Going to be across the table from someone who thinks harassment is what happens to a certain Vice President-elect at performances of Hamilton?
For a lot of people, Thanksgiving is the time of year where we give pause, wait in traffic, and turn inward. But by inward, I mean the thirty-some states that are currently burnt into out collective corneas as a sea of painful red. So, when you're gathering around the proverbial fireplace in our very really burning earth, why don't you dig some of these out for the extended fam?
Do The Right Thing
It's a bit late for some of them to have, um, done the right thing but Spike Lee's classic is the kind of quality movie that merits watching more than once every four years. About a confrontation between a white pizzeria and the historically black neighborhood that it serves, the movie is a stylistic tour-de-force that had an immense impact on any independent movie you've seen ever. And, while always political, Lee never loses himself in weak metonymies or even veers into what Mike Pence and Fox News would call a "lecture." Instead, he stays two steps ahead of the viewer, slowly winding every character around the ceaselessly problematic legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and includes an indictment of police brutality that will feel arrestingly real to anyone who's been paying attention to this year's headlines. Featuring a cast of then-young and upcoming stars like John Turturro, Rosie Perez and Samuel L. Jackson, Do The Right Thing is an inarguable classic and just might school some folks good.
A somewhat forgotten movie about a TV star turned populist, turned president? Before 2016, this was actually just something of a tired movie trope, used in everything from the black-and-white classics to Robin Williams vehicles. My personal favorite is Tim Robbin's 1992 mockumentary about a conservative folk hero, played by Robins, who surprisingly wins a senate race against an incumbent Democrat played by Gore Vidal. What Robbins neatly captures is how a populist mythology, no matter how outwardly or inwardly fraudulent, can imperviously appeal to blue collar Americans who are always fed up and always want change.
Another classic, but smaller scale, Wes Anderson's 1996 debut didn't make as much of a smash as Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums but features stellar performances by longtime Anderson players like Luke and Owen Wilson. Taking place in Anderson's home state of Texas, Luke plays a dirctionless slacker who falls in love with Inez, a Paraguayan motel housekeeper played by a disarmingly sweet Lumi Cavazos. But while many of Anderson's engagements with race and politics have been clumsy at best, Bottle Rocket smartly never tries to pretend it understands Inez: she knows little English and Luke little Spanish and Anderson instead aims his even-then precocious camera at the human interaction they do have: expressions of care, fear, etc. To us, Inez is neither a mystery nor a invader: just there, and human after all.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could treat people like that?
Feel weird bringing up Trump's various appalling comments about abortion? Well you don't have to because Gillian Robespierre already did way before Trump was anything more than an ugly speck on reality TV. Her directorial debut, back in the kinder days of 2014, stars Jenny Slate as a stand-up comedian who has a one-night stand with Jack Lacey. Not ready to have a child at the prime age of twenty-something, Slate's character visits a Planned Parenthood clinic to figure things out. "I think a lot of women feel like they have to be militant when it comes to abortion," Robespierre told the Times. Rejecting her own experiences with depictions of abortion in popular culture, Obvious Child rejects the abortion narrative populated by Juno, Knocked Up and Waitress: instead, Robespierre's smart script celebrates a woman's right to choose and doesn't bother pretending there's any other way to go.
Characterizing Trump supporters, the good ol' short story huckster George Saunders wrote: "They were, generally, in favor of order and had a propensity toward the broadly normative, a certain squareness." In addition to being a nicely done chop of contemporary-feeling cinéma vérité (which, in 2015, broadly meant shot entirely with iPhones), Sean S. Baker's Tangerine is a great day-in-the-life movie about transgender sex workers in Hollywood on Christmas Eve. Take that, Starbucks! Not saying that gritty realism will change anyone's mind about anything (but it might! who knows!), isn't it worth it to see your Boys-Should-Use-Boys-Bathrooms-aunt or uncle wince at a cab driver visibly disappointed to find a cisgender prostitute working queerer streets, you know "like a real fish, like with a vagina and everything."
Dallas Buyers Club
Turning back to the sandy and red hot dust and badasses of the Lone Star State, Jean-Marc Vallée's dramatization of Ron Woodroof's efforts to bring AIDS medication while the rest of the country was turning a blind eye is a sleek two hours. The invention of Rayon, played by Jared Leto, as Ron's trans chum is riddled with stereotypes and is pretty unnecessary but Woodroof's rough rider image, preformed with a steel-eyed wink by Matthew McConaughey, is pretty ace. At the very least, it'll give you some hope for the a world that shrugs at Mike Pence causing an AIDS epidemic in order to shift funds to pay for conversion therapy.
The Day After Tomorrow
Global warming, it's a thing right? Not a conspiracy theory invented by the Chinese, right? If that conversation goes down across the gravy, I'd pop Roland Emmerich's sci-fi banger the when you're all around the fire pit. I mean, it's not an argument, but Al Gore's persuasive power points can feel a tad dry. The weather's going wack, one way or another, right?
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