Joker’s Little Red Book

joker vietnam stars and stripes meeting
You can see Joker's little red book peeking out of his pocket in this scene. That's his diary. Also, I just noticed the Mickey Mouse figures in the background.
You can see Joker’s little red book peeking out of his pocket in this scene. That’s his diary. Also, I just noticed the Mickey Mouse figures in the background.

The magic of the internet.

Almost a year ago, I saw a tweet by @ftngleprechaun that led me to this post by Nathan Webster (Stanley Kubrick’s cowardice ruined “Full Metal Jacket” and betrayed Gustav Hasford’s “The Short-Timers.”). I had never read The Short-Timers but was a big fan of Full Metal Jacket. That post inspired me to read it, which I did, and then wrote a reaction.

In the process of writing that post, I came across a blog dedicated to the work of Gustav Hasford (the author of The Short-Timers) that is managed by comic writer Jason Aaron, who I then followed on Twitter.

Months pass, and then I see this retweet by Jason.

Matthew Modine, the actor who played ‘Joker’ was going to do a live-tweet viewing of FMJ to promote the release of an iPad version of his book, Full Metal Jacket Diary.

Without question, FMJ is my favorite movie. Like a giddy fan-boy, I jumped at the chance to watch it and pepper Matthew Modine with questions during the showing. If you follow me on Twitter, it was all probably really annoying.

My furious Tweeting paid off. I won a free copy of Full Metal Jacket Diary for iPad, which I was literally in the process of buying when I learned I had won. I read it over the holidays.

This isn’t really an App review, but if you are a fan of Full Metal Jacket, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a diary that you can read and listen to with pictures as accompaniment. It’s beautiful.

Mr. Modine kept a diary during the grueling filming process. He talks about the off-screen drama (there was plenty) and you’ll get his musings on what he thinks the film might be as he was filming it. You’ll also see lots of photos, many by Mr. Modine himself (he was experimenting with a camera at the time of filming). The photos are fantastic and revealing. You’ll also learn more about the elusive Stanley Kubrick, which is fascinating as Mr. Modine paints him as pretty plain, albeit dedicated to getting his craft right.

What I enjoyed most about FMJ Diary was getting into the head of the actor who played Joker. He became Joker, and it is refreshing to read that this movie, in and out, is everything I wanted it to be.

This is what he writes after Kubrick urges him to “be” Joker as opposed to “play” Joker:

Okay, as of today, I am Joker. I’m not playing or interpreting. I am bringing my life and all my experience to this role. Not someone else’s I will take the information I’ve read and a childhood of watching war on television and “be” the role. I will use Michael and Gus’s books to understand the terrain and put myself into the world they created.

I now reject the traditional movies about war and its nobility. I honor the stories about soldiers’ dedication toward each other, but I question the motivation of the governments that send young men to battle.

I confirm my choice not to work on films that glorify war and perpetuate lies about other countries and cultures…

One of my favorite parts of FMJ is the sharp transition from the basic training sequence to Vietnam, with Joker and Rafterman being approached by a Vietnamese hooker. Joker’s hair is long and wild, his uniform sloppy. It is the transition between the order of military training and the chaos of war. There it is.

Mr. Modine saw this too:

Order. Disorder.

The military’s goal is to create order.

To the military, the world is chaos.

The military recognizes this and imposes conformity.

There is only one way, one god, one country. You do not belong to yourself. You are part of a machine. Theirs.

Directors are the same way.

The diary goes on like that. Minutiae and detail. It’s a story.

If you’re a fan, check it out.

FMJ Diary at the App Store.

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