Just like my ipod, which appears to have carefully trained itself to shuffle like an effortless radio show, my Netflix cue is starting to tell the future. Or so its' prescient charms are leading me to believe...
This week I watched two films that are frighteningly contemporary in their subtext and declaration of attitude. Idiocracy by Mike Judge is supposed to be just a fluff of a comedy about below-average types Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph conned into an absurd year-long cryogenics experiment, but instead wake up 500 years later to find themselves the smartest people in the dumbest country. The sharp jab to the jaw came in its frightening dead on commentary of where we could be heading, post November 4th. Will we end up with a President who has a highly evolved sense of what needs to be done to undo the damage of the past 8 long, dumb years or will we end up with a family in the White House that includes a teenage mother married to a high school dropout? In short: breed, smart people, breed!
The second and more unlikely crystal ball of a film was Privilege by Peter Watkins. We forget, us Yanks, that life in the post-World War II UK wasn't all skiffle and hob-nob biscuits. Due to leftover physical devastations life didn't return to normal for many years. These years produced an entirely new generation of culture, profoundly affected by the post war years, but often uniquely un-affected by the fighting of the war itself. I watched the crowd scenes in Privilege, full of screaming Beatlemania-style adoration, and wondered what it was like as a war vet watching Britain's mod youth overcome with zombie-like affection for pop music. Paul Jones plays a pop godhead who has an odd narrative wrapped around his performances, inciting empathy for his plight and unfailing devotion from his followers. This is all mighty calculated by the Mister Big types to keep youth un-interested in politics, so the old white men can have their moneyed way. Sound familiar? Jean Shrimpton, playing a skewed modern hybrid of the EVE role, incites free thinking and throws a wrench in the smooth sailing of totalitarianism, blindsiding the fascism muddled with religion express. Hinting at the continued class-ism of post war England, pop culture appears as a tonic for the lack of opportunity and change once promised and never made good on in reality.
This film got me thinking of some of the other films I have seen from this generation that so blithely mix pop criticism with sass and style. Dudley Moore and Peter Cooke make the underworld a metaphor for the supposed easy life in Bedazzled. Tony Richardson reminds us how the dark inner parts of our soul, fabricated under society's oppression, manage to leek out into the light in Mademoiselle. And even a light romp like The Knack...and How to Get It buries potent commentary behind the merry lifestyle blunderings. Come November 4th, I hope my watching of Idiocracy was more science fiction than fortune telling.