Two weekends remain before Election Day — just enough time for movie fans to pop in a couple of flicks. These suggestions aren’t obvious election-related films like 2016 or Occupy Unmasked. For starters, these movies aren’t necessarily as depressing. They can instead be hilarious, uplifting, and fascinating. But each one has something to say.
Avalon is the gorgeous Barry Levinson story of Russian-Jewish immigrants who came to America, and who came to love America. They proudly sought America’s material promise and spiritual freedom. They built things, they raised families, they dreamed. They realized that no place on Earth offered the same life to those determined to work hard. Sometimes they failed, but that didn’t stop them. Sometimes they made mistakes, but they learned. Avalon is the story of what happens when the goodness of a nation is matched with good people. It is a story of what makes our nation great and what Americans have treasured for generations.
If Avalon is poetic and beautiful, this Mike Judge comic farce is ugly and lowbrow, except it really isn’t. Idiocracy is the story of an “average” American who is frozen for 500 years and awakens to a totally transformed America. Law, culture, morals, ambition, intelligence, initiative, thrift, industry, and competence have all rotted away. The movie is a comic romp through the resulting society. Planes fall from the sky, government planning leads to near famine, and sugar drinks flow through tubes to millions watching TV on the couch.
The Lives of Others won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2007. If you have never seen it, you simply must. It is a political thriller of the first order. The story revolves around small private decisions made quietly and secretly to resist evil, always at great personal risk. The main character is a surveillance officer of the Stasi, the East German secret police. His target is a writer. Over time, humanity overcomes totalitarianism. It is a story of a man caught in something he once believed in, in a bureaucracy that provided his worldview, yet no longer does.
Nearly all of Britain knows of the Up series, but you will have to hunt for the DVDs here in America. The Michael Apted-directed documentaries are based on St. Ignatius of Loyola’s statement “give me the child until he is seven years old and I will give you the man.” The series began filming a group of children in 1964 and has revisited most of the group every seven years since then. The series is currently on 56 Up, which aired last May in Britain. Whether or not the child at seven locks in a certain fate, it is undeniable that those values and behaviors during the formative years presented in the 7 Up and 14 Up installments seem to have followed the subjects over their lifetimes.
5. Putney Swope
I had never heard of the bizarre Robert Downey, Sr. cult movie Putney Swope until 2010 when I read the following from DeWayne Wickham in USA Today: “Most black leaders, including Smiley, don’t expect Obama to behave like Putney Swope (the black character in a film by the same name who takes control of a white-run advertising agency and imposes his black agenda on the firm). They don’t want him to act like some fear a consciously black president might. They don’t expect loud pronouncements from Obama about what his administration is doing for blacks. But they also don’t want him to be insensitive to problems that have a disparate impact on black people.”
Suffice to say this 1969 movie wouldn’t get made in 2012, just like All in the Family would not. But the two remind us of how far we have come as a nation, or at least how far some of us think we have. It is vintage late 1960s, and is dated beyond description. Putney Swope is all about race – beginning to end. So if that isn’t your cup of tea, skip to #6, below.
In hindsight, Wickham forecast the disastrous economic carnage President Obama’s policies have unleashed on the minority community. Obama has created business and tax uncertainty that has devastated minority communities. Swope blew his shot, and so did the president. Beware: one should treasure the mood of the Mod Squad and the comedy of the Marx Brothers before popping this one in the DVD player.
If Obama loses the election, one reason will be because Catholics fought back against Obama’s attack on the free exercise of religion. All across America, Catholics have begun to receive packages in the mail with materials to hang in windows and on their cars calling for the defense of religious liberty. This has never happened before in this country. The Obama administration doesn’t understand what they are up against, what they have awakened by forcing religious institutions to violate their faith. But it is a story centuries old, and it usually ends the same way. The faithful refuse to submit. A century ago, leftists in Mexico attacked the Catholic Church. For Greater Glory is about how it is difficult and tricky to conquer the faithful. Even when the state thinks it has won, it sometimes hasn’t. It is about what the faithful will endure to oppose a government’s attack on religion.