Saturday, April 29th, 2017, will mark Day 100 in one of the most polarizing eras in American history. With how deeply divided everyone is right now, people will celebrate the day with very diverse forms of festivities to commemorate the important day.
For now, it’s time to direct focus to all the cinema lovers out there. The art of film is truly special for content that seemed outlandish at its time of release, but shocking in the future when the fiction becomes real. The same goes for the people that make movies that directly respond to present day real-life issues. So regardless of what your mood or plans look like for Saturday, consider watching some smart flicks that stand the course of time. Here are 10 movies to watch on Day 100!
*The following introductory blurbs for each featured movie in no way represent any sociopolitical views by staff members of The Young Folks. They are written solely as satire based on how various characters, storylines and or themes would have an influence on recent real-world events.
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
A townsperson uses his folksy charm and raw voice to unexpectedly gain massive fame, adoring supporters, a TV show, corporate sponsorship, and have an influence in politics. Normally I’d believe that to be fiction but now not so much.
Honest Recommendation: Okay yes all that sounds too familiar (and a bit scary) today, but that shouldn’t stop you from watching Elia Kazan’s 1957 masterpiece, A Face in the Crowd. Andy Griffith, in what was his film debut, gives a towering performance that oozes the natural charisma he went on to display throughout his storied career, and he’s also backed by a great supporting cast led by Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau. Kazan’s films were mostly motivated through social realism topics and working with unknown actors, and A Face in the Crowd is one of his crowning achievements in those trademarks. Lastly, the fact that this movie turns 60 this May and is now more relevant than ever is truly mind-blowing.
Being There (1979)
Someone goes on TV and has the power to say whatever they want. Thus it’s left in the viewer’s hands for if they witnessed truth, lies, or outright crazy talk. If they were raised on television, then there’s cause for concern. And whenever that involves cable news networks, change the channel quick! If not, your future self might just become a pawn to justify someone’s edgy policies.
Honest Recommendation: Being There revived the legacy of Peter Sellers’ genius blend of physical comedy and biting improvisation. It was also another home run for its maverick director, Hal Ashby, who in the 1970s was best known for making movies about outsider-type characters. The film is spot-on in its satire of societal issues brought forth by misunderstood dialogue, and is also quite poignant in its more dramatic scenes.
The purpose of news networks is to keep the public informed on what’s happening in the world, especially when it involves scandals in politics, workplace, etc. Certainly it’s a mundane cycle, but as long as the reporting is factual and honest then nothing needs to change. However when the ratings aren’t enough, some network suits will turn to attention-seeking content that is both sensationalistic and exploitative. Now it’s almost as if the news doesn’t matter anymore. In the words of the hip-hop group, A Tribe Called Quest, “Guilty pleasures take the edge off reality and for a salary I’d probably do that shit sporadically.”
Honest Recommendation: People didn’t know it yet back in 1976, but screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was a prophet for the audacious ideas he explored in Network, a film that is the truest embodiment of what the news media has primarily turned into today. His already fantastic script was graciously handled by acclaimed director, Sidney Lumet, in addition to a staggeringly talented ensemble that saw five of its actors nominated for Oscars, two of whom ultimately won. Had Ned Beatty won Best Supporting Actor, in addition to the film netting both Best Director and Picture, Network would’ve become the only film to win all seven top Oscar categories. If all that isn’t enough to urge you to see this tour-de-force, then I’ll be “mad as hell.”
With big business heads essentially running the country, it was only a matter of time until corporations gained a bigger influence in society. Need something to satisfy your consumer greed? Want to militarize a police force? Do you think some urban neighborhoods should be gentrified? Ask us business people and we can make anything happen simply because we’re rich!
Honest Recommendation: On the surface, RoboCop is a campy, gleefully violent sci-fi action flick that delivers B-movie thrills left and right. However when you dig past the entertainment, there’s a deep subtext that sharply criticizes a long range of topics, most notably consumerism, authoritarianism and influence of the media. Omni Consumer Products is the real-life horror of business people believing they can fix everything in society, and they mask their authoritarian power with providing consumers essentially any product they desire. As for the film’s media aspects, the recurring news segments intercut with the main story are all darkly hilarious in how they unapologetically discuss worldwide events that cause fear to those watching. There are a select group of action movies that are just as smart as they are violent, and RoboCop will have infinite exclusivity in that club.
They Live (1987)
No matter how rough things get in the world, we’re told by our leaders that everything is going to be okay. “Keep your mind off of rising tensions between other countries, just go buy the newest model of a mobile device you already own.” However, there are groups of people that see the real truth in subliminal messages that others don’t seem to realize. While they’re told by the ruling power to “OBEY”, they respond with “RESIST.”
Honest Recommendation: John Carpenter was a master of making smart B-movie entertainment throughout both the 70s and 80s. His 1988 sci-fi horror flick, They Live, is loads of fun in the thrill department, but its abstract criticism of Ronald Reagan era policies is undoubtedly unforgettable. Never would you imagine a professional wrestler play the film’s everyman hero, but the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a surprisingly great choice to match with the charming campiness of the action. Similar to other movies on this list, They Live’s subject material matters just as much if not more today.
Falling Down (1993)
Society is falling apart more each day. Concerned citizens demand positive change, but all they have is impatience because of their local politician avoiding town hall meetings. Rising unemployment and economic inflation only make matters worse. At this point you think you’ve gone crazy. You take an exam for mental disorders but your diagnosis is fine. Thus there’s only other possibility: society is the real illness.
Honest Recommendation: As mixed as I and probably many others are on Joel Schumacher’s filmography, it can likely be agreed upon that Falling Down is one of both his best and most underrated works. Plus had it not been for Michael Douglas getting a hold of the script that most studios had already rejected, the film probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day. The lead character, William Foster, played marvelously by Douglas, is a perfectly crafted anti-hero that has the guts to make scathing observations on how corrupt certain aspects of society are, however he’s never painted as a good guy for his violent actions. Many people say this movie was ahead of its time, but it was actually just as relevant during its own production. Several days of filming took place with the LA Riots occurring just miles away, and fun fact, that series of events coincidentally reach their 25 year anniversary on April 29th as well.
In the Loop (2009)
When speaking publicly about domestic and foreign policy, always be prepared with talking points that cut straight to the facts of the matter. If that’s not done however, all it takes one small, off-the-cuff comment to set off a PR nightmare for fellow advisors to clean up. And if they can’t fix the blunder, the potential consequences could be detrimental.
Honest Recommendation: Years before his creation of the acclaimed HBO comedy series, Veep, Armando Iannucci took the British comedy series scene by storm with The Thick of It, a sitcom that satirized the inner workings of government, most notably from the actions of government aids, advisors, and members of the media. Most of the storylines poked fun at real-life political events and scandals, and some of those that were fictional unexpectedly became real in later years. In 2009, Iannucci and a few of his writers created a feature film spin-off of the series titled In the Loop, which made fun of British-American relations and the Iraq War. The movie brings together four characters from the show and places them in the thick of a crisis that comes from a British Minister saying that war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.” What follows is ingenious satire paired with lots and lots of hilarious insults, most of them provided by Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the very short-tempered Director of Communications for the UK Government.
Team America: World Police (2004)
It sure was a great idea to police entire regions of the world, huh? All those poorly planned raids and questionable airstrikes did wonders to our relationships with other countries. Also we finally engage combat with North Korea, but it all could have been avoided if we first asked why their leader always felt so “ronery.” The biggest question though is how is the press secretary going to keep us informed on all the chaos? Well he loves to use props to explain things, so puppets will certainly spice it up!
Honest Recommendation: Knowing that this movie comes from the bizarre minds of South Park creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, you should already know what you’re in for when you watch Team America. There’s loads of swearing, vulgar humor, graphic violence, and ridicule of real-world topics. But it all comes with a twist: instead of human actors, all the characters are played by puppets. The duo do any amazing job at lampooning the tropes of big-budget actions films, in addition to bluntly criticizing American foreign policies and Hollywood liberalism. The mockery of the latter adds extra humor to the hilariously inaccurate impressions of real-life celebrities, most notably the likes of Sean Penn, George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore, and of course, Matt Damon. Parker and Stone may have suffered from the tumultuous production to the point they declared that they’d never make another movie, but they certainly ended it with a bang!
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1960)
Once the defense budget is loaded with much more money than before, various things in the military are more likely to go awry. For example, giving more authority to the commanders to execute their missions sounds like a decent idea, but it’s best to first make sure that they’re mentally stable enough to do the job. Because the next thing you know, war is looming and the President and his aides are overwhelmed on how to contain the catastrophe. And it it by any chance involves Russia, then major secrets kept between the two presidents might finally get exposed.
Honest Recommendation: The premise of Dr. Strangelove is no doubt a Cold War nightmare, but the pairing of Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers ultimately made it one of cinema’s greatest dark comedies. Sellers took on the daunting task of playing three roles, all of which he nailed with a great selection of specific mannerisms devoted to each character. This highly benefited the film’s political incorrectness, which sadly might not be tolerated in today’s Hollywood studio culture. Kubrick’s eye for detail is stark in the set design of the War Room, whose look was inspired by 1920’s expressionist cinema, and it serves as the main location of action that sets up one of one the funniest lines in movie history (“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!”). Kubrick’s later work would drift further away from the comedy genre, but Dr. Strangelove was an excellent showcase of his growing artistry and smart sense of dark humor.
The long-term effects of completely gutting public education couldn’t be more evident, and none of that damage was caused by grizzly bears. Also it shouldn’t be a surprise that a former professional wrestler can become the President. Commercialism has destroyed the environment and most people only care about cheap entertainment and their consumer needs. The only positive is that we get the best Costco greeter of all time. Hope for a better future is low, but just maybe there’s a hero out there that can turn things around. Who knows? He could just be an Average Joe but he’ll still sound and look smarter than everyone else!
Honest Recommendation: Idiocracy was made as a comedy in 2006. Flash-forward five years and it’s part horror film. Add six years to the present day, and now it can be considered a comedy, horror movie and an implicit documentary. Director Mike Judge definitely didn’t expect this to happen, but he’s now considered a god for how many things in the movie have come true today. Late last year he even said, “I’m no prophet, I was off by 490 years.” The movie itself boasts an intentionally dumb sense of humor, and it may not register the same effect on everyone. That being said it is impossible to ignore how culturally significant it is in terms of its accurate views on mass advertising, commercialism, and the overall importance of general education.