Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CONSERVATIVE CINEMA

"It seems it always happens. Whenever we get too high-hat and too sophisticated for flag-waving, some thug nation decides we're a push-over all ready to be blackjacked. And it isn't long before we're looking up, mighty anxiously, to be sure the flag's still waving over us."
Spidey and Flag-Yankee Doodle Dandy

Conservative film, some would say that's a contradiction, an oxymoron. Conservatives cannot be artistic or creative, because they are so stodgy, old, inflexible, and filled with rage and hate. Yet there have been no small number of movies with strong conservative themes in them, particularly in the first fifty years or so of cinema. When the 60's came around the themes changed and leftist ideology became most dominant, but still, the movies were out there.

National Review recently came out with his list of top 25 conservative movies of the last 25, and on it were some odd choices (Forrest Gump? The Edge?). I would come up with a different list, for different reasons. And generally speaking, that's the fun of lists, the disagreements about what should and should not be there.

Thus, in no particular order, my choices for conservative flix, with why I thought so.
The Incredibles: a condemnation of lawsuits and victimization, combined with a celebration of personal achievement and the need to use one's strength to protect others, fight evil, and do so unashamed, even if it means violence. Combine that with the villain being someone who wants to level the playing field and make everyone identical, and you've got a strong anti-leftist message.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: an odd choice, but I'll let a commenter from Big Hollywood explain
The evil Voldemort is out there. However, the Ministry refuses to accept it. It's a lie. They discredit Harry Potter. The media (Daily Prophet) supports the Ministry. Dolores Umbridge, in the interest of Ministry-improved education, slowly turns Hogwarts into her own little fascist fiefdom with various Educational Procalamations. It's a looking glass into Liberal thought.
-Hadsil

I couldn't have said it better, and Rowling did it that way on purpose. In general, the series is right-leaning.

Die Hard: A positive portrayal of the unabashed use of force to fight evil, a searing condemnation of the press, and a criminal who claims political aggrievance but is actually just about personal gain.

Spider-man 2: For the themes of madness from power, self sacrifice and giving up one's selfish dreams to do what is right, and the general idea of heroism and duty.

Demolition Man: A brutal takedown of political correctness, a satire on the entire concept unmatched by anything since. That it even got made in the height of PC's early glory days amazes me.

Rocky Balboa: The speech to his kid on growing up an emasculated metrosexual alone makes the case. Personal achievement, responsibility to one's neighbor taken upon yourself and not left to the government, honor, and virtue all shown in their glory.

The Dark Knight: Anti terrorism and the struggles to fight when the public's will has been turned against you by the enemy and innate cowardice. This movie does a powerful job of showing that to do the right thing often makes people hate and fear you, and that you must do so anyway. A demonstration of tactics that must be used in great emergency but are abandoned when the emergency is ended.

Blast From the Past: One of the finest examples of conservative ideals in cinema in the last fifty years (despite its gratuitous use of the Magic Fag device where the gay guy is wise, winning, smart, and better than everyone around him). A young man raised with a strong ethical foundation and without the corrosive influence of popular culture over the last thirty years emerges and with simple life proves himself the better man by far than all around him, ending up teaching many lessons without meaning to. For example:
Troy: You know, I asked him about that. He said, good manners are just a way of showing other people we have respect for them. See, I didn't know that, I thought it was just a way of acting all superior. Oh and you know what else he told me?
Eve: What?
Troy: He thinks I'm a gentleman and you're a lady.
Eve: [disgusted] Well, consider the source! I don't even know what a lady is.
Troy: I know, I mean I thought a 'gentleman' was somebody that owned horses. But it turns out, his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, 'someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.'
Eve: Where do you think he got all that information?
Troy: From the oddest place - his parents. I mean, I don't think I got that memo from mine.
Master And Commander: Far Side of the World: despite the awkward and ahistorical title (he was a full post captain in the movie), the unabashed use of force to defend liberty, fight the enemy, and face any danger to accomplish this goal is powerful and well shown. Honor, duty, and raw proper masculinity is on display here with no need for romance or modern sensibilities to ruin the story.
Robocop 2: Although it is brutal in its portrayal of corporations (the big enemy to the left), the message is strongly anti-psychobabble, savage to political correctness, and unswerving in showing good versus evil.

300: Dubious historically, the message of the movie about not bowing to tyranny and the need to fight, even at ultimate personal cost, for liberty is stirring and so powerful that it was not missed by the hysterical left. This monologue by the fictional Xerxes makes the point:
Your gods were cruel to shape you so, friend Ephialetes. The Spartans too were cruel to reject you. But I am kind.
Everything you could ever desire every happiness you can imagine every pleasure your fellow Greeks and your false gods have denied you I will grant you for I am kind.
Embrace me as your king and as your god. Lead my soldiers to the hidden path that enters behind the cursed Spartans and your joys will be endless.
You will find I am kind. Unlike the cruel Leonidas, who demanded that you stand, I require only that you kneel.
Contrast that with the speech by James Otis in the children's book Johnny Tremain:
We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills...we fight, we die for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.
No Country for Old Men: An odd movie with not much plot in which the bad guy wins and all the good guys lose, it is held together by cranky old sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) and his monologue about the collapse of polite society and the breakdown of morality and virtue in the country. The only real flaw is the ending scene in which the movie tries to act as if nothing was ever any better and Bell is just being self pitying about his own time, foolishly.

Open Range: Good versus evil, and the use of force again. Reluctantly, a gunfighter is forced to take up his weapon again, but this time he finds awkward redemption in the love of a woman and sees the whole town turn against a tyrant.

Liar, Liar: If for no other reason than its condemnation of corrupt lawyers and the advice to "Obey the law, ass@#(!" to a crooked client. The need to tell the truth, even when it hurts you, and face the consequences is a lesson in virtue made hilarious by Jim Carrey.

Wild Bunch: A bunch of aging crooks in a world changing to leave them behind find redemption in fighting a corrupt general in Mexico at the cost of their own lives. They go out in a blaze of glory, doing the right thing to stop evil.

Stand and Deliver/Lean on Me: Movies that fictionalized real events, in which a crusading principal abandoned the leftist educational philosophies of decaying schools, rejected self-esteem doctrine and hands-off teaching, and whipped schools into shape using strength, personal responsibility, rejection of evil, and a clear, old fashioned concept of teaching and learning.

Independence Day: A desperate fight against an implacable enemy who will not be reasoned with and does not care what you feel or think, highlighted by an ex military president who stands tall when his staff is sometimes weaselly and weak.
Honorable Mention:
  • Groundhog Day for its portrayal of a selfish, narcissistic journalist who learns to abandon his belief structure and become genuinely helpful to those around him;
  • Ghostbusters for its brutal portrayal of the EPA chief and government bureaucracy;
  • High Noon for the portrayal of one man doing the right thing even though everyone turns against him and advises cowardice (oddly, this was intended as a condemnation of McCarthy);
  • Flight of the Intruder for its pro military stance and the hero's frustration against the idiotic congress-imposed limitations of military action;
  • Braveheart for its absurdly faux historical fight for liberty;
  • Red Dawn for the anti-tyranny and pro-use of force to fight evil message.
What doesn't make the cut?
  • Unforgiven, despite its themes because it is in essence an amoral postmodern deconstruction of westerns (like Lonesome Dove);
  • jingoistic hyper patriotic movies like Rocky IV because their cartoon depiction of the struggle of liberty against tyranny misses the point entirely and becomes raw nationalism;
  • Tombstone because although it has powerful themes of justice and redemption, it is only half a good movie and violates the historical story so badly its hard to watch;
  • Team America: World Police because of its childish crudity;
  • and several movies that could have made the cut like United 93, Rudy, Gattaca, and Lives of Others because I never saw them.
For what its worth, that's how I see it.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Great coice and interesting commentary... some of those I had never thought of as politically slanted movies (Ghostbutsers, Die Hard, Independence Day), but I see your point about them leaning on conservative themes.

I usually don't care much about the political slant of a movie as long as it tells a good story, is thought provoking, or especialy if it tells it in an interesting way. Pleasantville, for instance, is an extremely liberally themed movie, but one of my favorites because it is told in such an interesting way.