The Most RedState and BlueState Movies of 2011

When I watch movies or television, I tend to divide them into RedState and BlueState. The two viewpoints speak to more than just political voting patterns. They’re ways of looking at the world. Mostly secular, mostly urban Blue Staters look through one metaphoric window while often religious, often suburban or rural Red Staters are looking through a completely different one.

It’s all about the level of tolerance for irony and/or sincerity. RedState, in extreme, will tend toward saccharine while BlueState, in extreme, will veer into nihilism.

Here are the films that, in their mindset, most reflect RedState and BlueState sensibilities. To clarify: It’s not about quality. All these films are well made and entertaining to various degrees. It’s about the assumptions the filmmakers make in the world they create.

What do you think? Do you agree? Any movies I neglected to include?

 

Red State Movies

 

Blue State Movies

 

Fast Five

All about bulging muscles, fast cars, and faster racing, this movie unapologetically guzzles gas and fights the bad guys.

It’s not smart. It’s not conflicted. It’s just fun.

Review here.

Earnings: $209,837,675 *

*Earnings reports are Domestic Gross via BoxOfficeMojo.com

Cedar Rapids

Midwestern insurance salespeople meet every year for a convention in Cedar Rapids, a banal bacchanalia of petty rivalries, overdrinking in hotel bars, and sad affairs.

It has its funny moments, to be sure, but the ultimate meaninglessness of life and love in the Midwest makes it very cynical.

Earnings: $302,968

 

Moneyball

When Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the manager of the Oakland A’s, applies Yale economic principles to his selection of team players, he rewrites the way the game is played. With excellent acting and an interesting story, this is a good movie.

The thing that makes it RedState is that it’s all about innovation. Whether in business or sport (or MLB, which is both), if things aren’t working right, the smart find a way to innovate. They find an edge that beats the competition. Some people (in this case, traditional talent scouts) whine that it’s not the way things are done and that they’re being left behind, but innovation ultimately makes everyone more successful.

Do you want to win or are you happy with losing? It’s that simple.

Innovation and hard work made our country great. This film was a refreshing tribute to them. More of this, please, Hollywood!

Earnings: $74,391,437

 

In Time

In the future, time has replaced money as currency. You use minutes to buy coffee, days to pay rent. The poor live on a margin of only a few hours while the rich have millenia in the bank. When you run out, you die.

Although there is “plenty of time to go around,” the rich control it all. They go even further: They arbitrarily raise prices to kill off the have-nots in the ghettos. Timberlake and Seyfried play Robin Hood meets Bonnie and Clyde, robbing the rich and spreading the wealth around.

This movie is the perfect rallying call for Occupy Wall Street. The basic economic principles of supply and demand don’t exist here. It’s tick-tock communism. Only by equalizing income can we find justice. The poor work hard for very little while the rich don’t work at all. Innovation, sacrifice, and hard work mean nothing here because there is no opportunity. Review here.

Earnings: $36,956,625

 

Battle: Los Angeles

When nasty, murderous aliens invade Santa Monica, who takes a stand against them?

The boys and girls of the United States Marine Corps, that’s who.

They don’t stop to apologize. They just get out their big guns and blow the aliens away.

Boo-ya!

Roger Ebert called it “noisy, violent, ugly and stupid.”  It has a 35% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. My review is here. I’m not saying it’s Oscar material. The script is weak. However, I suspect some of the negative reaction on the part of BlueState critics is due to the complete lack of irony, the refusal of the soldiers to be conflicted about killing their enemies, their unabashed (and sometimes corny) patriotism and nobility, and the gleeful use of big guns.

It’s the epitome of peace through strength.

Earnings: $83,552,925

 

Bad Teacher

Cameron Diaz plays a teacher completely uninterested in her job, so much so that she plays movies during class and does drugs in the parking lot while undermining the earnest and annoyingly cheerful good teacher across the hall.

The movie is a showcase of cynicism. It sits in the back of the class and laughs at all the goodie two-shoes who actually care about what they do or about the world around them.

The film is totally committed to the character, never really showing her reforming or beginning to care. That’s where it draws its humor (along with R-rated shocks), and it is quite funny at times.

The bad teacher is the opposite of Battle: Los Angeles’s Marines who nobly (and a bit cornily) do their jobs. She would never do anything noble. What a joke.

Review here.

Earnings: $100,292,856

Warrior

Two estranged brothers compete in the same Ultimate Fight Club championship, with their newly sober father coaching one of them. It’s an almost Shakespearean story of a family fighting their way back together, literally.

The blue collar nature of the film and unapologetic testosterone make it RedState. The men don’t show their feelings through their words, but punch out their feelings in the ring. Plus, one brother is a US Marine back from Afghanistan, a tour that is thorny but treated with respect.

This movie is number two on our List of Best movies of 2011.

Earnings: $13,657,115

 

Melancholia

Kirsten Dunst plays Justine, a woman so depressed she cannot function in life. She sees no point in love, in family, in work, in anything really. Life is just a cosmic mistake and all these things are just ways we distract ourselves from this truth.

Fortunately for her, but not for everyone else, a planet is on a collision course with Earth, just to prove her right. As human extinction nears, Justine welcomes it as one welcomes a lover.

The universe means nothing.

This Lars von Trier film is gorgeous in its imagery and cinematography, fantastic in its acting, powerful in its message, and occasionally darkly funny. It is also the ultimate expression of a secular scientific mindset.

Earnings: $2,454,418

 

The Iron Lady

The Margaret Thatcher biopic (review here), coming January 13, allows Thatcher to be Thatcher. And, of course, the former British Prime Minister stood on her principles of a free enterprise system, hard work, and military might. The movie approaches its subject carefully a-politically, but Thatcher’s words are stirring.

People must work for their place in life, she believes. If you consider yourself to be right, she argues, compromise is a mistake. Stand on your principles or you will not stand at all.

Sounds RedState to me. I wonder what British for “RedState” is.

This movie is number four on our List of Best Movies of 2011.

Earnings: N/A

Ides of March

Also about the political world, this film about a presidential primary stars George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. Whereas “The Iron Lady” glories in sticking to principle, this movie is about the loss of principle.

The politician (Clooney) in whom the young staffer (Gosling) believes so passionately, has feet of clay. In order to serve the ideas in which he believes, Gosling must choose whether or not to sacrifice principle. In the high stakes world of presidential politics, no one is a friend or trustworthy. Review here.

Loss of innocence, conflicted motives, deep irony, and a whiff of cynicism. So very BlueState.

Earnings: $40,603,133

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a movie critic. Check out her work on Rotten Tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • John

    I am a little surprised not to see Tree of Life as a Red State movie. It was kind of the Red State version of Melancholia, so the two make decent book ends.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thank you, “John,” if that is your real name. I considered Tree of Life, but to me it defied and transcended categories.

  • Jeremy Forbing

    Moneyball is about how progress and technological innovation are able to dismantle a proud culture dominated by the same conservative establishment who previously presided over its greatest triumphs. In the process, influence and opportunity are redistributed to those who were previously low on the totem pole. That doesn’t seem very RedState to me.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      redistributed? Baseball is very capitalistic. If you win, you get the wealth. If you don’t, you’re cut.

    • http://www.thedonovan.com John of Argghhh!

      Jeremy – I think you mistake RedState for Robber Baron.

      I’m a Red Stater. A retired soldier who lives on 80 acres in Kansas – but I did live in downtown Paris for 6 months, so I *earned* my preference for space… and I liked it for just the things that Rebecca mentioned. I can be Red State and conservative, but not worship at the altar of Jeff Immelt et cie…

      Oh, and Rebecca, oft times we military types do our jobs cornily, and speak in trite phrases and even cry about it… works for us!

      • Rebecca Cusey

        Works for me too!

  • Greg R

    Captain America for THE Red State Movie?

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I considered Captain America. I really liked the movie. But for RedState purposes, I think it pulled its punches a little. It really talked about the WWII generation, and I liked that. But it didn’t translate anything into the now. We know the story of WWII. What is America now, Mr. Captain America?

      • http://archcampbell.com Arch Campbell

        What a great concept. I could play this game all day. Descendents Blue – We Bought a Zoo -Red – Mission Impossible Blue – War Horse Red – . Thanks for sharing a fascinating idea.

  • gmartinz

    I had to do a great re-think on “Moneyball.” Having read, and loved, the book, I was disappointed in the movie (it is NOT Oscar worthy). However, challenged by a female running partner about its meaning, I had thought a lot about it (which really, is the sign of a good movie, even if you hate it), and for its flaws (how many times are pitchers par excellance Tim Hudson and Barry Zito mentioned? Oh, that’s right, NEVER) it does highlight a “red state” idea: innovate, judge by content of character, and demand excellence. One episode that’s overlooked by critics is that Billy Beane, having signed Jeremy Giambi based on his numbers, and then realizing that he is clubhouse poison, ruthlessly dumps him. You are responsible for your own behavior.

    Another “red state” movie that doesn’t appear as such from its premise, is “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” My wife and I went to see it based solely on critics falling over themselves about Elizabeth Olsen. And although she’s okay, she’s hardly great (and the Olsen sisters seem genetically programmed to exude the “bored, detached” look). I wanted to hate the movie; it’s slow, dour, slow . . . slow, but jeez, weeks later, we couldn’t stop talking about it. I have no idea whether the director or the writer designed the movie to so indict 60s’, counter-culture, anti-establishment ethos, but the “good guys” are the responsible, sensible, upperwardly mobile, married couple, and the obvious bad guys are the communal, free love, free sex crowd.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Well said about Moneyball. I agree that the ethos of the film is merit based, even when people whine and complain. Results are what matters in the movie. I would add that I’m not a huge baseball fan (although I do turn out to support the Nationals from time to time), so I didn’t catch things like missing pitchers, but the movie still kept me interested. That’s a sign of a well-made flick, that it can interest people beyond its fan base.

      Interesting thoughts about MMMM. I’m not sure it’s indicting hippie culture as much as cults. The group seems closer to David Koresh than to San Francisco in the 70s to me. There were a few movies about cults this year, RED STATE being a notable example. While they’re interesting, they seem a bit of a cop-out. I mean, who LIKES cults? Kind of an easy target. But you’re right. The movie did strike a blow for the normal, the middle class structure.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frenchrevolution/ David French

    Ok, was X-Files First Class Red State or Blue State? And is there something wrong with me that I mostly agree with Magneto in each of the movies (aside from the genocide of course)?

    Source Code cool state.

    Harry Potter was surprisingly good-state.

    Green Lantern was disappointing state.

    Warhorse was sad-state.

    Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was awesome state.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      X-men had that whole vibe that the Cold War was just a construct and there was nothing to it, it was started by people with alterior motives that had nothing to do with stopping the USSR, so that gave it a blue tinge to me.

      Source Code was very cool, I loved it. But the soldier as victim of the military….BlueState for sure.

      I almost put Harry Potter on this list as RedState. God versus evil on an epic scale. Very RS.

      Green Lantern was bad enough to be neither.

      War Horse……I don’t know. The lack of irony probably makes it RedState but it also doesn’t have any point other than war being sad.

      MI:GP is awesome. I had sweaty palms in the high rise scene.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      And there may very well be something wrong with you. ;)

  • Trista

    I just saw Warrior this weekend. You were absolutely correct. Great movie. Teared up a little at the end, but could have used a little more falling action. What happened to Tommy?

    • Rebecca Cusey

      So glad you liked it. I thought it was amazing. There’s some push for Nolte to be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, which I think he deserves. Who knew he had it in him?

      I don’t want to give away the ending, but I kind of liked it. The resolution was the resolution of a different conflict than the obvious one. Ok. That’s cryptic. Sheez.

      SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

      I think the ambiguous ending of who won the money only served to highlight that the real conflict and victory was in the family coming to terms with their past and reestablishing relationship. The money wasn’t as important as the family. (It’s a little fuzzy, I have to admit, after several months. Does that work? That’s my memory.)

  • Hey little man

    Hello, I just wanted to tell you, you’re wrong. Your article doesn’t make any sense.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for the feedback!


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X