cover image Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan

Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan

J. Hoberman. New Press, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59558-006-1

Former senior Village Voice film critic Hoberman (Film After Film) provides an intelligent, insightful conclusion to his trilogy, begun with The Dream Life and An Army of Phantoms, juxtaposing politics and movies to “illuminate what... [Norman] Mailer termed America’s ‘dream life.’ ” Hoberman starts in 1975 with the “intellectual and exclusive” Nashville and “visceral and populist” Jaws, noting the former “looked back to the 1960s” and the latter “ahead to the 1980s.” From there he explores the parallels between Jimmy Carter’s election and the commercial and critical success of Rocky and how Raiders of the Lost Ark reflected the same nostalgia that helped boost Ronald Reagan. Hoberman’s approach is light-handed, presenting ample evidence for his thesis (including from his own contemporaneous reviews), but leaving readers to connect many of the dots themselves. The book only falters with the overarching “dream life” theme, which Hoberman leaves under-realized, perhaps relying on readers being acquainted with his previous works. Closing with the thought-provoking assertion that “Trump is a beneficiary of Reagan-nostalgia, which is to say, a nostalgia that is nostalgic for nostalgia itself,” this erudite study presents a convincing case for the benefits of engaging critically with seemingly trivial popcorn movies. (July)