Five Satire Films to Watch This Month
Because Holiday Films Are Overrated
Instead of watching Home Alone for the umpteenth time, I say we take a trip down memory lane and fire up some witty, inventive, and even thought-provoking staples in the satire genre. Here are five well-known features across the decades that deserve the spotlight in your personal cinema.
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
As with all forms of acting, part of having clever and entertaining writing in any given production is being able to deliver that dialogue through engaging vocal expressions and elaborate body language. But what’s noteworthy about Strangelove is that despite the supposedly serious premise and roles—a political commentary on the Cold War and its key players, the U.S. and Russia—the humour is actually rooted in that attempted seriousness. All the actors are completely immersed in this arm’s race, to the point where they seem absolutely convinced that they can actually succeed in deterring the other side from declaring nuclear war. That won’t stop you from knee slapping though, because the comically exaggerated cigar smoking, gum chewing and facial gestures will remind you that the entire motive is to be counterproductive to deterrence anyway.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Join King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they horse around on foot to the clomping of their servants’ coconuts in search of the Holy Grail—that is, when they aren’t being accused of arbitrary peasant repression, dueling with the Black Knight, starting a wedding party massacre, resisting the temptation of sexually frustrated “nurses,” and orchestrating the defeat of a homicidal bunny. The Holy Grail’s humor comes from its exceptional scriptwriting and screenplay, its smooth mix of live action and cartoon animation sequences, and its musical numbers that for once do not feel out of place. British humor is a thing of beauty (as you should be able to tell by most of the movies featured in this list), and this is one beaut you won’t want to pass up, or else the Knights who say “Ni” will forever torment you in your sleep.
3. Brazil (1985)
Inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, Brazil takes us on a symbolic journey with a “Ministry of Information” clerk named Samuel Lowry set in a futuristic totalitarian society, where the Ministry stops at nothing to obtain every last piece of information about anybody and anything it possibly can. Sam, amidst his job promotion and this society’s psychotic commitment to citizen obedience, tries to protect his alter ego love interest Jill Layton from being harassed by the Ministry. This movie challenges not the idea of the state creating the war on terrorism, but rather by using actual terrorists to justify taking away the rights of its people, especially in the context of privacy violations. Brazil satirizes the absence of any real law enforcement other than murdering suspects without trials, the disregard for individual lives, propaganda, fantasies, and conservatism in the most extreme form—literally discontinuing the manufacturing of products and the advancement of technology.
4. The Princess Bride (1987)
Fair warning before viewing this film: there will be kissing in it. But it’s more than just a fairytale romance. The Princess Bride engrosses audiences of all ages in its fantastical world of epic adventures, heroic sword fights, and surreal sorcery. Indeed, the atmosphere is certainly well defined here, but so is the comedy, most of which is taken over by the male lead Wesley and his encounters with various characters throughout the story. Speaking of the story, we get a unique introduction and unique narrating sequences in between certain scenes of the plot. A grandfather reads to his ill grandson, and it’s almost as if they are interacting with and have a direct effect on what happens to the characters in the story and how the events play out. This is cleverly implemented in foreshadowing. Logic, surprisingly, is a major characteristic in this film, and it somehow makes sense even when magic is involved.
5. American Beauty (1999)
Unlike the previous entries in this list, American Beauty holds the distinction of being a satirical movie that doesn’t necessarily have a comedic tone. It can be funny in the way the main character (Lester Burnham)’s struggles to live less like an aging prisoner in a household with his materialistic wife and insecure daughter and more like a freedom chaser after lost youth, respect from others, power over his decisions, and the beauty in life (represented by his obsession with his daughter’s school friend) is completely ludicrous. But the overall theme of this story is tragic, because all the characters experience sadness and loneliness in a world where they must always pretend to be happy and functional in order to succeed, instead of being who they are and finding real happiness—whatever that means. Lester knows that he’s a rebel against the lifestyle that’s been painted for him, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s better than lying to himself and living the rest of his life like a pawn for people who care too much about their own image.
Do you know and love any satire films that you would want to recommend to me?