Nazis, anti-Nazis, dumb celebrities, movie reviews and atheists! I got it all, this week!
A Nazi sense of humour.
In one of the ironies of our fast-moving times, the opening premise of this 2011 article has already been left in the dustbin of history: as the insane witch-hunting of PewDiePie shows, the one thing we are apparently not allowed to laugh about these days is Nazis. So it might serve the odious inquisitors trying to burn the likes of PewDiePie on the modern stakes to read an article like this, and realise that even the people who actually suffered under and fought real Nazis – as opposed to just people whose political views the regressive left suspect just might slightly diverge from the official dogma – made jokes about Nazis.
It’s one of the most triumphantly successful re-writings of history ever – the myth that the political left, in the lead-up to WWII, were principled pacifists, resolutely opposed to fascism. It’s bullshit, and for all the assiduous, post-War ass-covering by the left, the truth can still be glimpsed. For instance, in H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come, written in 1933, he half-praises fascism as “a bad good thing”. That is, he thought fascism was a good idea in principle that had just gone a bit wrong because of its violent methods and because of Italian fascism’s rapprochement with the Church.
As Ed Driscoll shows here, other icons of the left were also less motivated by principled pacifism than by naked, tribal allegiance to the Soviets in particular, or just left-wing politics in general, all of which amounted to a shocking betrayal of the very liberal democracies which sheltered them. Chaplin’s Great Dictator, for instance, at the time when his home country was fighting for its very survival, ended with a maudlin plea for America not to fight.
Finally, as Ed Driscoll has said elsewhere, Show me one fascist killed by Woody Guthrie’s guitar. Just one…
In may ways, this film never had a chance: Lucas was barely interested, having moved on to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, and its wildly experimental style turned off critics who were hopelessly devoted to the original. When I saw it on its theatrical release, it was paired as the support act for The Nude Bomb, the truly atrocious Get Smart spin-off movie.
No wonder it sank without a trace.
Yet, even at that first viewing, something about it really grabbed me. It stuck in my mind, certainly in a way that The Nude Bomb never did. Clearly it was a much superior movie, even to my fourteen-year-old eyes. So I was surprised, when I looked it up years later, to find that critics hated it. So I watched it again.
Well, I still think my fourteen-year-old self was right. This is a good movie. Not without flaws, of course, but, damn, not the stinker it’s been written off as.
The main criticism of it is that, “it’s unnecessary, we already know how American Graffiti ended”. Well, not all of us – I hadn’t seen American Graffiti in 1979, but it’s a fair bet that many of the audience I saw it with had, and even so, there were audible sighs and gasps at the end. More to the point, we all know how Apollo 13 and Titanic end, too, but that’s not the point – the point is the storytelling, and in More American Graffiti, Bill Norton takes us through the characters’ stories (particularly Toad’s) in a truly engaging fashion.
The other criticism is that its disjointed style is confusing. Well, again, at fourteen I found it perfectly easy to follow. The only thing I didn’t get at fourteen was that the four stories are tracked over four successive New Year’s Eves: ’63, ’65, ’66 and ’67 – but realising that only makes the movie even more interesting, because it’s an excellent device for showing the incredible changes that overtook America in the period. In 1963, everything is still all very Happy Days innocence, but in just a few years, America is wracked by protests and violence.
My personal favourite timeline is the Vietnam story of Terry the Toad, which mixes Catch-22-style black comedy with some convincing battle sequences. If some of these seem like Apocalypse Now cliches today, it should be remembered that More American Graffiti actually came out first. Charles Martin Smith turns in a winning performance as the pugnacious, indefatigable Toad, the everyman loser who just can’t catch a break but still never gives up.
Ron Howard and Cindy Williams also put in an excellent turn as the 60s suburban couple struggling to deal with social change – a glimpse of how Richie and Laurie-Beth from Happy Days probably would have ended up. Their story also serves to underscore the fundamental decency of the much-maligned straight, white American.
All in all, More American Graffiti is a movie that has unfairly suffered by comparison with its famous elder sibling. Call it a Gen-X thing, then, but I’ve always liked it.
Our so-called “elite” seems to be in desperate need of a remedial civics class.
No kiddin’. Remember those idiotic, teary videos of slebs imploring, first voters, then Electors, to reject Donald Trump? Moronic conspiracy theorist Martin Sheen burbles that, “our Founding Fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is to an ’eminent degree and down with the requisite qualifications'”.
Except that they didn’t: Sheen is selectively quoting James Madison in The Federalist Papers, there. What Madison actually says is that the Electors are there to stop a populist with narrow appeal from one state (a Jerry Brown, for instance) overrunning all the other states. As always, the prime role of the Electoral College is to balance the power of populous states against smaller states. So, in 2016, the Electoral College did exactly as its planners designed it to do.
But then, if Martin Sheen was good for anything other than just parroting a script shoved in front of him, he might have realised that. This is why you should stop listening to Hollywood. They don’t know shit.
Not a lot to say on this, except that I agree with pretty much everything this fellow says.
As Philip Pullman says, I’m not a believer, but the Anglican tradition remains an important part of who I am. These are “the customs of my tribe“.
I’ve also, since reading Samuel Huntington, come to realise just how important it is for the West to regain what has begun to be so much of its lost customs and heritage. Increasingly sinking into civilisational ignorance and self-loathing, the West is in grave danger of becoming what T. E. Lawrence, in Lawrence of Arabia, calls “a little people, a silly people“.