Holiday Movies 2001

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Holiday Movies 2001

by Ari Armstrong, January 3, 2002

For me, the holidays are a lazy time, a time when I watch a lot of movies. I've come across some real gems I thought I'd recommend.

First, The Majestic is a bright film that combines thematic elements about esthetics, patriotism, and free speech. A screen writer suffers an auto accident and awakens in a small California town. One of the elders of the town believes the stranger may in fact be his son, presumed dead in the first World War. Meanwhile, the screen writer has become a target in the McCarthy inquisitions.

The value of film as an artistic medium is explored -- the Majestic is an old cinema house that shut down after the War and that the screen writer inspires the town to rebuild. The film does a nice job of critiquing government oppression while pointing to an authentic American patriotism that values freedom.

I cringed, however, when the protagonist referred to the U.S. as a "democracy." We're a constitutional republic in which the rights of individuals are (supposedly) protected from majority rule. The film's message is definitely a civil libertarian one from a leftist perspective. It's message of freedom, though, even if somewhat limited, is on target. I found the film both enjoyable to watch and inspirational.

This point is by now obvious to many so my notes will be brief: The Lord of the Rings is a spectacular film. Thematically, the message is one of courage in the face of adversity and grave circumstances. At a certain level I dislike fantasy because its magical backdrop separates it from the real world. However, if we view the magical ring as an allegory for the impulse for corruption and the desire to rule others, the movie conveys a strong spirit of rising to a challenge and doing what's right. It's very rare that I want to see a movie twice: I saw this one twice and I'm sure I'll see it again prior to the release of the sequels.

On the rental shelves, my wife and I found a charming film that urges us to follow the track we're most suited for, regardless of material considerations. Though libertarianism is often confused with crass materialism, the connection is in fact absent. Yes, libertarians value productivity and technological progress, but ultimately libertarians want individuals to live happy, fulfilled lives in which they are free to make the choices that are best for them. For instance, one of Rand's heroes lives in abject poverty so that he can pursue the type of sculpture he loves. The film we saw is Uncorked. The main character deviates from his true calling in order to buy a manganese mine. I hope I do not reveal too much by paraphrasing a line of the guy's uncle: "Perhaps the reason everything you touch turns to shit is that you touch all the wrong things." I truly enjoyed this film (despite some severely annoying behaviors of the uncle).

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