I want to recommend a movie: John Hillcoat's Lawless, from the novel by Matt Bondurant.
It's not a great movie — the Metascore of 58 out of 100 is low but not too far off — but Lawless is decent art, has its interest, and could be useful for American politics.
For one thing, the acting in Lawless is good, and it's intriguing to watch Shia LaBeouf not quite keep up with his elders, and maybe not with Dane DeHaan. LaBeouf gets the hard parts down well: the "body acting" and (to my nonSouthern ears) the dialect and the dialogue; and his eyes are okay. The face, though, the "face-acting": that's not quite right. Perhaps he was directed that way — God knows the movie is low-key and downright stately for an "R" rated crime flick — but LaBeouf's face just can't compete in expressiveness with those of the rest of the ensemble.
Even in our celebrity-worshipping culture, though, far more important is Lawless as a film about the first US prohibition of a popular, psychoactive, sometimes addictive hard drug: the capital "P" Prohibition of ethyl alcohol as a recreational intoxicant in the early-20th-century first war on drugs.
I grew up in Chicago, my mother's home town, and I grew up on my mother's story about how one afternoon in the Loop or thereabouts she and her sister found themselves taking cover behind a car, avoiding bullets from a drive-by machine-gunning in what was probably a robust dispute over merchandizing territory.
Lawless reminds us that much of what we see in the current War on Drugs repeats what was fairly commonplace during the last one. Economics isn't destiny, but some State interventions in the market will have pretty predictable results.
From Chicago, Illinois, to Franklin County, Virginia, Prohibition 1.0 brought with it the production and distribution of an illegal drug by bootleggers, and, with that seminal crime, police corruption, gangsterism, and violence. Prohibition was The Great Experiment, and given the high cost of alcohol abuse it's arguable that The Great Experiment was worth performing. As much as anything, The Great Depression brought an end to The Great Experiment, as it became clear that the costs of Prohibition were higher than those from tolerating booze — and the USA just could no longer afford to pay those higher prices.
We are now in the midst of an interminable and largely superficial political season, and in the fourth year of The Great Recession. It's past time candidates should be discussing (among other policy issues) current US Drug Prohibition.
If American adults are capable of connecting two dots together, Lawless should help spur that discussion.