ENTER STAGE RIGHT: Charles Murtaugh probably didn’t realize what he was letting himself in for when he asked for suggestions of “conservative movies.” He linked to this list from NRO, but any list that cites the Star Wars trilogy as the beginnings of a movie revival–how can I say this nicely?–sucks. I can’t comment on the list’s content, since I’ve only seen three of the 81 movies it names. (“It’s a Wonderful Life,” #33, “Ninotchka,” #48, and “Ghostbusters,” #78.) But surely, as Kennedy might say, we can do bettah. Here’s the e-mail I sent Murtaugh. At the instigation of Mike Yaeger, world’s funniest legal eagle, there will be much much more about movies and the Right on this site in the future. But for now, this is all you get.
Oh Lordy, these links are going to take me a year and a day, aren’t they…
“Rope,” “Strangers on a Train,” “Jamaica Inn,” most other Hitchcock: Hitchcock is brilliant, obsessed w/the idea of universal guilt (I don’t know if he’d phrase it as “original sin,” though he was Catholic–basically the idea is that no one is innocent, but his depiction of this fact is much more sophisticated than Fritz Lang’s, who seems to me to veer into moral relativism–i.e. we’re all sinners so who can judge what sin or crime “really is”?), and “Jamaica Inn” even includes a perfectly-placed quote from Edmund Burke!
“The Ice Storm”: Scathing, moving look at a world (rich 1970s Connecticut) where everyone has lost all moral bearings. People try to do good, but they have no guidance. Beautiful, harsh movie.
“Wag the Dog” and “Primary Colors”: The two halves of the Clinton movie. WTD is funnier, smarter; Primary Colors is more personal, Southern-er, a guilty pleasure. WTD has Dustin Hoffman; PC has Kathy Bates in a phenomenal performance.
“The Philadelphia Story”: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart. Hysterically funny; serious points to make about honor and vulnerability, but those points never get in the way of the fun.
“Sabrina”: The original one. Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart. Again, very funny; sweet; and includes a rousing speech in defense of multinational corporations! (And Bogart singing “Boola Boola”!) Probably the sunniest movie I know.
“Bringing Up Baby”: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and two leopards. Classic screwball comedy.
“Arsenic and Old Lace”: Cary Grant, Peter Lorre, very funny, murderous old ladies.
“Donnie Brasco”: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, FBI Mafia infiltrator goes native. Very very good movie.
“The Lion in Winter”: Uh, I’m not sure what’s “conservative” about this movie, but you should see it. The most amazing cast: Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Peter O’Toole as Henry II (the second time he’d played this role; first was in “Becket”), Anthony Hopkins as Richard the Lionheart, Timothy Dalton as some king of France. Breathtaking, existentialist movie about intrafamilial hate,
longing, and scheming.
“Gods and Monsters”: Even if you’re not a huge fan of “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” (I am), this movie about their director is well worth your time. Ian McKellen manages not to overact (despite strong temptation). Well-directed take on mentorship, alienation, and homo- and heterosexuality.
“Brazil”: Bureaucratic dystopia. Ending is way too long, but other than that this movie is almost perfect.
“The Big Lebowski”: Fun, dumb bowling movie, with fun, smart jokes (e.g. Theodore Herzl jokes).
“Ninotchka”: Really sweet, funny, very anti-Communist comedy–Greta Garbo as apparatchik undone by the pleasures of capitalist Paris.
“The Night of the Hunter”: Frightening, dark, beautiful movie about a crazed preacher, two children, and a tough, virtuous woman.
“Cape Fear”: The original, w/Robert Mitchum. Very, very scary, and some really interesting themes about law and order. Perfect for a conservative law school movie night.
Kids’ movies: “The Last Unicorn” (beautiful animation, moving story, great script, great acting–see this!), “Robin Hood” (the Disney one with Robin and Marian as foxes–just fun), “The Court Jester” (sweet, funny Danny Kaye flick), “The Great Muppet Caper” (the best Muppet movie).
Not conservative, but great: The Godfather I and II; “Mi Vida Loca/My Crazy Life” (episodic film about LA girl gang); “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”; “Goodfellas”; “Mean Streets”; “Midnight Cowboy” (a contender for Least Uplifting Movie Ever); “The Ruling Class” (ferocious satire of _everything_ moneyed and English–really, really funny); “The Producers” (the movie, I hear, is a lot more desperate and anarchic than the musical); “The Grifters” (1990s noir, only really good modern noir I know of, except “Memento”); “Memento” (amazing movie about truth, meaning, whether they exist independently or whether we create them–plus it’s an experimental noir–great stuff); “The Sweet Smell of Success” (vicious noir, too-much-of-a-muchness but still great).
More of this soon, w/more details–watch this space…