Every July sophisticates from around the world flock to Hardyville.
They pour in from as far away as Billings, Casper, even Pocatello. They arrive dressed to the nines in their brand new Carhartts and Oshkosh B'Goshes, wheeling up in well-polished pickup trucks. It's truly a glittering sight.
The event that brings them is, of course, the famous Hardyville Freedom Film Festival.
When the festival first began, there were many doubters. "Would the world come to the middle of nowhere to watch movies?" some asked. Well, if they'd put up with TSA airport screeners to go to France to see Michael Moore at Cannes, then why not make a drive to Hardyville - which has the added attraction of encouraging them to keep their pistols and pocketknives? Getting them here: Not a problem.
The more difficult question was, "How the heck do you have a film festival in a town that has exactly one one-plex, and that only opens on Friday and Saturday nights (Closed During Hunting Season and Whenever Else the Owner Feels Like It)?"
Our answer to that: DVD.
All the films in The Hardyville Freedom Film Festival are available to rent or buy and watch at home. And because ours is a DVD-based festival, nominees can be from any era - as long as they promote freedom and individual responsibility, portray resistance to authority, or otherwise celebrate liberty.
You can watch the nominated films in the privacy of your own living room. AND you - yes, you -- can vote for your favorites in the Hardyville Freedom Film competition - better known as the Hardies.
This year we'll be giving a Judge's Award and a Free Peoples' Choice Award in each of six categories. YOU get to decide who wins the Hardies.
The nominees are below. You have until August 20 to cast your votes. Just watch any of the movies you haven't already seen (or re-watch ones you've gotten hazy on), then come back and make your choices.
The results will be announced in the September 1, 2004 Hardyville column. Now ... grab your popcorn and go!
THE NOMINEES ARE
In our six categories ...
We separated blockbusters from all other films because we didn't want to pit $200 million epics against more modest, less known, but possibly equally freedom-oriented flicks. So the big boys compete only with each other.
Braveheart. Mel Gibson's gut-wrenching cry of "FREEEEEEEDOM!!!" caps an epic depiction of bloody battles and the treachery of nobles and kings.
The Lord of the Rings. Certainly one of the greatest technical achievements in movie history, this three-part epic answers the question, "What do you do with unlimited power?" You destroy it, of course, no matter the personal cost.
The Matrix. "What is the Matrix?" And do we live in something like it today? Swallow the red pill and learn the truth (while also enjoying some astonishingly cool fight sequences)...
Spider-Man. Some members of the nominating panel wondered whether Spider-Man was really a freedom film, since Spidey battles freelance bad guys, not governments. But it qualifies because of its core message - with great power comes great (individual) responsibility. Spidey doesn't dial 911 and wait for government help, even when he feels like an overwhelmed kid who'd rather get on with his life.
X2: X-Men United. Universally aclaimed as better than its predecessor, X2 is also more explicitly freedom oriented, as the mutants battle for their very existence against evil rogue government powers.
Liberty-loving films at least 25 years old.
A Man for All Seasons. This would be a great film even if it weren't true. The fact that it's history makes it truly awesome. Sir Thomas More (later St. Thomas More) risks his neck to stand for principle against King Henry VIII, even though the king is his friend and benefactor. (Warning: This film contains not a single car chase; it's mostly people talking about ideas.)
Death Wish. Is it "civilization" when people passively wait for government to take care of crime? One man, played by crag-faced hero Charles Bronson, says no, and famously sets about eliminating evildoers on his own.
The Great Dictator. Charlie Chaplin speaks - as both the dictator Adenoid Hynkel and an innocent Jewish lookalike. As powerful (and as funny) today as when it was released in 1940.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Randle Patrick McMurphy, petty criminal, decides a mental hospital will be a "softer" place than jail to do his time. When he gets there, he finds himself caught in a terrible web of authority and submission - and he has one wonderfully rabble-rousing time inciting rebellion in his fellow patients.
Spartacus. Stanley Kubrick's epic saga based on ancient historical events. A vagabond slave-army led by ex-gladiator Spartacus threatens the sovereignty and power of the entire Roman Empire.
Freedom-promoting dramas of recent years.
Enemy of the State. An ordinary American man accidentally receives a video that incriminates a high government official. Instantly, the omnipresent - and ruthless - power of the surveillance state turns on him to ruin his life.
The Magdalene Sisters. Another film based very closely on history. In Ireland, for nearly 100 years, young girls could be locked into brutal slave-labor "asylums" for anything from having a baby out of wedlock to merely being too flirty. Unless a family member came to spring them, they might never get out again. This is the story of three girls who survive with their spirits intact.
Pleasantville. Two modern teenagers are flung into their favorite 1950s TV series by a magical remote control. The values and choices they bring with them gradually color the once black-and-white world.
Rabbit-Proof Fence. So many of this year's nominations draw their power from true stories. This is one of them. For many years, Australia had a policy of forcibly ripping half-breed children from their Aboriginal homes and training them to live in white society as servants. Three little girls decide to escape from a training school and walk home - 1500 miles home.
The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne has led a soft life - until he finds himself in prison for murder. There he turns out to have a core of steel, endless determination, patient wits, one great friend - and one great hope.
CONTEMPORARY COMEDIES/FAMILY FILMS
Recent films that lightly uplift the heart and maybe bring a smile to the lips.
A Home of Our Own. A down-on-her luck mother (played by the awesome Kathy Bates) with a brood of unruly kids decides that poverty and hard knocks will not stop her family from having its own home. And they're going to create their house the hard way - through individual responsibility and dedicated work - no handouts accepted.
Chicken Run. It's The Great Escape, cartoon style. Led by newcomer Rocky, the hens must escape from the prison-like chicken farm before Mrs. Tweedy turns them into pies.
Holes. Geeky teenager Stanley Yelnats, a loser from several generations of losers, gets sent to a youth prison camp in the middle of Texas for a crime he didn't commit. There he and his fellow inmates are ordered by the conniving and cruel warden (Sigourney Weaver) to dig huge holes every day. It's supposedly a character-building exercise. But things aren't as they seem. Authority has its own motives and Stanley has a lot of growing to do.
Secondhand Lions. An adolescent boy is dumped on his eccentric great uncles' farm by his slutty, avaricious mother. The uncles have just returned after a decades-long absence. They're rumored to have millions in stashed cash. "Find the money," Mother orders. But young Walter and his uncles find much, much more than that - and keep viewers laughing and smiling with new delights.
Spirited Away. A whiny, frightened 10-year-old finds herself in a magical bathhouse that serves Japanese gods (or spirits). Helped by a mysterious young man, she must work hard and keep her real identity in her heart if she is to have a hope of finding her way home. This Japanese anime (dubbed in English and released in the U.S. by Disney) may be one of the most beautiful ever created.
Don't let the subtitles stop you.
Camila. Again, based on a true story - and a story the Argentine government sought to suppress for decades. A beautiful young socialite and a Jesuit priest fall in love and run off together. Church and state pursue them relentlessly. Their love is seen not merely as wrong-headed, but as a fundamental threat to institutional control. (Spanish with English subtitles)
Lagaan. The Hardyville nominating committee never imagined they would be praising a nearly four-hour-long Bollywood musical about the game of cricket. But indeed they are. It's also the story of a tax revolt and a gentle cross-cultural love triangle. Starring the magnetic Indian phenomenon, Aamir Kahn. (Hindi with English subtitles)
Pelle the Conqueror. A movie about America that takes place entirely in nineteenth-century Denmark. Little Pelle and his father migrate from Sweden, expecting to find the land of milk and honey. Instead, they find backbreaking labor and cruelty (and some truly unique characters) on the Kongstrup's farm. Their love and Pelle's spirit - and his dream of taking a ship to America -- carry them through all. (Danish with English subtitles)
SCIENCE FICTION (ANY ERA)
Filmmakers often sneak freedom messages into SF that they couldn't get away with in more "serious" movies. The SF genre is filled with liberty-loving messages. Unfortunately, it's also filled with a lot of real turkeys that substitute pizzaz or atmosphere for good storytelling - which is why you won't find some recent popular favorites like Equilibrium and Minority Report among our nominees. But you will find some choice classics.
Fahrenheit 451. Books are banned. Firemen set fires - of reading material. The populace is drugged, numbed, and complacent, getting its opinions and entertainment from interactive TV. But one fireman becomes enthralled by the books he's supposed to be destroying. From the famous Ray Bradbury tale.
Gattaca. In a world where genetics determine destiny, is there any way for a "defective" man to achieve grand dreams? Yes, with much risk and a little help from his friends.
The Lathe of Heaven (1980). George Orr's dreams can change reality. He falls into the hands of a psychologist who discovers that fact and decides to use George's dreams to end war, poverty, racism, and overpopulation. An object lesson in the unintended consequences of trying to force reform upon the world. (Note: our nominee is the classic 1980 made-for-PBS movie, not the more recent version.)
Logan's Run (1976). It's a world of pure pleasure and self-indulgence - until you reach 30. Then you report to the carousel to be "reborn." Logan is a sandman. His job is to catch those few who try to run away from their fate ... until one day he has to make a run for it himself. The special effects are laughable by today's standards. Watch it for the story.
Tremors. In the misnamed desert town of Perfection, Nevada, something creepy is underfoot - literally. Huge, smelly, deadly worm-like creatures rampage under the ground, coming up only to devour everything in sight. Isolated, the townspeople and a couple of roving jacks-of-all-trades must battle the monsters all by themselves. Lots of laughs, lots of weapons going boom in the hands of free individuals - and a survivalist couple save the day.
And that is it. The 2004 Hardyville Freedom Festival nominees. Enjoy - and VOTE before August 20, 2004.
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