Glenn Beck’s “War Room” (FOX, 2009) and Black Legion (Archie Mayo, 1937). Glenn Beck’s special is a lunatic “what if” program designed to strike fear into the hearts of Americans about an “economic 9/11″ scheduled for 2014 (with, of course, frequent reminders of the “we’re not saying this is going to happen” variety). A group of experts, some of whom are clearly splashed with a little eau d’Unabomber, play Nostradamus, spinning out a variety of scenarios that run the gamut from civil war to beyond Thunderdome. Really, Beck might’ve included at least one moderate voice — say, Alan Keyes. Before the show is over, Beck shares a ray of hope: belief in god might just help you survive. This is a flabbergasting piece of TV, the kind of thing to make the ghost of Father Coughlin shed a tear of pride. Limbaugh, you better up the crazy quotient, because mocking people with Parkinson’s just isn’t setting the bar anymore.
By sheer coincidence, the same evening I watched Warner Bros.’ bold social-issue picture Black Legion, which puts Humphrey Bogart in thrall to a KKK-like group of racist agitators who dress in robes and terrorize immigrants. Lots of speeches about being 100% American, and at one point Bogart listens to a radio demagogue whose words could easily have come from a 2009 transcript. There’s thick melodrama along with the message, but the ending certainly doesn’t let anybody off the hook.
Ben X (Nic Balthazar, 2007). Autistic teen, fantasy worlds, bullies at school, complicated ending. (full review 2/27)