Many mysteries remain about the nature of the new (improved? or ...?) Hardyville.
Where does that provocative driveway lead, up there west of town? What's up with the improvements to the shooting range? What on earth brought Birkenstockers and Hummer owners here? What's behind all those newly de-cobwebbed storefronts? And especially how on earth did the Hog Trough Grill and Feed end up serving drinkable coffee???
But answers, faithful readers, will have to wait until October and beyond. Because some things don't change; it's time once again for the Hardyville Freedom Film Festival.
Yes, this year there are Priuses and enviro-friendly little velomobiles parked among the pick-up trucks and hay-littered flatbeds outside the Hardyville One-Plex. And this year, perhaps, some attendees have a different idea of what freedom ought to mean. But the festival is still festive and the films still await your vote.
As in previous years, the screenings start September 15, and you have until October 20 to cast your votes for the People's Choice Awards. As we did last year, Wally Conger, BHM webmaster Oliver Del Signore, and yours truly will bang our heads together, argue vehemently, and bestow Judge's Awards (including some special, surprise awards) to be announced November 1.
So watch, consider, and vote for your favorite film in each of the following four categories.
Theatrical or DVD release within the last two years
Good Night, and Good Luck It's venerable journalist Edward R. Murrow and the colleagues of the claustrophobic CBS newsroom against salivating Senator Joe McCarthy in this celebration of the first amendment. So what if it's a gaggle of liberals celebrating the birth of advocacy journalism? We could use a little more advocacy when it's us against the crushing power of government.
Off the Map Not many saw this charming little indy when it first came out. And it's not a "freedom film" in the big, grand sense. But well ... it's about a family of New Mexico back-to-the-landers ca. 1970 and the lost (in several senses) IRS agent who stumbles onto their homestead to inquire why they haven't filed their income taxes lately. Discovering the Land of Enchantment, the IRS agent soon forgets all about his government job.
Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical You've seen the 1930s original (haven't you?). Now laugh your way through the glitzy, glossy musical update. Listen in horror as the Man from the Goverment educates concerned parents about the evils of the Demon Weed. Watch as high-school sweethearts Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane fall inexorably into the web of reefer, sex, violence, sex, and the world's most terrifying case of the munchies.
Syriana What's going on here? It's hard to tell in this fractured, multi-story-line movie. But what's going on is a global struggle for control of Persian Gulf oil -- and thus, the world. Don't waste your time trying to figure out who the good guys are. There are none.
V for Vendetta A terrorist stalks near-future England. But is the real terrorist the man in the Guy Fawkes mask who blows up (empty) government buildings and murders evil-doers? Or is the true terror the fascist control state dominated by the ruthless Chancellor Adam Sutler and his fearsome minions? A film of thought and action by the creators of The Matrix.
America: Freedom to Fascism In this Michael Moore-style documentary, Aaron Russo seeks answers to questions about everything from the legality of the U.S. tax system to the imposition of Big Brother-style national ID. The big question: Why are we losing our freedom? This film is not yet in widespread release, but is showing in select markets. Trailers and information on theatrical showings are available via the above link. (Some people have watched an apparently pirated version online. If you do that, please at least send 10 bucks to Aaron Russo to help cover the cost of producing and distributing the movie.)
The Fog of War: 11 Lessons from the Life of Robert S. MacNamara As Secretary of Defense, Robert Strange MacNamara was a chief architect of the Vietnam War -- though many years later he admitted having serious doubts about it. The Fog of War gives us the aged MacNamara, examining his life in his own words -- charming, personable, frank (within his limits), and as coldly calculating a man as you'd ever not want to meet.
Why We Fight This film is about the current war in Iraq and Americans's views of it, but also about the half-century-plus of war-making and war-thinking that stands behind today's seemingly perpetual warfare. Long before the departing President Eisenhower warned us about the military-industrial complex, the U.S. had already begun a policy of war-making for the benefit of a governmental-corporate elite.
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress It's Chairman Mao's China during the Cultural Revolution. Two prosperous, cultured college students, Luo and Ma, are sent to a beautiful, but terrifyingly remote and deprived mining village to "re-educate" them away from their Western ways. But the boys discover that, with cleverness and the encouragement of an illiterate but ever-curious young seamstress, they can be the real revolutionaries -- revolutionaries of literature, art, and hope.
Downfall Into the bunkers we descend with Hitler, Eva Braun, the Goebbels family, and assorted soldiers, secretaries, and functionaries as they await the fall of Berlin. Bruno Ganz gives a riveting performance as Hitler -- sane, mad, defeated, indefatiguable, sympathetic, loathsome. Around him swirl a dangerous mix of loyalties and betrayals. Some try to save their own skin by betraying their former friends. Other true-believing Nazis can't imagine living in a post-Hitler world. Based on first-person accounts from the bunker and from the final days above-ground in Berlin.
Underground Marko and Blacky are a pair of devil-may-care rogues, more interested in partying than in politics or war. But when the Nazis begin to shell Belgrade, they hatch a plan: Blacky and his friends and neighbors will stay below-ground, manufacturing weapons. Marko and his wife will stay aboveground, selling those weapons. There's just one catch in this surreal, madcap, brass-band of a dramedy: Marko, growing prosperous, fails to tell the underground workers when World War II ends. Fifty years later, they finally become suspicious. But when they emerge into the modern-day remnants of Yugoslavia ... yes, indeed, war is still going on.
HALL OF FAME
Older than 10 years
Metropolis It's the future, and society's "thinkers" live in luxury and privilege, unaware of the machinery -- and the toiling machine tenders -- who make everything work. "Metropolis" tells the fantastic tale of Freder Fredersen, child of privilege, who goes below and discovers the reality. This greatest-of-all silent films has been expertly reconstructed and restored. Its 80-year-old special effects are still grand today. If you've only seen it on VHS or in old art-house versions, do yourself a favor and view it again.
Nixon Anthony Hopkins gives a spot-on re-creation of the rise -- and especially the fall -- of President Richard Nixon in this epic Oliver Stone film. Why include a film about an "imperial president" in a freedom film-fest? To remind us of what freedom isn't, and how lust for power corrupts the soul.
The Battle of Algiers In the late 1950s, Algerians rebelled against their French-colonial masters in one of the bloodiest, most protracted conflicts of that era. This film is a gritty, almost documentary-like account of the struggle for the city of Algiers. Although it has only the scantest storyline and uses mostly untrained actors, it's a veritable manual (and a very even-handed account) of how both an insurgency and a counter-insurgency are conducted.
The Fountainhead Gary Cooper is Howard Roark, a stoical, principled modern architect determined to build only according to is own vision. Patricia Neal is Dominique Francon, wealthy socialite whose frigid exterior masks a complex character. Raymond Massey is Gale Wynand, a newspaper publisher who has sold his own soul to popular opinion, but who is one of the few to appreciate what Roark aims to do. Ayn Rand's own adaptation of her book, the movie isn't easy to understand unless you're familiar with the source material. But it's one of the rare celebrations of individualism to emerge from classical Hollywood.
The Milagro Beanfield War Tiny, hardscrabble Milagro, New Mexico, is hanging on by its teeth. A law that was touted to help bring water to independent farmers has instead been used to deprive them of the right to irrigate their land. Now, with further connivance of crooked politicians, a developer is going to build a luxury development around a new dam. Many locals figure this is their opportunity to get "good jobs" and give up their parched farms. But mechanic/activist Ruby Archuleta and burnt-out lawyer-editor Charlie Bloom know that the locals will never get a fair shake. Then farmer Joe Mondragon accidentally (and illegally) diverts water into his father's beanfield ... and a war of principle (conducted against a background of whimsical charm) is on.
And that's it. Now, watch any of the films you haven't seen, then vote early and often ... well, no, just vote once, please, before October 20. And you'll help determine which of these worthy films gets the 2006 People's Choice Hardy Awards.