When electing officials to public office, how do you measure integrity? There are two candidates in play. One of them has been unfaithful to their spouse, and it has become common knowledge. The other let a woman to drown and die, but nobody knows.
A vote for candidate one is an implicit vote on marital infidelity. A vote for candidate two seems, on the surface, the better choice, but now you have given the keys to the city to a murderer. Is cheating worse than being a coward? If both candidates are liars, who lies more often? The questions this produces can be never ending.
When talking about integrity and politics we should be careful not to fall into the trap of surface level discussions, and consider that public officials are rarely the ideal of the man and women we should be aspiring to become.
There’s a troubling fad sweeping through the Western world: an abnormal habit of tying everything up to politics. In almost every review I read of Darkest Hour, authors were either comparing Churchill to the sitting American president, or using his achievements as a springboard from which to attack his policies. I understand many social causes are very dear to people’s hearts, and politics is the one arena they believe they can use to enact change. But I don’t care for them in my movies. Let me just watch a solidly crafted picture of a story well told, politics be damned.
Sometime last year I made a commitment to only read pieces and articles that did not feature any mention of Donald Trump. I was sick of any coverage, good, bad, and wanted to take a break. It proved more difficult than anticipated, as writers were sticking the man in everything from lasagna recipes to box office reports. After about a month, I gave up. I just clicked on less features.
But now we’re having full blown movies that reference the president. It makes reading reviews of The Post very problematic. I hope this stops, but I fear it’s only going to increase, Hollywood making very clear where the industry stands in terms of politics. Which is fine. I just would like to spend two hours lost in stories that don’t reference contemporary American politics, because I already get that in my cereal.
There have been thousands, if not millions, of words poured across the decades in an attempt to decipher Adolf Hitler’s mind. Adding any more to the conversation would be superfluous, unless I felt I had something fresh to bring to it.
There is one thing I will say, however, and that is in regards to Hitler’s followers. For the duration of this great film, and throughout my college history courses, I asked: “How could so many people follow this fool? Truly it would not happen in this day and age.”
But then I looked around me. I saw religious leaders endorse political players who do not display Biblical virtue; I saw adherents to an ideology validate violence in the name of freedom.
Is this is the new norm now, why would it have been any different back then, when societal conditions were much worse?
We did not watch the original because our professor said this remake was more “diverse”.
I have two theories on why there’s not that many pictures like Syriana hitting the multiplexes anymore.
The first one is that it is too challenging a mainstream picture, requiring the audiences undivided attention from first to last. And even then it might prove a little bit tricky to unpack. For a generation raised on the instant gratification of social media, keeping up with the disparate plot lines might prove frustrating, or worse, boring.
The other theory is that, for being a movie backed by a major studio, it is entirely disheartening, possessing such a bleak outlook on modern world politics as to make the most hardened cynic blush. You go out of the movie feeling insignificant, a mere pawn in the game of thrones that only millionaires and politicians are allowed to partake in.
On the surface, Taylor Sheridan’s American Frontier trilogy pits an unstoppable force versus an unmovable object. In Sicario, the feds scrambled to put an end to the cartels; in Hell or High Water, a pair of deep Texas brothers were holding out the bank branches that were responsible for taking away their land, and that of the rest of the territory; in Wind River, the most emotionally engaging of the three, a tracker hunts down the murderers who prey on the most weak and vulnerable.
Diving deeper into them, one encounters a trilogy that paints a dire portrayal of America, the one not featured in postcards and pop songs, the one that could very well be a million miles away from the metropolis that dictate the rules of the land. I already wrote at length on this after watching Hell or High Water, a picture that elucidates part of candidate Donald Trump’s massive voter appeal, so even though I am tempted to do so with Wind River and its depiction of snow and solitude encroaching upon the lives of Native Americans, I must refrain.
This leaves me with praising the film’s dreary atmosphere and its unrelenting suspense. Sheridan`s world is a lawless one, in which danger lurks around every corner. This only makes the Mexican standoff near the end of the movie one of the most pulse pounding sequences of its kind I can recall.
And of course, as mentioned above, it is the most emotionally involving.
The ending of Sicario is deeply cynical, and the one to Hell or High Water offers a small bit of satisfaction. Wind River is by far the saddest of the bunch, offering a view of life where the wicked triumph, where pleasures are few and small in between, and where justice may only truly be imparted if we take matters into our hands.
A despairing thought that pops into my mind every so often has to do with the plague of violence that has been overrunning my country for over a decade now. My nation, which shall remain unnamed, harbors similar social and financial conditions as to those displayed in City of God. As the camera cut from one subject to the next, unrelenting in its energy, I had that thought again.
It goes like this. I do not think that the violence and crime epidemic of my country will ever go away because it is much easier to point a gun at someone and steal a pair of shoes in a matter of minutes, than it is to work five times a day for a meager salary in order to afford one.
More than any other movie that I can remember, and probably because it was made in Latin America, where the devils they fight are much more different than the demons of the United States, City of God perfectly illustrates the culture of death and corruption that is so ingrained in our poor, destitute nations.
One of the passages of Scripture that I keep coming back to again and again is Genesis 18:25. “Will not the judge of all earth do what is right?” It is the trump card Abraham plays when trying to get Him to spare Sodom and Gomorrah; God agrees, of course.
I bring this up because one of the talking heads in Last Days in Vietnam says they had no way of knowing whether the refugees that were being airlifted out of Saigon were deserving of rescue. They were just doing the best they could.
When I think that justice on a massive scale is impossible, it’s because there is no way of gauging every individual human experience. For instance, the Vietnamese ransacked the embassy once they realized the Americans had betrayed them and left them behind. They could not know how the Americans were risking career, and in some cases even life, to get as many locals out as they could.
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong side to this scenario, but then where is justice? Both sides have equally valid and weighty arguments, so what gives?
Multiply that on a global scale and you see what I mean when I talk of the nonexistence of justice. It is not pure bleak and despair, however. Since believers in the resurrection know that the judge of all the earth will eventually do what is right, we can rest and do the best we can, for ourselves and others.
Most regular folk, regardless of political affiliation, would love to stand before congress and bravely denounce how broken the current political system is. And I am not only talking about American politics; I have a feeling citizens of all over the world would love to take this opportunity, if presented to them.
So I forgave the 11th hour speech on “democracy is broken”, masterfully delivered by Madeline Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), before a Senate panel committee. It is cliche to the point of cringe, it is right before the plot takes a turn to the extremely silly, but heck if it ain’t noble.
In times such as these, we could definitely use more of that.