Film Features

How A24 is Saving Movies

How the Small Distribution Company is Giving a Much Needed Voice to First-Time Directors

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My first proper date with my first ever girlfriend was to see Spring Breakers, the weirdest movie granted a wide theatrical release in 2013.

Directed by the mostly-underground Harmony Korrine, the film became notorious for James Franco's performance as Alien, an off-beat, very colorful gangster with a head covered in dreadlocks and an accent somewhere between a Tallahassee truck driver and Marcellus Wallace. I saw that movie in theatres. I didn't know it at the time, but the A24 Productions logo that kickstarted the experience would go on to become one of the most important symbols you could pin to a movie in the 2010's. It's since become a mark of excellence. Now, in 2020, you see a movie distributed by A24, and you know one thing: that movie will certainly be awesome, but might even be visionary, too. A24 is very quietly saving movies, and they're doing it by going against the most time-held and obvious of box office rules: They invest in uncertainties.

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CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

Film Lists

The 10 Best Movies to Stream on Netflix While You're Quarantined

Quarantine is many things, but it's definitely a good time to catch up on movies.

So you're technically "working from home" right now, but we know that really means lying in front of your TV with Slack open on your laptop.

If you're going to give yourself over to the gods of streaming while you avoid COVID-19, you may as well watch something worthwhile. Here are 10 movies that you need to see before you die, and since they're available on Netflix right now and you don't have anything better to do, you really have no excuse not to watch them.

A Quiet Place

While the apocalyptic themes of this movie may hit a little close to home right now, it's a gripping enough film to distract you from how tired you are of the person you're stuck in quarantine with. Written, directed, and starring John Krasinski, A Quiet Place explores a world that's been overrun by monsters with super-sensitive hearing. The few people left on earth are forced to exist and communicate in almost total silence in order to stay alive.

Watch on Netflix

Jaws

Now's the perfect time to revisit this thrilling classic. No matter how tired you get of staying indoors, at least you aren't being stalked by a massive shark like the characters in this Spielberg masterpiece.

Watch on Netflix

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

If you like the Coen Brothers, you'll love this quirky, episodic Western. If you don't like the Coen Brothers, you ought to watch this anyway, because it's so completely different than any other movie, you're sure to feel strongly one way or another. This anthology style film has no problem breaking the fourth wall and forcing you to reconsider everything you thought you knew about the Western genre.

Watch on Netflix

Roma

Winner of three Oscars, this movie from director Alfonso Cuarón will stick with you long after the closing credits. The story follows a maid working for an upper-middle class family in Mexico City in the 1970s, and it's sure to put your personal struggles into perspective.

Watch on Netflix

Ex Machina

This mind-bending thriller will have you on the edge of your seat (even if that seat is the sofa you've been sitting on for days now). Ex Machina follows a computer programmer named Domhnall Gleeson who wins the opportunity to spend a week with the enigmatic creator of the world's leading AI technology. Soon, Gleeson finds out that all is not as it seems in the high-tech mansion.

Watch on Netflix

Ghost

Is there any scene in the history of cinema that's more iconic than the pottery scene in this classic movie? Patrick Swayze plays the ghost of a banker seeking to warn girlfriend Demi Moore she's in danger via psychic Whoopi Goldberg. This film is as cheesy as it is excellent, and you really have to see it given its lasting cultural impact.

Watch on Netflix

Coraline

This stunning animated adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book is an absolute treat. This film from Laika, the company behind Kubo and the Two Strings and ParaNorman, is as visually appealing as it is creepy. If this isn't the kind of film you'd normally watch, maybe now is the perfect time to branch out.

Watch on Netflix

Frances Ha

There's nothing like Greta Gerwig's and Noah Baumbach's cutting wit and moving observations about life and friendship to help you forget about a building global pandemic. This semi-autobiographical film has become a cult classic and has arguably one of the best scripts of all time.

Watch on Netflix

The Irishman

Honestly, we wouldn't normally recommend you spend 3 hours of your one short life on this movie, but what else do you have to do right now? Settle in, pop some popcorn, and prepare to squint at the special effects that only do an okay job at making Robert De Niro look younger. If you can stick it out, it really is an excellent film.

Watch on Netflix

12 Years a Slave

This Oscar-winning historical drama, based on Solomon Northup's autobiographical book, stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt. It follows the life of a free black man living in pre-Civil War America who is abducted and sold into slavery. It's a searing portrait of the brutality of slave life, and it should be mandatory viewing for everyone.

Watch on Netflix