With his latest book Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan, celebrated film critic J. Hoberman brings to a close his Found Illusions trilogy, meditating on the intertwining of American cinema, politics and popular culture that defined the post-WWII era. Focused now on the broad period from George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973) to John Carpenter’s They Live (1988), Hoberman looks closely at the often uncanny and absurd synchronicities between Hollywood cinema and American politics, especially during the years when the White House was occupied by former Warner Brothers contract actor Ronald Reagan. Reading across popular box-office hits, like Ghostbusters and the now iconic Rambo and Alien films, as well as classics like Blue Velvet, Videodrome and The King of Comedy, Hoberman palpably evokes and astutely critiques the nexus of paranoia, false nostalgia and hollow nationalism that defined the Reagan era.
“If the Sixties and early Seventies were, at least in part, periods of disillusionment, the late Seventies and Eighties brought a process of re-illusionment. Its agent was Ronald Reagan. His mandate wasn’t simply to restore America’s economy and sense of military superiority but also, even more crucially, its innocence. Like an old movie or TV rerun, Reagan reversed the flow of time and remade our days.”
The Harvard Film Archive welcomes back J. Hoberman to introduce Being There in a visit co-presented with the Brattle Theatre, which will host a book signing with Hoberman on Tuesday November 12 and screen additional films from his book throughout November. Consult the Brattle website for details.