Month: November 2010

Xtina’s First Hit In Years? You Be the Judge…

Photobucket

To preface, click here please.

2010 has just not been Christina Aguilera’s year. Bionic flopped. Her marriage failed. And Burlesque is already a bust debuted to lackluster ticket sales this past weekend. If karma is your game, perhaps you’d say the singer’s reportedly uber-bitchy, unabashedly-assholeish antics have come back to bite her in the ass (throwing gum on her fans at a performance on The Today Show as seen here ). But as much as Christina’s impressive level of asshole truly amuses me disappoints many, that voice undeniably still defines an entire generation of pop music fans, the iconic staple on a genre of music whose revival can be attributed to the likes of her and Britney back in the late 90s. But whereas Britney rules the charts based on beats alone (come on, can anyone deny that?) Christina’s success has always lied within the quality of what comes out of her mouth even in the midst of what her image suggest goes into it *cough* Stripped era *cough*, making her a much more individualized star asset than Spears can and ever will be.

But Christina’s fabulous return to form hopefully comes in the shape of a collaboration with T.I. entitled “Castle Walls”. Collaborations a rare thing to come upon in Christina’s discography, considering she’s only guested on a handful of tracks with other artists over the course of her career. If that’s any indication of how the rest of the industry feels about her, we might be able to put a little more weight on those rumors of, well, assholery that have been circulating since she landed on the scene. But “Castle Walls” really has the power to skyrocket to the top of the charts, something Christina desperately needs ever since Bionic‘s two charted singles failed to crack eveen the Top 20 of the Hot 100. The song itself comes hot off the trail of hits like “Airplanes” and “Love the Way You Lie”, a feminine voice adding a delicate and super-catchy balance to the hard-edged sounds of rappers B.o.B and Eminem respectively. “Castle Walls” is nowhere near as cheesy as “Airplanes” and lacks the pretentous douche baggery of “Love the Way You Lie”, finding a home nestled comfortably in between the two extremes.

Expect to see big things happening to this one on the charts. Click here to listen to the brilliance.

Mac Miller “Knock Knock” Music Video Premiere

Photobucket
I’m going to break from my usual pseudo-reporting bitchiness here and announce that the new Mac Miller music video premiered today…and I’m more or less super pumped because it stars none other than yours truly. And when I say stars, I mean I was casted as a “1950s model” and am literally focused on screen for about two seconds, but I’ll take mine where I can get them. See me flaunting my booty and generally being a mess throughout the background of the video as well. The shoot was absolutely amazing, and Mac (“Malcolm” as his darling mother kept referring to him as) was a freaking blast to be around and the energy on the shoot was incredible. I tend to like photoshoots better, but after the fantastic experience I had with the Rex Arrow Films crew and everyone I met on the set (holla Lauren McKool and Hannah Hager Phenicie and the AMAZING makeup artists!).
Photobucket

Click here to watch the uber-exciting video. And click here to follow my beautiful ass on twitter.

Leaked ANTM Cycle 15 Finale Photos…Notice Anything?

…if you can spot the difference between these two leaked photos from the December 1 finale of Cycle 15 of America’s Next Top Model, you just might have your answer to who will be gracing the pages of Italian Vogue early next year.

Photobucket

Photobucket

…and trust me, the “proof” is there, if you can find it. Hopefully this isn’t a decoy photo (as ANTM producers have been inclined to leak in the past), seeing as if this girl actually won, Tyra and co. might actually start to build some credibility in the real fashion world. You already secured Italian Vogue, Miss Tyra, don’t fuck it up and pick the gremlin who’s “worked” in New York and LA for years but resorted to a reality competition program to bolster her dead-because-she-is-not-a-model “career”. I’ll let you figure out who that is.

Cheers if this little gift leak from baby Jesus is any indication as to who the real winner is.

2010 Thus Far; Top 10 Films, Pretentious Students, and Shameless Hating on Kathryn Bigelow

In case you haven’t noticed (holla at my 2 faithful readers out there!) I’ve been severely slacking on my blog game as of late. Starting my film classes at Pitt this semester has really taken a toll on my love for film, and I can confidently say I’ve never felt more defeated in my life. You know, film classes really destroy the medium. At least that’s how I feel right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve encountered some fabulous instructors who give a great deal of insight into the topics their teaching (shoutout to Neepa!) and really give a new perspective on tired elements of the industry, but I feel like constantly (and consistently) analyzing the shit out of individual works of art totally strips any and all mystique away from these personalized products. I’m surrounded by (and being swallowed alive by) the pretentious arthouse crowd I’ve come to know as peers (aka fellow film students) who pretend to be completely unaware of the vast amount of made-up-but-intellectual-sounding bullshit that’s coming out of their mouths as if they’ve accidentally talked themselves into a goldmine of analytical pretention concerning the film under discussion. I mean yeah, I can make Esper’s The Maniac sound like a critique on 1930s censorship masked as brilliant piece of intentionally-bad filmmaking by using big words, too, but I’m going to take it for what it is; a really shitty, half-assed waste of time to sit through.

Photobucket
But, I’m getting way off-topic here…why did I start writing this piece again, you may ask? That’s right, to inform all six of you reading this (the only two that count are the aforementioned faithful readers, not including my grandfather and parents…and yes I’m including the second read my grandfather will probably give this in my count) of my annual pre-Oscar season top 10 of the year so far. And what better time to do this than that point during the year just before I become inundated (and slightly incapacitated) by brilliant performances and emotional low-blows whilst crying by myself at the local arthouse theater…why yes, Oscar Season is nearly upon us! (note: I wish I had more friends willing to accompany me to these things, but the thought of sitting through two hours of foreign films or things that don’t involve fake shaky cam ghosts doesn’t exactly entice the majority of my circle of friends).
So far this year, we’ve quite honestly seen some of the most interesting year-to-date release patterns I can recall of the past decade. I mean hell, Shutter Island went from being last year’s top contender in a handful of major categories to a *possible* technical filler nominee simply by pushing its release date to the first quarter of this year. We also watched The Kids Are All Right single-handedly do nothing to cement itself as a pre-beginning-race shoe-in for Best Picture, the only true lock on the radar at this point in any category. Baffling, I know…and not because of the quality of the film, but once again because of the release date. Summer releases generally don’t garner the acclaim needed to sustain a successful awards run, but Kids has come out of nowhere (thanks in large part to its progressive message’s relevance to society’s shift in ideology concerning sexuality) but will undoubtedly end up somewhere truly substantial. I really see this film maintaining its awards season steam well beyond its time, something modern BP winners rarely succeed in doing (Hurt Locker wha? Million Dollar Baby wai?). Pluse, I mean, you can’t deny that my love for the film has anything to do with the presence of goddess Julianne Moore (who some of you will remember I’ve included in my made-while-drunk list of “Best People in the Whole World”…yes, no other qualifiers necessary other than simply being “Best” to me while intoxicated) who gives her usual effervescent (I believe I misspelled that word, but I’m leaving it like that because it amuses me) performance as a lovely lezzy (melts my heart every time). I fear that the Academy will shy away from Moore in favor of Bening, though, simply based on marketing placing Bening at the forefront of the film’s cast. Ugh. Screw lead roles, I’m all for the ANTM-alum (miss Yaya DaCosta, holla Cycle 3!) getting some major screentime in the film. Score one for Tyra.
Photobucket
The majority of quality releases for 2010 thus far have undeniably come from veteran directors engaging in the usual arthouse/independent stint; Rodrigo Garcia stuck true to his reflective I-wish-I-were-a-woman ways with the fabulously, dishearteningly bleak Mother and Child (can you sense that I get immense pleasure out of acknowledging that I like feeling such emotional turmoil whilst watching a film?) of which contains one of the best performances of the entire year from Naomi Watts; Mark Romanek treated us to another dazzlingly depressing (albeit thematically irrelevant, even though it thinks it isn’t) film with Never Let Me Go; and Debra Granik also returns (after a 6 year hiatus from 2004’s epic Down to the Bone) with the taut and sufficiently rattling Winter’s Bone, a film (and director, I might add) that recalls the female-empowerment (deservedly so, as was not the case with Kathryn Bigelow) trip (both narratively and in terms of the awards circuit) of Frozen River’s Courtney Hunt two years ago.
Photobucket
But 2010’s stand-out gem is none other than Luca Guadagnino’s brutal portrait of domestic feminine sacrifice I Am Love. Guadagnino directs Tilda Swinton in one of the most haunting and relevant narratives to grace American screens since Rachel Getting Married. Swinton gives one of the best performances of her career (as she usually tends to do in these under-the-radar arthouse pictures) thanks to her unflinching willingness to delve into territory many other actresses of her iconic status would dare tread.
But what to look forward to? What’s in store for us this upcoming Oscar Season? Well, my darlings, that’s an entirely different post that I’m not all that inclined to spend an hour crafting right now. For the time being, let’s just marvel at what we’ve been graced with thus far into the year, and giddily anticipate the vast amounts of cinematic fabulosity (holla Kimora) we know is coming our way over the next few months *cough* Black. Freaking. Swan *cough*. Cheers to 2010 so far. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? The only direction a year following one in which this happened…
Photobucket

…can only be up, right? Here’s hoping…

Oh and PS, no, I haven’t grown tired of quoting the Meryl Streep version of Julia Child at ear-splitting levels at amusingly-inappropriate times…oh how 2009 will live on in mysterious ways.

Top 10 of 2010 (So Far)

1 – I Am Love

2 – The Kids Are All Right

3 – Catfish

4 – Mother and Child

5 – Never Let Me Go

6 – I’m Still Here

7 – Conviction

8 – Shutter Island

9 – Chloe

10 – Winter’s Bone

Dear Pop Music, Meet Your Next Queen; The Rise of Alex Young

An Interview with Alex Young by Joey Nolfi

Since when did being the cool kid on the radio become so…well…cool? Scoping out contemporary radio consists of nothing more than sifting through a carefully crafted menagerie of pop stars  helplessly clinging to their “humble” beginnings playing at “pubs” and “clubs” in a desperate effort to maintain some spot of credibility with the increasingly-influential hipster crowd. And if you’re at all familiar with the hipster crowd, you’re definitely aware of doling out labels as classifiers for things you know little about, lumping anything similar into such a category, and tossing such things aside because you’re too cool to possibly care about anything other than your own narrow-minded (and bitterly intershared) taste. Thankfully, one thing legitimately amazing underground pop artists have never really been about is playing into a specific label or genre,  which makes sense considering the words “underground” and “pop music”  as genre signifiers tend to offset one another’s meaning. But there’s one artist who manages to combine the swagger of a mainstream pop star with the “underground” flair of the local club singer tearing her set up like it’s the third sold-out night in a row at Madison Square Garden; the ever-fabulous Alex Young.

If you’re asking yourself where you’ve seen (or heard) her before and are drawing a few blanks, don’t feel alone. While Young hasn’t exactly catapulted to the precipice of commercial fame just yet, her incredible talent was enough to secure the chance to release a fiercely amazing debut album aptly titled, well, Amazing in 2009. With the release of her new single “Government Name” earlier this summer and its accompanying music video just unleashed today, Alex Young’s presence in the music industry is poised (and overdue) for a massive explosion.

On the road to achieving her dreams, this stunningly beautiful up-and-coming singer based in New York City planted roots in the entertainment industry longer than (as well as long before) most contemporary pop stars have even seen the light of the public’s eye. Ms. Young’s list of accomplishments range from paying her child-star dues on “Sesame Street” to helming a tribute song to the 9/11 rescue workers that New York City’s famous Z100  radio station broadcasted to countless listeners for three consecutive years on the tragedy’s anniversary…all before she was legally allowed to drive. But Young says (in a candidly pretention-free and genuinely artistic fashion) that she doesn’t aim to become a profit-hungry product of the pop music scene. “I am very passionate about what I do and love the medium in which I’m working. If I were on a completely different path, I would still be singing and performing music that I feel connected to” Young says, “but I do want to share my music on the highest level with as many people as possible. Inspiration is so powerful. It would be lovely to share that with the world.”

Photobucket

As truly refreshing as it is to see an artist on the rise who seems so concerned with only sharing her passion with those who will listen, it comes as no surprise that Young’s early life was filled with artistic immersion and musical gratification as far back as she can remember. “For me, family has basically been the center of orbit for most of what I’ve been able to express musically” the singer says of her childhood, “there was a constant flow of music playing at all times in my home growing up. At times there were more than two completely different genres of music playing from different rooms of the house simultaneously. It gave me the confidence and exposure to pursue a path of music at an early age.”

Young’s talent certainly suggests what she confirms about her early life, but in actually listening to her music and exploring the influences Young cites as motivating her craft is when things really start to get interesting. The songstress’ music has often been described as urban-influenced electronic pop; clunky signifiers, I know, but a quick listen to one of her dazzlingly structured songs such as “Cold” or “Heart Stop” (and many more of which recall late 90s experimental electronic bliss infused with club-banging basslines and tints of dainty pop) really assure the appropriate labels. Having said all of that, Young’s primary inspirations in music actually include artists as far removed from contemporary electronic experimentation as one can get; the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and even Frank Sinatra are consistently of reference and interest to Young while crafting music. Young says “I really do always find inspiration around me. Just walking down the street can open my eyes to a new concept, rhythm, or visual for my music. But I feel many of the “greats” had a real sense of truth that they applied to their art. I look to them, hoping I can absorb some of that artistic truth from their portfolio.” And get this; Young also claims that bossa nova music is a constant driving force behind her art, citing Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrud Gilberto as some of her favorites. A word to any and all interviewers out there; Try to get Ke$ha to name just one bossa nova act let alone see such a genre reflected in what she produces. That takes creative bravado right there, people. And as much praise we who eat up amazing music have given to Young’s sonic perfection, she says that she really dislikes being shoved into a compartmentalized category or genre. “I feel that people really feel the need to place boxes around items, concepts or people in order to better understand whatever it is that’s in question. I’ve been influenced by so many different styles I always hope a bit of each style comes through my music” she says. Are you listening, indie-pop-hamburger-phone-owning-urban-outfitter-shopping hipsters? You should be.

Photobucket

Despite disliking labels for her own music, Young says she’s really intrigued by taking two established genres of music and mashing them together to create fiercely danceable tracks such as her latest single “Government Name”, which is a blissful cross between airy pop chords and intense urban backbeats; think of it as if Robyn’s delightful pop ecstasy made sweet, sweet sexy time with one of Swizz Beatz’s ultra beat-heavy productions. Yeah, the song is just about as hot as that hook up sounds. “Pop music is generally easy and light and urban tends to be more hard and rough. Opposites attract right?” Young ponders as she discusses the track, adding “I think the combination gives dynamic and uniqueness to songs in general. When total opposites combine, it’s always interesting. It doesn’t necessarily always work, but it’s always interesting.” And that’s something else you don’t always hear musical acts discussing so freely; what works and what doesn’t work. Young’s candid ability to discuss her work, her craft, and her process with interviewers (or even her fans via twitter) reflects the vigor and hunger of a true artist. Young’s roots in the urban music scene are reflected in her choice of collaborators, ranging from featured vocals from rapper Yung Berg on last year’s remix of “Cold” to time in the studio working on her debut album with producers Mysto & Pizzi (whom have worked with Justin Timberlake and R. Kelly). Young says that she is never intimidated by big-name producers, though, and that it only feeds her hunger for artistic perfection to work with others who share the appetite. Add to that a dash of pop production credits from the likes of Jonas Jeberg (Kylie Minogue, The Pussycat Dolls) and Cuttfather (Santana, Ace of Base) and you have a resume (after only one album, to boot) that rivals those of the divas topping the charts at this very moment.

Speaking of those ruling the charts right now, Young also has some pretty strong opinions concerning those she’ll be competing for Grammy Awards for in a few years’ time, commenting on the over abundance and exploitation of overt sexuality in today’s music by saying “[exploiting sexuality] just seems [to lose the] essence of why it has always been so extremely beautiful and powerful. It’s been lost in a series of slightly altered interpretations of the original concept, which has forced it to trend toward the extremely raunchy. To me, at that point, it loses all power and comes across as if the sexual side has overtaken and is controlling you, rather than you it. It always reminds me of a person playing with fire who has no clue how to light a match.” Her words ring true, especially when examining the careers of other artists who experienced popularity slumps when their image went from sensual to slutty (I’m looking at you, Blackout-era Britney Spears). But none of this is to say Young doesn’t exude a unique sexiness about herself; the video for “Government Name” is slick and sexy in its own right without ever crossing into XXXtina (circa 2002) territory.

Photobucket

Young achieves a uniquely sexy look thanks in part to her love of fashion, of which can be seen playfully referenced in songs like “Government Name” where she sings about a “super nice outfit/from a designer name/can’t even pronounce it”. “It was a little bit tongue and cheek in reference to the fashion world” Young says of the line, “I do have a love for fashion and have fun constructing visuals and sometimes even entire songs around the concept I can get from a single runway outfit.” And her passion for fashion is clear to anyone who’s seen pictures of the extravagant pieces she’s been photographed wearing while attending various events around New York City. As for the designer name she supposedly couldn’t pronounce for the song’s sake, Young says names like Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin inspired it. Fine taste, indeed.

But aside from all the things that make Alex Young an incredible spectacle on the surface, this talented lady’s got some depth to her, too…something that’s becoming increasingly harder to find in the music industry. She takes her art very seriously, after all this is her life we’re talking about. She wears her passion on her sleeve, though, saying “I believe that art is at the core of self-discovery and progress for most of us. It can change the way an individual or group sees the world. It gives perspective, insight and soul into the keyhole we all view the world from. For me, the most important thing is not who you end up looking to for that inspiration and perspective, but rather where you consciously end up once you find it.” Those are some pretty strong, meaningful words for a “pop singer” as some have been quick to label her. But Alex Young wants to be more than that. “Are your ideas contributing to the greater good? Does it give you a sense of social awareness or responsibility? Does it inspire you to give your own message of truth? Does it push your boundaries? Or does it become a vapid idea that takes you no further than you’ve been?” Young says of art in general, “Does it lie stagnant and never really progress? Does it create more inhibition creatively than where you started? Hopefully it takes you to a place of growth and expansion.” 

Photobucket

Young says she hopes to never see a phase in which she stops evolving in her art, which currently shows no signs of stopping; she is in the process of crafting her sophomore album sometime in the near future, with “Government Name” being the only confirmed song thus far on the tracklist.

Photobucket

So, after all of this, what makes someone like Alex Young stand out amongst the sea of other dance-pop beauties out there trying to make a name for themselves? Is it her relentless and untiring spirit that vigorously drives her to create her art? Is it her unique take on fashion and visual flair? Or perhaps maybe it’s her genuine willingness to connect with her growing number of fans on a personal basis as often as she can? In defying everything a typical  “underground” pop singer on the bring of fame should be, Alex Young undoubtedly has one of the brightest futures of any rising star in the market right now. But instead of trying to put my finger on what exactly makes her so magnetic, I think I’ll let the following quote regarding Ms. Young’s ultimate goals speak for itself; “To be able to spread inspiration and self awareness would be the ultimate goal.  Music really is the backbone of life for me. If, through my music, I could, encourage or inspire others to find his or her own backbone, whatever that may be, that would be the greatest achievement for me. My goal is to always continue to find new ways to express and share life through music.” she says. You’re doing a great job already, Ms. Young. Keep it up, the industry could benefit from a few more girls like you helming the reins.

Follow Alex Young on Twitter: here
Watch the “Government Name” music video by clicking here

‘Taxi Driver’ Never Sours: Analyzing the End

Taxi Driver Pictures, Images and Photos

The words “taxi” and “driver” have never been the same since 1976, a year in which a truly revolutionary collaborative effort between a brilliant director, a brilliant script, and a brilliant cast culminated in one of the best films the industry has ever seen. Taxi Driver was, is, and will continue to be one of the most shocking, intense, and altogether arresting films ever conceived. The following is my interpretation of the film’s ambiguous ending, as taken from a paper from my last film class(please forgive the formal language and blocky presentation that papers so often require).

Observing the technical elements that compose the final scene of the film is key to understanding that Travis Bickle has indeed died and the concluding moments of the film are false projections. For instance, as Travis makes his way through the building towards Iris, the action onscreen literally slows down to a crawling pace through the use of various slow-motion shots. Editing the shots in such a manner compliments the rhythm of the film at this point in Bickle’s mental descent; this is the final act in his life and it is a harried, violent, chaotic one in which he chooses to transition to the next stage of his life, which is death. The slowed-down, plodding presentation of the action leading up to Bickle’s death on the upstairs couch mimics the almost dreamlike state in which Bickle’s final moment’s exist, combined with the aforementioned echoed sound indicating that a surreal state (namely death) is imminent for Travis. The camera movements during and after this scene also indicate the death of Travis Bickle, what with the camera hovering above him during what are the last moments of his life, floating slowly away from the carnage and into the streets, becoming a point-of-view shot from the implied perspective of his soul departing his body. In the camera mimicking the motion of Bickle’s departing soul, Scorsese seems to take note from the writings of philosopher John Locke, in accordance with Locke’s statement that “the body, as well as the soul, goes to the making of a man…wherein the soul, with all its princely thoughts about it, would not make another man” . To view this situation under Locke’s theories about the body and soul, Travis’ actions in saving Iris define him in that moment, but in implying that his soul is departing his body through the camera’s perspective and motions suggests the soul is a separate entity leaving the physical body which committed such profound violence.

Taxi Driver Pictures, Images and Photos

Observing the technical elements after the camera departs the scene of Travis’ violent outburst at the end of the film also suggests that he is dead, or at least in a suspended state of the dying process. As Betsy enters the cab with Travis, the cinematography and visual presentation of the film once again becomes extremely atmospheric; odd-angled shots are used to observe Betsy in the backseat, namely a shot in which her face appears in the rear-view mirror at an angle, surrounded by dreamlike, surreal Bokeh lights that punctuate the empty darkness that envelops the rear-view the mirror. In Travis’ mind, this view of the woman who is assumed to be the object of the strongest opposite-sex attraction he had ever experienced comes like a vision of solace in his last moments of life. She is physically behind him, suggesting an opportunity he felt strongly about that passed him by, but he views her while looking forward into a mirror, suggesting a subconscious placement of companionship at the forefront of Travis’ desires in his living state manifesting itself in the dreamlike state of his dying process. Travis’ conversation with Betsy at this point is also reflective of what his desires were during his living state, seeing as their conversation is empty, superficial, and sustained with an almost submissive tone in the usually-dominant Betsy’s voice. Suggesting that Betsy, who we have been exposed to as an intelligent, powerful, and deeply analytical and complex person, would be so easily drawn back towards a man she despised simply because he is now considered a hero for his violent actions is absurd. This would be in contrast to the type of person we had seen her as before. She clearly made up her mind that she did not want anything to do with Travis, and to imply that something so superficial could completely change the mind of a static character such as Betsy only further cements the idea that this vision of her is fabricated.

To even suggest that Travis has lived to become a normal, functioning member of society after such a violent descent into madness is in direct contradiction to the character we had seen him become as well; he has distanced himself so far from his reality that there is no way he could possibly have assimilated normally back into it after the shooting—life was already meaningless for Travis pre-shooting, and his action to save Iris was his last attempt to try and give meaning to his pointless, forgotten existence. In reference to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s description of personality and identity, Travis can be seen existing somatically (in the sense that he lived within one physical body throughout the film), but can be psychologically viewed as an entirely different person from where he was at the film’s beginning. Having him transform so drastically into a kind, seemingly stable person during this final scene is simply not plausible within the archetype of a character Travis exists within.

The final technical implications that the closing scenes of the film have not occurred within Travis’ physical reality can be seen in the depiction of the moments proceeding Betsy’s exit from Travis’ taxi. Travis looks into his rearview mirror and observes Betsy exiting his line of vision, exiting his life, and ultimately exiting any version of reality (this suspended one or any reality that could have existed had he lived) within Travis’ existence. He drives away from her, driving away from a life he never attained, and a strange noise sounds as he looks into his rearview mirror once again, mimicking the snapping realization in this surreal state of his dying mind that he will never have this life of happiness. He simply drives away into the empty abyss of the city that ruined him, becoming his “job” (as Wizard implies) within a city that will continue on forever and ultimately retain everything Travis despises as suggested by the ambient light, atmosphere, and overall never-ending ambiguous darkness punctuated by beams of light that remain throughout the credits. Travis’ death is necessary and equated here with what would have remained if he had lived; a continuous assimilation into the darkness of the city he abhorred.

In order to understand the significance of the ending of the film beyond examining technical aspects (further than simply being a fabrication of the protagonist’s mind) it is also important to understand Travis Bickle as a character. To understand Travis as a character is to comprehend the significance of his death as a result of his violent rampage. We are first introduced to Travis as a seemingly normal person. He is a common, identifiable man simply working as a cab driver. But as the film progresses, it is clear that Travis is not what some would consider a “normal” person at all. He quickly descends into a violent and offensive mentality inspired by the effects of society upon him. Taxi Driver is ultimately a film about becoming a disturbed isolationist not only from a functioning society but also from innate human practices such as sexuality and companionship.

Taxi Driver Pictures, Images and Photos

Socially, Travis connects with people that are intangible to him. He is a constant observer, treating women as alien creatures along with his cabbie buddies that speak of women’s “rouge” as a foreign object. He describes Betsy as “the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” and treats her as such; an untouchable deity whom he decides to analyze and bring down to his level (as evident in the “dirty movie” scene) instead of attend to what would normally be considered a woman’s needs on a stereotypical courtship. For this reason, Betsy becomes an unreachable, alien creature to him and he seems to fall more in love with the idea of being with Betsy rather than the person herself. Iris is similarly an untouchable person in Travis’ life. She is a child prostitute. She is a young girl who is by all means still growing physically and psychologically. The naivety of Travis’ actions to “save” her shines through here, seeing as a girl of this age who has already experienced such disturbing exposure to sexuality will most likely never be fully saved from the psychological trauma she will undoubtedly experience as a result of her exposure to meaningless (and not to mention criminal) sexuality at such a young age. In both cases of personal connections we see Travis form throughout the film, the end result is not assured; however, the only conclusive aspect of his life is the fact that he will die, and dying in an attempt to give meaning to his empty existence is the only thing that makes sense within the context of Travis’ life.

In becoming this isolated observer, Travis takes on a role that subconsciously leads to his ultimate conclusion; death. Since his life is already metaphorically a dead-end, death emerges as the only plausible outcome. His violent actions are the only way he will truly be heard and recognized, with his death being a byproduct of his broken life. Travis continuously proclaims the city he resides in is filled with scum. In his writings, John Locke ponders the question of personal identity by stating “your identity in this sense consists of roughly what makes you unique as an individual and different from others. Or is it the way you see or define yourself, or the network of values and convictions that structure your life?”. Taking this musing a bit further within the context of Taxi Driver, the character of Wizard says “…you do a thing and that’s what you are…you get a job and you become the job…you got no choice anyway, we’re all fucked, more or less”. Applying this statement to Travis, after rejection from Betsy as well as drawing inspiration from his desire to save Iris and an ultimate defiance to remain living the static life that he does, Travis takes on a role of the offense; he deliberately seeks to solve his problems with violence, in this case, he plans to save Iris through the practice of a violent crime. This responsibility, in accordance with what Wizard says to him, involves death. In essence, his life’s “job” that he has now taken on involves death; therefore, dying at the end of the film serves as the only reasonable solution since dying would validate Winter’s ideology about ultimately becoming one’s job.

In pursuit of this newfound job, Travis essentially deconstructs his existence in the midst of his descent. He kicks over his television (his primary connection to the outside world in his apartment), he drastically alters his appearance, and even fabricates an alter lifestyle where he works for the government. In changing so much about himself, he loses touch with the minute glimpse of the shell of a person that remained of his former self when we are first introduced to him. There is no concrete existence that the words “Travis Bickle” describe. We have seen him go through so much change and devolution physically and psychologically that the person he really is is actually never clear throughout the film’s entirety. He is definted by his actions, not by who he really is as a person. The final scene brings this idea of Travis having no true identity to a head in the sense that Travis, although on what he considers to be a heroic mission, technically commits murder. The law sees no black and white; Travis killed three men, regardless of if he was saving a young girl or not. The setting in which he killed the men is important to this idea as well. He committed this crime within the ghettos of the city, where the “scum” he continuously speaks about existed. The reality of the aftermath of the situation would not be a newly-attained heroic status for Travis, but rather death or, if he had lived, imprisonment. Ultimately, Travis dies after committing a crime, within the scum-infested streets he despises. In that sense, Travis’ identity is forever lost, seeing as he died literally and metaphorically within the realm of the “scum”, becoming just another criminal and losing any trace of identity he retained as well as his physical being in his death.

After thorough examination of technical elements as well as analyzing Travis Bickle as a character within the film Taxi Driver, it is clear that the only way to come close to forming closure about the film’s ending is to assume that Travis has died and the events that comprise the final moments of the film are indeed false occurrences within his dying mind. From visual touches such as the dreamlike cinematography and mysterious lights (amongst other things) that compliment the final scenes of the film to the realization that Travis structured his life so that the only conclusive outlet would be death, understanding Taxi Driver becomes more conclusive—although no less effective—through treating the final scenes as indicators that Travis has died.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @joeynolfi