On Scene: Movies for political season
October 3, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Getting together with a group of friends to watch a presidential debate may not be, in general terms, a “cool” thing to do. That has never especially bothered me – televised debates might not have much impact on who I plan to vote for, but they do provide a theater-of-the-absurd brand of amusement while they last.
Coming into my first national election season that does not revolve around the rebellious youth element – and my first away from a college town known for stamping a dot of blue onto a red state – it’s been interesting to watch how national campaign politics work in Routt County.
Compared to everything I’ve seen, they work on more tactful levels, with fewer demonstrations that make little sense, and more registration drives and candidate yard signs. Those differences probably make for a more informed campaign process, but it’s hard not to miss the intense activism and possibly justified acts of political expression a college campus provides.
I came up with my top five political movies that are based at least partially outside of reality to fill in a toned-down political scene with a little imagination:
5. “Bulworth” (1998): This one first came to my attention for spawning the song “Ghetto Superstar,” and, honestly, that might be why I continue to enjoy it. But think about it: In “Bulworth,” a white senator advocating for the black community is assassinated for his advocacy and honesty. This movie came out in 1998, and this made sense at the time. It says something about how far we’ve come.
4. “Dave” (1993): A classic anyone-can-make-a-difference story, if you remove the necessity of that person’s rise to power being plausible. It’s noteworthy mostly for a scene in which Charles Grodin attempts to fix the national budget with Kevin Kline.
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3. “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964): If it’s not the best political satire ever made, it certainly features the best image of a country star riding through the sky on the back of an atomic bomb.
2. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939): Filibuster.
1. “Wag the Dog” (1998): Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro team up as producer and spin doctor and create a fake war to up the president’s indiscretions with a Girl Scout. The premise could have ended up as slapstick comedy, but instead you get a hilarious, feels-too-real-for-comfort conflict, featuring a mocked-up old war song by Willie Nelson.