Wednesday, June 30, 2010

10 of the Best Herd Mentality Movies of all Time

I got the idea for this post from the unfortunately titled Linkbait Generator. Though I typed in the words "herd mentality", I would never have thought of this idea on my own.

Which tells you something about why I'm not a successful (i.e., paid) writer - yet.

However, here goes with the content side of it, in no particular order (who am I to judge how people are most herd-y?):

10. Starship Troopers
In some ways, the herd I'm thinking of is the audience, not the characters in the film (though they're a herd, too). I went to see this wonderfully subversive movie, and, while getting caught up in the dumb soap opera that is the human characters' lives, what I didn't do is fall for the militaristic machismo of all the warfighting. On the other hand, the audience was cheering and applauding the whole facist enterprise, apparently forgetting for a moment that the whole thing resembled the Nazi propaganda movie that Tarantino made for Inglourious Basterds.

9. Night of the Living Dead
I'm not talking about the zombies, here. Good ole boys wandering around shooting anything that moves ("in the heead") and then worrying about whether they were alive or dead , maybe, later.

8. 1984
NewSpeak and doubleplusungood thoughts that get you nowhere, and then everyone starts wondering how long we've been at war with EastAsia...

7. Metropolis
Do I have to explain this one? Fritz Lang's ability to make people look like the machines they maintain (operate? feed? have sex with?) is terrifying.

6. Animal House
While widely seen as the ultimate (well, ultimate for the time) kick in the nuts of the Establishment, when one character starts saying "toga - toga - toga - toga" and everyone else joins in - even knowing it will likely get them all booted out of college - it's not the lunatics running the asylum, it's the sheep. And of course, the famous "band unable to turn around" scene because they've been led down a blind alley by someone not their drum-major indicts the other 95% of the crowd. Still one of the funniest films of all of their careers. The fact that Tim Matheson now plays a psychopathic ex-spy on Burn Notice just seems like the natural extension of that character (had he been inducted into the military right out of college, that is).

5. Black Hawk Down
This movie took a lot of critical hits for portraying the Somali fighters as bug-eyed crazies who fought in endless suicide waves to kill the hundred or so American Rangers and Deltas who were simply trying to get the hell out of the middle of Mogadishu with their captives (high-up lieutenants in Mohammed Farah Aidid's militia). If you read Mark Bowden's excellent book of the same name, you realize that perhaps the filmmakers weren't too far off. Doped up on Khat (a local stimulant), these folks believed themselves invincible, and also became erratically energetic, even in the face of large-caliber machine gun fire. After all, we lost 19 guys - they lost over 4,000.

4. The Wizard of Oz
Everyone in this movie is desperately looking for answers (to quote Ulysses Everett McGill). And they will turn to damn near anyone to get them. I know - it's a musical, everyone's supposed to sing together and at the same time. But they let this one doofus take over the whole Emerald City, based upon his ability to project a weird face and use a microphone, and frankly, some of the cheapest smoke effects ever seen outside of a Whitesnake concert. And the moment Dorothy does in the Wicked Witch, all of the Witch's minions turn to Dorothy as their savior. Had no one told them about the "bucket of water" trick?

3. Endangered Species
A little-seen conspiracy theory movie about the infamous cattle mutilations of the 70s and 80s (once the X-files started, no one thought about cattle mutilations anymore). Robert Urich plays a New York cop with a bad temper and a drinking problem, who's dragged his thirteen-year-old daughter on a very long road trip in the family camper to a small town in cattle country. He's paying a visit to an old friend (who also left the mean old "big city") who runs the local paper and has lots of pithy things to say about cows and cattle mutilations. There's lots of neat not-really-sci-fi stuff about testing bio-weapons on cows, and the "black helicopter that makes no noise" thing is done really, really well. All in all, poor cows, and poor people. Oh, and one person spontaneously turns into meat pudding on the side of the road.

2. Triumph of the Will
Ostensibly a documentary about the wonderfulness that was Nazi Germany, Leni Riefenstahl's documentary of the German Heimat prior to the beginning of WWII still resonates for pure imagery, which manages to not devolve into the awful cheesiness the way that so many pro-America movies suffer from, even now. It works, and it shouldn't work. Only thing wrong is still that damned moustache.

1. Life of Brian
This can be summed up by John Cleese's favorite lines: "You must all figure it out for yourselves." "WE MUST ALL FIGURE IT OUT FOR OURSELVES."


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