Archive for March 2010

Throwback to the Future

Remember when it was cool to be retro? I sure do. Growing up on the Beatles, Converse, Nick at Nite, and Larry Bird highlight tapes made me feel generations ahead of my time. As a kid, I used to love chatting with my friends’ parents (perhaps even more than with my friends themselves) because it was exciting to bridge our age gaps through nostalgic dialogue. Referencing Lennon-McCartney and Lenny-Squiggy set me apart from others my age who were more familiar with Evan & Jaron and Keenan & Kel. Sporting “Dr. J’s” and a #33 Celtics jersey gave me character, and made me feel like a man among boys wearing Sambas and the Bulls # 23.

The only reason worth watching "Laverne & Shirley"

Nowadays, being old-school paradoxically means being with the times. Retro style isn’t truly “retro” anymore, and it often feels painfully uncool. When everyone including your eighth grade sister rocks several colors of low-top Chuck Taylor’s, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our age’s love of all things past. Throwback jersey-filled stadiums, Journey sing-alongs, and high school chicks in Ramones’ t-shirts all make me want to vomit and immediately torch my vinyl record and baseball card collections.

I (REALLY) Wanna Be Sedated!!!

My generation is relatively apolitical, non confrontational, and cleanly, so why is it that we all want to dress like punks and hippies!  Why do we play “Beatles Rock Band” and quote  Across the Universe, when many of us would likely confuse George Harrison with the guy who played Han Solo (I’m right now picturing a future YouTube video called “I am the Wookie”).

"George" Harrison Ford

Perhaps we love what once was because we fear the uncertainties of what’s coming. Or maybe we find security with past styles in order to mask our age’s apparent lack of substance. I fervently doubt most of today’s music, TV, films, clothing, and automobiles will possess similar staying power as those we celebrate from prior times.

It’s scary to think that my generation isn’t contributing much worthwhile and long-lasting culture to the future. Still, it is probably more frightening to believe we are doing so! If my children grow up listening to the Dave Matthews Band, watching Gossip Girl, and wearing corny rubber bracelets around their wrists, I’ll feel partially responsible for cheating them of the sheer retro awesomeness my parents’ generation passed on to my peers and I.

Maybe throwing things back a bit has its perks, however. By continuing to follow trends of the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s, my generation can make history forget that we’ve never really had a distinctive cultural identity of our own.

Perhaps it’s impossible to establish a unifying, representational image for a generation so absorbed in the past. Our identity crisis is also complex due to addictive social networking and new media allowing individuals to strategically manipulate the ways they are viewed by others (as a blogger, “Tweeter”, and Facebook user, I’m as guilty as anyone). True individuality is hard to notice within collective networks, making it even more difficult for unique people to stand out and inspire positive cultural reform. Consequently, many revert back to older forms of expression (classic rock music, iconic images) to share how they truly feel.

As much as it sometimes pains me to see retro become so commonplace, I’ll have to bite my tongue and continue donning my “Larry Legend” attire quietly. After all, I believe John Lennon inspired many throwback t-shirts that boldly read “Give Peace a Chance.”

Imagine...all the t-shirts!

The Orange Blues

Ciao. I’m writing from my abroad home in Florence, Italy after an exhilarating, recent weekend excursion to Amsterdam. While Holland’s capital is well known for its green (Cannabis and locally-brewed Heineken are both legal for those over 18 and 16, respectively) and red (the city’s Red Light District is world famous), I spent much of my trip with Orange on my mind.

iAMISSING 'Cuse

I AMissing 'Cuse

My current semester in Europe has been an eye-opening experience that I will always treasure. I’ve escaped my comfort zone, met interesting people, and have had a blast while traveling throughout many beautiful cities like Rome and Pisa. Still, as with most choices in life, studying overseas has had its tradeoffs.

While I thoroughly enjoy exploring the world, it is hard being away from the Syracuse University friends and lifestyle I’ve grown to love.  Giving up a semester on campus is indeed a sacrifice, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about school daily. In addition to missing the routines and people back at SU, being thousands of miles away from one of the nation’s top-ranked college basketball teams has made my European experience bittersweet.

Despite all the wonders of modern technology, the six-hour time difference and my apartment’s lack of a television have made keeping up with the Orange a grueling task.  Italy’s weak Internet signal makes streaming online broadcasts virtually impossible, and scrambling to local bars to catch live games has been incredibly chaotic. Sure, it’s cool watching games in a foreign place, but it’s impossible to do so without wishing you were packed in the Carrier Dome’s student section watching the action in person. Italian soccer matches are definitely intense, but not quite the same.

Is Fiorentina Purple the new Orange?

Throughout my time at school, I’ve attended virtually every home basketball game. I’ve even followed the team on the road to Rutgers, Seton Hall, and Madison Square Garden to show my support. Not being in Syracuse for the College GameDay rout over Villanova made me feel record levels of what I somberly call “The Orange Blues.” Still, I’m trying hard to keep things in perspective. I’m enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity while doing my best to fully experience another.

I always believed this year’s Orange team would be successful, but Coach Boeheim’s squad appears to have what it takes to be special. Watching Syracuse contend for a national championship while abroad was never something I gave much thought to, but now I’m starting to prepare myself for this very real possibility (winning the upcoming Big East Tournament would certainly help the team’s chances).

Could an Orange title run simultaneously make me feel better and worse? While I’m whole-heartedly pulling for SU, I can’t fathom what it would be like to miss the on-campus celebration. It’s tough wanting to be in two places at once. Still, viewing this year’s basketball team as an added bonus to my abroad experience is a good way to appreciate all that I have going for me on two continents. Perhaps it’s also the only way to cope with the onset of what the Italians would refer to as “Marzo Madness.”

Wesley Johnson

Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson

Avatar Feeling “The Hurt”

The Hurt Locker is a great film. Is it the best movie of 2009? No.

Avatar fell victim to its own enormity and success Sunday night. Sometimes things can be so popular that it’s unpopular to support them.

People have called “Locker” one of the greatest war films ever produced. While it may be the most intense and provocative drama of its type, the movie doesn’t match up with several similar films that didn’t take home Best Picture, including Steven Spielberg’s timeless classic Saving Private Ryan (1999 Oscars). Ironically, The Hurt Locker may not have even been the best war movie nominated this year! My vote goes to Inglourious Basterds, which I believe is writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s 3rd masterpiece film (after Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill).

Even if the Academy didn’t choose Avatar as the year’s finest, James Cameron should have been honored as Best Director for his latest sci-fi love child. Hollywood’s most innovative mind has changed the future of global cinema by pushing the boundaries of the medium. Avatar, simply for its groundbreaking visual advancements, may go down as the Citizen Kane of the 21st century.

Looking back at 2009, Avatar is the one movie that will always stand out. Unfortunately, it didn’t last night.

AVATAR left feelin' blue

AVATAR left feelin' blue

A Bul-Lock to Win an Oscar?

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to catch the 82nd Annual Academy Awards tonight. My time difference and fear of being spotted in an Italian “viewing party” will force me to discover this year’s winners online via morning news reports (I won’t be alone thanks to WABC-TV being pulled from Cablevision back home).

While Hollywood’s biggest night is always exciting, the 2010 Oscars may be one of the more memorable celebrations in recent memory. James Cameron’s revolutionary Avatar will likely take home Best Picture, and stellar performances from Cristolph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), Mo’Nique (Precious), and my “Dude” Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), are also expected to be immortalized in the Kodak Theater tonight.

Still, there is one Oscar story that trumps them all. Many industry experts predict that the inexplicably popular and historically mediocre Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) will join the likes of legends Katharine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, and Meryl Streep (nominated for her 16th Academy Award tonight ) as a Best Actress winner.

Few film stars have annoyed me more throughout the years than Bullock. Her awful (but often commercially successful) body of work truly sucks, and the fact that she may win an Oscar quite literally “blind-sides” me. Had someone told me one year ago that “Ms. Congeniality” would  soon be nominated for such an honor, I would have considered betting my life’s savings on this fool being wrong.

Sure, other stars have made similar progressions (Reese Witherspoon recently transitioned from Legally Blonde to an Oscar-winning role as June Carter in Walk the Line), but Bullock’s nomination reflects as improbable of a leap towards artistic credibility as I can remember. Hell, she just won a “Worst Actress Razzie” for her 2009 role in the widely-lamented All About Steve. To no surprise, Oscar triumph tonight would make Bullock the first screen performer to earn film’s most prestigious and embarrasing awards in one weekend!

While I have enjoyed a few of Bullock’s films, including Crash and 1994′s action classic Speed, she is undeniably my least favorite element in both works. In the latter, her irritatingly-flat performance somehow makes the stoic Keanu Reeves look Shakespearean.

In a cinematic year I’ll remember for being visionary (Avatar, District 9), uncompromising (The Hurt Locker), painfully introspective (Crazy Heart, Up in the Air), and playfully genius (“Basterds”), it would be a shame if Bullock’s performance in a B sports flick draws the most attention from tonight’s affair. Still, America (and especially Hollywood) loves to see unlikely heroes reaching unexpected heights, and a Bullock victory that once seemed impossible is now probable. What’s next? A one word acceptance speech of “whoa” from her Speed co-star for Best Actor in 2011?

A Bullock Oscar Win Would Leave Me Feelin' Grouchy