Mini-Feature: Movies for the Times

Movie recommendations from the editors.

What movie(s) do you most recommend to explain or accompany our present situation?

I don’t know about understanding, although I’ll stab at it a little. But I’m thinking more about simply getting into the zone. True Detective: Season Two. I don’t care if lots of people said they didn’t like it. That’s roughly based on real life. Chinatown. It’s darker than you remember, if you remember. The Untouchables. David Mamet wrote this one, remember. As opposed to the two above, at least the ending is happy. But he gets at a central point when it comes to corruption: everyone knows where it is—the problem is going after it without being destroyed. Ness got lucky, but I think Mamet’s talent is more indirectly-directly relevant than most these days if you can get down with the strange stage-to-screen vibe of a lot of his movies. Watch Oleanna or The Winslow Boy or The Spanish Prisoner. Never mind the more robust The Edge or the magnum opus, Glengarry Glen Ross. Also, go back to Gladiator. Yes, I know. But if you say this movie is cringe you need to develop more humility. Many of you are going to secretly watch it anyway. Go back to Training DayRed Dawn. Look for the esoteric meaning in Michael Bay’s oeuvre. And always, always: Werner Herzog. 

-Matthew Peterson

A wise friend in tech recently remarked that if they have you thinking in movies you’ve already lost. But if you were of college age in the late 90s you probably will never purge your mind of Fight Club. I only mention this now because, after Tucker Carlson recently created another mini firestorm of bluecheck outrage by warning the ruling class wants you drinking Starbucks forever, I looked past my appreciation of the ultimate basic brand to discover (at this late date) that director David Fincher claims to have placed a Starbucks cup in every shot of Fight Club. The film features a memorable scene where its apolitical pranksters wreck a Starbucks in style. But none of the characters called to testify to their ultimate personal projects names starting an independent cafe. The dilemma of those who know what to attack but lack the agency to create runs beneath Fight Club in a way quietly more important today than its other long-chewed-over tropes. 

-James Poulos

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Straight-up, I don’t really watch films. I have to be forced into it. This is not a snob thing, it’s simply not my taste. When forced I tend to enjoy Westerns. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is a movie for the present moment. The moral is: behind a weak Conservative Inc. is the Claremont Institute in the shadows, ready to take the shot others won’t.  

-David Bahr

If you're into horror even a little bit, I can recommend re-watching (or watching for the first time, if you're one of those Gen-Z whippersnappers I keep hearing about) The Silence of the Lambs. Dr. Hannibal Lecter is the perfect nightmare for our age: erudite, credentialed, sophisticated, and utterly monstrous. What's brilliant about the film, and Hopkins's performance, is that it combines perfect social graces and upper-crust elegance with total moral depravity—a well-attested combination in our academies. "Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me," says Lecter. "Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude." In our age, the same ruling class that recoiled with horror at the boorishness of Donald Trump uses its code of conduct as a smokescreen for the most appalling practices and ideas (the mass killing of the unborn springs readily to mind). We are up against a sociopathic elite that will smile glibly and chide us gently while it prepares to eat us. 

-Spencer Klavan

As time goes on, I find myself remembering fewer and fewer movies I’ve seen. They’ve been looking better and better over the years, but they’re giving us fewer and fewer things to think about once the film ends. Real movies ought to leave you grappling with bigger ideas. Hell or High Water is a real movie in that sense. A 2016 movie that only brought in $37.9 million at the box office, it didn’t make huge waves, and that’s a tragedy.

Set in a dying town out in Texas, this movie immediately sucker punches you with the reality a good chunk of these towns face across America. Banks, a stand in for the elite class’ interests in this movie, are slowly devouring the entire town. They’re giving out predatory loans and procedurally slow-walking the few who can pay up to twist the knife and seize the people’s land for the elites to use to further enrich themselves. The plot follows two brothers as they turn the tables on the banks by robbing them to pay back a predatory loan in a powerful Western retelling of Robin Hood. I won’t spoil the specifics, but the overarching theme is that family is the most important motivator for people.

The added layer of a populist bent on reclaiming ill-gotten gains from the elite is more timely than ever. Let’s not forget that Big Tech, the overlords who determine what you can see online in America, are increasingly run from top to bottom by elite leftists. Their political donations tell that story more powerfully than I could. That is not to say that establishment Republican types don’t have a foothold in some sectors, but Big Tech will be the most controlling force in the years ahead. If you want an intriguing and immersive way to explore the rift between the elite and the people, Hell or High Water is the movie for you.

-Jake Gannon