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Blood’s Been Spilled to Afford Us This Moment

9 Nov

After a long, grueling election cycle, it’s good to see a movie that takes our mind off it entirely.

A movie about a leader trying to unite a divided nation, who seeks to free a section of the country’s population, and who must fight against stubborn and backwards-leaning political opponents to accomplish that goal.

One that has absolutely nothing to do with current topics of debate.

If you couldn’t tell, that’s intended to be sarcasm. Affectionate sarcasm.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln puts the spotlight on the political scene in 1865, when the President (Daniel Day-Lewis, giving a predictably good performance) waged a tricky political battle in order to end the Civil War and slavery. Doubted by even his most loyal supporters, who told him he could do one or the other but not both, the film shows how Lincoln shrewdly persuaded members of both parties to support the 13th Amendment, and how that lead to the end of the war.

Continue reading

Let’s Win This Thing for America

10 Aug

Election years are always great times for comedy, so much so that the reality is often funnier than any scripted bits that Hollywood can produce.

But what fun would it be if we left all our political humor to the politicians?

That’s right, none.

So let’s give thanks for the new movie The Campaign, which stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as two doofus political candidates battling it out in a small North Carolina town for a Congressional seat.

If that premise doesn’t tell you enough about what kind of movie this is, then know this: The film begins with a quote from one-time Presidential candidate Ross PerotContinue reading

Clooney for President?

17 Oct

That all in politics is not as it seems is hardly breaking news. Alas, in the film The Ides of March, that’s exactly the theme. In George Clooney’s latest writing and directing effort, Ryan Gosling plays Stephen, the junior campaign manager for Presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney). Over the course of the week leading up to the Ohio primary, Stephen goes from devoted fan and supporter of Morris to, well, let’s just say he gets a reality check. Young but hardly naive, Stephen is a fast-rising player in the political arena, and his drive to get ahead and protect his candidate leads to some less than ideal decisions. As a result, Stephen’s boss, Senior Campaign Manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), begins to question whose side Stephen is really on: Morris’ or his own.

A taut political thriller, Ides of March doesn’t tell a completely new story, but its twist on a familiar theme is told well, with a top-notch cast that includes the aforementioned actors, plus the always reliable Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood. To his credit, Clooney (in his acting, writing, and directing) makes Morris a less than perfect candidate, but not a guy you can’t support. (Also notable is the irrelevancy of his political party.) Morris is a complex character, but he is not the focal point of the film. That would be Stephen, and as the real lead of the film, Gosling gives yet another great performance, his third of the year (after Crazy Stupid Love and Drive).

As election season moves into high gear, Ides of March provides an excellent and entertaining complement. It doesn’t make any grand statements about politics, or the people behind the scenes, but no matter. The action moves swiftly and the film overall is engaging. I’m giving the film a B+ … and despite what we see here in the character he plays, I’m also giving Clooney my vote (but then, I’m already biased).

Nobody Wins Today

19 Jan

Truth be told, I wasn’t planning to vote today. And that’s a real shame, because just 14 months ago, voting was an activity I got really excited about. This election just didn’t engage me. I didn’t vote in the primary back in November, and I felt no real attachment to the candidates as we were approaching Election Day today. Frankly, I just didn’t care.

And yet, I cast my vote today anyway — less for one of the candidates than against the other. Like many folks, I’ve watched over the last couple weeks as Scott Brown’s built momentum and overtaken the lead from Martha Coakley. I’ve watched his television commercials and received his phone calls — his many, many commercials and phone calls. I’ve seen the people on the street. And the signs. Sure, Coakley had her own ads and made her own calls (believe it or not, I actually received one as I was writing this), but Brown had more. (He even had a better social media strategy.) And in fact, Coakley didn’t have much at all and that was a big part of her problem. I never found a really good reason to support her. But the more I saw and heard and learned about Brown, the more effectively he campaigned, the more I began to want to vote against him.

As I filled in the box next to Martha Coakley’s name on my ballot tonight, I thought about how sad this election was. Ted Kennedy, the man who held this Senate seat for so long and who did so many great things for this country and the state of Massachusetts, didn’t deserve for his successor to be chosen by people like myself who aren’t committed to the candidate and are merely voting along party lines out of obligation more than anything else. People who are so annoyed by the calls and the ads that they’re voting against a candidate more than they are for a candidate.

Alas, that’s what I’ve done. So thank you to Scott Brown and Martha Coakley for making this election not very fun at all. I hope one of you loses.

Greed Is Bad

11 Oct

God bless Michael Moore.

When he gets going making an argument, there’s just no stopping him.

He’s got such a knack for making persuasive — and entertaining — movies that clearly push an agenda but aren’t like sitting through a thesis presentation.

Films like Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine presented Moore’s worldview regarding the Iraq War and gun control, and regardless of what you thought of Moore’s arguments, he made them convincingly and with passion.

Now Moore is back with Capitalism: A Love Story, a treatise about how our economic system is flawed and only benefits a small fraction of our country.

Moore benefitted from having the economic collapse happen while he was making the film last fall, and he takes full advantage of the situation. Continue reading

A Funnier Film Is Unforeseeable

18 Aug

During a radio interview, a British government official says that a proposed war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.”

Thus begins the movie In the Loop, a hysterical political farce about U.S. and U.K. relations, and how this simple comment escalates into a possible declaration of war.

To spoil the film would be impossible — I dare say it would be “difficult difficult, lemon difficult.”

There are so many great lines, a ton of great insults, and some splendid profanities that you may need to see the movie a second time to make sure you heard it all (check out the brilliant trailer below for a sampling). Continue reading

Stronger and More Impulsive

8 Mar

Back in December, Barack Obama was playing it cool. Now he’s getting angry. And you may not like him when he’s angry. (Actually, you probably will.)