Friday, August 18, 2006

It's a cold world out there. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting a little frosty myself.

In the final installment of Pitchfork Media's list of the top 200 songs of the '60s, The Band's "The Weight" ranks in at number thirteen, which is fine, because "The Weight" is a great song. What I don't appreciate is Pitchfork staff member Sean Fennessey's opening line about the song:

Like so many 1960s stunners, "The Weight" has nearly been spoiled rotten by that culture-siphoning boom-boom-boomer trash The Big Chill, but the Robbie Robertson-penned tune is deeper and more biblical than pass-the-pain ibuprofen ideology.

I'm sure Sean Fennessey knows much more about music than I do, which is why he's more qualified to work at Pitchfork (but keeping the word "qualified" in mind, do yourself a favor and check out what one has to do to get a job writing for Pitchfork). I'll stand firm, however, that I probably know a little bit more about movies than this guy, and considering that The Big Chill is one of my favorites, I'd like to state that I think he's wrong.

I think it's rare for people of our generation to really get The Big Chill. In fact, most people only know about it because of the extremely popular soundtrack albums that our parents owned. Yes, some songs like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and "The Weight" have become associated with the film, but the music is just a small part of what makes the movie so good.

I feel like a lot of people I know haven't seen The Big Chill and already have a negative opinion of it because of a joke in High Fidelity. In that (much inferior) film, two characters list their top five songs about death. One picks "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and the other character replies, "No. Immediate disqualification because of its involvement with The Big Chill." If you haven't seen The Big Chill, then you don't get the joke. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" isn't necessarily about death, but a character plays it on the organ at the end of the funeral scene, and the Stones' original version plays over the soundtrack as the characters progress to the burial service. The joke in High Fidelity does not mean that The Big Chill is a shitty movie; it's a reference to how iconic the film's soundtrack has become.

People in their 20s may have negative reactions to the film basically because it is an honest portrayal of how youthful idealism eventually evolves into middle-aged apathy and realism. The main characters in the film are middle-class, WASPy college friends who reunite after years of infrequent contact when their friend suddenly commits suicide. What follows is a long weekend where they realize how they’ve aged and how their ideals and expectations have changed dramatically since college. It’s a pretty important film for it’s time (it was released in 1983) because it showed a generation still haunted by the ‘60s. It’s still prevalent today; it’s arguable whether or not the current events are as turbulent as Vietnam or the Civil Rights Movement, and the people of our generation are certainly not as politically active as our parents’. The film does, however, still give an extremely honest view of what most of us will be like when we’re in our early ‘40s. It’s a depressing thought, but let’s be honest. Look at Dennis Hopper, who wrote and directed the quintessential film of the ‘60s counter-culture; he’s a Republican and he supports the Bush administration. I’m not saying that all of us are going to change our political ideology that drastically, but I am admitting that when you get out of college, enter the real world, and start families and realize that you actually have some responsibilities that involve others depending upon you, you lose sight of your trendy idealism.

In closing, I want to say that I respect people who have opinions that are different that mine, considering those opinions are actually based on thought and experience rather than a pretentious writing style. Honestly, the phrases used to describe the film (“culture-siphoning boom-boom-boomer trash” and “pass-the-pain ibuprofen ideology”) really mean nothing. But honestly, it’s Pitchfork, and even though they usually report the news well and their reviews are pretty on-target, the writing style will always be unprofessional and hollow.

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