The Weekend Watchlist - The Social Satire Edition
As is often the case with the best social satire, I’m still processing the recent Sorry to Bother You (you can check out Shelby Cadwell's far more cogent thoughts here) from filmmaker Boots Riley. It goes to uncomfortable places, and often does so in uncomfortable ways. At the same time, it speaks necessary truths about capitalism, race, the media, and ourselves that generally go unspoken – particularly in our popular entertainment. With that in mind (and with the added recommendation to see the above film as soon as possible) this list will focus on some other fantastic satirical films that you can seek out on streaming media this weekend. Some are obviously older than others, but all of them, sadly, remain as relevant as ever.
They Live (1988)
John Carpenter’s sci-fi action film turns thirty this year and remains just as entertainingly funny and critically relevant as ever. Beginning with the premise that humanity has secretly been invaded by an alien race that encodes consumerist messages into every form of media we encounter, the film posits the discovery and revelation of the truth as the way to combat this invasion (oh, and kicking ass helps, too). Sadly, the idea that the truth will set us free has become more dated than the mullet sported by Nada, played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Available to stream on Starz, or to rent on Google Play, Fandango Now, YouTube, iTunes, and in the Microsoft Store.
A time machine is the only plausible explanation for the degree to which screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky and director Sidney Lumet’s film nails the culture of 24-hour news and its effect on our culture and politics. That we, like the hero of the film, newsman Howard Beale (played brilliantly by Peter Finch in his final performance) have been yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” to no avail for the intervening four decades only reinforces the truth of the film.
Available to stream on Film Struck, or to rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Playstation, and YouTube.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
A world on the brink of nuclear devastation, fraught with paranoia, ego, and a stunning lack of recognition of irony. This is the state of things in Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War-era film. Now, take the meek and weak-willed president played by Peter Sellers and replace him with the aggressively stupid tough guy played by George C. Scott, and you have a near-perfect reflection of our own contemporary moment. Enjoy?
Available to stream on Hulu, or to rent on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, Playstation, YouTube, and in the Microsoft Store.
Dear White People (2014)
Remember the first five minutes after Barack Obama was elected when we maybe, kind of, sort of almost convinced ourselves that we were entering a “post-racial” era? Yeah, not so much, particularly as filmmaker Justin Simien demonstrates in his film starring Tessa Thompson, and set at a predominately white Ivy League university.
Available to rent on Google Play, Fandango Now, Vudu, YouTube, iTunes, and in the Microsoft Store.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Actor/Writer/Producer/Director Robert Townsend’s first film is the perfect bridge between the stand-up of Cosby and Pryor in the 60s and 70s, and satirical sketch comedy of Chapelle and Key & Peele in the 2000s. Taking aim at the representation of, and lack of opportunities for, black actors in Hollywood, Townsend documents his own struggles to be seen as more than a ‘gang member’ or ‘slave’ in films.
Available to rent on Google Play, Playstation, iTunes, and YouTube.
Opening in theaters this week (click on the posters for more information)...