Sunday, February 16, 2014

Epiphany #13

Here's my idea for the new American double-feature.  If you don't know double features at the movies, at least you've heard of them, right?  Back when Americans had greater attention spans, movie houses used to show two movies instead of just one.  Or maybe it wasn't attention span; maybe  sheer greed has taken over since.  Either way.

Here's my idea for the new American double-feature: once you watch your mainstream Hollywood feature, you also get to see another film which shows you another side.  What side that is would depend.

But here's a case in point.  Go see Lone Survivor.  Revel in its jingoistic tragedy, in the ultimate redemption of the story, at least for one man.   Take it all in and go the way that the filmmaker wants you to go.  As one friend of mine said, "When it was over, I wanted to kill every Taliban out there."  I get that.  I understand that reaction.

But also ponder my father's reaction.  He is a conservative man, usually susceptible to right-wing causes and viewpoints.  But he also served in WWII, and his response to the movie was simple: "I don't trust stories when there is only one person left to tell them." I get that, too.  But that's not really what I'm after.

See, my second feature at my theater would be Dirty Wars, a documentary currently available for viewing on Netflix.  Its purpose is to reveal the sordid actions that the American military is involved in in other countries.  It focuses on the activities of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), a clandestine branch of the military that goes where it wants to and does what it wants to with impugnity.  The filmmaker reveals that this group has, rightly or wrongly, shown up at weddings and other occasions in countries in the Middle East and Africa and has slaughtered men, women, and children in the name of hunting terrorists and Taliban.  Obama has given them freer reign than Bush did.  They have little oversight.  The actions that the movie exposes are not up for debate.  They happened.

What I want at my movie theater is, if not a balance exactly, a chance for one movie to undercut the other.  If I'm going to show Roger Moore's stuff, I'm going to find something to counterbalance it.  Why?  Because we live on a country where 1/4 of our citizens think that the sun revolves around the Earth.

Because, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."  Except that I don't think Fitzgerald is quite right.  I don't think that territory is reserved for "first rate" brains; anyone can learn to do that, however unwillingly.

My movie house must exist because our media will not do that job.  They continue to chase Chris Christie stories, ignoring the Jim Crow laws against gays that Kansas has passed.

In my example, here's what want.  I want you to watch both films, the great, touching war movie and the blunt war documentary, and I want you to feel empathy for our highly-trained soldiers and the sacrifices they make, but also to realize that they have little idea what agendas they are serving in their unflinching devotion to duty.

That's where ordinary citizens like you and me come in.  See you at the movies!

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