Saturday, November 20, 2010

Top 10 Movies Every American Should Watch

This was originally going to be entitled 10 books every American should read, but who are we kidding.

Every once in awhile, when watching a film, the point of the film hits me like a ton of bricks and I secretly wish that somehow I could get everyone to just sit and watch this damn thing so they could get it too. (SiCKO was the first one I thought of.)

Usually it is with a documentary, but sometimes a good fiction film can subtley drop its wise on you when you least expect it. Some of these films I remembered right away when I was writing this diary, but others I had remembered only after perusing film histories for awhile.

Anyway, here they are. Keep in mind these are movies EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD WATCH, not here are my top 10 favorites. (Otherwise, you'd be treated to a dose of bad B-movie sci-fi and lousy horror films.) Please give your take in the comments along with any films that YOU think every American should see. Thanks:

Terrorist on Trial: United States vs. Salim Ajami
This is the only film to date that managed to change my mind during the course of the film. I used to think lawyers were evil shysters and couldn’t imagine how anyone would defend a known terrorist. In watching the film I realized how unique and powerful our system of justice is. Justice can only be served when there is both a vigorous prosecution AND a vigorous defense. That is truly American and it sickens me that people in higher places (Dick and Liz Cheney come to mind) can’t grasp that fundamental American principle.

Revenge of the Sith
OK. I am a huge Star Wars fan and any of them are entertaining to me, even the first two prequels I found things to enjoy. The GOP accused Lucas of making this film about the Bush administration (especially that line about only Siths talking in absolutes), but Lucas cares too much about his films to reduce them to a political statement of any current administration.

However, his film shows how easy it is for ambitious, evil people to use fear to give up Democracy. Hitler and Mussolini didn’t come to power by telling everyone they would keep a boot on their neck... they did it by charismatically promising security and stability with a brand of patriotism that defines “us” vs. “them” (sound familiar?).

It wasn’t too long ago that idiot rethuglicans, who now call themselves teabaggers, made the case that we need to give up our Constitutional freedoms and allow the guberment to tap our phones, peruse our health and financial records, and clamp down on speech. (Once again, Cheney comes to mind). Yup, we had to be so afraid of the big bad terrorist that we had to give up our very freedoms. These newly named teabaggers did a complete 180 when a black man was elected president and now treason and open revolution are suddenly patriotic. Go figure.

If every American watched this damn film, which highlighted the injustice of the most bass-ackward health care system that managed to spend more money than any other nation in the world and still be the only civilized nation that didn’t cover one-fifth of its citizens (And screwed over almost everyone else), the debate would have lasted 3 days as opposed to a year and half.

The players for the status quo, the lies, the campaigns, the outlandish smears all coordinating to keep an unfair system that was so bad 9/11 heroes had to go to Cuba to get treatment they deserved. The stories were mind-blowing. The Reagan record creepy, and Nixon was Nixon (asshole even admitted the HMOs were a sham). Seeing how doctors and patients in the same situations, sometimes working for the same companies overseas are treated; it will leave you speechles.

Capitalism, A Love Story
M. Moore doesn’t disappoint with his final progressive documentary. The root of the financial crisis and why the ride has just begun. Plenty of things to make you mad in this film but, as always, Moore makes you laugh instead. What was nice is there were solutions in this film, including a better way than the current plutocracy. Companies that ran their boards like a democracy had a vested interest in their employees as well as their bottom line, and were very successful. Why is that so radical?

To Kill a Mockingbird
Atticus Finch was someone I wanted to emulate as a father when I saw this film. He showed how critical it is to stand up for what is right, even when everyone else had a mob mentality—and even when you lose. True character and a fighting spirit that transcends the political message, although I wouldn’t mind a few of our supposed Democratic leaders learning a little bit about standing up and fighting for what is right.

A Handmaid's Tale
What an American Theocracy would truly look like. A bigoted, right-wing fearmonger stages an attack, blames it on Islamic terrorists, and seizes control by suspending the Constitution and creating a teabagger paradise. Women are in complete subjugation and right-wing interpretation of the Bible is established as law that completely oppresses the people . Corruption abounds while ideology becomes law.
On a side note, with a felonious teabagger winning the governorship of Florida along with a veto-proof, corrupt right-wing majority in our state legislature, we might get a glipse of this GOP wet dream next year.

Finding Nemo
IT’s just a good film you can take the whole family to. Enjoy.

A 1970s futuristic film that was very accurate in predicting TVs descent into appealing to the lowest common denominator. I thought we reached it when Fox ran Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire? Then there was the recent season of Survivor where they divided the teams by race (by the way, fathead Trump had the same idea). Then Kidstown. All very tame I’m sure in the decades to come. Then there is Fox News, which is proud of their ratings prowess and cult-like following. One thing they can’t be proud of is their “news”, which are slanted stories based on right-wing talking points from their wingnut pundits—and I believe they employ every single one of them with the exception of Rush Limbaugh. By the way, a good film for anyone who still insists Fox is fair is Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.

Food, Inc.
Wow. This film wasn’t the hippie, tofu-eating propaganda dI was expecting. It examined the surprisingly frightening industrial production of meat and the industrial production of grain and corn (my God, corn is in absolutely everything!). The film also examined the extremely powerful economic and legal power of companies like the evil MONSANTO and the ridiculous anti-farmer food libel laws. You soon realize our food production is based on companies that need to supply cheap but contaminated and pesticide-laden food. Like any good documentary, the film provides solutions as well.

Saving Private Ryan
A good realistic war film that doesn’t glorify war while simultaneously honoring the collective memory of the heroes of World War II. It has the most realistic D-Day scene I’ve ever seen, the horror, the confusion, and the absolute bravery of these men overcoming overwhelming odds. The most powerful portion of the story are the letters at the beginning that were designed to comfort a mother who would learn she lost almost all of her sons in battle. It is patriotic, powerful, and allows a glimpse of what it truly means to serve for all of those wingnuts that like to play dress-up but are too cowardly to actually enlist.

There are plenty of movies that I did not include. I didn’t include An Inconvenient Truth because I haven’t seen it, but I heard it was powerful.

I can’t include crap like Day After Tomorrow, because even films that have a message I agree with that are crappy and not based on science shouldn’t be made.

The Siege with Denzel Washington made a few salient points on overreaction to terrorism, but insultingly made the military seem like unquestioning robots. I take real issue with that being a vet myself-and I once reminded my commander about unlawful orders when I was overseas.

Sorry, I didn't like V, either. Yes I get it, it just wasn't good. Same with Golden Compass. Kidman needs to quit making movies.

I liked Who Killed the Electric Car? and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, but thought I already had plenty of documentaries.

Gattaca for its poignant commentary on bigotry and the triumph of perserverance over adversity.

An HBO movie called The Enemy Within, about a coup in the US that was believable, but I couldn’t say it had to be watched. Another HBO movie that should be viewed is The Tuskegee Airmen. They had to face everything that is horrible about war along with the disrespect and indignity of racism, and still kicked ass.

Being a history buff, I wanted to include an historical film on the Founding Fathers, but frankly none stand out in my mind. Too bad Hollywood isn't making one... the teabaggers need to learn the REAL history, not the history as made up by a self-described rodeo clown.

I have no doubt that I will wake up thinking of another movie repressed in the back of head, or that many of you have several movies that you would like everyone to see. I invite you to share those in the comments as well.

Thanks for reading.


  1. All the President's Men

  2. If you want to understand Rush and the rest of the FauxNews blowhards - A Face is the Crowd is essential viewing.

    Still packs a punch 50 years later.

  3. Good list. The book for Handmaid's Tale was much better than the film. Highly recommend the read.