Monday, May 29, 2017

Joel Dinerstein's "The Origins of Cool in Postwar America"

Joel Dinerstein is the author of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America (2017), American Cool (2014), Coach: A Story of NY Cool (2016), and Swinging the Machine (2003). He is a Professor of English at Tulane University and has taught a course on "The History of Cool" for 20 years.

Here Dinerstein shares a treatment, complete with dreamcasting, for an adaptation of The Origins of Cool in Postwar America:
Plot: A college junior studying popular culture goes back in time to early-50s New York to find out how and when Americans first started using the word "cool" to understand its mythic hold on global society.

The Origins of Cool focuses on the intersections of iconic figures of film, music, and literature in post-World War II New York (1945-1965). We start out at a jazz club called The Three Deuces where legendary saxophonist Lester "Pres" Young (Terence Howard) is playing with a quintet that includes a young Dizzy Gillespie. Young first invoked "cool" as a word, concept, and style, wore shades at night and on stage, spoke a poetic, coded slang, and developed a bluesy urbane romantic sound along with his musical soulmate, Billie Holiday (Taraji P. Henson). Howard and Henson replay their hiphop romance from Empire here in key of film noir, that is to say, in black-and-white. Their friend Frank Sinatra (Rufus Wainwright) then drops by the club to drink in the corner with his Rat-Pack friends, the couple Humphrey Bogart (Colin Farrell) and Lauren Bacall; Sinatra and Bogart are the avatars of Hollywood and Vegas cool. From these swing beginnings, we follow cool as it crosses over from jazz culture and Hollywood noir into a younger generation through the Beat Generation writers.

Also in the crowd that night at The Three Deuces are Jack Kerouac (Shia LeBoeuf) and Neal Cassady (Garrett Hedlund) – they worshiped Lester Young – and we follow them downtown to the Village on the subway. They get out at Christopher Street and we walk with them to the basement club, The Village Vanguard, to watch The Miles Davis Quintet (David Oyewlo) with John Coltrane (Michael B. Jordan). The Vanguard is a hangout for writers and celebrities often came to see their quintet. There we find key literary figures such as the self-proclaimed "Philosopher of Hip" Norman Mailer (Jesse Eisenberg), the playwright Lorraine Hansberry (Janelle Monae), and the hipster interracial couple, poet Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka (Anthony Mackie) and his wife Hettie Jones (Jamie-Lynn Sigler). An unknown James Dean (Chris Pine) is drunk there, chasing after his idol Marlon Brando (Mark Ruffalo), who sits at a table with his escort, the iconic French existential actress Juliette Greco (Natalie Portman). We leave the club with Paul Newman (Aaron Paul) and his wife Joanne Woodward (Jennifer Lawrence) to go drinking all night at the White Horse Tavern, where anyone might show up.

The film proceeds with the protagonist using his future knowledge to ask questions about the meanings of cool of all the figures and attending a range of parties in the Village and Harlem with jazz musicians, Method actors, Beat writers and poets, and Andy Warhol's garage.

This period of New York's jazzy noir ends with Bob Dylan (Daniel Radcliffe) walking off into Washington Square Park at sunrise with Edie Sedgwick (Emilia Clarke).

That's how it works in my $100 million imagination, anyway.
Visit Joel Dinerstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue