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January 02, 2010

Top Ten Conservative Movies of the Decade

A piece that's now a week old and a week late.

I don't get this bit:

6. The Dark Knight ( Christopher Nolan, 2008 )

Christopher Nolanís global mega hit raked in over $1 billion worldwide, and itís not hard to see why. Featuring some of the most striking set designs since Blade Runner, Nolanís towering vision of Gotham City looked glorious in IMAX...

I concede there is some set design work in The Dark Knight. But it was the original Batman movies (the Burton ones) that featured the in-your-face (and I think excessive) set design stuff. Gotham was a mostly fake city, a mix of models and matte paintings and the occasional quasi-fascist sculpture.

The Dark Knight's whole schtick -- set-design-wise -- was to take Batman out of the realm of fantasy and set it in an entirely real-world context. Which is why the "Gotham City" is a not-disguised-at-all Chicago, and why so many sets are actually real locations.

Were there sets? Of course. But "the most striking set design since Blade Runner"? The whole point of the sets was to be not all that striking, and to look pretty real, real enough that you can't tell the real locations from the sets.

This Batman didn't even have the Batcave. This Batman didn't even have the Gothic castle called Wayne Manor. This Batman didn't even have Arkham Asylum. This Batman didn't have the "City of the Future" CGI simulation of Gotham City the last one did.

All big locations requiring a lot of set design to create heft and mood. Here? Well, there was a restaurant... there was a bank or two... there was a dingy basement... there was a penthouse apartment (that I'm pretty sure was a genuine space)... there was... Well, I can only really think of Bruce Wayne's not-the-Batcave secondary underground space as an example of notable set design, and that seemed deliberately understated.

Not saying that those aren't sound directorial choices. Just wondering how the heck that's "the most striking set design since Blade Runner."

I don't really know what the hell this guy is talking here. I guess he could mean "so understated it's actually striking!," but who the hell uses the word "striking" to mean understated?

You know what movie had really striking set design? Annie Hall. I mean -- wow! They created the fantasy city "New York" out of nothing but models and dreamstuff! (Annie Hall's cluttered apartment was achieved through a combination of matte painting, layered compositing, and a technique called "greenscreening"... )

Other Mentions: Alexthechick wonders how the conservative fave The Incredibles failed to make the list.

There are three movies I want to mention too, as coming entirely from left right field and clubbing you over the head with a strongly conservative message you never in a thousand years would have expected.

Blast from the Past. Okay, this was actually released in 1999, but close enough. (I'm sure it was on cable in 2000.) A weirdly in-your-face and strident manifesto of a movie basically stating that the values of the 50s are far superior to the "values" that came later.

Representative line:

"And were does he get all this [useful information about manners]?"

-- "From the oddest place. His parents."

Kate & Leopold. Savaged by critics as anti-feminist, basically the same idea as Blast from the Past but now going even more old-school with it, positing the manners and decorum and values of the 1870s are superior to today's mores.

17 Again. I know some people think I'm crazy in recommending this one, but a lot of people who gave it a chance reported back, "Hey, you were right -- I thought it was going to be stupid but it's actually a very funny movie!"

Another weirdly, strongly conservative movie. The "conservative values" part of it comes due to the fact that a near-40 Matthew Perry is magicked back into his 17-year-old former body (played by Zac Efron, who's very good), and attends the same high school as his kids.

But see, he's still an adult in his mind, and furthermore, very protective of his children. This leads him to say hilariously fuddy-duddy things as a 17-year-old -- for example, when a bully tries to pick on him, and asks (as bullies do) "What are you gonna do about it?," he says without embarrassment or shame: "Well, first, I'm going to call your father." Hey, he's 40 -- he doesn't buy into this "no telling" rule kids have; he's not screwing around. Step out of line and he's going to have a discussion with your dad about it. And if you call him a tattle-tale, well, maybe he'll tell on you about that, too.

But the really conservative scene is when he's in class with his daughter, being taught about safe sex (by Margaret Cho, no less) and, to combat the go-have-sex-everyone's-doing-it message the teacher is pushing, he basically gives a three minute speech about the virtues of abstinence and that the real point of having sex is to have a baby, a tiny thing "you never imagined you could love so much."

This conservative personally found his jaw dropping a little bit.

Oh, and the whole conflict is that Matthew Perry hates his life and resents his wife and even his kids. See, as a 17 year old, he was a basketball super-stud with a big college career ahead of him... but he walked away from that when his girlfriend surprised him by announcing she was pregnant. So he married her, took a job, and began supporting his young family, rather than pursuing his (self-oriented) dreams.

So, in the end, will he learn that far from ruining his life, this was the best thing that could have happened to him, and far from making all the wrong choices, he in fact made all the right ones? Well, I don't want to give away any spoilers so I won't say.


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posted by Ace at 12:16 PM

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