Newsletter: Great Hats
A slightly deeper dive into Hat Cinema.
Bob & Rob are in charge of selecting the movies we put on the Staff Recommendation Shelf here at Rewind Video. Every time we refresh the shelf, they adhere to a theme.
Every two weeks, they record a podcast to explain their picks. For subscribers of the newsletter, they also dive a little deeper into their selections.
This week's theme is Great Hats, and Bob & Rob pick movies that feature some damn fine lids. Listen to the podcast HERE, or find it on your favorite podcast app.
"The hat makes the man," the old saying goes. That may or may not be true, but we all know that a good hat serves many functions.
It can provide cover from rain or excessive sunlight, if we want to be utilitarian about it; or hold your hair in place during a mighty wind.
The right hat is able to make an entrance into a room for its wearer, announcing a stylish and notable arrival. Hats, more than any other article of clothing, are able to convey Purpose & Intent.
Does the hat make the movie? Perhaps, but as with the man (or woman), a hat can at the very least do a lot of heavy lifting.
1999 • 98 min • dir. Doug Liman
Admittedly, there's not a lot of hat in Go. As far as quantity, it's a fairly light-hatted film. Just a single hat makes an appearance, and only in a couple of scenes.
Often unfairly dismissed as a typical 90's Tarantino rip-off (or a "Junior Pulp Fiction, according to Leonard Maltin), Go nonetheless utilizes a number of that mini-genre's tropes: a non-linear timeline; scene-defining needle-drops; comic violence; and cutely ironic cultural juxtapositions.
And so we get Timothy Olyphant, as shirtless, tough-guy drug dealer, Todd Gaines, playfully sporting a Santa cap and quoting The Breakfast Club, while maintaining his threatening edge.
The hat, as far as Santa caps go, is nothing special. It serves a nice thematic purpose, and gives us a glimpse into Todd's inner life better than his pants do, but you probably couldn't pick it out of a lineup of other Santa caps to save your life.
The actor underneath that hat, however, went on to do some of Hollywood's best hat work this century.
In fact, I would argue that Olyphant's mastery of headwear in Deadwood, Justified, the 4th season of Fargo, and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood puts him in the running for Greatest Hat Artist of All Time.
In Go, you can see where it all began.
FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS
1998 • 118 min • dir. Terry Gilliam
Hunter S. Thompson was a real-life hat All-Star himself. Fishing hats, hunting hats, cowboy hats, dealer visors — he understood the power of a hat to control the narrative, to provide a vibe, to harness energy.
In Fear & Loathing, we spend time with the hat that is most tightly associated with Thompson's life and career: a simple, beige, bucket hat.
The hat in the movie is based on the actual hat that Thompson wore on the trip that he later fictionalized (kind of) in the book, and it's become the signifier for all things Fear & Loathing — the halloween costume-ization of Raul Duke, Thompson's alter ego.
Thanks to the book, as Thompson became a celebrity journalist, his fans expected him to be more Duke than Hunter, and eventually the man succumbed to his own myth, and his days as a relevant writer were numbered.
The hat had overtaken the man in this case. And in many ways, the myth under the hat has overtaken the movie as well, providing dorm-room drug fodder for generations.
What this hat should be is a warning, a symbol of what awaits us when we replace our expectations with pure excess — especially in a world that invites it so openly.
1986 • 102 min • dir. John Landis
¡Three Amigos! is a movie about silent film stars that could just as easily have been a silent film itself.
Your milage may vary on any of the Amigos, but they all have an undeniable physical presence — whether it's Steve Martin's palpable smugness, Martin Short's barely contained mania, or Chevy Chase's grinning arrogance, it's all expressed without the need for dialogue.
I will admit to not having an extensive knowledge of silent film, but I have to assume that hats were a large part of the storytelling of the era. Which may explain the splendor of the Amigos' hats.
Each gets his own custom design, and the hats themselves are finely-made and old-Hollywood sturdy. These are sombreros that can look good for a lifetime.
What sets ¡Three Amigos! apart from much of Hat Cinema is that the hats play a central role in the conclusion of the plot. The village is able to use the ubiquitous knowledge of the sombreros to their advantage, and to ultimately defeat the bandits.
The Amigos get most of the credit, of course, but we all know the role that the hats played. ¡Viva la Sombrero!