Friday, June 24, 2011

Tripping Academia: The Wild Bunch

William Holden lets the critics have it in The Wild Bunch.
Warner Brothers 1969

                                   Tripping Academia: The Wild Bunch


                                                                Jay Agan

      Ohio Wesleyan University has a "film series" they sponsor every Spring for student body & the locals. They get an "eclectic" mix of movies shown at the Strand Theater in downtown Delaware, Ohio. Something old, something new, something wierd & something not so wierd. Usually there's nothing in the lineup to interest me but for one exception a few years back. The Wild Bunch. A film I always enjoy & to see it on the big screen ..... Well I had to go!

      A blurb in the local paper mentioned there would be a discussion after at The Mean Bean, a nearby coffee house. Oh?

      I've read quite a lot of reviews over the years & I've often felt that many review(er)s were badly in need of reviews themselves. Especially ones seeing things that weren't there. You know, hidden messages & psychosexual subtext.

      Maybe there are SOME films having that, but some critics see "it" always, no matter what flick it is. There's a "school of  thought" that a film has a message always. Eg. any film from the 1930s is a critique on capitalism & 50s flicks are commentaries on "McCarthyism" & cold war paranoia (The parlor pinks & cocktail commies have to face the fact they lost that one. Live with it!).

      A few days before the showing, I talked to a friend of mine about attending. The plan was to "disrupt" the after movie discussion by trying to steer it into the realm of "symbolism" & sexual overtones & see how the participants would react (After all, everone knows what guns are REALLY about. Yeah, right!). I wanted to see how serious the "academics"  would take this & what tangent they would go off on. Bill couldn't go the theater because of his business though he did attend the discussion.

      Bill is an interesting fellow who builds thriving businesses, sells them, & goes on to build other thriving businesses. An ex-serviceman, he's been all over the world, "been there/done that". In his younger days he had the choice of making lisence plates or the Navy & chose the latter. He was able to avoid basic training altogether, a story in & of itself. A real life Captain Tylor.

      The theater experience was wonderful, The Wild Bunch being a great film & all. A western as only Sam Peckinpah could do. The "kids" were quiet & attentive (No fratboy "superiority" there!) with the MC busily jotting away on his clipboard. Coke (The kind you DRINK.) & popcorn making it complete.

      I'm one of those neanderthals who watches movies for the sheer joy of it. If  it's subtext you want to gab about, find youself another boy.

      We all arrive at the upper room of the coffee house later & the discussion was on, me waiting for Bill & looking for an opening.

      I was greeted WARMLY by the MC & a young lady. During the proceedings I was offered cookies & hot chocolate/coffee. While putting in my two cents (Didn't make my move yet.) I was treated nicely & deferentially.

      I'm thinking, "wait a minute! I can't do what I'm planning. They're being nice to me! You can't do dirt on someone nice to you! Dang!"

      They were not playing fair.

      Bill arrives & I take him aside, telling him why I couldn't go on with it. He agrees & informs  me the MC is someone who patronizes his restaraunt. We settle in & participate like normal people. Normal people is not something I do very well.

      It was interesting enough. The young'uns mentioned how long some of the scenes were (One is about 8 min.) & most films today try not to go over an average of 4 1/2 min. per. Some of the folks were a mite confused about  the "modern" gadgets in the film (Horseless carriages, automatic weapons, etc. One doofus referred to the 1911 Colt semi-auto as a "Beretta" & the 1917 Browning MG as a "Gatling gun".).

      Toward the end, the aforementioned doofus gets up & started spouting off  on the symbolism of violence & firearms (Uh! Oh!). As he ranted he referred to the climatic gunfight with the Browning MG as a kind of  "orgasm" & being very passionate about it! The students found this to be quite funny & laughed audibly as did yours truly. The very thing I had originally hoped to instigate as a joke was taking place for real!

      I challenged the fool with the statement about firearms being tools & nothing more, wherupon he got preoccupied with the word "tool". This jerks' head was worse than the Quagmire characters' on Family Guy. Giggity! Giggity!

      The soiree broke up around 11PM, fun had by all but the would be intellectual.

      I learned a few things:

1. Don't be mean. Be nice.

2. "Kids" these days (They're not children at that age.) are smarter than you think.

3. If things really are as weird as you think, it doesn't need any "help" from you.

                                    Article copyright © 6-24-2011 Jay Agan

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  1. Warner Brothers DID specialise in the "message" film (society and crime, that sort of thing) but where film is concerned, as Siggy F. said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.",

  2. I always liked what Louis B. Mayer (Or was it Sam Goldwyn?) always said: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."


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