Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Right Stuff

Gotta thank Cesca for leading me to this little gem: the National Review Online's compilation of the supposed "25 Best Conservative Movies."

What exactly makes a movie "conservative" is apparently known only to the brain trust at NRO, which includes the decidedly un-brainy Rich Lowry -- editor of the National Review and the guy who essentially publicly admitted to masturbating during Sarah Palin's vice presidential debate performance (see column below). While the most interesting thing about the list in general is what it subtly says about the effort undertaken by the Review's conservative readers to avoid appearing stereotypically uncultured (obvious choices are avoided: Superman, Top Gun, Die Hard, Norris's The Octagon, the Rambo series, etc.), equally fascinating is what a few of the individual choices say about how conservatives view their role in relation to the U.S. power structure. Put simply, they still, even after the last eight years of oppressive abuses and astonishingly expansive spending by a Republican administration, see themselves as the rag-tag band of rebels fighting the evil empire of big government. How else to justify the appropriation of films like The Lives of Others, 300, or -- in the "also-rans" list and possibly most shocking -- my beloved Serenity.

While scanning the list, look for a couple of truly great "What the Fuck?" moments, like the fact that all three movies by hyper-WASP Whit Stillman are included, as well as The Dark Knight (still pitched as a paean to George W. Bush), United 93 (if you didn't see that one coming...) and, well, Team America (its inclusion proof that brilliant satire ultimately fools those it's targeting).

The National Review Online: The Best Conservative Movies/2.23.09 Issue

Now that I've perused NRO's choices a few times, I can't help but feel like there are quite a few movies that the magazine neglected to mention. Movies that I think should've made the list before, say, Ghostbusters.

How about:

Last Tango In Paris

Features a selfish white guy who delights in bending over complete strangers and screwing them in the ass.

Wall Street

A perfect movie right up until the last ten minutes.


A clever American outwits the Nazis and dumps his foreigner girlfriend.

The Transporter

A white guy in an expensive car lives by a strict code that includes doing what he's told while never asking questions and never bothering to look at what his job entails and whether it's hurting anyone.


The uplifting story of an unstoppable white object that sinks a boat full of poor people while most of the rich manage to save themselves -- a fine allegory for either the U.S. government or Wall Street, depending on your perspective.

The Big Chill

Its main character is a dead hippie.


Mel Gibson defeats illegal aliens.

American Psycho

A Wall Street investment banker murders hookers, homeless people, and other undesirables.

Thelma and Louise

Ends with Susan Sarandon driving off a cliff.

Now it's your turn.

Any more suggestions?


Deacon Blue said...

Dark City:
The evil Strangers, clad as they are in black leather outfits and sporting such pale skin, double both as the insidious goth/alt movement among our youth and as the terribly misguided left-wonger who want to completely redefine everyone's roles against their will. John Murdoch, with nothign but determination and force of will (literally), defeats them and restructures society (literally) that way it used to be...and should have been all along.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the fact that "Blast From The Past" is on there (In the top 10 no less!) invalidate this as a list of best ANYTHING? Blast From The Past does not make it on to a list of best 10 Brendan Fraser movies.

It's also worth noting the paucity of movies with female leads. There is one with a minority though. More than I expected.

dick_gozinia said...

How in the hell is Red Dawn not #1 on that list? Travesty!

My vote is Saving Private Ryan. The Americans kick serious ass until the liberal interpreter gets the real combat soldiers killed because he's too big of a pussy to grab his gun and shoot a german.

Vermillion said...

Okay before I do my suggestions, I want to highlight my favorite parts of the list.

First, the Pursuit of Happyness entry, espeically the end: "They’re black, but there’s no racial undertone or subtext. Gardner is just an incredibly hard-working, ambitious, and smart man who wants to do better for himself and his son.

— Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity. "

The Blast From The Past entry is my other favorite. It was essentially "White boy from the good old days of the 1950s shows uppity modern woman what's what. Yay, us!"

Wow. Anyway:

Star Wars: A young man, brought up in a Nebraska-like planet, is trained by a holy man to use his natural gifts to save the universe from the Commu-Nazi regime. The figure of Darth Vader is an intelligent commentary on the fears and anxieties we have of the massive, powerful, dark "Other", the being threatening to steal away our princesses and destroy everything we hold dear. Of course, this fear is abated in the sequels, when it is reveal that the imposing man in black is really a frail, underdeveloped pale man redeemed by his much more appropriate son.

V for Vendetta: A movie that strangely predicts the 2008 election and the rise of the Obama cult of personality. The government is keeping a watchful eye out after several terrorist attack, shutting down the borders and making sure everyone stays in at night. Mocking of the government is presented in appropriate response: a police baton to the face. A pretty young (white) woman is kidnapped and seduced by a(nother) massive man in black. He is a suspected terrorist who spouts off about changing the world and disposing of the government, whose only concern is protecting the people from this menace. She is tortured and mistreated, only to develop a Stockholm-like affection for the brute, eventually assisting him in deluding the Amer...ahem, British people (even the children!) into rebellion, getting them all killed.

Mrs. Doubtfire: A man must deal with his bitch of an ex-wife who let him see his kids, even though he may have destroyed their home and credit several times over. Maybe if she pulled the stick out her ass, he wouldn't have to put up with women's clothes and his "weird" brother.

Godzilla: The true power of American military might (as in the atomic bomb) is feebly combatted by the Japanese army. DON'T MESS WITH THE U.S.!!!!

Anonymous said...

America, fuck yeah!!!

Mark said...

Did you check out the "Also-Rans" list at the end? It includes Air Force One, An American Carol, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Hunt for Red October, and (of course) The Patriot. Unbelievable.

About Team America, they said, "Yet the film’s utter disgust with air-headed, left-wing celebrity activism remains unmatched in popular culture." They probably too no satire from the destruction of Paris in the opening scenes, and laughed at the US taking it to the Frenchies.

Mel Gibson defeats illegal aliens.

Lou Dobbs' loves you for this choice.

Snath said...

Juno? Really? I wonder what Diablo Cody has to say about that.

kanye said...

Kiss of Death-- Wherein conservative American icon, Tommy Udo--(as played by Richard Widmark), demonstrates the preferred conservative "final solution" to the Social Security "crisis".

Chez said...

Snath -- the pro-lifers have been saying that about Juno since the beginning. Sure it's about a unmarried teen pregnancy, but at least she's making the right (and righteous) decision.

Just like Bristol Palin.

-Alzeyor- said...

How about Tropic Thunder, in which Republicans learn a valuable lesson about going "full retard".

Oh, wait......they didn't.

Alex said...

Christ, there's so much smug oozing out of every description they have...

AndrewSmash said...

What, no gay porn? I guess that's on the other list of "movies conservatives love".

Anonymous said...

I never really thought of Metropolitan as a conservative film - I thought it was just a great, underrated film, period.

Team America was brilliant. As great satirists do, Stone and Parker skewered everyone - liberals, conservatives, Americans, Euros, you name it. (And yes, as a conservative, I understood fully the dig that was being delivered during the destruction of Paris, and laughed at that too.) It was great precisely because it was so delightfully inappropriate from beginning to end. (I dare you not to laugh at the puppet sex scene.) The fact that Sean Penn, a guy who takes himself WAY too seriously, got all uppity about it was evidence that they hit their mark.

Chez said...

Oh, I completely agree. It hit everyone equally, which made it one of the most fair-minded political movies in years.

And yes, Penn's a fucking idiot who deserves to be laughed at.

Michael J. West said...

Sez you:

Team America (its inclusion proof that brilliant satire ultimately fools those it's targeting).

Sez NR:

It’s amazingly vulgar and depicts Americans as wildly overzealous in fighting terror.

Sounds like they might get the joke after all.

Chez said...

Yup, I read that. And it's to their credit. It's just a surprising choice because it proves that conservatives are so desperate to see liberals mocked in film that they'll embrace a movie that does it AND skewers them as well.

To be fair, though -- I think that's symptomatic of divisive politics in general these days. Liberals MIGHT feel the same way, although I once wrote a piece that claimed otherwise.

DXM: Why So Serious?/4.25.08

Jeremy said...

How can you claim the Dark Knight is a good conservative movie because it is a defense of the post-9/11 actions of the Bush administration, and then turn around and discuss "Brazil" as a good conservative movie because it points out the failings of big government gone awry with police state surveillance?
And then there is the flip-flop of embracing some movies for shedding light on the dangers of "elitist utopias" (Gataca, Brazil) and others for pointing out "what is admirable and necessary in the customs and conventions of America’s upper class" elites(Metropolitan).

Can we get any more fucking confused?

Michael J. West said...

Good point on Team America. And also on liberal seriousness, which is why Alec Baldwin should get bonus points for defying the archetype in general AND, specifically, for actually offering to voice himself in TA.

As for Dark Knight, that's another fascinating lens on our political scene: Liberals and conservatives look at the same bit of information and draw exactly opposite analyses from it. (It's also a sign of great art in that there are so many possible interpretations.)

Anonymous said...

James Bowman's review of "Blast from the Past" was more succinctly summed up by Ned Flanders:

"I wish I could live in that magical land of Yesteryear that only exists in the minds of Republicans."

Zeromark said...

What, no Mel Brooks on the list? For shame!

Why haven't the Ann Coulters of the world embraced Dark Helmet as an "evil liberal?" :P

Andrew Harvel said...

I guess NRO wasn't feelin' The Passion.

Cheetah Chrome said...

Sure this post is dead, but I have to correct you Chez... In Last Tango In Paris Brando has the girl fuck HIM in the ass with her finger.

Chez said...

I just naturally assumed that if Brando gets the butter treatment himself, he had to have reciprocated.

Cheetah Chrome said...

Sounds like a fair, mutual agreement... wait! That would make it a Democrat film. Sorry you lose again! Ha. ha.

Izar Talon said...

It still royally pisses me off that they not only have Serenity on there, but MY personal favorite movie, Ghostbusters. Fucking ridiculous and insulting to the people who made those movies. (Well, except Adam Baldwin [Jayne] who may love being on the list, unfortunately.)