On December 1, 2016

The United States of Cinema

In the weeks and months following an election, it’s impossible—at least for me—to look at a map of our country without mentally filling in the appropriate color for each state: red or blue. A plurality of Americans voted Democrat, but most of the land belonged, as usual, to the Republicans, owing to the vast swath of “flyover states” that go red every year.
The best way to stop hating pretty much every part of the country except the Northeast and the Pacific Coast—if you have this sort of problem—may be to revisit our nation through art instead of politics. Like most undereducated Americans, I learned our history in large part through movies, which tell our big story and our small ones—taking, paradoxically, both a broader view and a more specific, humanizing one than what we get on CNN.
Just for fun, I made a different kind of map of the United States, with one film representing each state. I struggled occasionally; Hollywood has at times been neglectful of our less populous regions—as, it seems, we must expect from our “coastal liberal elites.” But in every corner of our cinematic landscape, there was something worthy (to me) of some sort of celebration.
THE NORTHEAST:
Connecticut – “Far From Heaven” (2002); Maine – “Wet Hot American Summer” (2002); Massachusetts – “The Fighter” (2010); New Hampshire – “The Devil and Daniel Webster” (1942); Pennsylvania – “Wonder Boys” (2000); New Jersey – “Atlantic City” (1980); New York – “Do the Right Thing” (1989); Rhode Island – “Reversal of Fortune” (1990); Vermont – “Super Troopers” (2001).
THE MID-ATLANTIC:
Delaware – “Fight Club” (1999); District of Columbia – “Lincoln” (2012); Maryland – “Cry-Baby” (1990); Virginia – “The New World” (2005).
THE SOUTH:
Alabama – “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962); Arkansas – “Mud” (2012); Florida – “Cool Hand Luke” (1967); Georgia – “Gone with the Wind” (1939); Kentucky – “The Hustler” (1961); Louisiana – “Louisiana Story” (1948); Mississippi – “Crimes of the Heart” (1986); North Carolina – “Junebug” (2005); Oklahoma – “The Outsiders” (1983); South Carolina – “The Big Chill” (1983); Texas – “Boyhood (2014); West Virginia – “The Night of the Hunter” (1955).
THE MIDWEST:
Illinois – “Hoop Dreams” (1994); Indiana – “A Christmas Story” (1983); Iowa – “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993); Kansas – “Picnic” (1955); Michigan – “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013); Minnesota – “A Serious Man” (2009); Missouri – “Waiting for Guffman” (1996); Nebraska – “Election” (1999); North Dakota – “Fargo” (1996); Ohio – “Tommy Boy” (1995); South Dakota – “Badlands” (1973); Wisconsin – “Back to School” (1986).
THE WEST:
Arizona – “My Darling Clementine” (1946); Colorado – “Dumb and Dumber” (1994); Idaho – “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004); Montana – “Certain Women” (2016); Nevada – “Rango” (2011); New Mexico – “Gas Food Lodging” (1992); Utah – “SLC Punk!” (1998); Wyoming – “Unforgiven” (1992).
THE PACIFIC COAST:
Alaska – “Grizzly Man” (2001); California – “Sunset Blvd.” (1950); Hawaii – “From Here to Eternity” (1953); Oregon – “Bend of the River” (1952); Washington – “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” (1971).

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