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Got Milkshake?


With Daniel Day Lewis’s Golden Globe win and a per-screen b.o. average over $14,000 and even Republican presidential candidate John McCain taking a break from campaigning in South Carolina to watch the movie, “There Will Be Blood”’s  tagline “I drink your milkshake” seems destined to become a pop cultural mantra, if not a new campaign slogan.

There’s already a website dedicated to it, which ranks Plainview’s signature rant with the calling card of Tony Montana, a.k.a. “Scarface (1983),” rendered in Al Pacino’s bad Cuban accent: “Do you want to meet my little friend?” A fair comparison, and if your looking for other great movie bad guys' l  lines that have summed up the spirit of an era, you might also throw in Pacino as Michael Corleone muttering (by way of Brando as his dad) “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” in the 1972 "The Godfather". Or  Warren Beatty’s Clyde Barrow summing up his résumé in “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967, “We rob banks.”

If  there is anything in common, maybe it's that each of these movies each released at times of governmental transition or crisis. "Bonnie and Clyde" drew on the anti-establishment, proto-revolutionary energy of the counter culture and the growing discontent of Democrats for their then President Lyndon Johnson that would end with the debacle of the 1968 Chicago convention and the election of Richard Nixon.

The Godfathers, which cynically compared organized crime with legit business and politics, bookended both Nixon’s landslide victory over McGovern in 1972 and his Watergate downfall in 1974.

"Scarface" and his little friend evoked the spirit of covert violence employed by the Reagan administration to support friendly if criminal regimes in Salvador and the not-so-covert invasion of Grenada in 1983, which overturned an inconvenient leftist regime. We managed to both conquer and skedaddle from the tiny island almost immediately, unlike our current adventure in Iraq, and Reagan defeated Mondale for President in 1984. But Reagan’s continuing policy of dabbling in the regimes of other countries would lead to the Iran-Contra scandal.

As for Douglas in “Wall Street,” the film remarkably coincided with the Black Monday stock market plunge in 1987 and also, as we see in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” with the Afghan mujahadeen offensive, covertly funded by a billion in CIA aid, that would soon drive the Russians out of the country and ultimately lead to the establishment of  the Taliban.

Like the above tag-lines, Day-Lewis’s milkshake remark has arisen in a period in which these conditions tend to prevail:

a) a presidential campaign is taking place (ending, in the previous instances, in a Republican victory)

b) the US is involved in a dubious military adventure

c) the administration is engaging in devious policies that will lead to scandal and investigation, and

d) an economic or cultural crisis is brewing.

Why might this be? An article in last Sunday’s “New York Times” suggests a possible explanation. Noting the resurgence of such 80s action stars as Chuck Norris (could he become Mike Huckabee’s running mate?), Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone (his “Rambo” is due out soon) and, though the story doesn’t mention him, Harrison Ford in the upcoming “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,”  the writer suggests that these heroes (and their villainous counterparts, I would add) appeal to Americans (mostly male, unsurprisingly) who have “an appetite for characters who tend to fix even big problems with room clearing brawls, mono-syllabic wisecracks and large caliber firearms.”

And presumably will vote accordingly.

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