The libertarian film festival


The United States may be a new nation, conceived in liberty, but does Hollywood know it? From the archives of TCM to the blood-soaked streets of Mel Gibson's Jerusalem, movies are all about higher callings, collective purpose, causes greater than our own selfish interests. The typical Humphrey Bogart picture inevitably ends with the iconic loner's throwing in with the team for the good of all. For the vast majority of Old West emigrants, going west was about making money and not having to deal with other people, but you'd never know that from old-school westerns (where it's all about establishing law and order) or revisionist westerns (where it's all about crimes against humanity). As for films that actually praise capitalism or the free market, well, what are you, Old Man Potter?

Here's what I've come up with for a libertoid film festival. Your own suggestions are, of course, welcome.

Singin' In the Rain: Maybe a few biopics about famous inventors give a favorable view of scientific progress, but this is the only movie I know of (science fiction included) where a technological breakthrough—in this case, the invention of talkies—solves the protagonists' problems and leads to a happy ending.

Sometimes A Great Notion: Bad Ken Kesey novel makes a bad Paul Newman film, the big screen's only known celebration of the strike-breaking scab as rugged individualist.

Anything John Milius is involved with: In Red Dawn, all civil and social authorities cave in to the invading Russians, and it's left to the hunky brat pack militia to fight for America's freedoms. In Big Wednesday, draft-dodging surfers are lionized. In Conan, the Milton Friedman-quoting future governor of California seeks mainly to be left alone by all authority figures. And so on.

The Hudsucker Proxy: Many will object to the presence of leftwing actor Tim Robbins, but the scene in which the Hula Hoop is introduced into the market is the most succinct explanation of Relative Value on celluloid.

The Maltese Falcon: In the eyes of Sam Spade, cops, robbers, partners and women are all equal. Though the idea that Mary Astor's pinched Brigid O'Shaughnessy is an irresistible knockout will seem quaint to modern audiences, Bogart's last-minute abandonment of her is a wonderful rejection of Hollywood piety. Sadly, Casablanca came along the next year, establishing the Bogartian change of heart as moviedom's favorite plot device.

Yojimbo and its various derivatives: Toshiro Mifune's plague-on-both-your-houses struggle for survival is not only the last word on existential cool, but a disgusted condemnation of states and factions.

The Castle: An Australian bloke comedy I've never seen but surmised (from the trailer) is about a family battling an eminent domain action against their house.

Lost In America: Horrible, horrible freedom! Albert Brooks' greatest movie is in one way a study in the impossibility of finding freedom in modern society. But it also has the courage to ask, "You couldn't change your life on a hundred thousand dollars?" Bonus: The most sensible character in the picture is Garry Marshall's unflappable casino manager.

La Muerte de un bur?crata (Death of A Bureaucrat): Great slapstick from a dissident Cuban filmmaker. Inevitably, an IMDb commenter from California sees this satire of bureaucracy in Castro's paradise as really being about the United States. (Thanks to Jesse Walker for the suggestion.)

Ghostbusters: "I've worked in the private sector; they expect results." Laid-off goldbricks launch a successful startup business—until the EPA steps in! Forget Wall Street: This is the Reagan era's greatest celebration of the free market.