It's time to reinvent this sporadically updated column for the new year. Rather than posting random, barely-contextualized oddities, I'm going to use this as a forum to talk about what I actually devote a huge chunk of time to doing: finding clips to use in Alamo Drafthouse preshows! If you've never been to an Alamo Drafthouse before let me explain what a preshow is. At most theaters if you show up before the movie starts you're subjected to a barrage of aggressively stupid advertisements and condescendingly asinine content like "The Twenty". Not at the Drafthouse. We never show any sort of outside advertisement beyond our own monthly promo montage and a handful of trailers. Instead, before each show we run a 45 clip reel tailored specifically for the movie you're about to see. Sometimes it's a yuk-fest of viral insanity and forgotten VHS oddities, sometimes it gives context and background to the feature, and sometimes it slowly draws you into the world of movie to create just the right atmosphere for an immersive cinematic experience. Other times it's just some forgettable video wallpaper, but I try!
My new plan for this column is to choose one movie each week and share some of the clips I've chosen for the preshow. Let's start it off with The Iron Lady, which expands nationwide this week.
I suspect that most readers of this site are at least somewhat familiar with who Margaret Thatcher was. The extremely conservative Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 to 1990, she fought against Labour and unions, went to war against Argentina over the Falkland Islands on a matter of pride and generally moved the British government further right than many ever thought possible. Her rule was perceived to be borderline Totalitarian and Fascist and inspired a lot of the punk music and protest songs of the 80s. It was an imagined future of Thatcher's England that Alan Moore was extrapolating in V For Vendetta. I included V's rousing Guy Fawkes speech from the movie in my preshow.
Despite governing with an abhorrent political philosophy, it's not hard to see why she was beloved by those who supported her views. She actually had a sense of humor, for one thing. Check out this clip where she references Monty Python's dead parrot sketch. Maybe I would have liked George Bush more if he had made more Mr. Show references.
One go-to show I use a lot for preshows whenever the movie is vaguely British is Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris' The Day Today. It's a fake news program that reaches levels of dark satire that the The Daily Show never even attempts. I thought this excerpt about the firing of public servants fit well with the Thatcher theme.
Finally, I want to take a second to recommend the entire works of archivist and documentarian Adam Curtis. I included in the preshow an excerpt from his 6-part series Pandora's Box: A Fable From The Age of Science that talks about the failures of the economic theory of Monetarism in 1980's Engalnd. When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 she tried to tighten the money supply and lower inflation by completely gutting government spending and massively raising interest rates. Curtis's documentary examines what a complete failure this policy was, ending in job-loss and a steep decline of industry. It sounds like it might be dry viewing, but it's not. Adam Curtis worked for many years as the head archivist at the BBC and builds dense cinematic collages around his engrossing political, historical and philosophical stories. He is a filmmaker of the highest caliber, comparable to Sergei Eisenstein, Chris Marker and Peter Watkins. A great starting point for his work is The Century of the Self, his series about "how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." It traces the parallel paths of advertising, consumerism and representative democracy in the 20th century. In my opinion his real masterpiece is It Felt Like A Kiss, a meticulously edited juxtaposition of history and pop music.
"The politics of our time are deeply embedded in the ideas of individualism...but it's not the be-all-and-end-all...the notion that you only achieve your true self if your dreams, your desires, are satisfied...it's a political idea." - Adam Curtis
Watch this man's movies. Please! They are (almost?) all available on archive.org. My recommendation of them is unqualified. Also go see The Iron Lady and if you get to see it at the Drafthouse, appreciate the Thatcher-heavy preshow. I'll be back next week to talk about the Haywire preshow or maybe Red Tails. Or Underworld? Less politics though, I promise.