Americans Like to Root for the Underdog
We saw Ferris Buellers Day off, 16 Candles, Stripes, Animal House and Star Wars
We watched the first ones October 26th and the next set of movies on November 29th
The American dream has always been about rooting for the underdog
Well, no matter whether you are Republican or Democratic, work for Microsoft or Apple, or are a janitor or CEO, you most likely see yourself as somewhat of an underdog.In America, especially compared to other countries, the underdog narrative is an honorable and respectable one. From the American patriots in 1776 to the George Mason Patriots in 2006, the Cinderella story, as it is called in the NCAA tournament, has always been an attractive one.With underdogs you have (1) a narrative people like, and (2) a narrative people see themselves in. Is it any wonder people want to cheer for underdogs? It's like cheering for yourself.These serve to energize us with the hope that people like ourselves can do anything. People like to believe that those above us aren't that great after all, and that people like us are just as good, if not better than the people in power.In fact, the narrative is so strong that Neeru Paharia of Harvard Business School and colleagues named a psychological effect after it, simply "the underdog effect." They found that companies gain goodwill from consumers when companies present themselves as a group that has overcame disadvantages through sheer determination.This effect was stronger for people who personally related with the narrative and stronger in cultures (for example, America) where the narrative was more prevalent.This narrative dominates American culture not only in sports but in all other popular media. From Luke Skywalker to Cinderella, Americans crave stories about underdogs. Even the more privileged characters in storylines, such as the elite James Bond or billionaire Tony Stark, end up in situations where they must overcome disadvantages through sheer determination.Our country and the very fabric of our existence as the United States of America come from our ability to rise up and excel during improbable circumstances, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I realized that whether in sports, movies, business or everyday life, our nature is to pull for those who are down on their luck and hoping for a miracle. Time after time (almost too many times) he has shown the world that determination, grit and hope are the key ingredients in doing something extraordinary. These tales may be far-fetched, but these unexpected victories occur more often than you think and not only do they make for a good story, but they validate our belief that ordinary people truly are capable of extraordinary things.
- Rags to riches stories consume aspiring entrepreneurs every year and the business moguls who make something out of nothing are constant reminders of what the payoff is to hard work and determination even if the odds do not seem to be in your favor. To the men who were truly underdogs, doing what they set out to do was not satisfying enough. People do what they’re expected to do every day, it’s only when you compete to satisfy your own hunger that amazing things happen because you were the only one crazy enough to give yourself a shot. Both entrepreneurs show that the bottom is not always a bad place to start, it makes it that much sweeter when you succeed and surpass the slightest of expectations. We love to root for those who “can’t” because we were once the nation that couldn’t. Although they’re glorified examples of extreme victories, the top underdog stories still relate to our desire to succeed, whether it be on the playing field, in the office or on the streets even when the odds are against and the ball isn’t in our court. All these stories do is give us a symbol to idolize while we try to win our own personal battles, which is all it takes to fuel the fire for an upset of epic proportions.
- There are a couple of things that are really important in understanding "real" American culture today, and any movie that is going to project an understanding of America needs to have at least one of the following elements, and explore it in a way that really reflects how Americans feel about it. merican optimism and can-do attitude. Americans as individuals have a different philosophy than most other nationals in the world simply because of America's history of going at it alone and achieving alone. The individual is valued just as much as, or even more than the family at certain times, and success stories of individuals overcoming great odds are celebrated.
- Ability to laugh at ourselves- Americans love humor and satire, and never pass up a chance at self-examination.
the difference between European immigrants and WASP Americans is so well-outlined here. Despite the fact that both of the main characters were born in America and grew up in mainstream American culture, they couldn't be more different, and the movie celebrates that. American patriotism, can-do attitude, independence, and testosterone, all bottled up and released at you in a flurry of military insignia. Plus, the song. Nothing will help you understand America more than Highway to the Danger Zone.
The Good Girl - Jennifer Aniston is The All-American Girl actress, and this is probably her best movie. She works at a Wal-Mart lookalike. There is no movie that explores the desperation of some members of the so-called middle-lower class as well as this one.
American teenage angst, independence, the struggle for self, the dynamics of high school social pecking order, all combined together.
“Stripes” is an anarchic slob movie, a celebration of all that is irreverent, reckless, foolhardy, undisciplined, and occasionally scatological. It's a lot of fun. It comes from some of the same people involved in “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” and could have been titled National Lampoon's Animal Army with little loss of accuracy. As a comedy about a couple of misfits who find themselves in the U.S. Army's basic training program, “Stripes” has the added advantage of being a whole movie about the Army, The movie is not only a triumph for its stars (Bill Murray and Harold Ramis) and its director (Ivan Reitman), but a sort of vindication For Harold Ramis, who plays Murray's grave-eyed, flat-voiced, terminally detached partner in “Stripes,” this is a chance, at last, to come out from behind the camera. Ramis and Murray are both former Second City actors, but in Hollywood, Ramis has been typecast maybe because he sometimes looks too goofy for Hollywood's unimaginative tastes.
In “Stripes,” Murray and Ramis make a wonderful team. Their big strength is restraint. Given the tendency of movies like this to degenerate into undisciplined slapstick, they wisely choose to play their characters as understated, laid-back anarchists.
he movie has especially good writing in several scenes. My favorite comes near the beginning, during a session when recruits in the new platoon get to know one another. One obviously psycho draftee, who looks like Robert De Niro, quietly announces that if his fellow soldiers touch him, touch his stuff, or interfere in any way with his person or his privacy, he will quite simply be forced to kill them. Sergeant Hulka replies: "Lighten up!" The movie's plot follows basic training, more or less, during its first hour. Then a romance enters. Murray and Ramis meet a couple of cute young military policewomen), and they happily violate every rule in the book.
It's an unwritten law of these movies that the last half hour has to involve some kind of spectacular development. In “Animal House,” it was the homecoming parade. In “Stripes,” the climax involves the Army's latest secret weapon, which is a computerized, armored, nuclear weapons carrier disguised as a recreational vehicle. Murray's platoon is assigned to go to Europe and test it. Murray, Ramis, and their girls decide to test it during a weekend holiday swing through the Alps. After they cross the Iron Curtain, all hell breaks loose.
“Stripes” is a complete success on its intended level--it's great, irreverent entertainment--but it was successful,
Here is one of the most innocent movies in a long time, a sweet, warm-hearted comedy about a teenager who skips school so he can help his best friend win some self-respect. The therapy he has in mind includes a day's visit to Chicago, and after we've seen the Sears Tower, the Art Institute, the Board of Trade, a parade down Dearborn Street, architectural landmarks, a Gold Coast lunch and a game at Wrigley Field, we have to concede that the city and state film offices have done their jobs: If "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" fails on every other level, at least it works as a travelogue.It does, however, work on at least a few other levels. The movie stars Matthew Broderick as Ferris, a bright high school senior from the North Shore who fakes an illness so he can spend a day in town with his girlfriend, Sloane (the astonishingly beautiful Mia Sara) and his best friend, Cameron (Alan Ruck).At first, it seems as if skipping school is all he has in mind - especially after he talks Cameron into borrowing his dad's restored red Ferrari, a car the father loves more than Cameron himself.The body of the movie is a lighthearted excursion through the Loop, including a German-American Day parade in which Ferris leaps aboard a float, grabs a microphone and starts singing "Twist and Shout" while the marching band backs him up. The teens fake their way into a fancy restaurant for lunch, spend some time gawking at the masterpieces in the Art Institute, and then go out to Wrigley Field, There is one great, dizzying moment when the teens visit the top of the Sears Tower and lean forward and press their foreheads against the glass, and look straight down at the tiny cars and little specks of life far below, and begin to talk about their lives. And that introduces, subtly, the buried theme of the movie, which is that Ferris wants to help Cameron gain self-respect in the face of his father's materialism.Ferris is, in fact, a bit of a preacher. "Life goes by so fast," he says, "that if you don't stop and look around, you might miss it." He's sensitive to the hurt inside his friend's heart, as Cameron explains how his dad has cherished and restored the red Ferrari and given it a place of honor in his life - a place denied to Cameron."Ferris Bueller" was directed by John Hughes, the philosopher of adolescence, whose credits include "Sixteen Candles," In all of his films, adults are strange, distant creatures who love their teenagers, but fail completely to understand them. That's the case here, all right: All of the adults, including a bumbling high-school dean (Jeffrey Jones), are dim-witted and one-dimensional. And the movie's solutions to Cameron's problems are pretty simplistic. But the film's heart is in the right place, and "Ferris Bueller" is slight, whimsical and sweet.
"What we need right now," Otter tells his fraternity brothers, "is a stupid, futile gesture on someone's part." And no fraternity on campus -- on any campus -- is better qualified to provide such a gesture than the Deltas. They have the title role in "National Lampoon's Animal House," which remembers all the way back to 1962, when college was simpler, beer was cheaper, and girls were harder to seduce.
The movie is vulgar, raunchy, ribald, and occasionally scatological. It is also the funniest comedy since "Animal House" is funny Because it finds some kind of precarious balance between insanity and accuracy, between cheerfully wretched excess and an ability to reproduce the most revealing nuances of human behavior. In one sense there has never been a campus like this movie's Faber University, which was apparently founded by the lead pencil tycoon and has as its motto "Knowledge is Good." In another sense, Faber University is a microcosm of ... I was going to say our society, but why get serious? Let someone else discuss the symbolism of Bluto's ability to crush a beer can against his forehead.Bluto is, of course, the most animalistic of the Deltas. He's played by John Belushi, and the performance is all the more remarkable because Bluto has hardly any dialogue. He isn't a talker, he's an event. His best scenes are played in silence (as when he lasciviously scales a ladder to peek at a sorority pillow fight).
Bluto and his brothers are engaged in a holding action against civilization. They are in favor of beer, women, song, motorcycles, Playboy centerfolds, and making rude noises. They are opposed to studying, serious thought, the Dean, the regulations governing fraternities, and, most especially, the disgusting behavior of the Omegas -- a house so respectable it has even given an ROTC commander to the world.
The movie was written by National Lampoon contributors (including Harold Ramis, who was in Second City at the same time Belushi was), and was directed by John Landis. It's like an end run around Hollywood's traditional notions of comedy. It's anarchic, messy, and filled with energy. It assaults us. Part of the movie's impact comes from its sheer level of manic energy: When beer kegs and Hell's Angels come bursting through the windows of the Delta House, the anarchy is infectious. But the movie's better made (and better acted) than we might at first realize. It takes skill to create this sort of comic pitch, and the movie's filled with characters that are sketched a little more absorbingly than they had to be, and acted with perception.
For example: Tim Matheson, as Otter, the ladies' man, achieves a kind of grace in his obsession. John Vernon, as the Dean of Students, has a blue-eyed, rulebook hatefulness that's inspired. Bluto, almost a natural force: He lusts, he thirsts, he consumes cafeterias full of food, and he pours an entire fifth of Jack Daniel's into his mouth, belches, and observes, "Thanks. I needed that." He has, as I suggested, little dialogue. But it is telling. When the Delta House is kicked off campus and the Deltas are thrown out of school, he makes, in a moment of silence, a philosophical observation: "Seven years down the drain." What the situation requires, of course, is a stupid, futile gesture on someone's part.
16 candles"Sixteen Candles" is a sweet and funny movie about two of the worst things that can happen to a girl on her sixteenth birthday: (1) Her grandparents shrieking "Look! She's finally got her boobies!" and (2) her entire family completely and totally forgetting that it's even her birthday. The day goes downhill from there, because of (3) her sister's wedding to a stupid lunkhead, (4) her crush on the best-looking guy in the senior class,
If "Sixteen Candles" This is a fresh and cheerful movie with a goofy sense of humor and a good ear for how teenagers talk. It doesn't hate its characters or condescend to them, the way a lot of teenage movies do; instead, it goes for human comedy and finds it in the everyday lives of the kids in its story.
The movie stars Molly Ringwald as Samantha, a bright-eyed teenager who pulls off the difficult trick of playing a character who takes everything too seriously -- without ever taking herself too seriously. She has a crush on a senior boy named Jake (Michael Schoeffling), who looks like Matt Dillon, of course, and doesn't even know she's alive. Meanwhile, the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) is in love with her. Also, there are complications involving Jake's stuck-up girlfriend, Samantha's impossible grandparents, various older and younger brothers and sisters, and a foreign exchange student named Long Duk Dong, who apparently has come to this country to major in partying.
"Sixteen Candles" contains most of the scenes that are obligatory in teenage movies: The dance, the makeout session, the party that turns into a free-for-all. But writer and director John Hughes doesn't treat them as subjects for exploitation; he listens to these kids. For example, on the night of the dance, Samantha ends up in the shop room with the Geek. They're sitting in the front seat of an old car. The Geek acts as if he's sex-mad. Samantha tells him to get lost. Then, in a real departure for this kind of movie, they really start to talk, and it turns out they're both lonely, insecure, and in need of a good friend.
There are a lot of effective performances in this movie, including Paul Dooleyas Samantha's harried father, Blanche Baker as the zonked-out older sister, Hall as the Geek, and Gedde Watanabe as the exchange student (he elevates his role from a potentially offensive stereotype to high comedy). Ringwald provides a perfect center for the story, and her reaction in the first scene with her grandmother is just about worth the price of admission.
To see "Star Wars" “Star Wars'' was a technical watershed that influenced many of the movies that came after. These films have little in common, except for the way they came along at a crucial moment in cinema history, when new methods were ripe for synthesis. “ “Star Wars'' melded a new generation of special effects with the high-energy action picture; it linked space opera and soap opera, fairy tales and legend, and packaged them as a wild visual ride.
“Star Wars'' effectively brought to an end the golden era of early-1970s personal filmmaking and focused the industry on big-budget special-effects blockbusters, blasting off a trend we are still living through. But you can't blame it for what it did, you can only observe how well it did it. In one way or another all the big studios have been trying to make another “Star Wars'' ever since
It's a good-hearted film in every single frame, and shining through is the gift of a man who knew how to link state of the art technology with a deceptively simple, really very powerful, story. It was not by accident that George Lucas worked with Joseph Campbell, an expert on the world's basic myths, in fashioning a screenplay that owes much to man's oldest stories. Lucas has gone one step beyond. His special effects were so advanced in 1977 that they spun off an industry, including his own Industrial Light & Magic Co., the computer wizards who do many of today's best special effects.
Two Lucas inspirations started the story with a tease: He set the action not in the future but “long ago,'' and jumped into the middle of it with “Chapter 4: A New Hope.'' These seemingly innocent touches were actually rather powerful; they gave the saga the aura of an ancient tale, and an ongoing one.
As if those two shocks were not enough for the movie's first moments, I learn from a review by Mark R. Leeper that this was the first film to pan the camera across a star field: “Space scenes had always been done with a fixed camera, and for a very good reason. It was more economical not to create a background of stars large enough to pan through.'' As the camera tilts up, a vast spaceship appears from the top of the screen and moves overhead, an effect reinforced by the surround sound. It is such a dramatic opening that it's no wonder Lucas paid a fine and resigned from the Directors Guild rather than obey its demand that he begin with conventional opening credits.
The film has simple, well-defined characters, beginning with the robots C-3PO (fastidious, a little effete) and R2D2 (childlike, easily hurt). The evil Empire has all but triumphed in the galaxy, but rebel forces are preparing an assault on the Death Star. Princess Leia (pert, sassy Carrie Fisher) has information pinpointing the Death Star's vulnerable point and feeds it into R2-D2's computer; when her ship is captured, the robots escape from the Death Star and find themselves on Luke Skywalker's planet, where soon Luke (Mark Hamill as an idealistic youngster) meets the wise, old, mysterious Kenobi (Alec Guinness) and they hire the free-lance space jockey Han Solo (Harrison Ford, already laconic) to carry them to Leia's rescue. The story is advanced with spectacularly effective art design, set decoration and effects. Although the scene in the intergalactic bar is famous for its menagerie of alien drunks, there is another scene -- when the two robots are thrown into a hold with other used droids -- which equally fills the screen with fascinating throwaway details. And a scene in the Death Star's garbage bin (inhabited by a snake with a head curiously shaped like E.T.'s) also is well done.
Lucas fills his screen with loving touches. There are little alien rats hopping around the desert, and a chess game played with living creatures. Luke's weather-worn “Speeder'' vehicle, which hovers over the sand, reminds me uncannily of a 1965 Mustang. And consider the details creating the presence, look and sound of Darth Vader, whose fanged face mask, black cape and hollow breathing are the setting for James Earl Jones' cold voice of doom.
Seeing the film the first time, I was swept away, and have remained swept ever since. Seeing this restored version I wonder, too, if Lucas could have come up with a more challenging philosophy behind the Force. As Kenobi explains it, it's basically just going with the flow. What if Lucas had pushed a little further, to include elements of nonviolence or ideas about intergalactic conservation?
The film philosophies that will live forever are the simplest-seeming ones. They may have profound depths, but their surfaces are as clear to an audience as a beloved old story. The way I know this is because the stories that seem immortal -- A brave but flawed hero, a quest, colorful people and places, sidekicks, the discovery of life's underlying truths.