“The Movie Industry’s Great Triumph”: J. Hoberman on Make My Day, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump

Filmmaker Magazine | 7/24/2019 | Steven Erickson
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by Steven Erickson

The narrative in which New Hollywood was wiped out by Jaws, Star Wars and the rise of the blockbuster that followed, paralleling the elections of Reagan and Thatcher in a retreat from the rebellions of the ‘60s and ‘70s, is a very familiar one. J. Hoberman has written a trilogy of books exploring the interwoven histories of the US and its cinema: The Dream Life: Movies, Media and the Mythology of the Sixties, Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War and now Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan. Drawing on his work from the period when he began working for the Village Voice as a film critic, Make My Day engages with now-forgotten movies like Iron Eagle, as well as far more iconic films like Ghostbusters, E.T. and Back to the Future to explore how the ideology behind Reagan’s rise was reflected even in seemingly innocent genre fare. It also treats Reagan as a creation of the media—he was the first movie star president, and he knew how to market a persona created by his history as an actor, paving the way for Donald Trump to ride The Apprentice to the presidency.

Filmmaker - Presidents - Creatures - Media - Times

Filmmaker: It seems like other presidents have been creatures of the media of their times: newspapers long before cinema existed, while JFK benefited from TV. Your book sees Reagan as a cinematic president. Does Trump’s presidency fit a period where cinema has lost its central currency in the culture?

Hoberman: The short answer would be yes. I think that Trump is maybe the most media-savvy president so far, but unlike Reagan or even JFK, his medium isn’t the movies.

Filmmaker - Thing - Book - Number - Movies

Filmmaker: One thing that surprised me about the book was the number of movies Reagan says and that...
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