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Filmism.net Dispatch August 14, 2012

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This week I'm going to get political. We all know how movies can influence society, if only because so many kids who love them grow up wanting to be film directors, and they make the sort they loved in their formative years (the reason the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson and Edgar Wright are successful directors today).

But in a way that's much more subtle, movies have shaped American policy for the last half century because, as an intensely proud and fierce people, Americans like to see themselves as the John Wayne figure riding bravely off into savage lands and taming them to his will, not taking any shit from the coloured and Godless hordes in the process. Who else have Wayne, The Man With No Name, Arnie and Sly been but the archetypal Marlboro Man frontiersman figure?

But how often does society affect the movies? After September 11, you could write a top ten list of the movies that were hastily rewritten, dropped, changed or quietly dumped in theatres. Whether it was the original Spider-Man trailer or that film with that guy about that thing nobody saw (see what I mean, but witness Arnie's Collateral Damage and Kissing Jessica Stein along with a host of others here), the movie industry responded with respect (or maybe terror all its own).

We saw something similar this week when the studio behind Gangster Squad announced a major reshoot. If you saw the original trailer (hard to find now), it depicted a gang of men shooting through a movie screen into a crowd. There's still a flicker of it in the new official trailer, but as a marketing image it's in very poor taste right now for obvious reasons.

Well, the scene has been pulled from the movie, the original trailer pulled from the interwebs and reshoots are going on right now. It's proof that just as we're watching the screen it's watching us right back, and movies are part of a macrocosm of culture which distorts, feeds off and eats itself in an ever-revolving loop.

Along similar lines, just how do you remake an 80s staple like Red Dawn , now that neither Russia nor Cuba (the aggressors in the original film) are official enemies of the US? The villain in the trailer looks North Korean, and that would be an obvious choice, but I think it's just as likely the invasion force won't be a country but a rogue general or fictional failed state.

We live in politically sensitive times, you see. When an association that represents adopted people demands an apology from Marvel because of the best line in The Avengers (where Thor explains his brother Loki's lust for power by saying 'he's adopted'), you can get sued for anything if there's some interest group hoping for some media traction.

And now America's spent most of its money killing of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, there aren't many countries left with the will or resources to invade it, not like the geopolitically paranoid 1980s...

While we're talking about politics, what better time to look back on the best political movie of recent history, Oliver Stone's JFK.

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