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This Shit Is Just Made Up

By Jesse Taylor
Friday, February 13, 2009 3:06 EDT
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UPDATE: 300 is number five. Apparently, the racial purity concerns of Gattaca fly out the window when the pure culture left over kicks Middle Eastern ass.

National Review is counting down the top 25 conservative movies of the past 25 years, which would be a rather fascinating exercise in the defining cinematic exercise of a major political ideology, except that it’s the National Review, so all they did was take movies you’ve heard of and call them conservative.

They’ve only done six through twenty-five so far, so let’s review them.

6.) Groundhog Day

Theologians and philosophers across the ideological spectrum have embraced it. For the conservative, the moral of the tale is that redemption and meaning are derived not from indulging your “authentic” instincts and drives, but from striving to live up to external and timeless ideals. Murray begins the film as an irony-soaked narcissist, contemptuous of beauty, art, and commitment. His journey of self-discovery leads him to understand that the fads of modernity are no substitute for the permanent things.

I was under the impression that “conservative movie” meant “movie that is actually conservative in message and goals,” not “movie where good things happen, so it’s conservative”. I have no doubt that one could find a relatively conservative message in a movie that’s about self-betterment, but that no more makes it a “conservative movie” than The Goonies is a pedophile movie.

7.) The Pursuit of Happyness

Based on the life of self-made millionaire Chris Gardner (Will Smith), this film provides the perfect antidote to Wall Street and other Hollywood diatribes depicting the world of finance as filled with nothing but greed.

And if the movie had been even the slightest bit negative about the market, this movie would instead be a fantastical diatribe about the virtues of the plague of single black parenting that liberals have promoted through abortion and welfare. Sell them stocks!

8.) Juno

Juno was a critical and commercial success. It didn’t set out to deliver a message on abortion, but much of its audience discovered one anyway.

Namely, that if you have sex at 16 and get knocked up, you’ll find an awesome lady to adopt your baby and you’ll pretty much deal with it. As long as everyone involved is white. And you’re too stupid to take twenty seconds and put on a condom.

9.) Blast From The Past

A decade ago, Hugh Wilson’s Blast from the Past defied the party line, seeing the values, customs, manners, and even music of the period with nostalgic longing. Brendan Fraser plays an innocent who has grown up in a fallout shelter and doesn’t know the era of Sputnik and Perry Como is over. Alicia Silverstone is a post-feminist woman who learns from him that pre-feminist women had some things going for them. Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek as Fraser’s parents are comic gems.

Can you even name one thing that happened in Blast From The Past that isn’t in the above four sentences? Anyone? I tried remembering this movie and woke up seven minutes later with a nosebleed.

10.) Ghostbusters

This comedy might not get Russell Kirk’s endorsement as a worthy treatment of the supernatural, but you have to like a movie in which the bad guy (William Atherton at his loathsome best) is a regulation-happy buffoon from the EPA, and the solution to a public menace comes from the private sector.

This selection points out one of the major problems with labeling movies “conservative” – Ghostbusters quite obviously embraces and accepts the occult, which in the eyes of many conservative fundamentalists, is a giant no-no. Also, I was under the impression that the bad guy in Ghostbusters was the giant fucking malevolent Ghost which said Busters, you know, Bust. 11.) Lord of the Rings

Author J. R. R. Tolkien was deeply conservative, so it’s no surprise that the trilogy of movies based on his masterwork is as well. Largely filmed before 9/11, they seemed perfectly pitched for the post-9/11 world. The debates over what to do about Sauron and Saruman echoed our own disputes over the Iraq War. (Think of Wormtongue as Keith Olbermann.)

It kind of strikes me that the whole “insane militaristic thrust for power” and “all-seeing eye” descriptions of evil certainly describe one side of the Iraq War debate. Unfortunately for the National Review, it’s the side that wanted to go to war.

Plus, Wormtongue is so Ari Fleischer it hurts me to think about it.

12.) The Dark Knight

This film gives us a portrait of the hero as a man reviled. In his fight against the terrorist Joker, Batman has to devise new means of surveillance, push the limits of the law, and accept the hatred of the press and public. If that sounds reminiscent of a certain former president—whose stubborn integrity kept the nation safe and turned the tide of war—don’t mention it to the mainstream media.

Didn’t the terrorist in turn radicalize the true lawful hero of Gotham in Harvey Dent, turning him into a terrorist, the true circumstances of his death being covered up to protect the fragile fantasy of a populace already battered by the growing insanity which Batman only seemed to promote?

But George W. Bush also had a kick ass assault motorcycle, so I’ll give them this one.

13.) Braveheart

A movie about a fucking insurgency rallying to destroy an opposing force? Really?

14.) A Simple Plan

A defining insight of conservatism is that whatever transcendent inspiration there may be to moral principles, there is also the humble fact that morality works. Moral institutions and customs endure because they allow civilization to proceed. Sam Raimi’s gripping A Simple Plan illustrates this truth.

You could also argue that this is a movie about the corrupting influence of money, but Edmund Burke didn’t say that, so kiss my grits.

15.) Red Dawn

From the safe, familiar environment of a classroom, we watch countless parachutes drop from the sky and into the heart of America. Oh, no: invading Commies! Laugh if you want—many do—but Red Dawn has survived countless more acclaimed films because Father Time has always been our most reliable film critic. The essence of timelessness is more than beauty. It’s also truth, and the truth that America is a place and an idea worth fighting and dying for will not be denied, not under a pile of left-wing critiques or even Red Dawn’s own melodramatic flaws.

Red Dawn survives because it’s a kitschy 80s action movie starring recognizable actors. It’s on TV all the time, but so is Under Siege 2, a stirring indictment of mass transportation as seen through the lens of a member of the United States Armed Forces. It’s probably one of the few truly conservative movies on this list, but its political leanings are no more relevant than Terminator or Karate Kid – it’s a movie people remember about bad guys getting their asses kicked.

16.) Master and Commander

This naval-adventure film starring Russell Crowe is based on the books of Patrick O’Brian, and here’s what A. O. Scott of the New York Times said in his review: “The Napoleonic wars that followed the French Revolution gave birth, among other things, to British conservatism, and Master and Commander, making no concessions to modern, egalitarian sensibilities, is among the most thoroughly and proudly conservative movies ever made. It imagines the [H.M.S.] Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place. I would not have been surprised to see Edmund Burke’s name in the credits.”

I suppose – I’ve never seen the movie, as I haven’t liked Russell Crowe since Gladiator. But if it is a conservative movie, it flopped domestically just like In the Valley of Elah, which must mean that America hates conservative ideas. And/or boats.

17.) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The good guys, meanwhile, recognize that some throats will need cutting: no appeasement, no land-for-peace swaps, no offering the witch a snowmobile if she’ll only put away the wand. Underlying the narrative is the story of Christ’s rescuing man from sin—which is antithetical to the leftist dream of perfected man’s becoming an instrument for earthly utopia. The results of such utopian visions, of course, are frequently like the Witch’s reign: always winter, and never Christmas.

Much like reading the books as a child, the likely reason for this movie’s success are probably 95% its use of a recognizable property in a special effects epic near the height of Pottermania, 4% the fact that Tilda Swinton makes every single thing on Earth better simply for her having been near it, and 1% whatever mess of a rant about Richard Dawkins or Barack Obama or whoever that they just made.

18.) The Edge

The main characters (played by Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin) understand that there is neither wisdom nor nobility in waiting for others to save them, and that they must take responsibility for their own lives and souls. Life is unfair, but to challenge life on its own terms is an exhilarating reward, no matter the outcome.

Again, the “good lessons = conservatism” argument. Also, I think the stronger argument for the conservatism of this movie is that it shows an adulterous Alec Baldwin getting caught in a bear trap trying to kill the husband of his lover, but that’s just me making more sense than the National Review again.

19.) We Were Soldiers

Most movies about the Vietnam War reflect the derangements of the antiwar Left. This film, based on the memoir by Lt. Col. Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson), offers a lifelike alternative.

I’m glad it’s “lifelike”, as opposed to David Zucker’s The Vietnam Mannequin. Not as funny, though.

Again, a movie that barely made money (which is supposed to be the exact reason we can prove that America secretly loves the Iraq War – Stop-Loss flopped!), got mediocre reviews and is as easily forgettable as every other real conservative movie on this list (which, so far, is a sum total of two).

20.) Gattaca

In this science-fiction drama, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) can’t become an astronaut because he’s genetically unenhanced. So he purchases the identity of a disabled athlete (Jude Law), with calamitous results. The movie is a cautionary tale about the progressive fantasy of a eugenically correct world—the road to which is paved by the abortion of Down babies, research into human cloning, and “transhumanist” dreams of fabricating a “post-human species.”

Putting things in “quotes” makes them “true”, like how “Jonah Goldberg” wrote “a book so fucking stupid that if I had a time machine I would go back in time and kill Johannes Gutenberg so that Jonah Goldberg could never write about Hitler”.

Saying that eugenics is a liberal ideal does not make it so – a fixation on racial purity isn’t a traditionally “progressive” ideal, unless we’re simply defining “progressive” as bad and “conservative” as good. Oh, wait…that’s exactly what this entire exercise is about. I get it!

21.) Heartbreak Ridge

Clint Eastwood’s foul-mouthed Marine sergeant Tom Highway makes quick work of kicking Communist Cubans out of Grenada. And, boy, does “Gunny” hate Commies. Not only does he kill quite a few, he also refuses a bribe of a Cuban cigar, saying: “Get that contraband stogie out of my face before I shove it so far up your a** you’ll have to set fire to your nose to light it.”

When you’re down to celebrating Grenada, you may not have many good conservative movies. Another movie about a recognizable action star happening to kill a shitton of people that conservatives specifically hate. You could have made this movie about liberating Grenada, or Mars or the Land that Time Forgot, and as long as Clint Eastwood played grizzled and deadly, it would have turned out okay.

22.) Brazil

Vividly depicting the miserable results of elitist utopian schemes, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil portrays a darkly comic dystopia of malfunctioning high-tech equipment and the dreary living conditions common to all totalitarian regimes. Everything in the society is built to serve government plans rather than people.

I swear to God, they must just watch the first fifteen minutes of these movies and then make the call.

“I’m about fourteen minutes into Requiem For A Dream, and I think it’s saying that drugs are bad.”

“Good enough for spot number four. Write it up!”

The terrorists in the movie are made up by the government to keep the population cowed and under control. The government is making up a military threat in order to keep the population pliable. If you need me to phrase this a third way, Reagan Bush Christ God Stop It.

23.) United 93

Director Paul Greengrass pays tribute to the passengers of United 93 by refusing to turn their story into a wimpy Hollywood melodrama. Instead, United 93 unfolds as a real-time docudrama. Just as significantly, Greengrass provides a clear depiction of our enemies. United 93 opens as four Muslim terrorists pray in a hotel room. Several hours later, the hijackers’ frenzied shrieks to Allah mingle with the prayerful supplications of United 93’s passengers as they crash through the cockpit door and strike a blow against those who would terrorize our country.

This would have been a better argument two years ago before Rudy Giuliani firesold 9/11 for a single delegate in the GOP primary. The Republican Party no longer owns 9/11 – it is now officially owned by Betty Minerton of Chipley, FL, who is currently trying to find a proper Rubbermaid to keep it in.

24.) Team America: World Police

This marionette movie from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone is hard to categorize as conservative. It’s amazingly vulgar and depicts Americans as wildly overzealous in fighting terror. Yet the film’s utter disgust with air-headed, left-wing celebrity activism remains unmatched in popular culture.

Ah, the token “Michael Moore is fat” entry. The central tension of this list is that the authors are making films conservative by ignoring 90% of what happens in them, and Team America is no exception. It’s birdshot satire, spraying everywhere in its path, and it forces the National Review to declare a movie whose very title is a critique of conservative foreign policy as conservative, because it spends a few minutes saying something they like.

I’d call this desperation, but it makes desperate people look bad.

25.) Gran Torino

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the ultimate family movie unsuitable for the family. He plays Walt Kowalski, a caricature of an old-school, dying-breed, Polish-American racist male, replete with post-traumatic stress disorder from having served in the Korean War. Kowalski comes to realize that his exotic Hmong neighbors embody traditional social values more than his own disaster of a Caucasian nuclear family.

…And we end with a movie about a racist old white dude realizing that other cultures have value and learning from them.

Really, I think they could have come up with a better list by just writing down the next 25 movies that air on basic cable. Number 5: Max Keeble’s Big Move.

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
 
 
 
 
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