A 2017 movie list for Political Orphans

Sometimes you’re just too angry to produce thoughtful insights. It’s not something I’ve experienced prior to the Trump era and I’m finding the experience very unsettling. Robbed of the ability to write sober material, it seems like a series of listicles might be a good pressure valve.

Here’s a week’s worth of movies that summarize Trumpistan’s Year Zero.

Downfall – 2004

This is the World War II movie American needs right now.

When you read about Germans who supported the Nazis you may find yourself wondering, WTF were they thinking? How did ordinary, otherwise decent people convince themselves that what they were doing was good? Downfall places a nice, ordinary, human face on political horror.

Downfall begins in the final weeks of the Third Reich, focusing on the experiences of Traudl Junge, a naïve young secretary to Hitler. Soviet artillery is raining on Berlin and loyal aides are beginning to rethink their choices. Some flee, some cling to delusions of eventual victory, some embrace suicide for themselves and their families. A few begin to feel the weight of what they’ve done, but most remain trapped in denial, buffered by a sense of victimhood. Despite the movie’s darkness, one British commenter explained, “It’s a happy ending. He dies.”

The film sparked controversy in Germany for its relatively humane portrayal of Hitler and his henchmen, but that was the point. More than any other movie I’ve seen, Downfall paints the Nazis in human terms, as ordinary people, with otherwise ordinary moral lives, who committed their public lives to the promotion of evil. When you go home for the holidays, you might be able to persuade your Trumpian relatives to watch Downfall by calling it a World War II movie. It’s a prophetic warning for the Fox News cult if you can get them to read subtitles.

Detroit – 2017

A film about the urban riots in the 60’s portraying police as the bad guys is a cultural watershed. Detroit depicts the police murder of three black men at the Algiers Motel, along with the subsequent cover-up. Central to the story is the relentless humiliation endured by black residents of the city at the hands of a de facto occupying force.

Detroit seems to represent a turning point in Hollywood’s depiction of the black experience. There’s no civil rights victory here, no heroic white savior, no justice, no happy ending. While watching this, keep in mind a movie event that may be looming ahead next year – the release of Patriotic Treason, a biopic about John Brown, starring Ed Harris.

Ex Machina – 2015

A programmer wins a one-week visit with one of the most innovative and eccentric figures in tech. His prize comes with a challenge, perform an advanced Turing test on one of the inventor’s newest creations. What starts as a nerdy dive into gadgets and wizardry devolves quickly into an evolutionary morality tale.

Chasing Coral – 2017

An Australian marketing professional hit on an idea to make climate change more immediate and relatable. He reached out to the director of the documentary, Chasing Ice, and convinced him to make this film.

Using complex, underwater time-lapse photography developed specifically for this project, the filmmakers captured in sickening detail the coral die-offs in progress in the Pacific Rim. They manage to capture climate change in action through a relatable medium. This is climate change – the movie.

Junebug – 2005

A young man returns home from Chicago to North Carolina, bringing his new wife along to meet his family. Amy Adams delivers an outstanding and unsettling performance as the main character’s pregnant sister-in-law.

Early on it feels like Junebug might become another sentimental, charming ditty about the South, but then it takes some odd turns, flirting with allegory or magical realism. Characters are rendered in a lovingly realistic, sympathetic and nuanced style. However, the plot is strange, in places more symbolic than real. This may be an artistic device, or may be what reality looks like when examined through so many contradictory lenses.

Having made such a journey myself, this film is as realistic a representation of the gap between Southern and Northern life as anything I’ve seen. Imagine a Faulkner story rendered in an entirely realistic style, and you can imagine the troubling, hard-to-reconcile plot elements of Junebug. This is a great film for 2017, highlighting absurd and seemingly irreconcilable city mouse/country-mouse, conflicts tearing us apart.

Get Out – 2017

Get Out is further evidence that in 2017 we turned a corner in artistic depictions of race. A young black man goes home with his white girlfriend to meet her socially liberal parents. He quickly finds himself in “the sunken place.”

Any more description of the plot would ruin the film, but this is a darker depiction of white suburbia than even Blue Velvet. Get Out preserves a remarkable amount of humor, almost enough to make it a comedy. Almost, but not quite.

9 to 5 – 1980

Stay with me here. This movie deserves another look in the year of #MeToo. It was among the highest grossing films ever made back in 1980. 9 to 5 centers around a chauvinistic sexual predator who terrorizes his female employees, who then plot to kill him. It’s a madcap comedy.

Scroll back up through the other films in this list, then ask yourself this question: Would 9 to 5 be a comedy if it were made in 2017? For its time, it was a relatively progressive statement about women’s experiences and their potential power, but you could only make a successful film like that in 1980 if you softened its edges with jokes. This seems like a film that could be reshot today by Quentin Tarantino as a blood-soaked thriller, in the style of Kill Bill. Perhaps that’s what it should have been all along, had its creators enjoyed a freer atmosphere.

Do you have a list? Share it and post clips in the Off Topic forum. I created a new topic for it here.

17 Comments

  1. The 9th circuit has issued its third stay of Trump’s refugee ban….but on Dec. 1st, the T administration took this incredible step. Who needs the courts when you can simply ignore them or neuter them by regulatory means?

    “Aid workers and state officials involved in refugee resettlement said the agencies were informed by the State Department in the Dec. 1 meeting that offices expected to handle fewer than 100 refugees in fiscal year 2018 will no longer be authorized to resettle new arrivals, which means many of them will have to close. There are about 300 resettlement offices spread across 49 states, and advocates estimate several dozen are at risk, though shuttering plans will not be finalized until next year.”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-refugees-exclusive/exclusive-state-department-tells-refugee-agencies-to-downsize-u-s-operations-idUSKBN1EF2S5

  2. RE: AMTRAK DERAILMENT IN WASHINGTON STATE

    I have just posted some comments in the Too Much Infrastructure thread under Off Topic regarding the Amtrak derailment in Washington State in December 18, 2017. I wish to thank Mary for her words of condolence in the previous thread. I have been following this incident in the local press closely and combined with over 40-years’ experience in design and construction of major public works projects, I have some knowledge of how these projects are implemented. The comments are deliberately non-partisan. However, given the present polarized nature of our national politics, some of the conclusions are unavoidably partisan. This post will expand on those.

    1. The current Republican Party has a basic antipathy towards construction of major public works projects. They complain about costs, etc. Really though, their basic belief is that the government should not construct or operate these systems. Rather where they are required they should be financed, owned, designed and operated by the private sector. Occasionally the Republicans might be willing to directly subsidize development where necessary. However, experience has shown that this leads to abuse and fraud of the subsidies and to the owners using monopoly powers to extract exorbitant rents from the users. That was one of the factors involved in the Populist movement during the late 19th Century. It was also a factor in the New Deal, where the Republicans tended to oppose the major infrastructure efforts such as WPA and CCC.

    2. My conclusions #5 and #6 would surely be opposed by the modern Republican Party. They violate the basic principles on which modern Republicanism is founded. These principles include:
    a. A vanishingly small national government with minimal taxes for the ruling class and most of the costs born by the working classes.
    b. The basic function of the government is to provide security for the ruling classes and their retainers and to enable their extraction of economic rents.
    c. Another basic function of government is to transfer wealth to the ruling classes, i.e. Ayn Randism.
    d. Where infrastructure is required it should be addressed at the local and state level. That way the ruling classes can more readily control it.

    3. In general, I believe those have largely been the criteria applied to infrastructure and governance since approximately 1981, when the Reagan became President. As I mentioned earlier, there have only been two – two-year periods during which the Democrats had full control of Government and could make significant progress. The Republicans have generally blocked progress or have actively attempted to dismantle a robust national infrastructure that does not conform to their governing philosophy.

    1. I stand by previous statements that if you want to see the absolute most realistic portrayal of the future under the American system and the results of global warming, watch Soylent Green. Everything from the massive poverty, to the police forces having to use discarded sports and construction equipment, to the highrise parallel universe of the rich and the treatment of women there in, is so realistic it’s basically today, extrapolated.

      I have my own list for this subject but I doubt I will have the time. Holidays are already messy and I am being held over by a lot of work. But Dinsdale, I think you particularly will love Paranoia Park. It’s essentially what would happen if you wrote 1984.

      1. Well, Chris, here’s a little something to make you smile. Good memories…Bad knees and all, I plan to participate in the 2018 Houston Women’s March, Jan. 20th, come hell or high water…wait a minute…we’re already in “hell” and we’ve had way too much “high water”…better not say that!

        Anyway, enjoy this and hope all here have a happy, safe Holiday Season…a Merry Christmas too (-;

        https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/01/the-inauguration-and-the-counter-inauguration/514055/?

  3. One other post that illustrates extremely well, just how devastating the Operation Red Map by the GOP has been on protecting voting districts for incumbent Republicans. There are numerous links in the piece to follow. Note: Laura Moser, the author of the piece, is a Dem candidate opposing incumbent Repub John Culberson. NOW, this piece should make us all angry. Citizens gave the GOP the funding tool; Operation RedMap control over voting districts; voter suppression laws control over the voting process; and the combination – majority control of America.

    http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/12/18/this-is-how-gerrymandering-works/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NYR%20Goethe%20Stalin%20gerrymandering&utm_content=NYR%20Goethe%20Stalin%20gerrymandering+CID_b24d70b0a350a627cbe8ca50b4eed346&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_term=How%20Gerrymandering%20Works

    1. Gerrymandering shows the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. Republicans want to win! Doesn’t much matter how they do it. They are perfectly willing to disenfranchise an entire group just so Republicans control the House!
      Not that dems will not lie, they do, but Republicans will lie about anything, keep telling those lies! Trump and the birthers! the “death squads” Palin talked about. The list goes on and on. Democrats on the other hand lost the entire south giving blacks the right to vote. Dems are perfectly happy arguing about which bathroom a few, very few, people can use! Dems will fight for a group that does not vote Dem. Do we ever see Republicans stand up for a group that doesn’t vote R? Never!
      Unless Dems are willing to sink to the level Republicans will sink to, they will never win a war. maybe a battle! Not the war!
      Of course, Dems could win if the people Republicans hurt would only vote. But that does not seem to happen!

      1. Democrats hands are not clean on gerrymandering, but they never utilized it to the extent that the Republicans have. Operation RedMap was a nation-wide plan, and it worked beautifully in 2010 and beyond. The only hope (in those states that allow public referenda) is for the people to petition and vote for a change in the election district process.

      2. I believe that is one if not the main difference between R’s and D’s. The R’s want POWER and are willing to do anything to achieve that. The D’s generally want to do the right thing for all, including their opponents. A good illustration of this is the way the R’s approached the 2012 election post mortem by the RNC. That recommended that the Republican Party open up, become more transparent, and embrace American minorities. On the other hand, much of the Republican Party rejected that analysis and took the approach of doubling down on white supremacy and using gerrymandering, voter suppression,deportation of people as possible, closing the US to immigration and visitation. adoption of an “America First” approach, etc. As it turned out they won the 2016 election by using that approach. The attitude was ‘we can win another election by using the white supremacist approach. Once we win that election we will use the above mentioned tools to ensure our continuation in power.’ This is generally the approach currently being used and is very similar to the approach that Putin used in Russia. Going back there are many similarities to Fascism in Europe during the 30’s. There was a strong faction advocating that approach in the US during that period. Thankfully, the American political system was functioning and there was a strong alternative in FDR.

  4. The UN is meeting in emergency session right now. This man and this Republican Party are throwing the world into chaos. It is depressing to watch. As for anger, I am past that into utter disgust. The latest action in the VA recount about sums up the entire sordid situation.

    More concerning, is the Politico report of a parallel investigation being conducted by Nunes Intelligence (!) Committee members (and possibly others). (Reported on Rachel Maddow Show last night, 12/20/17 – worth viewing even after the fact). As you noted in a prior post, the thing to watch for is insurrection. I cannot fathrom how all this will end. Will be watching closely the outcome of the Mueller meeting with WH lawyers.

    https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/20/house-republicans-quietly-investigate-doj-fbi-310121

    1. Mary, the final tally was 128-9. The political powerhouses that voted against the condemnation: Well, naturally the two biggest terrorist states on the planet, then Guatemala, Honduras, and 5 more major influencers: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palua, and Togo.

      21 countries were absent, and 35 more simply abstained, including Australia and Canada.

      I think those that abstained, quite rightly, that this regime is incapable of counting, and only can see the colors green or red, or figures that this regime will assume and abstention is a vote for their side.

      And as for the ballot that was allowed back in, CNN has a copy of it on their site. Clearly, by any sane method of examination, a spoiled ballot. But because the rest of the slate on the ballot was all for the fascists, the judges decided they knew the intent of the voter, as opposed to applying hard and fast rules.

      Do you want to bet how this would go down if the situation was reversed and the ballot was all Democrat and the Dems were down by one ballot? The right-wing machine would have every lawyer, every one of their propaganda machines in high gear screaming how it is spoiled.

      1. Mary, why am I not surprised re: an all fascist panel.

        Meanwhile, the Democrats wait for the draw, which will likely be rigged as well. Then the litigation starts all over again, if it is not rigged and the Dem’s get lucky on the draw. Of course, if the fascists win the draw, the right-wing legal machine swings into high gear to suppress any litigation attempt by the Dem’s.

        Bottom line, the right-wing has more lawyers, seems like better lawyers, and most certainly far more money to pay said lawyers.

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