Conservative radio host Michael Medved says what I’ve been thinking for a long time:
I think we may err, and I would include myself in this as I say “we,” in being a little bit too eager to promote some of those rare projects on the Right. It was very hard for me because I love “Atlas Shrugged” the book. “Atlas Shrugged,” the movie… I couldn’t believe that so many on our team contrived to like it. Because it was not a successful film, it wasn’t good. So I think to that extent, partially, the Right-wing stuff is very often very ad hoc and it’s a one-off. Which is why it’s so remarkable when something comes outside… way outside the system of extraordinary high craft-quality, let alone artistic quality. Like “The Passion of the Christ” or even “Fireproof.” “Fireproof” was not a masterpiece, it’s not an Oscar-worthy film. But it was emotionally, I think, an interesting film and sound and reasonably well-crafted.
He cites as two examples of movies he really loves Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, particularly noting the latter’s focus on the immigrant experience. I’d really love it if the latter in particular could be remade or updated and embraced by conservatives and liberals alike, though I suspect there’d be less conservative sympathy for the immigrants if they were Latino rather than European and undocumented rather than products of Ellis Island. And Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is really more an anti-corruption movie than a Democratic or a Republican one.
While these two movies might not be fantastic proof, it is true that conservative ideas and decently-crafted filmmaking aren’t inherently incompatible. I thought there were a lot of things that didn’t work about Act of Valor, but the movie did really reinforce for me that if we’re going to send people away from their families to do extremely dangerous things on our behalf, they may have to live by an alternate set of values than my own to get through it. You can sell forceful projection of American military force through action movies, or fiscal responsibility through family comedies. There are a lot of options for pairing ideas with genres, and a lot of people you can hire to make dialogue sing rather than thud. You don’t have to make a movie bad to make it authentically conservative.