Requiem for the American Dream

Requiem for the American Dream opens with Noam Chomsky reminiscing about the good ol’ days of the Great Depression.  As bad as it got during the Depression, he recalls a shared understanding among the people that this shall pass. Now things are bad again, he claims, and this time nobody seems as optimistic that things will get any better. Of course, it’s perfectly normal that the outlook of a young boy packing into the back of the family truck with Grandma, Grandpa, Ma, Pa, and Uncle Tom and heading to California looking for work (assuming of course that his childhood was exactly like The Grapes of Wrath, which is my only point of reference) is probably a little rosier than that of a cranky 85 year-old linguist but he has my attention. He claims that the disparity between the rich and poor in the US has never been higher, predicting the death of the American Middle Class. Which worries me a little, as a member of said Middle Class.

It all started with America’s beloved forefathers, who understood Democracy’s biggest problem. In a true democracy, with poor people having the right to vote, what’s to stop the underprivileged from voting to take the big fancy houses away from the rich? Hardly seems fair, doesn’t it, since the rich worked so hard for said property? So they were left with two choices: take steps to reduce inequality or to limit democracy. So, according to Chomsky, begins the process of building a system that limits the access of the underprivileged to the highest office in the land.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of documentaries like these. Requiem features four years worth of interviews with Chomsky. Visually,  we’re offered only tight close-ups of the renowned political activist’s face that even the most vain of starlets would never agree to along with the occasional stock footage of skyscrapers and highways. The filmmakers seek no other opinions, neither dissenting or complementary, and Chomsky’s lecture is accompanied only by an irritating score from Malcolm Francis.

So it’s not much of a documentary. That doesn’t mean its subject isn’t worth listening to. His observations are as alarming as they are timely. Even better, he has the decency to offer some hope for the future, reminding the American people that their system is set up so that regular people can bring about real change as long as they stop fighting amongst themselves and stand up and make themselves heard. Still, the documentary has nothing to offer but the words of Noam Chomsky. So you’re probably better off just reading some Chomsky.

 

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13 thoughts on “Requiem for the American Dream

  1. Wendell

    Reading is probably the way to go on this one. No doubt he has some interesting things to say. I just don’t know if I can make it through and hour plus of him droning on with the camera on top of his face. Thanks for the warning.

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  2. Liz A.

    Noam Chomsky is interesting, but that does sound like a boring doc. I think he may be missing the point, too. Sure, income inequality is bad right now. But it was really bad 100 or so years ago, too. Changes were made to fix things. And things got really good about 50-70 years ago. Then someone decided to tweak the system… Things will swing back, as long as we decide to make them.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Well, if any politician tries to start regulating financial institutions like they used to, they’ll have one hell of a fight on their hands. It’s hard to imagine things getting much better until that happens though.
      You’re right though, some of his conclusions are a little questionable.

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  3. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

    Actually, this sounds really interesting. I’m okay with talking heads, and I’m usually really intrigued by what Chomsky discusses. Doesn’t everyone like watching lectures 😉 hehehe. Thanks for highlighting this doc. You may like another Chomsky doc, it gets more creative, animating some of his ideas, and parts of interviews, if I recall correctly. I think the movie is called.. Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? It’s super interesting.

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    1. Matt Post author

      Hey, I don’t think I’ve heard of that. I’ll have to check it out. I don’t mind talking head documentaries either (although they’re not my favourite). I would just rather more than one head doing the talking.

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  4. calensariel

    Wondering if they’ll stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to make good informed decisions about this bloomin’ election… I might have to see this on a day I’m already depressed!

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  5. Jay

    This sounds like a book on tape, only, you know, videotape.

    I really dug your Grapes of Wrath reference though. Made me crack a smile.

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  6. tedgiffin

    I swear, Chomsky is such a downer, his audience should be prescribed anti-depressants, perhaps a mood stabilizer. Thank for the review, now I do not have to watch this.

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  7. Pingback: The Do-Over | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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