Not Really An A-List:
The Bush Administration and Cinema

By Sean Collier

October 27, 2008

I say we're going to sit here until the Rangers win the World Series. Who's with me?

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Something Called Gorno Exists

Patton Oswalt has a joke about thinking we've slipped into a Bizarro universe without anyone noticing. "In our universe, spinach can kill you and torture is legal!" Connecting this sad fact of combat to horror movies is a bit of a stretch, but connect the dots – the United States starts using torture as an accepted act of war, and we have a whole subgenre that's mainly about torturing the hell out of people for no real reason. The Saw franchise has a distinct Guantanamo element to it – those who a shadowy authority figure perceives as evildoers wake up unexpectedly in a hopeless, brutal situation. Ditto for the Hostel films – deep in a secluded compound in Eastern Europe, a fortress of torture exists under the radar of national and global law. You could certainly trace the evolution of horror into these films independently of the political climate, but the mere fact that horror films about torture have some political relevance is sad and alarming.


Documentaries Make Money Now

It's still shocking now – Fahrenheit 9/11 made $120 million. A political documentary – not a narrative documentary, mind you, those still can't find audiences – that roughly half the population considered blasphemy found $120 million in box office. In a further shock, all of this money didn't pour from the coasts – in its opening weekend, Michael Moore's film wasn't just the number one film, it was the number one film in every last red state.

This, of course, paved the way for An Inconvenient Truth – basically a Powerpoint presentation broken up by the life story of the dullest man in Washington – to pull in $30 million, which people happily paid to hear about how we're screwed and it's our fault. Michael Moore's follow-up, Sicko, managed $25 million. And, because nothing makes sense anywhere, some movie about penguins walking around made $77 million. I can really offer no explanation of this, especially in the era of 24-hour news; theoretically, we should all be going to the multiplex to escape politics. And yet, these films more than anything demonstrate that now we want our politics everywhere.

A-List Political Documentaries: Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, The Fog of War

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