Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Political Movies

If you're bummed that the election is over, here are some movies about politics.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Along with It's a Wonderful Life, this is the essential Frank Capra movie. An idealistic citizen is appointed to the United States Senate but his naivete soon collides with the realities of political life. Looking at the film today, one of the extraordinary things about it is the way it portrays a  filibuster as an act of valor.

All the King's Men (1949)
Based on Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All the King's Men is the story of the rise and fall of a politician whose populist appeal belies his corruption. The film was remade in 2006.

The War Room (1993)
Directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, The War Room is a behind-the-scenes documentary of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign for president. The film centers upon George Stephanopoulos, the Clinton Campaign Communications Director, and James Carville, the campaign's Lead Strategist.

Nixon (1995)
Oliver Stone's masterpiece. The movie primarily deals with Watergate and the Vietnam War and it also addresses Nixon's diplomatic interactions with China and the Soviet Union. But more than anything, Nixon is a complicated character study of the thirty-seventh President of the United States. As played by Anthony Hopkins, Richard Nixon is portrayed as a tragic figure, a brilliant politician who was brought down by his own demons.

Primary Colors (1998)
The 1996 novel Primary Colors was a roman à clef, a fictional work that is actually a true story. Adapted into a motion picture in 1998, Primary Colors told the story of Governor Jack Stanton, a stand-in for Bill Clinton, as he runs for the presidency.

Bulworth (1998)
Set during the 1996 primary campaign, a United States Senator has a nervous breakdown and starts telling the truth. The movie is very much a product of the late 1990s (especially its soundtrack) but Bulworth is still surprisingly relevant in 2016. It's also very funny.

Election (1999)
Directed by Alexander Payne, Election is the story of a high school student government campaign gone awry. The movie is very funny but it is also a sophisticated story of ethics and the political process. The character of Tracy Flick, an overachieving front runner, has frequently been associated with Hillary Clinton.

Recount (2008)
A dramatization of the "hanging chad" debacle in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. Despite the divisive nature of the story, Recount is fairly even handed in its portrayal of the legal and political maneuvers by the Gore and Bush campaigns. Recount was helmed by Jay Roach, who was best known for comedies like Austin Powers and Meet the Fockers, and he brings a sense of humor to the movie.

All the Way (2016)
Another Jay Roach directed HBO film, All the Way is a dramatization of Lyndon Johnson's attempt to pass civil rights legislation following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The movie is similar to Steven Spielberg's Lincoln in that it is about trying to accomplish moral and civil good through the flawed mechanisms of government but All the Way is the better film because of its more complex portrayal of the people involved.

Weiner (2016)
A documentary about former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner. The film records Weiner's failed campaign for mayor of New York City following his resignation from congress. Aside from a character study of a troubled politician, Weiner is also an examination of media, sensationalism, and politics in the digital age.