I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Written by Paul Laverty
Directed by Ken Loach
Western civilization is nearing its end. Now it could be around for another 100 years or more. I don’t think we’ll see any Roland Emmrich-style explosive finale or Mad Max-ian wastelands ruled by marauders. It’s a sad, pathetic decline where the poor and working people will just be stepped on harder and harder. Cruelty will be further normalized, and society will be conditioned to accept less than crumbs as acceptable. Anyone speaking out who might bring out even a modicum of change will be pilloried and labeled a “hater,” a “traitor,” etc. And you’ll still be expected to keep going to work and paying bills during this collapse. They won’t let a day go by that you aren’t being squeezed like a sponge for all possible labor at the lowest possible wages. The slavery model in American prisons has been quite lucrative.
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Office Space (1999)
Written & Directed by Mike Judge
Somewhere between the toil of blue-collar factory workers and the plush offices of Wall Street investment bros lies the mind-numbing drudgery of office work. Cubicles compose a physical and psychological labyrinth of corporate buzz speak. Inane conversations happen in the breakroom while tiny wars pop up between cubicle neighbors over the music volume or the prevalence of personal decor. Mike Judge was inspired by his time as a temp worker and then some time working in Silicon Valley as an engineer. This led to his Milton short films being featured on MTV’s Liquid Television. The success of Beavis & Butthead opened up new opportunities for the filmmaker, and he took this seed of an idea and transformed it into the cult hit Office Space.
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Wall Street (1987)
Written by Oliver Stone & Stanley Weiser
Directed by Oliver Stone
Oliver Stone is one of those filmmakers I’ve seen many films from but don’t feel I’ve ever dived deep into his work. I remember being hyper-aware of JFK when it was released and then subsequently referenced in comedy across the contemporary landscape of the time. Riding high off the success of Platoon, Stone wanted to write a script with his film school friend Stanley Weiser about the 1950s quiz show scandal. As ideas were tossed back and forth, the film evolved into focusing on Wall Street and the investment boom of the 1980s. The two writers spent weeks observing at a brokerage firm and pulled on their own connections within the tribe of stock bros. Citing inspirations like Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, and the satire of Paddy Chayefsky, they ended up with a script titled Greed, later changed to Wall Street.
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Blue Collar (1978)
Written by Paul Schrader & Leonard Schrader
Directed by Paul Schrader
The American automotive industry was once a significant piece of the national mythos. It was born out of the personal legend-making of Henry Ford and kept growing from there. The conflict between the companies and the unions dragged on for decades, a constant tension between workers & management that came to its fatal end with the election of Ronald Reagan, a nail in the coffin of American union power. This was Paul Schrader’s directorial debut, riding high off the acclaim from his screenplay for Taxi Driver. By the end of Blue Collar’s shoot, the filmmaker would have a nervous breakdown and reconsider his career choices. Fueled by a trio of actors with big egos and a strong dislike for each other, Schrader was at the center of a work that would prove chaotic on many fronts.
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Written & Directed by Robert Bresson
Money is essential for survival in our current system yet is the constant root of many problems. Theft is predicated on taking money from someone or stealing property that can later be sold for money. Homelessness results from not having enough money to afford rent/mortgages. Medical debt continues to explode across the United States. Inflation is driving up the prices of essential goods. As Max Bialystock once said, “Money is honey,” but it’s also a load of shit. Those with money essentially live in a different society from those who do not have it, able to transcend the Law and behave as they please. Those who must toil and labor are slaves to money, never able to take a break from working for more. Robert Bresson was a student of how humanity tortures itself and imposes strictures based on economic class. We saw this in Mouchette earlier this year, as a peasant girl is made to be the object of cruelty for so many.
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I Am Cuba (1964)
Written by Enrique Pineda Barnet & Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
Capitalism is everywhere. In the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, capitalism became the dominant economic ideology on the planet. There are only four communist states: China, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam (North Korea operates under a philosophy of Juche, which while similar in some ways to communism, is not a representation of that system). Capitalist realism became the term to define this post-Soviet era, a play on “socialist realism,” an art style popular during the USSR’s existence. It’s from this constant presence of capitalism in all aspects of life that the phrase “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than an end to capitalism” was coined (attributed to both Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Zizek). So, if capitalism is the all-encompassing economic system of our lives, how is it represented in the media?
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