Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday Top Ten

The boyfriend is obsessed with politics. I am not. Frankly, they terrify me. Mostly because the past eight years have made me into a huge pessimist: the theocrats will destroy us all!

Unlike many other people, according to the television at least, I am an atypical person: I don't get all dreamy about candidates who share my views. I'm suspicious of almost anyone who runs for office. I don't mean that in the cliché way of "all politicians are crooks" but in the way that they never fail to disappoint me. They almost always try to convince me that they're not actually politicans (as if anyone is above the fray) and that irks me to no end. You are what you are. Embrace it. Don't try to sell me a dream when I already know about reality. Just explain it to me. If you're trying to glaze my eyes over with misty hope, I'm not impressed. My eyes don't go misty unless there's a cute kitten involved or a particularly good close up of a great actress. Just tell me your plans for the nation.

But that's me. It's politics so your mileage may vary. And I don't even know if I'm making any sense. I'm very sick with the flu. So here's ten movies in no particular order that I love --these are off the top of my head and all are about politics or have political elements.

Mr Smith Goes to Washington (1939) -OK James Stewart is allowed to well my eyes up with optimistic tears but nobody in the real world, please. damn con artists.
Wag the Dog
(1997) -the film at which I met the boyfriend. No joke
Bulworth (1998) -Warren Beatty is genius
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) -Angela Lansbury is brilliant
Doctor Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Peter Sellers is hilarious
Three Kings (1999) David O'Russell, please stop waiting so many years inbetween films. I know they're "difficult" for you. But do it for the audience. We need your unique voice.
Coming Home (1978) which I've written about here
Election (1999) Pick Flick. I know I do

And though the list wasn't in any order and was totally off the cuff, the number one will always be Nashville (1975) because there is just no movie like it. It meanders with startling precision and pinpoints with fuzzy glee and... and... and I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore (I'm sick with the flu! I think I mentioned this to u) but I just know that when I watch it I feel thrilled in that electric way I only feel when I'm watching a true masterpiece.
You may say that I ain't free.
It don't worry me
Which political movies move you?
(And please don't get sick with the flu)


Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

I love Jeff Bridges in "The Contender"!

Lee Emil Hernandez said...

Definitely "Primary Colors" Nathaniel. If not for the way the story mirrors the Clintons' tale of oral festivities in La Casa Blanca, then for the fantastic performance by Kathy Bates! She is truly incredible as Libby, a fast-talking, no-nonsense lesbian. And underrated as they are, John Travolta, and Emma Thompson are great as (cough) Bill and Hillary Clinton. Holler!

par3182 said...

you met the boyfriend at a kirsten dunst movie?


it's true

Cinesnatch said...

Parallax View, Primary Colors

Glenn Dunks said...

I adore Wag the Dog (and Anne Heche in it), but I haven't seen many of the movies you listed. I can get into real life politics (I sat at home watching the Aussie election late last year and it's bizarre how fascinating it all is) but movie politics... meh.

J.D. said...

The Constant Gardener, The Edukators, Children of Men, and Elizabeth.

Just because they're not about modern democratic politics doesn't mean they're not political.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

That's one fantastic list you've got there. I've not seen Coming Home and I need to see Manchurian Candidate again, but all your other picks range from sensational to wonderful.

I don't know if Duck Soup and Grand Illusion qualify as political films, but if I had to add a couple it would be those two. And If... and Battle of Algiers, as well. And someone mentioned The Edukators which I found grossly underrated.

Looking at all these titles makes me wonder how come so much of contemporary (American) political cinema is soulless and dogmatic.

El Gigante said...

"Political movies" speaks to a pretty broad range of films, All the President's Men is political and so is the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and so is the American President. To my mind though the ultimate political film is Reds, which even though its not necessarily speaking towards a capitalist system it does speak volumes about the value of equality, enfranchisement and the exchange of ideas. To my mind that epitomizes the best of what politics can be. Plus Diane Keaton looks great in it.

Anonymous said...

Among political films, BULWORTH and WAG THE DOG were both pretty good.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE remake is also interesting, with much interesting updating to the modern American electoral climate. It's not quite as flawless as the original, but there's some great stuff in this remake, like the early scene where Meryl Streep talks the Democratic National Convention into taking on Liev Schrieber as VP candidate.

NIXON is also a favourite from me.

Brian Darr said...

Current cinephile/former poly sci major here. Not a big fan of Wag the Dog or Coming Home but love all the others you mention.

Other politics-themes films I'd watch again in a heartbeat: I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Mayor of Hell, This Day And Age (I'm fascinated by the pre-code approach to politics on film), the Great McGinty and Hail the Conquering Hero (the bookends to Preston Sturges' run of great comedies), documentaries the War Room and Enemies of Happiness (about Afghani politics), the Altmans no-quite-but-nearly-as-good-as-Nashville like Secret Honor and (though admittedly a TV series not a film) Tanner '88, the comedy Dick, and the Iranian Secret Ballot. I'm sure I'll think of more after I click "publish your comment"...

Anonymous said...

Bulworth, hands down the best cynical/hilarious political movie.

Anonymous said...

Any of Costa-Gavras's.

Marcelo - Brazil.

Anonymous said...

Although I tend to think of it as a love story first and foremost, the seamless way The Constant Gardener blended the romance with political commentary (and murder mystery) is indeed wonderful.

The "pure" political movie that made the greatest positive impression on me was probably Bob Roberts. I saw it looong ago, though, and knowing real life Robbins' strong political beliefs, I am afraid I'd find it too heavy-handed if I watched it again today. What do y'all think?

Because, for example, The Contender I found embarassingly bad. Make no mistake, I'd vote for Democrats if I were an American, but stripping the conflict to comic-book-villainous Gary Oldman (excellent as always) scheming against holier-than-thou President and his staff is simply patronizing. And what a copout ending!

Getting back to the good ones. Far more than just a Helen Mirren's Oscar vehicle, The Queen is an interesting essay on modern monarch's (and by extension, every non-totalitarian leader's) weird master/slave relationship to her people.

And, while less higbrow than the others mentioned, The Great Dictator (like most Chaplin's work IMHO) ages remarkably well. Though, come to think of it, Modern Times is even more political.

Catherine said...

Oh, how could you guys forget Bobby?!? :p I kid, I kid. Although, that film made me cry harder than anything I've seen in the cinema for the last three years. I didn't particularly like the film, but something about it flicked a switch in me and I was inconsolable all the way home... Damn manipulative Simon & Garfunkel.

I think I prefer real life politics to cinematic ones, but maybe it's because I've seen too few political films. Reading through the comments, there's a LOT that I've missed out on.

What do people think of Oliver Stone directing a George Bush film, with Josh Brolin as Dubya?

Deborah said...

There are lots of good choices here. I'll add Robert Redford's The Candidate, and Henry Fonda in The Best Man (which is so prescient and so brilliant).

Anonymous said...

wait... you have a boyfriend? i'm crushed.

Anonymous said...

My list would be something like this:

Bananas - Woody Allen
Dr. Strangelove - Stanley Kubrick
Z- Costa Gavras
Missing - Costa Gavras
The Caiman - Nanni Moretti
Life is beautiful - Roberto Benigni
In the name of the father - Jim Sheridan
11'09''01 - Several directors
The motorcycle diaries - Walter Salles
Bus 174 - José Padilha