After watching The Last Detail–a part of my recent Chinatown induced Jack Nicholson marathon–my mind was jolted in a very strange way. As Badass and Mule quickly walk off into the distance after carrying out their “chicken shit detail,” I felt their confused anger at Meadows being ripped away from them so quickly. Five seconds later, however, as the marching chorus of “Anchors Aweigh” pounded through the air, my immediate thought was of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra saluting their troops at the end of the musical comedy Anchors Aweigh. My emotional connection to the journey of Badass, Mule, and Meadows was not ruined, but I will admit that being reminded of Kelly and Sinatra’s charismatic tap dancing whilst coming to terms with Meadow’s imprisonment did not do wonders to my final understanding of the movie.
I grew up with musical comedies burned in my brain, with Anchors Aweigh as a frontrunner. Consequently, my initial reaction to anything with regard to sailors conjures images of Kelly and Jerry from Tom and Jerry dancing in a cartoon castle. My main point of this post, however, is not to discuss the nonexistent similarities between The Last Detail and Anchors Aweigh, but to recognize the fluidity and never-ending overlap that exists with the presence of media in our lives. While it is mostly humorous that The Last Detail left me thinking of a 1940s musical, the way in which media gets jumbled up inside our heads as we watch more and more film and television points back to exactly what we discussed on day one of this class. Nothing we see or interpret exists as a separate entity, as the entire industry grows from different combinations of the same form of communication. As we are constantly exposed to media in our everyday lives, it sometimes feels nearly impossible to point to an exact origin of certain themes or techniques seen in film. As an English major, I have for the most part experienced this struggle through literature, my head spinning as each book or piece I read alludes to countless older pieces that root themselves in even more pieces that often ultimately end up referencing the Bible. With film, I have had a similar experience, struggling to put films in their correct order and understanding the importance of certain films as the basis for everything we see today. The more and more films I see, however, I gain a greater understanding of just how interconnected everything I see is. This has come as both a blessing and curse, as my mind spins with directors and techniques every time I watch something “new” that roots itself it’s something I have previously seen or studied. I have come to greatly appreciate this lens in the past few years, as I gain a new approach to what makes a film great for me. Those films that completely envelope me and erase conscious thought of “oh this shot is taken from the classic noir days” or “this shot is referencing a certain director” are now the most notable for me. I love films that remove me from everything I’ve seen, that keep more analytical thoughts at bay until the ending credits when I then sit back and let the power and significance wash over me. And while this seems like an extremely long ramble that has nothing to do with The Last Detail, these were nonetheless the thoughts I had immediately after watching this film.