Archive for the ‘Manliness’ Category

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a trucker.

As a child this career path seemed AWESOME!

As an adult I have realised that the lifestyle I dreamed of having no longer exists. Even that relationship with vehicles has changed. Cars and trucks no longer symbolise freedom, they represent high fuel and insurance prices and being stuck in a traffic jam.

So where did my romanticized view come from? As is often the case with my life, the answer is film.

SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT

This was understandably the second highest grossing film in 1977 (second to Star Wars) and like Star Wars it had a big impression on me. The theme song “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed speaks of overcoming obstacles “doing what, they said, couldn’t be done”. The phenomenal Pontiac Firebird that the “Bandit” (Burt Reynolds – who really should have been in my Manly Hats post) drives is still one of my all time favourite cars.

Even in my child hood fantasies I did not have the confidence to imagine being the lead, I was much more comfortable in the side kick role – The Trucker “Snowman”. It felt achievable. Besides, he had a dog, and the Bandit seemed to spend too much time chasing a woman (Sally Fields), and at that tender age I thought girls were stupid.

THE CANNONBALL RUN

Not so much a trucking movie, but one that existed in the same world. Released in 1981 with a great cast, it’s not nearly as good as Smokey and the Bandit (also directed by Hal Needham), but its worth watching just for the outtakes at the end of the film. The cast was having a ball. (Roger Moore plays a man who believes he is a Secret Agent!) This was the 80’s and its easy to see why we all had posters on our walls of a Lamborghini Countach (and lady tennis players scratching their bums)

In this world even the Police have a Pontiac Firebird.

But once again its the theme song that has stayed with me.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Be anything you want to be. It’s not what you got, it’s how you use it, you be you, and I’ll be me. It’s just a matter of sty-le”

These films are Modern Day Westerns. They can only exist in America and they embody a sense of individualism, adventure and anti-authority that as a child, and now as an adult, I really responded to.

CONVOY

I just found out Sam Peckinpah directed this! Oh its a Western alright. I was aware of the theme song long before I saw the film, which is the least entertaining of the three I have mentioned. However that song is full of mystery and sparked many a day-dream.

“It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June and a Kenworth pullin’ logs. Cab-over Pete with a reefer on and a Jimmy haulin’ hogs. We’s headin’ for bear on Eye-one-O ’bout a mile outta Shakeytown, I says “Pigpen, this here’s Rubber Duck” “And I’m about to put the hammer down”

I still have no idea what they are talking about, and until just now I thought it was “Big Ben” not “Pigpen”

So that’s it. The three films, with theme songs, that made me want to be a trucker. The open road, the sense of loyalty and comradeship, pulling on that horn, bar room brawls, huge burgers, beer, sleeping in the cab. Looking back I can see how they also shaped my film preferences, (John Carpenter, one of my favourite directors, Westerns, particularly Rio Bravo, Rocky and more) particularly due to the ideology and the casts.

Oh actually, in the words of Yoda, “there is another”.

Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China

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Men get sexier as they age

Posted: May 23, 2011 in Films, Manliness
Tags: , ,

I turn 34 today. Which I am okay with.

Actually I really like getting older. However there are people in my life that like to point out the grey hairs that are starting to appear in my stubble and my hair. They delight in pointing out my wrinkles, or the grunts I make whenever I get out of a chair.

But what they don’t understand is this. Men…. get sexier… as we get older.

It’s true. Women may have the upper hand throughout school, and throughout their twenties….but the thirties start to even the playing field, the forties the men edge ahead…. and after that…well the game is ours.

As men get older we finally mature, we get wiser and more confident. We reach an age at which we can smoke cigars and not look foolish.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is now at the cinemas and women still flock to see Johnny Depp. He is nearing 50. Aye…. 50. He is sexier now than he was in Edward Scissorhands or in Benny & Joon.

And he is not the only one.

Whilst women seek to look younger, use a wide range of products to keep their skin fresh, and go to plastic surgeons seeking cures to the ravages of age, men should embrace it. (Actually, so should women, as those that age gracefully are beautiful, as Lauren Bacall shows)

If men want plastic surgery it should be to look older. They should be chanting demands for Tommy Lee Jones wrinkles and Steve Buscemi eyes.

We need to look like we have lived. That we have gained wisdom through hardship….that we have suffered.

Don’t believe me?

Further Viewing

Standing in the doorway to the cinema over Easter weekend I noticed many young men walking past with their tops off and wearing a baseball cap. What is it about baseball caps that make them so popular among teenagers and those in their early twenties? Don’t they understand that only Magnum P.I could truly get away with wearing one?

A baseball cap is a strange piece of clothing because it seems to signify youth (in this country at least), and yet many of these males want to be taken seriously as men. Defining what a “man” is, is a tricky task indeed and I wonder if that is partly because of the lack of initiation rites in our culture. When do boys become men? It can’t be when we breed, because we have 12 year olds doing that now. It cant be when we get a mortgage, because I did that and nothing changed. So it must be something in our behaviour, in our wisdom and in our morals.

For me being a “man” is linked closely to my on screen role models. Put simply, it is doing the right thing. A quick assessment of any strong male role model in cinema will show a distinct lack of baseball hat wearing heroes (okay maybe Kurt Russel in Big Trouble in Little China, but he was more charming baffoon than Hero). There are several far more manly hats than a baseball cap and I have come up with the 7 best which will no doubt stir your ire.

Indiana Jones – The 100% Fur Felt Fedora that helped make archeologists sexy. He fought Nazi’s, saved child slaves, and still mantained a touch of the badboy fortune and glory hunter about him. Shortround wore the baseball cap. Who would you rather be?

The 100% Fur Felt Fedora that helped make archeologists sexy.

“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”

Mick Dundee (Crocodile Dundee) The 100% Beaver Akubra hat (I think) with a crocodile leather hatband.
Yes he could kill a crocodile with his bare hands….and a knife, but he was also a genuinely nice bloke who accepted everyone just the way they were, and wanted the best for them all.

"That's incredible. Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on earth."

John Wayne (Westerns)
John Wayne wore a lot of hats and played a lot of roles which often had this similiarity; they were AWESOME. His characters had integrity, courage and perseverance. He always strove to do the right thing and was loyal to his friends.

"Out here a man settles his own problems."

Rick (Casablanca) Fedora.
So many good acts under the guise of being out for himself, but it is the ending for which he will always be remembered. Bogart wore a Fedora in many of his films, the stand out ones being The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep.

"Are my eyes really brown?"

Solomon Kane
Solomon Kane was a 16th Century badass created by Conan creator Robert E Howard. He was an anti hero that turned to the path of rightousness and now stalks the land vanguishing evil …whilst wearing an absolutely phenomenal hat.

"There are many paths to redemption, not all of them peaceful."

Rocky – (Rocky 1 and Rocky Balboa) Another Fedora.
Rocky may be as thick as a whale omlette, but he has got it where it counts. He is a good man, that is polite and respectful to all and just wants to do his best. No matter what life throws at him he gets back up and gets back in to the fight. Yeah he does.

"The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it."

George Stone – (The Untouchables)
Sure Elliot Ness brought them together, and Sean Connery as Malone is an audience favourite, but it is Andy Garcia as Stone who has the coolest scene by far as he slides across the floor saving a baby, throwing a gun to his unarmed friend and getting the bad guy in his own sights. Yes they were untouchable, but they were also friends, striving to do the right thing against overwhelming odds.

"If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue."

With so many great hats on offer why choose a baseball cap? I suspect it is the desire to fit in. I read somewhere that we comprimise 95% of our personality during our school years, in order to fit in. (I hope thats not true.) A year ago I bought a Fedora, and as I stepped out of my house I hesitated and had a moment when I feared the reaction I would get at work. Isn’t that crazy? A 32 year old worrying about how people will react to a hat? None of the above worried, and so neither will I and neither should you.

So cast off your baseball caps and wear a hat that shows off your desire to me a man – whatever that is.

Further Reading

The Art of Manliness guide to hats and hat etiquette.

Hat Shop – where I got my Fedora