Six movies many should see, but most have not. Here they are in chronological order:
A Face in the Crowd (1957): Andy Griffith made monstrous by celebrity culture in a film that suggests the vast dangers swimming just beneath the surface of American triviality and anti-intellectual self-satisfaction.
Lonesome Rhodes: “This whole country's just like my flock of sheep!”
Marcia Jeffries: “Sheep?”
Lonesome Rhodes: “Rednecks, crackers, hillbillies, hausfraus, shut-ins, pea-pickers — everybody that’s got to jump when somebody else blows the whistle. They don't know it yet, but they're all gonna be ‘Fighters for Fuller.’ They’re mine! I own ‘em! They think like I do. Only they’re even more stupid than I am, so I gotta think for ‘em. Marcia, you just wait and see. I’m gonna be the power behind the president — and you'll be the power behind me!”
The Americanization of Emily (1964): A very funny film that takes the glorification of war very seriously. After the laughs settle down, the insights remain unsettling. Way ahead of its time and — in our bellicose, warrior-worshipping society — still ahead of its time.
Lt. Cmdr. Charles E. Madison: “You American-haters bore me to tears, Miss Barham. I’ve dealt with Europeans all my life. I know all about us parvenus from the States who come over here and race around your old cathedral towns with our cameras and Coca-Cola bottles... Brawl in your pubs, paw at your women, and act like we own the world. We overtip, we talk too loud, we think we can buy anything with a Hershey bar. I’ve had Germans and Italians tell me how politically ingenuous we are, and perhaps so. But we haven't managed a Hitler or a Mussolini yet. I've had Frenchmen call me a savage because I only took half an hour for lunch. Hell, Ms. Barham, the only reason the French take two hours for lunch is because the service in their restaurants is lousy. The most tedious lot are you British. We crass Americans didn't introduce war into your little island. This war, Miss Barham, to which we Americans are so insensitive, is the result of 2,000 years of European greed, barbarism, superstition, and stupidity. Don't blame it on our Coca-Cola bottles. Europe was a going brothel long before we came to town.”
The President’s Analyst (1967): Does the American political system ever give you the feeling that you’re the only sane person left standing? A film for those born with the gift of laughter, and the sense that the world is mad.
Bing Quantrill: “Hey, Dad. You want the Magnum .357 in the house?”
Wynn Quantrill: “Darn it, Bing. I told you not to play around with my guns. No, I do not want that in the house. That is my car gun. My house gun is already in the house. Now, put that back in the glove compartment, and don’t let me catch you fooling with my guns again.”
Bing Quantrill: “I’m sorry, Dad.”
Wynn Quantrill: “Great kid.”
Dr. Sidney Schaefer: “I thought you said you were an accountant.”
Wynn Quantrill: “I am.”
Dr. Sidney Schaefer: “Why do you have all these guns around, then?”
Wynn Quantrill: “You know.”
Network (1976): The madcap film that presciently predicted the contemporary TV “news” environment by springboarding from a simple premise — what happens to a society when profit trumps truth?
Howard Beale: [laughing to himself] “But, man, you’re never going to get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you want to hear; we lie like hell. We’ll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, or that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker's house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don’t worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he's going to win. We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in ILLUSIONS, man! None of it is real! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds... We're all you know. You're beginning to believe the illusions we're spinning here. You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even THINK like the tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! WE are the illusion!”
The Lives of Others (2006): Big Brother sees all, hears all — including existential and moral examples that may shake the foundations of his own inhumanity.
Anton Grubitz: “Did you know that there are just five types of artists? Your guy, Dreyman, is a Type 4, a ‘hysterical anthropocentrist.’ Can’t bear being alone, always talking, needing friends. That type should never be brought to trial. They thrive on that. Temporary detention is the best way to deal with them. Complete isolation and no set release date. No human contact the whole time, not even with the guards. Good treatment, no harassment, no abuse, no scandals, nothing they could write about later. After 10 months, we release. Suddenly, that guy won’t cause us any more trouble. Know what the best part is? Most type 4s we've processed in this way never write anything again. Or paint anything, or whatever artists do. And that without any use of force. Just like that. Kind of like a present.”
A Single Man (2009): The prospect of death becomes a lens that transmutes despair into a vivid vision of the wonders just under the surface of quotidian human existence.
George Falconer: “Waking up begins with saying ‘am’ and ‘now.’ For the past eight months waking up has actually hurt. The cold realization that I am still here slowly sets in.”