There has been a lot of talk about recommended reading over the last few weeks. “You should re-read 1984,” they say. “The President should read the Constitution, or the Bible, or one of his Executive Orders, or something. Anything, really,” they say.
But let’s be real. This is 2017. Reading? Really? Books? Sorry to say it, but the nerds lost. Books are out; I hear they’ll be burning them in D.C. this spring. Besides, the secret police are almost certainly staking out your local booksellers as we speak. Suddenly a stroll down to Shakespeare and Co. is a very dangerous thing to do.
No, ladies and gentlemen, for a cultural experience in today’s America, I suggest a film festival of classics new and old to show us where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. And so with no further ado, I would like to present A Film Festival for the Coming Apocalypse – showing all day at The Roxy Theater on the date of our next State of the Union Address.
Film Festival for the Coming Apocalypse
Background Viewing – It is suggested that before the show you are familiar with the Star Wars and Hunger Games Franchises. Be sure to consider parallels between hegemonic American foreign policy and power distribution in the films, as well as the irony of rooting so passionately against the Empire/Capitol from the reclining, overstuffed Cineplex seats with a 300oz. Coca-Cola Classic and $37 buttered popcorn on your lap!
(1) The Interview – (2014) 1hr 52min – The Interview is a searing indictment of the state of art in the cultural landscape that was, apparently, ready to elect Donald Trump as President. Disregard, for a moment, the lazy writing and casual racism – this movie is objectively un-funny. It made this list at once to illustrate how low the lowest common denominator has fallen, but also to remind us that its unflattering presentation of Kim Jong Un likely precipitated one of the largest cyber attacks on American interests in history – at once an inspiration for artists to come and a stark warning about lampooning thin-skinned autocrats.
(2) Idiocracy – (2006) 1hr 24min – Mike Judge was eerily prescient in his pessimistic forecast of humanity in the 26th century. The United States is run by a professional wrestler, crops are watered with Gatorade, the population is rife with under-educated populist anger, and oh dear God I have to look away. President Camacho’s State of the Union Address is just a bit too close to home.
(3) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – (1964) 1hr 35min – The world has no idea that it’s on the cusp of nuclear obliteration. Kubrick paints a picture of blundering, insecure world leaders, fumbling through the motions of diplomacy as military leaders push us to the brink of war. The President is advised by a Nazi, and a paranoid schizophrenic hijacks due process. At least the movie is funny.
(4) Network – (1976) 2hr 2min – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” A TV personality loses his mind on screen and taps into public anger from coast to coast. The network company exploits it for ratings. The rest, they say, is history.
(5) Red Dawn – (1984) 1hr 54min – The premise is pretty clear: America is invaded by the Soviet Union and a ragtag group of high schoolers stage a rebellion. I’m not sure what else has to be said here.
(6) V for Vendetta – (2005) 2hr 12min – A classic good vs evil story of an uprising against a Fascist state and the perseverance of the human spirit. It begins in a world with a censored state-run media, corrupt secret police, and perpetual martial law. (Particularly topical is the scene in which a late night sketch comic is disappeared after ridiculing the Chancellor [has anyone heard from Melissa McCarthy this week?]). Major themes include the great power of the written word, the ultimate frailty of an autocratic state, and Godwin’s Law.
(7) Mad Max: Fury Road – (2015) 2hrs – I mean, given today’s rampant drought and desertification, the public’s apparent preference for autocracy over democracy, and the increasingly corporate ownership of global water supplies, this one is less “distopian sci-fi” and more “documentary” than most of us are probably willing to admit.
(8) Inglorious Basterds – (2009) 2hr 33min – Because while individual films in this festival may have optimistic endings, the trend doesn’t look good. Sometimes you just gotta kill some Nazis.