagonist softens up when he becomes a surrogate father figure to the kid.²* PinballProtagonist: Taken to a literal extreme. John and Eileen basically bounce around Chicago for the last third of the movie, accomplishing very little. But the camera as it follows them around records the sights and sounds of the infamous protests at the Democratic Convention of 1968.²* RealLifeWritesThePlot: The filmmakers took their cameras to Chicago guessing that stuff would happen at the 1968 Democratic Convention, after the tumultuous year that saw two assassinations and growing anti-war protests. They were right, as their cameras caught the infamous "police riot" in which Mayor Daley's cops attacked protestors throughout the city.²* TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized: "Fuck you pigs! Fuck you pigs!" The rage-filled protestors at Chicago 1968 seem to be looking for a confrontation, and they get it.²* ShootTheShaggyDog: Eileen spends the last quarter or so of the film frantically hunting around Chicago, looking for her son. She finds John, he gives her a ride in his car...and he crashes the car, killing Eileen and critically injuring himself. And just to make things worse, unbeknownst to the two of them, Harold had already come home.²* SoundtrackDissonance: The Democratic Convention plays "Happy Days Are Here Again", a peppy upbeat tune that had been the unofficial Democratic anthem ever since FDR in 1932. The song then plays over a montage of bloodied and wounded protestors after they were mauled by the cops, some being given first aid, some being taken off in stretchers.²* YouBastard: The film's message. A major theme is the responsibility of the viewer, and their obligation to actually ''help'' and take part in events rather than just watch from a distance. In an early scene a woman confronts John about his detachment, telling him that he's a man, not a video camera. Another man complains about how all his deep dive journalism always gets crappy TV ratings, because all people want to watch is violence. In the last scene some passers-by casually take a picture of John and Eileen's car crash, without making the slightest effort to help. The film then ends with a cameraman on a scaffold turning and pointing his camera at the movie camera--that is, at us, the audience--before the film cuts to black.²----²->''"Look out, Haskell. It's real!"''²----


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