Hey, why that big frown on your conservative face? It was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? Man oh man, what a ride!
Alas, The Final Days are upon us. The Return to the Dark Ages. Nero ignited Christians, Inquisitors ignited non-Christians, and soon, don't be surprised if liberals ignite opponents of gay marriage. Or worse, force us to attend government run counseling classes. (Strike the match, please!) Conflagrations aside, the political, economic and cultural forecast is universally gloomy.
But still, why that big frown on your conservative face?
Contrary to liberal media stereotypes, we conservatives are not dour-faced killjoys; we're Ever Optimistic! We party hearty and we're not going to let Obama's final twist of the knife in conservatism's back cast a shadow on our day. To quote my favorite band, the Grateful Dead, "I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride."
We know Nero fiddled while Rome burned only because his entertainment choices were limited. He didn't have YouTube, Netflix, Redbox, PPV, VOD. DVR or a DVD player. We do! Which is why I'll be providing for you a list of most excellent End Of The World Movies to enjoy while outside your window America, if not yet burning in flames, steadily smolders to ashes. (I hasten to remind you that igniting liberals to brighten your yard is, however tempting, an unviable and, judging by the demographic charts, a pointless entertainment option, a pyrrhic pyre).
I'll present that list of movies shortly.
Let's just stop, take a deep breath and remember how much fun and rewarding it was being a conservative and fighting The Good Fight. That's what I did after eating my Black Friday Eve turkey dinner (I assume Obama has by now issued an executive order changing the insensitive name of that holiday).
I closed my eyes and travelled back in time to when I was nine years old, stuffing and licking envelopes for my dad's (failed) congressional run against Democrat lifer-incumbent Ed Roybal in Los Angeles in '64. It was then that my distrust of government and love of freedom took hold. I saw myself as a good guy in a contest to the end against the bad guys who wanted to regulate not only world but little nine year old me as well, and I already bristled at taking orders from my old man!
I leaped into the politics and culture of conservatism and have ever since enjoyed and been rewarded by The Red, White 'n Blue and Liberty And Justice For All and The Magna Carta and Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death and God and Man at Yale and The Gipper and John Galt and Matt Drudge and Brave New World and 1984 and Question Authority and Prop. 13 and Animal Farm and The Cowboy Way and Anthem and American Exceptionalism and Witness and Bombs Bursting In Air and Vaclav and Tear Down This Wall and The Fall Of The Wall and The Shining City On The Hill and The Lone Man Standing In Front Of The Tank and TANSTAAFL and Down With The Man and Question Authority and Don't Tread On Me and G.I. Joe and Rush and Jesse Owens v. Hitler and The Miracle On Ice and The Alamo and Talk Radio and Radio Free Europe and Up By Your Bootstraps and Thomas Jefferson and Old Glory and The American Spectator and The Shot Heard 'Round the World and The Underground Railroad and The Federalist Papers and Live Free Or Die and The Velvet Revolution and Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and The Boston Tea Party and The Tea Party and John Wayne and AuH2O 464 and Bill Buckley and The Silent Majority and Certain Unalienable Rights and Ayn Rand and Mind Your Own Beezwax and The Founding Fathers and Robert Heinlein and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Beware The Eschaton and Democracy and The Emancipation Proclamation and The Iron Lady and The Man of Iron and JP2 and Religious Freedom and The Bill of Rights and Extremism In The Pursuit Of Freedom Is No Vice and It's Morning In America.
But that was then. Now, It's Dusk In America.
What made being a conservative (in my case, with a strong libertarian bent) so very exciting and energizing was the thought that we'd of course eventually prompt Leviathan to make a detour, if not a U-turn. We thought man's courageous yearning for individual freedom would trump his cowardly willingness to knuckle-under to The Man in exchange for a feeble promise of material security. We thought we'd win elections based on the superior reasoning of our arguments (2 + 2 = 4), not continue losing to emotional rhetoric (2 + 2 = 17,000,000,000,000).
DOH! Boy were we wrong!
But Obama's clinching victory is no reason we conservatives can't enjoy being American Spectators of The Decline and Fall of The American Experiment! When I watch the news, I pretend I'm watching a 20 trillion dollar disaster reality TV show! It's hilarious! Scripted by the Marx Brothers!
Hey...wait a darn minute! I AM watching a 20 trillion dollar disaster!!!
To better savor the Decline and Fall, I find that End Of The World movies provide additional insights. I offer you this list of EOTW movies to watch -- --at least while there's a reliable power grid still in operation to run the TV and Internet. When the grid fails, I guess I'll take up fiddling.
Meanwhile, we shall remain smiling conservative, ready and willing to laugh in the face of death.
1. The Bothersome Man (2006) Available on Netflix.
We start with my second favorite film, and will end this list with my very favorite.
The opening scene is one of the creepiest, unsettling scenes ever filmed, and one that visually serves as a metaphor for the entire film: An attractive young couple stand in a subway station and kiss with the frenzy of Olympic athletes. Yet we quickly see they are completely bored. The osculation becomes grotesque and perversely pornographic. Their eyes wander, their lips and jaws move mechanically; they might as well be chewing reindeer jerky!
The Bothersome Man is an intriguing/hilarious/depressing Norwegian urban fairy tale that follows Andreas (played by popular Norwegian comic and actor, Trond Aurvag -- reminds me of Buster Keaton) who is mysteriously dropped into a liberal socialist's dream of a utopian city. Everything -- a great apartment, a great girlfriend, a great job (in which one doesn't have to work) and more is provided for him. No one wants. The System provides. Materialism reigns. But there's no mojo, no soul in this world. Like so many ungrateful citizens of Socialist Republics, Andreas rebels and tries to escape. That bothersome man! But the powers that be, both human and supernatural, prevent him from doing so. He can't even commit suicide! A train runs over Andreas and dirties his clothes. A bullet to the head leaves only a bruise. He's stuck!
A vastly entertaining film that illustrates that even if socialism could succeed in delivering the material goods, it by definition fails to feed the hunger for freedom that at least some of us have.
2. Last Night (1998) Available on DVD from Amazon.
A surprisingly charming and tender Canadian film about people living the last night of Earth. (Everyone knows the world ends at midnight -- and it does!) Some go nuts, others submit to their most carnal desires, some pray in circles, others try to find true love in the last remaining hours. Conservatives will find Last Night a good overview of EOTW behavior patterns.
3. The Last Man on Earth (1964) Available on Netflix.
Based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend and starring Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan, the world's remaining scientist who struggles to find a cure for the zombie-like virus that has killed off 99.9% of humanity. Like a true conservative, he gets up each morning and goes to work, in his case, killing zombies for morning exercise and then heading back to the lab. He's a responsible individual! Very entertaining if you're not hung up on Italian B movie production values, and of course, you can have a blast equating liberals with zombies.
4. The Charlton Heston EOTW Trilogy
Hmmm. I wonder if Heston's role as Moses provide him with a glimpse into the future? For an optimistic conservative he displayed surprising prescience in making these three EOTW films. The Omega Man (on Netflix) is a remake of The Last Man on Earth.
Soylent Green is presents a crowded, state-run world in which people are pureed and fed to other people. I guess it does take a village. Noteworthy is Edward G. Robinson's performance in a scene in which he gives up and enters a suicide service center and enjoys a few moments of artificial bliss. (Robinson died of cancer a few days after filming this scene.)
Planet of the Apes (on Netflix). Who hasn't seen this gem? This time, when Heston falls to his knees before the shattered Statue of Liberty and cries out in agony, substitute in your mind's ear "the American voters" for "they." As in "My God, the American voters did it! They finally did it!"
5. Billy Jack (1971) Available on Netflix.
Knuckle-dragging, racist, sexist, commie-hating, flag-waving homophobes attack a gentle-spirited commune run by hippies and other leftist "constituency groups." Gandhi is to the far right of these peace loving victims. Billy Jack (Tom Laughlin, also writer and director and producer) is forced to resort to violence to fend off the bad guys.
I first saw this film in 1971 in an Ashland, Oregon auditorium packed to the gills with patouli-dripping pot-smoking hippies, and perhaps the blue haze entered my bloodstream; As the credits rolled I wanted to burst out giggling at this unintentional over-the-top self-parody of lefties. But the lights came on and I saw hippies sobbing all around, and some of them were named Wolf and Bear and looked like it and carried big knives. I knew enough about how the many local hippie communes really operated to know that I'd better not giggle in public.
These days, lucky me, I can visit fellow TAS contributor Bill Croke in ultra-conservative Salmon, Idaho, and watch Billy Jack, and we laugh until our sides ache. Trust me, any true conservative will guffaw all the way through this iconic pic.
Yes, Virginia, there really are liberals, and this is what they looked like 40 years ago. Some still look like that, while others now wear suits and ties and get elected President and run our federal government just the way they ran the commune in the movie, only now they extort money from the knuckledraggers. And now that the hippies run the government it's okay for government to use guns to coerce, or threat to coerce, citizens. Right on! Far out!
6. The Titanic (1953) Available on Netflix.
Starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, and Robert Wagner, this film is a forgotten gem that should have you blubbering at the end. Ten-year-old Norman (Harper Carter) gives up his seat on a lifeboat (freeing it for a woman) and remains on board the sinking vessel so that he can act as a true man -- just as we conservatives won't abandon our principles as the U.S.S. America sinks.
7. THX 1138 (1971) Available on Amazon Instant Streaming.
George Lucas's wonderful film about the utopia of the future. Or is it a dystopia? Depends on if you're a liberal or conservative.
Robert Duvall is our hero, THX 1138, an obedient citizen of an underground prison-state, gestated and educated by the state, controlled by state media, state drugs, and state-owned android police. He resists. Hardly an original storyline, but it's told so damn well! And for the educated conservative EOTW movie-watcher, we are reminded that being an individual with a free mind can be a very lonely prospect.
I did find it curious to learn that Lucas made the film, in part, as an anti-consumer, anti-corporate statement. Complying with state advertising of the sale of blue and red balls, THX 1138 purchases blue and red plastic balls from the blue and red plastic ball store and sets them on his shelf with other blue and red balls and smiles with satisfaction. This is perhaps the lamest element in Lucas's story. The irony, of course, is that Lucas has earned at least a half-billion dollars from selling merchandising rights for his Star Wars movies. Is purchasing blue and red balls any different from purchasing 13 different plastic figurines of Jar Jar Binks? I wonder. But I also take pleasure in savoring the way liberals embrace manifold contradictions.
8. Children of Men (2006) Available through Amazon.
P.D. James's novella of the same name, starring Clive Owen as our hero Theo Faron. Directed by favorite Harry Potter director, Alfonso Cuaron.
Set in the near future, we see a world where no children have been born for 20 years. No one knows why. A virus? God? Mother Nature? The end is nigh, and economic chaos and ruin have set in, along with civil wars and the like. Reminds you, almost, of Western civilization where declining birth rates predict suicide for America and Europe and where economic chaos… but wait, you can watch that show on the nightly news.
I like the anxious societal atmosphere this film presents, an atmosphere I just might live long enough to witness firsthand, depending on how this and that play out.
Notable is an absolutely stunning extended shot, eight minutes, of Theo and (spoiler alert!) a pregnant woman running through city streets while a fierce battle rages all about them. Wow!
And as with The Last Man on Earth and many other EOTW movies, it is filled with Christ imagery of various sorts. Funny how when times get bad the filmmakers know to draw on JC for hope, isn't it?
9. Bezhin Meadow (1937) Free on YouTube!
This film wrenches my guts when I watch it.
Sergei Eisenstein directed this film in the Stalin era but quickly recanted it when it fell out of favor with the government, thereby avoiding the political arrest that others involved in the film suffered! (So much for the freedom of artistic expression we can expect in the future!)
Bezhin Meadow is only 27 minutes, and on YouTube you'll only see a remnant of the original, as most was destroyed. It's been pieced back together with original footage and stills from missing scenes. An amazing story of reproduction.
The film tells the story of a farmer who resists Soviet ideology and sabotages the harvest to the detriment of the many. His young son reports his father to the authorities. The Father is enraged and kills his son. (If Eisenstein had directed The Titanic, Norman would have shoved backward-thinking women off the boats to make room for more young idealistic, forward-thinking collectivists!)
Content aside, I have to hand it to Eisenstein; this is powerful filmmaking. Powerful propaganda. The scene that still scares the bejeezus out of me has the collectivist peasants storming and desecrating the church, laughing while they wear the priest's hats, tossing the Host to the floor, laughing as they smash a crucifix. An incredibly powerful scene, and all that is left of it is stills! Black and white and no sound!
Bezhin Meadow shows the Wolf and Bear side of liberal youth that Hollywood won't. Don't watch Billy Jack without also watching Bezhin Meadow.
10. Stairway to Heaven (1946) Also titled as A Matter Of Life And Death. Available on Amazon Instant Video. And for free on YouTube! (It's in public domain.).
The best for last!
This is perhaps the greatest of many great films written and directed by the great team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (otherwise known as The Archers). It also stars David Niven, and isn't it odd how many conservative actors appear in this list of films?
Where to begin? The film is vast and epic and noble and illustrates to today's conservative how to look at our present twilight as part of the broader sweep of history. It reminds us that we're human souls first and conservatives second and if that doesn't take the bite out of the death the conservative movement I don't know what does.
The opening scene (from minutes 5-10 on YouTube!) has Peter (Niven), the lone survivor in a doomed, flaming WWII bomber, heading back to England, talking on the radio to June (Kim Hunter), the air controller. In five minutes, a hundred miles apart, knowing Peter will die, they fall in love. And it's a love premised on their shared ideals; love of beauty in poetry, love of country, love of family, love of courage. Compare this opening to the opening osculation scene in The Bothersome Man and you know all you'll ever need to know about the liberal/conservative chasm.