Every fall, major studios and independent films alike trot out their prestige pictures. Even though the Academy Awards have undergone a series of rules changes to be more friendly towards blockbusters, the fall season is still traditionally reserved for serious movies that may very well be in the running for Oscar consideration.
Naturally, it a season of films with heavy political undertones. This being an election year, there are ever more than usual. So instead of a traditional fall preview, over the next two posts I will summarize eight movies about contemporary American politics. And just to prove that Hollywood is not the liberal bastion some think it is, we’ll start with four movies for the Romney-Ryan voter.
Last Ounce of Courage (September 14)
Veritas Entertainment, according to their website, consider “courage, character, and conviction…the core elements of the company’s endeavors.” To be more straightforward, Veritas is a niche production company that caters to the religious right. Their latest, and from what I can tell, first film tells the story of Bob Revere, a decorated veteran and small town mayor fighting the biggest battle of all: the War on Christmas. According to the film’s website, “the film seeks to encourage all Americans to take a stand and raise their voices in support of their beliefs.” Assuming, of course, that they believe in Jesus. Otherwise, they should keep their damn mouths shut.
After six months of intensely negative presidential campaigning, most Americans are entrenched in their political positions, hostile to any level of nuance in reasoning, and filled with hatred of “the other.” For those on the right, this film should go down pretty smooth. Watch the trailer here. Or don’t.
Won’t Back Down (September 25)
The trailer for this inspiring drama looks pretty generic; it even contains a character who shouts that we must “be the change we want to see.” Yawn, right? But unlike most inner-city school dramas, “Won’t Back Down” seems to advocate for the conservative position on education. It portrays public school teachers as dangerously entitled and dramatizes a victory for charter schools over teachers unions. Given the attention paid to the issue of education at the Republican National Convention last week, this film will surely be praised by the conservative media. But here’s what is more interesting: when such a conservative policy position is used to drive the story in such a generic, mainstream movie genre, it may be an indication that given the choice between “school choice” and “teachers’ unions,” as Republicans have sought to frame it, the balance has finally shifted to the right.
Atlas Shrugged Part Two (October 12)
Although “Atlas Shrugged Part One” managed only a measly $6 million domestic gross in 2011, “Part Two” should fare slightly better, if only because the name of Ayn Rand, who wrote the classic book the film is based on, has been in the news lately. Since Paul Ryan was named the Republican vice-presidential nominee, many Democrats have pointed out that Ryan is a self-professed fan of the libertarian author. “Part Two” also has a new director and some recognizable faces: early ‘90s almost-stars Samantha Mathis and D.B. Cooper play key roles. This one won’t break through to the mainstream, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some “Atlas Shrugged” viewing parties around Election Day.
The trailer kinda says it all.
Killing Them Softly (October 19)
I doubt that we could call this a “conservative movie” in any sense of the word; the movie’s star, Brad Pitt, doesn’t exactly swing that way. And while both star and director Andrew Dominik claim the film does not have an anti-Obama message, early reviews suggest otherwise. “Killing Them Softly” is a crime story centered around Jackie Cogan, a hitman-for-hire who specializes in assassinating his targets from a distance, as the title suggests. The story is set in 2008, and the Obama-McCain presidential campaign and the financial collapse loom heavily over the violent events of the film. While it is too early to say for sure, it appears that Dominik is comparing the contemporary political system with the selfish, each-man-for-himself world of crime. This may be a non-partisan film, but since it is released less than a month before the election, it may come off as hostile towards the incumbent.
Watch the trailer.
Come back later this week for part two of this series, in which we examine four political films that will appeal to Democrats this fall.