Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back-to-the-Future Political Movies

Hard times in the 1930s produced a golden age in Hollywood as Americans, helpless in real life, sought escape at neighborhood movie houses. Today, those Depression classics are being remade and brought into our living rooms to be sold as reality.

The GOP is doing the horror films. Frankenstein has morphed into mad scientists working feverishly in the lab to animate a new Rick Perry from old political body parts but, even as the Creature starts to look plausible, it unexpectedly starts to bolt from the lab to run loose and babble about Birtherism .

Herman Cain is the new Dracula, bouncing out of his coffin after dark to suck the blood out of government, all the while smiling fiendishly in weird commercials.

Mitt Romney, of course, is the Invisible Man, mostly unseen but striking nameless fear in the hearts of the natives.

As time goes on, however, the Republican debates are getting less scary and beginning to look more like the zany efforts of the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields.

Over at Poverty Row, there are the Frank Capra films, with Occupy Wall Street recreating “Meet John Doe” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” good-heartedness looking for populist heroes to pull out a last-minute happy ending without jumping off a tall building or collapsing from exhaustion.

The Tea Party is reliving all those “white telephone movies,” in which the over-privileged babbled about taxes and servant problems over cocktails, went on scavenger hunts and generally acted like horse’s asses for the amusement of the 99 percent who could afford a quarter for the price of admission to shake their heads over such antics.

Where does this leave Barack Obama? He’s been spending much of his time redoing old John Wayne movies by taking out bad guys before the final reel, but such heroics are not selling well with what Variety used to call the Hix in the Stix. (Even Michelle Bachmann can’t keep the cowboy hero straight in her mind from John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer).

If business doesn’t pick up, Washington may have to reinvent Bank Nights and Bingo to sell tickets at the box office. For this movie lover, there was more creativity back then—-and sanity.

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