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Human Rights Law

: Never In Our Names

Cineman: Crashing The Gates

By blueness

("Cineman" was the head for several film-review columns I wrote for several different publications over the years. Am reviving it here for occasional forays into the world of film.)

A friend of mine is currently embroiled in a conflict with Authority. As often happens in the course of such conflicts, he has fantasized about piloting a motor vehicle through the front window of the headquarters of said Authority.

This led me to muse a bit about memorable scenes in cinema of people who reach a breaking point and so set about physically assaulting the edifi of Authority.

Problem is, after a lifetime of deep immersion in film, I've recently fallen out of the cinematic loop--haven't been to a theater in more than a year, not much better in watching DVDs. As a result, I guess, my filmic memory has pretty much evaporated. So my offerings below are pretty meager, even embarrassing. I'm sure you-all can do better in the comments. ; )  
White Line Fever
This is a hideously bad movie, but one of the first to leap to mind, mostly because I watched it so many times. Why? Because in my younger days I lived way up in the mountains with a B&W TV that accessed but a single station, one that late-nights would broadcast a revolving series of about 40 old movies and TV episodes. Because I had not yet weaned myself from either television or marijuana, I and my partner found ourselves watching some pretty hideous things multiple times. White Line Fever was one of them.

In this goofy hoot, Jan-Michael Vincent portrays a Vietnam vet who comes home from the wars jist wantin' ta make a honest' livin' as a long-haul trucker-man. Problem is, corporate snakes have infested the trucking game, and they make life plumb miserable for Our Hero. Eventually, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and so a beaten and torn Vincent is compelled to drive his semi through the home of the Chief Baddie, who conveniently enough lives in a place called The Glass House, so that the final conflict, filmed in slo-mo, can feature lots and lots and lots of flying glass. White Line Fever also offers some good ham from two veterans of the Sam Peckinpah repertory company, L.Q. Jones and Slim Pickens.

George C. Scott, having raked in the dough acting, decided to try his hand at directing "personal projects." The first such project was Rage, inspired by a real-life military mishap. Scott plays an Arizona rancher whose sheep, son, and very own self are inadvertently sprayed by bad chemicals. The sheep keel right over, while Scott and son are shuffled off to a hospital. The son soon dies; Scott, being Scott, manages to get to The Truth. Rather than just waste away in the hospital, as The Powers intended, he escapes, and, in the few days left to him, determines to Wreak Vengeance on those who Wronged him. He succeeds in plowing his vehicle into the poison-brewing facility that concocted his death, then blows it straight to hell; his body gives out as he is preparing to do the same to the military base that ordered up and sprayed the poison. A typical example of 70s cinema: the bad guys win.

(Scott in his personal pursuits eventually broke the bank with The Savage Is Loose, a fairly disturbed howler about incest. Scott and his wife played a couple stranded for some years on a deserted island with their young son. Junior eventually grows up, and decides he wants a taste of mommy. A typically brutal review by a typically bad critic can be found here. Recalled Scott: "I also produced the film, and I distributed it myself, too. I lost my ass on that picture; there were all kinds of lawsuits.")

Article 99
In this little-seen 1992 film, the aggrieved seize the edifice of authority, rather than obliterate it. A seething cabal of veterans and Good Doctors, both of whom have had it up to here with insipid regulations and substandard care, take over a VA hospital and demand that the government start Behaving Decently. Because this is a '90s film, rather than a '70s film, it ends in Hope, rather than Despair.

Hearts And Minds
This documentary includes scenes of what is to me one of the most bleedingly eloquent rejections of authority to occur in my lifetime: a gathering of Vietnam veterans outside the gates of the White House, throwing over the fence the medals they had "won" for their service in the United States military. One of those veterans says he will never again follow commands, never again pick up a gun, unless, nodding towards the White House, it becomes necessary "to take these steps."

Do The Right Thing
In a satisfying complicated scene from Spike Lee's satisfying complicated Do The Right Thing, Lee's character, Mookie, sets off a little riot in Bedford-Stuyvesant by tossing a garbage can through the plate-glass window of Sal's Famous, his place of employment. Police had responded to a fracas inside Sal's, involving the Italian proprietors, and a pair of locals who'd decided that since Sal's was situated in a black neighborhood, there should be some black faces in the photo gallery up on the wall, rather than just Italians. Responding NYC police, as responding NYC police will do, manage to choke to death one of the locals. As the police pull away with the body, Mookie, caught between his abashed employers and his increasingly agitated neighbors, contrives to "do the right thing," by stepping away from the former and towards the latter, emptying a trash can in the street, and then hurling it through the window. Bedlam ensues.

Taxi Driver
An example of the sort of bunged-up dumb-foolery that can occur when froot loops set out to confront authority. A barking mad cabbie determines he needs to assassinate a senator and presidential candidate; he believes this man to be somehow responsible for his failure to successfully woo a woman. Frustrated by senatorial security, the cabbie instead shoots up a seedy brothel, and is hailed as a hero for rescuing a child from prostitution. This film almost immediately bled over into real life, when Texas nutso John Hinckley, seeking to impress the young woman who played the child prostitute in the film, Jodie Foster, wandered up to Washington DC and proceeded to fire bullets at and into President Ronald Reagan.

So that's the best this creaky old memory can do, at least for the moment.

Mister Senor Love Daddy, dj and proprietor of "the cool-out corner" in Do The Right Thing, offers a lot of fine lines, and I'll close with a few of them, uttered the morning after:

My people. My people. What can I say? Say what I can. I saw it but I didn't believe it. I didn't believe it what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?


Full post as published by Never In Our Names on May 23, 2009 (boomark / email).

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