Some time ago, I wrote a post about art and ideology. I stressed that conservatives should stop worrying about the “message” in the art that they create and concern themselves more with just creating great art.
Movies fall under that same umbrella. Movies that have an agenda — for example Redacted, Fair Game, In The Valley of Elah, Rendition, and others were made with the implicit purpose of shoving a point of view down viewers’ throats. It didn’t matter the stories were poorly written, the scripts were bad to awful, and the performances were flat. Yet, these movies were made.
And they sucked.
I’ve spoken to people who refuse to watch a certain movie because of its “agenda” or won’t watch a movie starring a certain actor because he or she is a big time Hollywood liberal. Not me. ‘State of Grace’ is still an awesome movie to watch, despite the fact that left wing ass-hat Sean Penn stars in it.
There are good, even great movies, that have a liberal theme. Here is a list of some of them (in no particular order):
JFK – Oliver Stone’s 1991 fantasy about President Kennedy’s assassination is a liberal’s dream movie. Anybody in the film that displays a tendency towards Republicans or conservatism is portrayed as a drunken thug who wants to put one in JFK’s head (or had some knowledge of what was planned).
If Stone is to be believed, Kennedy’s assassination was machinated by the military industrial complex and the CIA, with assistance from the following: the FBI, Dallas Police Department, the mafia, Castro, Cuban revolutionaries, and LBJ himself. Despite the fact that the movie is as historically accurate as ‘Armageddon’ is scientifically, it’s still a great movie. The diverse cast features great performances from Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, and Gary Oldman. Stone paces the movie very well and makes it all seem convincing despite it being so absurd.
The China Syndrome – What better way to feed into the frenzy of the anti-nuclear movement than a movie about greedy nuclear power plant operators trying to cover up safety violations? That’s right. These corporatists aren’t going to let a nuclear meltdown keep them from getting their hands on the green, so they try to cover up events, despite the presence of a news crew.
The film still worked, thanks in large part to the performances of Jack Lemmon and Jane Fonda. In addition, the film was very suspenseful as the question of the unknown hung out there: What happens if this thing melts down?
Primary Colors – Ah yes, the quintessential Bill Clinton movie. Based on upon Joe Klein’s book of the same name. The film features fictional Presidential candidate Jack Stanton, a Governor of a podunk southern state, running an upstart campaign that nobody expects he will win, including his own team. Stanton, like Clinton, is a philandering louse whose wife Susan (played excellently by Emma Thompson) stands by him (Hillary anyone?) through everything, including the revelation Jack slept with their (black) teenage babysitter.
But despite all of that, we are constantly reminded just how much Stanton cares about people. And he’s nothing like those hypocritical dirtbag Republicans. Still, he doesn’t hesitate to go after Democratic Governor of Florida, Fred Picker (Larry Hagman), who is seen as the straight-laced guy who could be a threat to Stanton’s campaign. That is until its revealed in his past he snorted more coke than all of the stock brokers on Wall Street and had an affinity for sex. The gay kind.
Still, it works because the writing is sharp (and often very funny), and the performances all around are top-notch, particular the portrayal of Jack Stanton by John Travolta and Kathy Bates as operative Libby Holden. Billy Bob Thornton delivers the laughs as the James Carville-like Richard Jemmons.
The message here is, “Our guys (Democrats) are low life jerks, but we support such and such government programs so their hearts are in the right place.”
The Pelican Brief – I was trying to choose between this and ‘The Rainmaker’ which is also a good movie. I decided to go with The Pelican Brief, largely because the story is that much more outrageous. The Rainmaker was about a corrupt insurance company that finds itself fighting an idealistic lawyer in a civil trial over the death of a teenage boy. In The Pelican Brief, a greedy oil man has two Supreme Court justices assassinated so he can force his lackey, the President of the United States, to appoint two replacements who will decide a big case in his favor. Winner.
Julia Roberts plays Darby Shaw, a Tulane law student who happens to be banging one of her professors (played by Sam Sheppard). She writes up a “brief” about who could be responsible for the assassinations. The boyfriend gives the brief to an attorney friend (John Heard) in the FBI. Eventually, the information winds up getting back to the law firm of White & Blazevich who represent Victor Mattiece, the greedy oil man who wants to drill in Louisiana. They also happen to be the ones who arranged the assassinations. Pretty soon, Shaw is the target. Meanwhile, the bumbling clueless President (Robert Culp), after learning of what happens and knowing the close ties he has to Mattiece, allows his Chief of Staff to do whatever it takes to see the story does not get out. Darby gets in touch with enterprising and hungry reporter Gray Grantham (the great Denzel Washington), and the two of them proceed to work together to expose the plot. It’s a taut thriller that is paced very well, and again, features great performances by a superb cast. As such, it is able to rise above its own completely absurd premise.
The Contender – This film is Primary Colors on steroids, as far as stereotypes go. Not only are the Democrats the concerned, caring ones. They are also perfectly dressed with beautiful suits and dresses and perfectly styled hair. Joan Allen plays Senator Laine Hanson, a Republican turned Democratic Senator from Ohio, who also happens to be an atheist! She is selected by President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) to be his new Vice President after the previous VP dies suddenly.
Conservative Senator Sheldon Runyon (brilliantly played by Gary Oldman) doesn’t like Hanson. He hates women or something. He wanted Jack Hathaway (William Peterson) to be the VP (although they never explain why, but latent homosexuality is my guess), so he sets out to destroy Hanson. He believes he has found the magic elixir when he comes across information that Hanson may have taken part in a gang bang while she was in college. Hanson, rather than deny it happened, refuses to address it. Because principles.
Runyon, unlike his Democratic counterparts, has curly, thinning hair. He wears thick-rimmed nerd glasses. While the Democrats are dressed to the nines, “Shelly” looks like he got his suits off the rack at Goodwill. Everybody eats well except for Runyon who eats steak that drips blood…like his fangs. Not really, but still. That’s how absurd the portrayal of the conservative is. We even learn later that Runyon once forced his (now totally unloved) wife to have an abortion when they were younger. He’s the perfect comic book conservative villain.
Still, the movie is compelling to watch, as the performances of the leads (including supporting roles by Sam Elliot and Christian Slater) outweigh an absurd story and characters that are almost cartoonish (Jackson Evans? Could there be a more cinematic name for a President?). There is a twist at the end that seems to have been thrown in to say, “See? Not all of the Democrats are wonderful.”
So there you have it. What would you add to the list? If you’re a liberal, what conservative themed movies do you like?