Here in the States, it’s Independence Day, and that means, among other things, that you have theaters doing revival showings of 1776. American art has often poked and prodded at the questions behind where we as a country came from, where we’re going, and what makes us uniquely us. You can do it with Forrest Gump and you can do it with recasted Founding Fathers and you’re going to get different answers each time. Lately, we’ve all had good reason to remember that a big part of the “matter of America,” then and now, is anger, from hair-trigger hatred to righteous fire, from protests and marches to bloody bodies in the street. If you’re going to grapple with something as big and as intentionally unwieldy as this fractured country, if you’re going to insist that it’s all one place and try to hold it together, rage is inseparable from that. One way or another, things are not what they were; things are not what they should be.
Tarantino’s historical movies have been good for visions of this: he has an obvious love of righteous anger and a fair sense of the different outcomes that can bring, from a fairy tale happy ending in Django Unchained as the hero and his rescued wife ride away to the destruction and muted catharsis of The Hateful Eight. It’s the violence in Inglourious Basterds–the scalpings and the way the last barrage of gunfire in the theater just goes on and on, reducing Nazis to pudding, because why stop? Though the finest portrayal of anger there is the film of Shosanna, already dead, laughing madly as her theater burns down around her enemies inside: that’s Europe for you. Its tragedies are older; it can sometimes make America look a little petulant in comparison. I’m good with us continuing to try anyway.
So today–and happy Fourth, fellow American Soluters!–I wanted to ask about your favorite portrayals of American anger in the movies, the ones that seem to you to most get at the fire that can alternately fuel and burn down the body politic. What takes are inspiring? What takes are chilling? What seems real?