American Dreamz (2006): The masses have rejected the serious—or allegedly serious—films made about our current stints in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. (For example, In the Valley of Elah , Lions for Lambs , Redacted ) Alas, they’ve been only slightly kinder to films that tried to wrap the same issues in the coating that is genre. No one saw Paul Weitz’s too-on-the-nose lampoon of our crazy times, with Dennis Quaid and Willem Dafoe as obvious George W. Bush and Dick Cheney stand-ins and terrorists infiltrating our soil by becoming contestants on an American Idol knockoff starring Hugh Grant.
The Marine (2006): Iraq vet John Cena returns home only to have to fuck up baddies. Imagine The Deer Hunter as reconceived by Sean Hannity.
The Kingdom (2007): The big test for how Iraq would play with movie-goers was this: An $80 million action movie set in Saudi Arabia with big, friendly names (Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) and a mid-film showstopper set piece. Alas, it only grossed half of its budget.
The Hurt Locker (2009): For only $11 million, Kathryn Bigelow directed the shit out of this absurdly intense IED-disposal thriller. So far it’s grossed only slightly more than its budget, despite all the awards and chatter, and despite being, at least in terms of its setting, largely apolitical. Change a couple details and it could be a period piece about the Gulf War.
In the Loop (2009): Turning a pretty good profit for a topical movie—$2.3 million domestically!—this hilariously profane British quote machine retells the lead-up to the Iraq War as it probably happened, only with more mentions of “lubricated horsecocks.”
Green Zone (2010): Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass have been here before: The Bourne Ultimatum is stunningly unsubtle about its disdain for Bush Administration policies. Regardless, execs are reportedly sweaty about this $150 million retelling of the search for bullshit WMD, despite still technically being a Bourne-esque ass-kicking actioner. Prove them. wrong, masses. Prove. Them. Wrong. ■
Shirley Temple: As the myth goes, America was brought out of—or at least sufficiently coddled during—the Great Depression by Shirley Temple. Audiences were less interested in such frivolity as WWII loomed—good timing, since Temple had by then gone into double digits. The 1940s featured sporadic appearances, most notably (and uneasily) as a teen in love with Cary Grant in 1947’s The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer . By 1950 she was retired; today she is 81. Jodie Foster: The poster child for career success at all ages, Foster began acting in commercials and innocuous kiddie fare at age 3. At 14—the same year as...
Overly unusual protagonists and the requisite miserable Swedish locations aside, this is standard detective stuff.
Deep underneath this over-stuffed but relentlessly light farce lies fucked-up, near-Bergman-esque turmoil.
Another great Italian neo-realist weepie from Vittorio De Sica—who had already given the world Shoe-Shine and Bicycle Thieves —this tale finds an old genetleman (Carlo Battisti) so impoverished he seeks to off himself.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely