Speaking of throwing off your chains…it’s important to recognize how powerful film and television are at creating the functional mythos of our time.  They are being overtaken by social media/web sources, but the effect is similar:  A story is told repeatedly that supposedly explains the true workings of the world – think of the hold the Catholic Church had on intellectual and daily life in the Middle Ages –  and through repetition, it becomes accepted as defacto reality. Psychologists tell us people act as if what they believe is actually true: witness the people who cling to statements like “911 was an inside job” and “Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever run for President.”

The hippies loved their “Question Authority” bumper stickers. A more useful one in our times would read “Question the Stories.” Which is easy to do when you remember to “Question the Storytellers.”

Which brings us, magically, to some year-end “10 Best” Lists that focus on film and television.  Coming from the usual gang of folks who are better, kinder, and doggone it, just wiser than you are…

…there is an unsurprising amount of agreement about many of those stories.

On the smaller screen, take The Handmaid’s Tale, from the acclaimed – by certain segments of the literary world – novel by Margaret Atwood. It’s the Daring! Original! Damning! story of the subjugation of women by an evil, oppressive theocracy (strangely, it’s not set in the Middle East.  Wonder why…). The ever-dependable Entertainment Weekly described it as the story of “a remarkably endearing regular person held captive by a demonic America that suddenly felt as familiar as a news feed on any one of the last 365 bad days.”  Can one of our readers remind me what possibly could have happened in the last year that made every single day bad?

Now steaming near you, the series is the subject of near-religious adulation (see how subtly my irony was slipped in there?): “Margaret Atwood’s three-decade-old novel came to television at the best possible time, when women across the country wavered between feeling emboldened and powerless.”    In case that’s not compelling enough, those clear-eyed prophets at Vanity Fair proclaim “it’s hard to imagine a more relevant show in the age of Trump.”

Yeah, those MAGA burquas must really hurt to wear in New York City and Los Angeles because they are so hard to accessorize. And let’s not even get started on the fact that Female Genital Multilation is the only women’s health surgery required under TrumpCare: can I get an “Amen” from the sisters?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all that passion for women’s rights and freedoms could be turned from supporting a fictional, allegorical, and completely LibProg approved set of Christian-ish villains to taking action in the real world?

Nah, that’s crazy talk.

In theaters, the film Call Me By Your Name is shows up on a number of Top Ten Lists, with the movie featuring “some heterosexual encounters for (the two main characters), but these are each just prototypical foreplay for the main event: the hookup between Elio and Oliver.” The gushing praise is effusive, from Europe to blue-state America“It’s both a landmark of gay cinema and a fervent coming-of-age romance any open-minded person can relate to.”  (Glad to have that “open-minded person” part cleared up.)

Did I mention the love story is between an under-age boy and an older man?

Yep, while this would be considered a creepy, sexist, objectifying film if it were about, oh, an underage girl and an older man (unless it was made by Woody Allen, then it’s art of the highest caliber) being a gay love story somehow makes it Important and not Icky.

But… enough of that.

As promised, damn fine films that critics used for urinals:

Deepwater Horizon: On the surface, this would have seemed like red-meat to our would-be media-masters.  It had it all: plucky prole workers victimized by evil corporations whose pursuit of wicked profit killed innocents and despoiled nature.

Perhaps that’s what critics expected. What they got was a careful, slow-burn build-up that showed the failures of British Petroleum (and man, they must’ve hated this movie) which led to the stunningly recreated, hellish disaster, followed by the heroism of the everyday folks who responded, from people trapped on the burning oil rig to the Coast Guard, to the tankers nearby.

Why did critics hate it? Well, you had a star (Mark Wahlberg) and a director (Peter Berg) who are unashamedly pro-America and pro-American Fighting Men – their next collaboration was the tense, thrilling, and unironically named Patriot’s Day. There’s two strikes there. And the third strike… well, I’ll let you decide for yourself what that was as I don’t want to spoil the story.

Coincidentally, another true-story of a disaster, The Finest Hours was criminally dismissed by critics, and as a result, overlooked by audiences. It was one of those films that when my wife and I were watching in on BluRay, we turned to one another and said “Why haven’t we heard about this?”  It recounts the story of one of the most amazing Coast Guard small boat rescues ever performed (and is very faithful to the incredible facts of that effort). Chris Pine, as Bernie, the pastor’s son who does his duty, is a revelation. The cat can act.

As for the critical disdain? For one thing, it was set in 1952, and was presented like a 1952 movie.  That means:  no skin, no swearing, no boinking. That means, therefore, it was an unrealistic representation of how people were then. It contained were no critiques of America’s racism (like the Top 10 beloved “Get Out”), it couldn’t be used to bludgeon Trump Voters, nor did they have a forbidden gay love story sub-plot. No one was even punched in self-righteous, Billy Jack-like anger.

So, of course, it was beneath contempt and a hack-work.

Bullshit. Both these films are exciting, thrilling, and touching stories. They should be part of every film-lover’s library.

Next week: “Bro-Bashing” and my long-promised defense of Monuments Men.

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