Richard’s Year of Movies — Rollerball/CSA

A cold day in Orlando and no football until 4:30, so I got in an interesting double feature.

First, the original Rollerball from 1975.  The film really only comes alive during the rollerball games — there’s a violent grace to them that gives the film a much-needed jolt of energy.  But maybe the most intriguing thing about watching it is seeing the classic 1970s perception of what the future would be like.  Everything is stark and sleek and sterile, just like nearly every other 70s sci-fi film (Star Wars was really the first film where all the tech looked lived in).  And why did everyone assume that every musical instrument except the synthesizer would disappear?  Rollerball is set in 2018.  That’s only eight years away, and we’ve still got actual guitars and drums and stuff, but if you go by the 70s, we should all be listening to the emissions from Sputnik or something.

The second film was CSA: The Confederate States of America.  I stumbled across this flipping through the newer Netflix Watch Instantly films on my Xbox, and I remembered hearing about it, so I gave it a look.  It’s an alternate history documentary where a TV network in an America where the South won the Civil War airs a history of the nation.  The film is done like you’re watching the Confederate History Channel, complete with show bumpers and news breaks and commercials, all coming from the point of view of slavery having never ended.  So we get horribly offensive brand names in commercials (Coon Chicken Inn and Darky Toothpaste among them) and ads for all sorts of slave-related services.  At first, I found some of the ads pretty heavy-handed, but then at the end of the film there’s an epilogue that shows that most of the products actually existed, and some well into the 20th century — Coon Chicken closed down in the 1980s, and Darky Toothpaste is actually still available in Asia.  As for the rest of the film, it does a pretty good job branching off from its Confederate victory — Kennedy is an abolitionist elected at a time when slavery was waning in popularity, instead of the Soviet Union it’s anti-slave Canada with whom we have a cold war, a Clinton-esque presidential candidate denies that his great grandfather had sexual relations with a slave — even if the whole doesn’t quite gel into a cohesive statement.  Are we supposed to be relieved at how narrowly we avoided this possibility?  Or are we supposed to see that, in a lot of ways, we’re not too far removed from it?  The film is an interesting what if, but interesting more as a thought exercise than a film.

I got Inglorious Basterds from Netflix today, so tomorrow we’ll have some Nazi-killin’ mayhem!


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