I would like to name some of my favorite movies and shows, with a little bit of basic information and personal commentary (without much in the way of spoilers, of course). After that, I would like to do the same for what I think are a few of the best movies about American history – a woefully underserved genre, to say the least!
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962. “‘Cause the point of a gun was the only law that Liberty understood…From out of the East a stranger came, a law book in his hand, the kind of a man the West would need to tame a troubled land…When the final showdown came at last, a law book was no good…The man who shot Liberty Valance, he was the bravest of them all.”
Directed by John Ford.
Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, and Lee Marvin.
Written by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck.
Scored by Cyril J. Mockridge.
“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” has all of the features of a great Western, particularly the conflict between love and duty and the challenge of standing up for what is right even if it means standing alone. What makes this movie unique, however, is the philosophical question that it asks: on the frontier of civilization, where law has not yet been established, how is chaotic evil to be stopped – by lawful good or by chaotic good? The two protagonists, Ransom Stoddard (played by James Stewart) and Tom Doniphon (played by John Wayne), are philosophically opposed on how to deal with Liberty Valance (played by Lee Marvin), the ringleader of a gang terrorizing a frontier town. Stoddard is adamant that the establishment of law and order will put an end to Liberty’s reign of terror (and more importantly, that it is crucial to the establishment of law and order that men like Liberty not be dealt with extra-legally). Doniphon insists, however, that only brute force is capable of stopping Liberty (and that law and order cannot be established until men like Liberty have been dispatched). How does the movie answer the question? Watch and find out!
A Man For All Seasons, 1966. The story of Sir Thomas More’s refusal to accede to the English Reformation.
Directed by Fred Zinneman.
Starring Paul Scofield, Leo McKern, Orson Welles, and Robert Shaw.
Written by Robert Bolt.
Scored by Georges Delerue.
Sir Thomas More was a philosopher, and although not a king himself, a philosopher to the king, so to speak. More was an advisor to King Henry VIII and helped him write public polemics against Martin Luther. For refuting Luther, Pope Leo X titled Henry “Defender of the Faith.” When the Catholic Church would not grant Henry the divorce he desired, this erstwhile “Defender of the Faith” broke with Rome and set himself at the head of his own church. More, however, who was serving as Lord Chancellor of England at the time, refused to endorse Henry’s divorce or acknowledge Henry’s supremacy, for which he was accused of heresy and treason.
Nowadays, there is a so-called “Resistance” against Pres. Donald Trump, which despite its insufferable self-regard is, in reality, merely the system mustering all of its money and power to destroy any real resistance. The Resistance is a corporatist, elitist, globalist counter-revolution to the nationalist, populist, traditionalist revolution which Trump unwittingly incited in 2015. No member of the Resistance is risking anything. Indeed, everyone from public figures to private individuals is free to defame the President in the vilest terms without any fear of consequences whatsoever. Even illegal aliens parade around in public, complaining about oppression as they flaunt their crimes and trumpet their rising numbers. At the same time, those loyal citizens who agree with the President’s “isolationist,” “nativist,” and “protectionist” agenda are subject to life-destroying harassment by alt-left goon squads, which often results in getting fired from their jobs, doxed on social media, and physically assaulted in the streets. What sort of “fascist regime” is this? On the contrary, it is unvarnished “anarcho-tyranny.”
More, in his day and age, was a part of a real “Resistance.” He and a few other Catholic individuals (who have all been sainted since) took conscientious, principled stands against a tyrannical king and religious fanaticism. “A Man For All Seasons” does this inspiring story justice. The script is essentially one long debate on conscience, ethics, and law, with enough wisdom to have been written by More himself. It is one of the few movies out there that is truly educational, edifying, and uplifting – intellectually, morally, and spiritually – to watch.
The Star Wars Trilogy, 1977-1983. A space opera drawn from world mythology.
Directed by George Lucas.
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher.
Written by George Lucas.
Scored by John Williams.
“Star Wars,” though a space opera, is not really of the science-fiction genre, but more of the fantasy. Science fiction is about exploring the consequences of scientific innovation, which is why it is alternatively known as “speculative fiction,” yet “Star Wars,” though outwardly futuristic, is not about the future, but the past. Specifically, “Star Wars” is modeled on what Joseph Campbell, a scholar of comparative mythology and religion, terms the “Hero’s Journey,” which is a story – or “monomyth” – that can be identified in all world cultures. George Lucas was heavily influenced by Campbell’s theories, and drew on the Hero’s Journey to tell his own story. As Lucas explained to Campbell’s biographers, “What’s valuable for me is to set standards, not to show people the world the way it is. Around the period of this realization, it came to me that there really was no modern use of mythology. The Western was possibly the last generically American fairy tale, telling us about our values. And once the Western disappeared, nothing has ever taken its place. In literature we were going off into science fiction, so that’s when I started doing more strenuous research on fairy tales, folklore, and mythology, and I started reading Joe’s books. Before that I hadn’t read any of Joe’s books. It was very eerie because in reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I began to realize that my first draft of ‘Star Wars’ was following classic motifs. I modified my next draft of ‘Star Wars’ according to what I’d been learning about classic motifs and made it a little bit more consistent.” So although “Star Wars” may take place “in a galaxy far, far away,” it also takes place “a long time ago.”
John Williams’ score, simply put, makes “Star Wars.” Without it, the movies would have been unable to overcome the sci-fi kitsch. It is hard to take some of the special effects of the movies seriously, but it is impossible not to take the score seriously. The music is present throughout most of the movie – each movie opens with a magnificent overture – and explains much of what is actually happening at that moment. Indeed, Williams’ scores are so iconic that they often come to define whole movies themselves.
The original “Star Wars” trilogy, from 1977 to 1983, was lightning in a bottle. Its archetypes, patterns, and themes of the story touch our “mythic imagination,” which is why they resonate so deeply. The writing and scoring of the movie is memorable, full of quotable lines and hummable tunes. The casting is perfect (could there be a wiser mentor than Alec Guinness, a darker-sounding adversary than the voice of James Earl Jones, or a more heroic-looking hero than Mark Hamill?), and the acting only gets better with each movie. The prequels that Lucas made from 1999 to 2005 were poorly written and acted, but were at least earnest in trying to tell a new – far more modern and less mythic – story. The ongoing sequels that Disney is making, however, do not seem to understand anything about what made “Star Wars” great, and feel like cash-ins and rip-offs.
Excalibur, 1981. The Legend of King Arthur.
Directed by John Boorman.
Starring Nigel Terry.
Written by John Boorman.
Scored by Trevor Jones.
“King Arthur,” unfortunately, is one of those stories which is endlessly adapted in bad faith, like Robin Hood (who has recently been turned into an antifa punk) and Sherlock Holmes (who has recently been turned into a man-child). “Excalibur,” however, is a faithful adaptation which actually wants to retell the story to a modern audience, not trade on its name to tell a different story altogether. Specifically, it is based on Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, which was first published in the 15th century.
“Excalibur” features a big cast of British actors before they became famous in the movies, including Gabriel Bryne (as King Uther Pendragon), Helen Mirren (as Morgana Le Fay), Liam Neeson (as Sir Gawain), Patrick Stewart (as King Leodegrance), Nicol Williamson (as Merlin), and more. In order to make the movie feel more mythic and less realistic, there is little in the way of characterization or dialogue, and much in the way of music and imagery.
Speaking of music, the score to “Excalibur” is fantastic. Richard Wagner and Carl Orff: who better for a score to one of the greatest myths of all time than the composers of “Siegfried’s Funeral March” and “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi” (both of which feature prominently in the movie)?
American History X, 1998. A story of redemption and damnation, as an older brother recently released from prison struggles to save his younger brother following in his footsteps.
Directed by Tony Kaye.
Starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong.
Written by David McKenna.
Scored by Anne Dudley.
“American History X,” set in Venice, Los Angeles, is the story of Derek Vinyard (played by Edward Norton) from the point of view of his younger brother, Danny (played by Edward Furlong). Derek is meant to be a sympathetic figure. He is a bright young man with a frightful temper who turns to the neo-Nazi movement after his father, a firefighter, is murdered by a drug dealer while putting out a fire at a drug den. Even after he becomes a neo-Nazi, however (complete with a shaved head and tattoos!) his bravery, charisma, and intelligence remain irresistible, in stark contrast to every other skinhead depicted in the movie, who are indeed mere bigots and cowards.
“American History X” can be, and often is, interpreted as a mere homily against racism, but it is much more than that. It is a tragedy. What happens to Derek is tragic. What happens to Derek’s family as a result of what happens to him – no spoilers! – is tragic. Yes, the message of the movie – “hate is baggage” – is somewhat moralistic and simplistic, yet rather than demonized, “haters” like Derek are humanized, which is what makes the movie a tragedy and not a medieval morality play. Incredibly, the black gangs of the movie are not portrayed as blameless, helpless victims, but just as thuggish as the white gangs. “American History X” is a refreshingly sensitive and thoughtful criticism of racism.
The Believer, 2001. The story of a prodigious and prodigal yeshiva student who hates his own people as a perverse act of love.
Directed by Henry Bean.
Starring Ryan Gosling.
Written by Henry Bean.
Scored by Joel Diamond.
“The Believer” is similar to “American History X” in that it is a story about a neo-Nazi (Danny Balint) who finds redemption with an absolutely captivating performance by that actor (Ryan Gosling). By day, Danny is a thug getting into trouble with his gang. By night, he is a Jewish boy living at home with his father. Danny’s identity crisis began in yeshiva, where he was expelled for blasphemy: he hated God for his cruelty and hated the Jews for their passivity, both exemplified in the infamous story of the Binding of Isaac.
Danny is not a paranoid anti-Semite, afraid of and angry at Jews merely because they happen to be different from him. On the contrary, as a Jew and an educated Jew at that, he has a sophisticated understanding of what it means to be Jewish, which informs his esoteric, intricate theories of anti-Semitism. (Much of what Danny says about Jews, in fact, is much of what Jews have said about themselves – for example, Yuri Slezkine’s The Jewish Century, which won the National Jewish Book Award in 2005.) Danny is articulate and intelligent (Gosling’s portrayal of his intensity and insecurity is irresistible), but he lacks self-awareness and self-control, and has a tendency to push his arguments too far. When he finally has a chance to take action, however, he is conflicted, and realizes that his hatred of his own people is, strangely, rooted in his love for them.
Alas, the compelling-yet-disturbing character of Danny was too much for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper, who accused the movie of anti-Semitism. As a result, “The Believer,” despite winning the Sundance Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, was dropped by Paramount Pictures. When the director (who was Jewish) complained about “Jewish paranoia” making it impossible for him to find another distributor, the SWC’s Rabbi Marvin Hier accused him of implying that Jews control the media. Incidents like this remind me of one of Norm MacDonald’s old jokes back when SNL was funny. “Marlon Brando said on ‘Larry King Live’ that Hollywood is ‘run by Jews,’” quipped MacDonald. “Brando met with Jewish leaders to apologize for his comments. They have accepted his apology and announced that he is now free to work again.”
The Lord of the Rings, 2001-2003. An adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s monumental masterpiece, which was influenced heavily by his lifelong study of Germanic mythology and singlehandedly invented the genre of fantasy.
Directed by Peter Jackson.
Starring Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortenson, and Ian McKellen.
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson.
Composed by Howard Shore.
“The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy is a remarkably faithful adaption: the script is full of Tolkien’s own lyrical prose, follows the plotlines as closely as possible, and includes an unbelievable degree of attention to detail when it comes to lore. I recently learned, for example, that the choral singing in “The Revelation of the Ringwraiths” (the theme that plays in dramatic moments featuring the Ringwraiths, ancient kings of men corrupted by their rings of power) is a poem written by one of the screenwriters, Philippa Boyens, which she translated into Adunaic (an archaic human language which Tolkien invented) and which the composer, Howard Shore, gave a choral and orchestral setting.
Speaking of the music, the trilogy’s score is suitably epic (not epic as in modern sense, e.g. “This pizza is epic,” but epic in the literal sense, e.g. worthy of a heroic saga). Although lots of Hollywood-style action was added to make the movie exciting to mass-audiences, many of the action sequences are entertaining. Furthermore, live actors, location shooting, and physical effects are preferred to CGI, which is used only when appropriate. The casting is uniformly perfect, launching (Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn), revitalizing (Elijah Wood as Frodo), and crowning (Ian McKellen as Gandalf) careers across the board. Last, but not least, “The Lord of the Rings” contains no degenerate or subversive content (not even feminist tropes, e.g. the woman who is better than the men at everything, or token diversity, e.g. casting black actors in white roles), all of which would have pleased the traditionalist Roman-Catholic Tolkien.
Peter Jackson’s majestic “The Lord of the Rings” is the perfect alternative to HBO’s gory porno “Game of Thrones.” It is incredible that such a movie trilogy was even made, so savor it, because it will not happen again any time soon. Jackson’s recent adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” (complete with oversaturated CGI, cartoonish action, feminist tropes, non-white tokens, and even a recycled score) is proof of that.
Alexander, 2004. The story of the man who united most of the known world under his rule.
Directed by Oliver Stone.
Starring Colin Farrell.
Written by Oliver Stone.
Scored by Vangelis.
“Alexander” is a strange departure for Oliver Stone, who is famous for counter-cultural movies like “Platoon,” “Wall Street,” and “JFK” (all good, by the way). There is nothing counter-cultural about “Alexander,” however; it is downright hagiographic. The movie is narrated by Ptolemy (who gained control of Egypt in the civil war that broke out among Alexander’s generals after his death) as he narrates the memoirs that would be lost to history in the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria. Colin Farrell, who plays Alexander, is a fine actor who is often savaged by critics for no apparent reason. Vangelis’ one-man electronic score is amazing, as usual, somehow managing to sound as if he is conducting the heavens themselves.
When I was a young, dumb, ugly libertarian, I hated Oliver Stone for what seemed like warmed-over “socialism” to me, though I loved his exposures of U.S. foreign policy (see especially his “Putin Interviews” and “Ukraine on Fire”). As I grew up, however, the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” became apparent to me (how the so-called “creative destruction” of capitalism actually undermines everything which conservatives supposedly wish to conserve), and I became far more tolerant of anti-capitalists, even if they have problems of their own. Likewise, I used to hate Alexander, a megalomaniacal warlord who burned and bled the world for no reason other than his own glory, yet became too much of a degenerate to rule effectively and left his generals to fight over his empire after he died. I distinctly remember walking back to my dormitory after a lecture on Alexander, troubled by how he could have destroyed a city like Persepolis. Nevertheless, Alexander was one of the most important figures in all of history. He was brave (fought alongside his men) and intelligent (tutored by Aristotle), as well as charismatic and eloquent (pushed on his men and shut down mutinies). Where he destroyed, he also built: he was a founder of cities as well as a patron of the arts and sciences. By uniting the world, however briefly, the West began “Hellenizing” the East, and the East began “Orientalizing” the West, creating a new “Hellenistic Civilization.” All of this is why Alexander is known as “the Great,” not “the Good.” A movie about someone like that cannot be anything other than interesting.
The Dark Knight Trilogy, 2005-2012.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman.
Written by Christopher Nolan.
Scored by Hans Zimmer.
The “Dark-Knight” trilogy, which includes “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” are the greatest supervillain movies. Each movie features a supervillain who presents a radical critique of modern society and its secular-humanist beliefs, written so compellingly by Christopher Nolan that they cannot just be rejected as “psycho.” In “Batman Begins,” the supervillain is Ra’s al Ghul, the head of a shadowy cult which, throughout history, pushes decadent civilizations on the brink of collapse over the edge, in order to end the Dark Age and begin a new Golden Age. This pessimistic theory that history is essentially cyclical (“hard times make strong men – strong men make good times – good times make weak men – weak men make hard times”) is in stark opposition to the optimistic theory that history is essentially progressive (i.e. things are always getting better). In “The Dark Knight,” the supervillain is the Joker, who traps Batman in twisted experiments designed to challenge his faith in mankind. The Joker, pessimistically, believes that people are basically evil, not basically good, and tries to prove that by showing what happens when chaos disrupts the law. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” the supervillain is Bane, who combines the League of Shadows’ pessimistic theory of history with the Joker’s pessimistic view of humanity. To make an example of Gotham City – and the optimistic faith in historical progress and human goodness – Bane incites the worst of the underclass against the worst of the ruling class, pitting anarchy against tyranny, then stands back and lets the world watch as the revolution consumes itself.
Apparently, David Boreanaz (“Angel” from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) was originally cast as Batman, but Christian Bale edged him out in the end. The hunky Boreanaz more looks the part than the leaner Bale, but Bale is such a good actor that it is hard to complain. Hans Zimmer, who has a team of composers working for him at a studio, produced a score for the trilogy, which has its moments, but is mainly there to punch up the trailers. Zimmer’s team has done much better work on other favorites of mine, such as “The Last Samurai” and “Inception.”
300, 2006. Elite Spartan warriors, led by their king, defend a mountain pass against the invading Persian army – a sacrifice which rallies all of Greece to resistance.
Directed by Zack Snyder.
Starring Gerard Butler.
Written by Zack Snyder.
Scored by Tyler Bates.
“300” is the story of the most famous last stand in history – perhaps the last stand that inspired them all. King Leonidas and his bodyguard were willing to give up their individual lives for the sake of their people’s continued existence. Their story is considerably “sexed up,” in this case, but it still pays tribute to their very real sacrifice and exemplifies their very real virtues.
As with “Watchmen,” Zack Snyder pulled off the rare feat of improving on his source material. Frank Miller’s graphic novel is full of ugly art (all the characters, even the Spartans, look downright simian) and neo-conservative propaganda (trying to equate the modern War on Terror with the ancient Graeco-Persian wars). Snyder’s movie, by contrast, has a beautiful cast (Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, and other heroes literally look like Greek statues), and makes it clear that the Spartans are fighting for their own people on their own land (not neocon abstractions like “reason” over “mysticism”). Tyler Bates’ score is a veritable wall of booming percussion, soaring choruses, and roaring brass worthy of such a legendary battle.
I matriculated at Bucknell University in 2006 (the year that “300” was released), already intending to major in Classics. Naturally, the movie was often the subject of heated discussion among the students and teachers alike, mostly having to do with its historical inaccuracy and fantastical style. I, however, was one of the few who defended the movie. For one, I thought that the historical accuracy of the movie was overlooked and underrated. For another, I thought that the movie’s fantastical style gave it a sort of “meta” historical accuracy. No, the Spartans were not godlike heroes who fought in the nude, but they were remembered as godlike heroes by the Greeks, who depicted their heroes as nude. The Spartans were, of course, a highly effective fighting force and the only Greeks who could have held out at Thermopylae. No, the Persians were not subhuman or even inhuman monsters, but they were remembered as such monsters – “barbarians” – by the Greeks. The Persians did, of course, have a very different civilization from the Greeks (who had never encountered so many different cultures before could not conceive of a single centralized state ruling multiple nations). When it comes to mythic memory (and much of the history of the Battle of Thermopylae is mythic), therefore, “300” is historically accurate. In fact, the most quotable lines from “300” are ripped right from the pages of Herodotus.
Flags of Our Fathers, 2006. A companion movie to “Letters from Iwo Jima” – the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima told through the soldiers from the famous flag-raising photograph.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Starring Ryan Philippe, Jesse Bradford, and Adam Beach.
Written by Paul Haggis.
Scored by Clint Eastwood.
The protagonists of this movie need no lionization: they are the subjects of one of the most iconic images of World War II. What this movie does is tell the story of who they were, what happened to them, and how their overnight celebrity changed them.
Letters From Iwo Jima, 2006. A companion movie to “Flags of Our Fathers” – the story of the Battle of Iwo Jima told through the letters that the Japanese soldiers have written home.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Starring Ken Watanbe.
Written by Paul Haggis and Iris Yamasita.
Scored by Kyle Eastwood.
In World War II, the principal Axis Powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan – three of the most beautiful civilizations in world history. Whatever threat Hitler’s Nazis, Mussolini’s Fascists, and Tojo’s Imperialists posed to world peace (one which, I suspect, was trumped up by their geopolitical rivals, the Soviets, British, and Americans, cf. Pat Buchanan and Peter Hitchens, or Charles Beard and Herbert Hoover), I simply refuse to believe that the highly cultured Germans, Italians, and Japanese were such barbaric enemies. Certainly the rank-and-file soldiers themselves were not fire-breathing, blood-thirsty warmongers, but like men in all wars, just doing their duty when their country called. “Letters From Iwo Jima” is a significant step towards humanizing one of the most-demonized American enemies, about whom crude war propaganda is still widely believed. (Every August 6th, for instance, neo-conservative chickenhawks and other fat-headed jingoists ritually remake the case for vaporizing the city of Hiroshima.)
The score has an authentic Japanese sound – sensitive and minimalistic – and is absolutely haunting, befitting a story about a garrison which was practically killed to the last man. There were parts of the movie where it, literally, moved me to tears.
Apocalypto, 2006. The story of one family’s struggle for survival amid the beginning of the end of Mayan civilization.
Directed by Mel Gibson.
Starring Rudy Youngblood and Dalia Hernandez.
Written by Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia.
Scored by James Horner.
Mel Gibson and Farhad Safinia, who met while the latter was working as an assistant during the post-production of “The Passion of the Christ,” had a mutual love of the action-chase genre. “We wanted to update the chase genre by, in fact, not updating it with technology or machinery,” explained Safinia, “but stripping it down to its most intense form, which is a man running for his life, and at the same time getting back to something that matters to him.” At the same time, they wanted to tell a larger story about the fall of civilization set in Mesoamerica prior to the arrival of Europeans. They believed that the same forces that undermined the Maya – environmental degradation, overpopulation, internecine warfare, political corruption, and socioeconomic inequality – remained as relevant as ever, and wanted to use an ancient culture like the Maya to illustrate, starkly and shockingly, those parallels. As Gibson put it, the 15th-century setting is “merely the backdrop” for “civilizations and what undermines them.” They did not want the movie to be entirely pessimistic, however, and explained that the title (which does not make sense until the final scene) literally means “a new beginning or an unveiling – a revelation.” According to Gibson, “Everything has a beginning and an end, and all civilizations have operated like that.”
“Apocalypto” is remarkable for its authenticity. First, there is a complete absence of CGI effects and sets. The movie was shot entirely on location in the jungles of Veracruz, as well as on a set modeled after the sites of ancient Mayan cities which Gibson and Safinia had visited in the Mirador Basin. The effort that went into creating that cityscape, from the attention to detail in the various domestic and economic structures and materials, to the reconstruction of a plaza with a step-pyramid (modeled after that of Tikal), was monumental. In addition, a team of artists based all of the movie’s costumes, hairstyles, makeup (such as piercings and tattoos), and props on archaeological sources, such as ceramics and murals. Second, the cast is entirely comprised of Indian actors and actresses, almost none of whom had any prior acting experience and relied heavily on Gibson’s skillful directing. Third, just as “The Passion of the Christ” was written in Aramaic, “Apocalypto” is written in Yucatec-Mayan, an obscure indigenous language which is the closest possible approximation of what language the characters would have spoken.
“Apocalypto” is also remarkable for its historical accuracy. Of course, a few historical liberties are taken here and there for dramatic effect, but nothing which misrepresents who the Mayans were and what their world was like. Nevertheless, as is the case for any movie that is not pornography about American slavery or the Holocaust (whoever fact-checked “Roots” or “Schindler’s List”?), the movie was nitpicked to death. Richard Hansen (a professor of Mesoamerican Studies and the historical adviser for “Apocalypto”) defended the movie from criticism, and in a published article argued that while there were a few anachronisms in the movie, the criticisms in question were rooted in “relativism,” “revisionism,” and “aboriginalism” among academics-turned-activists. For instance, while many of these critics claimed that the Maya did not practice ritual sacrifice, Hansen demonstrated that the archaeological and documentary evidence is to the contrary (and that the movie was inaccurate only insofar as it omitted even worse details, such as flaying the corpses for human decoration or butchering the corpses for human consumption). “Apocalypto will be judged in time as a cinema masterpiece, not only in its superb execution of film production, but also as an allegorical reference to the present,” argued Hansen. “The criticisms, which were both accurate and fallacious, will continue to surround this film due to its unique story, the extraordinary setting, the allegorical and metaphorical references, and the various levels of awareness that are inherent in the film regarding the human saga.”
“Apocalypto” begins with a quote by the historian William Durant: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” Likewise, a great man is not conquered from without until he has destroyed himself from within. The summer before “Apocalypto” was released, Gibson was arrested for speeding along the Pacific Coast Highway with an open bottle of tequila in his car. Gibson’s profane, obscene, and above all drunken tirade had been recorded by the police, and when it was leaked to the media it was so humiliating that Hollywood blacklisted him and his wife divorced him. (To learn more about what happened that night, watch his interview with Diane Sawyer.) A few years later, Gibson’s partner claimed that he had been physically and verbally abusive, leaking recordings of the latter that worsened his already ruined reputation. Only recently, after a decade of alcohol-recovery and anger-management therapy, has this immensely talented actor and director begun to make a comeback, with the critically acclaimed and award-winning movie “Hacksaw Ridge.” Unfortunately, Gibson’s public self-destruction simultaneously overshadowed and tainted “Apocalypto,” which did not win many awards and is now out of production – a travesty against this artistic masterpiece.
No Country for Old Men, 2007. A suspenseful tale of hunter and hunted and good and evil, across the ghostly landscape of West Texas.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, and Kelly Macdonald.
Written by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Scored by Carter Burwell.
“No Country for Old Men” is the Coen Bros.’ adaptation of a book of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, thus uniting two of our best modern directors with one of our best modern authors. The movie is also a combination of two distinctive American genres, noir and Western – a Noir-Western. The antagonist, Anton Chigurh (played chillingly by Javier Bardem) is a personification of “Unstoppable Evil” and a demonic “Angel of Death.” He shows no human empathy to those whose lives are in his hands and appears apathetic about the lives that he takes – accordingly, there is nothing sympathetic about him. The protagonist, Llewellyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin) is a morally gray man who, by chance, comes into conflict with very evil men. At first, Moss tries to run from the relentless Chigurh, but chance or fate seems to keep bringing them together, and Moss decides that his only hope of survival is if he hunts the hunter. As Sheriff Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) tracks the trail of blood that they leave, trying to help Moss and stop Chigurh, he becomes increasingly disillusioned along the way. “No Country for Old Men” is an engrossing thriller.
James Rutledge Roesch lives in Florida. He is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, as well as the author of From Founding Fathers to Fire-Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States' Rights in the Old South.