Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The 25 Best Conservative Films

The Stalinist goonsquad at the National Review has put together a list of the top 25 conservative films of all time. This is hilarious for all kinds of reasons. For one, it shows the passive-aggressive relationship that conservatives have with popular culture. They feign deep disdain for the entertainment industry, but at they same time they shamelessly kiss the ass of any actor or director who they believe to be on their side. They're jealous of the fact that most creative types are liberal, and secretly wish that they could hang out with the likes of George Clooney and bitch about the estate tax. So you have the sorry spectacle of right wing culture warriors championing any piece of popular culture that they think ratifies their world view. They do this even if a good film in question could only be considered"conservative" if you squint real hard and tilt your head to one side, or if an indisputably conservative film could only be considered "good" if you hit yourself in a face with a 2X4 a couple of times.

Here's a look at some of the more interesting films on the list.

1. The Lives of Others (2007): I'll admit that I haven't seen this film, but by all accounts its a great one. The degree to which it counts as "conservative" depends on whether you consider the message "the East German secret police were bad" to be an exclusively conservative one.

2. The Incredibles (2004): They've got a point here. As much fun and as clever as this movie is, it really does play as a Children's Theater production of Atlas Shrugged.

4. Forrest Gump (1994): A choice like this leaves me wondering if conservatives aren't so eager to see their views projected on the silver screen that it blinds them to every other consideration. Not only is Forrest Gump an awful, seeping load of soporific awfulness, it seems to be an open insult to the very notion of conservatism. Do the right-wingers who champion this film not realize that the protagonist who embodies the virtues that they champion, who served in Vietnam, ignored the self-indulgent protest movements and hedonistic self-destruction of the 60s and 70s, and became a successful entrepreneur in the Reagan era, is a FUCKING RETARD!?!? If I thought for a minute that Robert Zemeckis is capable of irony of any kind, I'd think he was intentionally mocking these people.

5. 300 (2007): Seriously? Apparently all a film has to do to qualify as a "great" conservative film is to 1. espouse a conservative ( in this case, flat-out fascist) view and 2. be popular. For all the visual audacity, 300 is crushingly stupid, heavy handed and testosterone-poisoned. Also, in case I forgot to mention EXPLICITLY FASCIST.

6. Groundhog Day (1993): I know that National Review nepotism-case and serial dullard Jonah Goldberg champions this movie as a signal statement of conservative ideals, and I guess that's a defensible view. Goldberg and company point to the fact that Bill Murray is drawn over the course of his ordeal to classic, community minded virtues. One could point out that there is nothing necessarily conservative about this, and that, in fact, modern conservatism embraces the sort of mindless acquisitiveness that Murray turns away from and that in an era of hyper-capitalism the sort of community-mindedness that the film champions is deeply leftist. One could also point out that the real goal that Murray strives for throughout the movie is fucking Andie Macdowell.

8. Juno (2007): Apparently, any film in which a pregnancy is carried to term counts as conservative.

10. Ghostbusters (1984): I love me some Ghostbusters. And there's no doubting that it is a time capsule of Reagan-era reaction. I'm okay with this because, unlike some people, I don't judge art by a political standard. Although, it is worth pointing out that christian conservatives can't be too comfortable with the notion that our world is ruled by pan-dimensional pagan deities who can be vanquished with science, but not Jesus.

12. Dark Knight (2008): It's nice to know that a movie that intentionally muddies the ideological and moral waters its characters swim in with the express motive of unsettling the audience can be seen as an unambiguous endorsement of illegal surveillance and torture if you are desperate to have your views affirmed by Hollywood. And if you drink enough paint thinner.

15. Red Dawn (1984): Re-tarded. The idea of the U.S. being occupied by a bunch of Cubans is Cold War paranoia of Birchian proportions. Then you've got the fact that the movie itself is plodding, poorly acted and flat. And, of course, the hilarious irony that one of the signal achievements of conservative film is a celebration of insurgency. Do you think that Iraqi guerrillas watch pirated Betamax editions of Red Dawn before they go out and set IEDs to blow up the foreign invaders? What's "wolverines" in Arabic?

23. United 93 (2006): It's good to know that in addition to pregnancy, all depictions of the Events of 9/11 are inherently conservative. I'm waiting for the National Review to start championing Uwe Boll's Postal in the near future.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More Awesome Lines from Awful Movies,,,

"I think World War Two just started." -- Pearl Harbor

"Thomas Jefferson once shot a man on the White House lawn for treason." --Swordfish

"Whores don't get a second chance." -- Identity

"I'm your great white hunter for this trip, though I happen to be black." -- Congo

"Wait, iron pen. The ink does not describe what was in the pen, it describes what was penned. It was iron, it was firm. It was mineral, no, no, no, no. It was firm, it was adamant. It was resolved...it was resolved. 'Mr. Matlack can't offend.' Timothy Matlack was the official scribe of the Continental Congress. Calligrapher, not writer. And to make sure he could not offend the map, it was put on the back of a resolution that was transcribed, a resolution that 55 men signed. The Declaration of Independence." -- National Treasure

Monday, February 02, 2009

Awesome Lines from Awful Movies

"That's a duck, not a dick," --The Long Kiss Goodnight

"Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here. This stuff will make you a goddamned sexual Tyrannosaur, just like me." --Predator

"It's a free country...or it will be someday." --The Patriot

"It's not difficult to surmise how Nathan here feels about killing guards and my own proclivities are well-known and oft-lamented facts of penal lore." --Con Air

"Killing me won't bring back your goddamn honey!" --The Wicker Man (2006)

"Before you could even spell your name, I was being taught to conquer galaxies." --Battlefield Earth

"I'm a pimp... and pimps don't commit suicide." --Southland Tales

More to come...suggestions welcome...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Wrestler

Martin Amis published a collection of critical writings called "The War Against Cliche," and while I find Amis to be mostly a wank-job, that phrase points at the job description for all critics worth their salt; warriors in the battle against cliche in all its forms. Cliched sentiment and narrative murders films. As soon as you as an audience member think "oh, I recognize that!" during a scene in a movie, you might as well walk right out of the theater. The suspense and uncertainty that gives film its singular emotional intensity as an art form evaporates; you know what's going to happen. Go get some milk dudes, sneak into a different theater in the multiplex, and try again.
But there are exceptions.

Occasionally, you'll have a filmmaker take it upon themselves to embrace shopworn cinematic tropes for the express purpose of making them vibrate with energy just to show how badass they are. Darren Aronofsky is one such cocky bastard.

There is not a single plot point in The Wrestler that isn't telegraphed well ahead of time. There isn't a single character who couldn't have been ordered directly from the Stock Character warehouse with no modification. In fact, the film conforms to so many failiar scenarios and recognizable characters that it seems perversely intentional on the part of Aronofsky and screenwriter Robert Siegel. They throw down the gauntlet; challenging the audience to endure scenes of miserabilism and humiliation they've seen hundreds of times before, confident in the knowledge that they have infused every warmed-over element with a richly textured humanism and a string of insights that make all of the cliches relevant. They cut open cliches to expose the beating heart within.

Mickey Rourke is central to the vitality of a film so shot through with the familiar. Some of the power of Rourke's performance comes from the knowledge an audience member brings to the movie about his fall from grace and redemption. But even if you go into the movie thinking that Mickey Rourke is a new fangled brand of tractor, it's impossible not to feel the rawness of Rourke's emotional vulnerability. He bleeds right off the screen. And on the screen. A lot. One of the preeminent subjects of the movie is the human body; its joys, its exploitation, its inevitable decline. Aronofsky films wrestling matches and strip shows with brutal frankness.

The other element in The Wrestler that elevates the cliches is Aronofsky's rapt attention to detail. He glories in the soul-crushing mundanities of strip-mall/strip-club nowhereseville, as well as the specific pathos and grace of the small time wrestling subculture. Aronofsky's unblinking camera captures insights into the deadly allure of performance and self-mythology, reaching a high point of analytic incisiveness in a scene where Rourke's washed up pro wrestler turns his job at a deli counter into an opportunity to do a little of what "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair would call "stylin' and profilin'." With all of this rich context and wisdom, the cliches begin to feel less like lazy contrivances than the heart-breaking inevitability of Greek tragedy. Call it The Greco-Roman Wrestler.