Monday, August 26, 2013

"Still Mine": great libertarian film; a senior citizen can proclaim freedom was well as a twenty-year-old; don't "follow the rules"!

“Do you follow baseball?”  Or maybe the question from 87 year old Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) to the judge was “Do you collect baseball cards?”  The Canadian libertarian film “Still Mine” (a title that refers explicitly to property rights) opens with a crisis, with Craig’s chances of staying out of jail not too good, after throwing as much sand as possible into the eyes of the Canadian paternal welfare system.  He’s warned that he is about to be found “in contempt of court”.  That’s even worse in Canada than in the US.  (Blame Canada!)

The film follows typical screenwriting wisdom (it’s written by director Michael McGowan) in starting with an intractable crisis, only then backing up to the beginning to tell us the whole story.
We find out at the end whether Craig and his disabled wife of 61 years are “free” from the condition of his hand-built new house.  But there is nothing to say a 90-year-old can’t scream “I’m free” like a 23-year-old (as Reid Ewing, racing out of a courthouse, does his own short film “I’m Free” reviewed here May 13, 2013).  Maybe a near centenarian won’t “decompress” by doing pull-ups and riding chutes in a kids’’ playground.  But Craig is no wimp.  He can handle heavy machinery in his own workshop (like my own father did), and pull tresses with block-and-tackle machines on his own.  I won’t be able to do that at 87.
Craig and Irene (Genevieve Bujold) run a cattle and strawberry farm near St. Martins New Brunswick (the small Atlantic province directly east of Stephen King’s beloved Maine).  They are still intimate and attentive to one another, very physically, after six decades.  That’s an important virtue in marriage, traditional or not, right?  But Irene is progressing rapidly into dementia and probable Alzheimer’s, but is determined to stay in their old farm house.  Craig wants to build her a small one-story house on his own land so that his wife can have the run of a house without so much effort and danger.   He has seven grown kids, and he is used to getting things done through his extended family (which he procreated with his own body) and not interfacing with the benevolent Canadian government (although he does use the health care). 
Trouble starts when a local wholesaler can no longer take his strawberries because he doesn’t have a refrigerated truck.  (That sounds like one of John Stossel’s “Gimme a Break” episodes on 20-20, when an Afro hair stylist in Kansas was shut down without a state cosmetology license, or a woman baking girl scout cookies in Charlotte was shut down because she didn’t have a commercial kitchen; maybe by that logic I could be shut down as a self-publisher!)  But the real problems come when he builds his own house on his own land, as a do-it-yourself project with no kit from a Walmart for assembly.  He is told he has to pay the town for a permit.  Then he has to get blueprints drawn. (That reminds me, my electric generator installation contractor still has mine; I need to call them.)  And then he gets inspected.  His lumber isn’t stamped as approved.  His trusses aren’t up to some obscure code. He'd have to tear it all down (or else the town will) and start over -- and hire other people, giving them tax-paying jobs, to do it.  What a lesson in feahterbedding!
It’s pretty obvious what the political point is: all these regulations guarantee that other people have jobs and income, from pencil-pushing, while Craig, somewhat on an Ayn Rand hero, does the real work, still at 87.

Samuel Goldwyn, which likes films with a social message, has a site  here.
I saw the film at the Cinema Arts in Fairfax VA (the only local theater showing it) before a fair crowd on a Sunday night, good crisp digital projection (installed fairly recently).  Atlantic Canada looks scenic.  I visited the Bay of Fundy and Magnetic Hill myself once in 1978. 

But as for Craig, all you can say is “don’t follow the rules”, and “hopefully, don’t get caught”.  Or, “it’ll blow over” 

Hot off the presses on CNN:  A local government (Raleigh NC) requires a permit to feed the homeless!  Give me a break!

Could there be a "libertarian film festival?"

Wikipedia attribution link to Bay of Fundy picture. 

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