“I'm the Med City Movie Guy and I approve these films” (Director's Cut)
In case you didn't notice, the 20-month campaign is coming to a close. That's bad news for political junkies but good news for the rest of us. Just the same, if you're one of the former, here’re some election-themed movies that get my vote. These will hold you over until the 2014 midterms:
The Campaign (2012) A wild comedy about the lengths two candidates will go to win a seat in congress. Will Ferrell is the slick incumbent and Zach Galifianakis is the delicate challenger who comes swiftly up to speed on dirty campaigning. Lots of predictable political gags and far from biting satire though there are still plenty laughs with no obvious political agenda.
Welcome to Mooseport (2004) Gene Hackman stars as ex-president Monroe "Eagle" Cole who moves to the small town of Mooseport where he locks horns with plumber Ray Romano. Both quickly find themselves in a contentious campaign for mayor of their minuscule Maine town but what they’re really after is Maura Tierney. It was Hackman’s last film before himself retiring. Not a great one but great fun.
Primary Colors (1998) A surprisingly entertaining spoof -- or documentary depending on which insider you speak with -- of Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential run. John Travolta is brilliant as Governor Jack Stanton and delivers wonderfully wry lines like, “I'm going to tell you something really outrageous. I'm going to tell you the truth.”
Bulworth (1998) Warren Beatty stars as Senator Jay Billington Bulworth, a veteran Democrat who, when his constituency finds his liberal views outdated, contracts to have himself assassinated then uses the short time he has left to speak his mind without regard for consequences ... until those outbursts make him a media darling and his campaign is reenergized. It’s Beatty’s best work since “Ishtar.” Hmmm, that’s not saying much. It’s his best since “Reds” ... since “Heaven Can Wait” ... Well, let’s just say this is one of Beatty’s best.
Bob Roberts (1992) A provocative mocumentary following fictional conservative senatorial candidate Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) as he campaigns across Pennsylvania under the mantra, “The times they are a-changin’ back.” Humorous, of course, but also engaging as we watch the crafty pol carefully avoid being exposed for the fraud he so obviously is.
Ides of March (2011) Daggers thrust from all directions in this George Clooney-directed political drama that stars Ryan Gosling as a junior adviser to Clooney’s presidential candidate. Gosling makes a tactical mistake meeting with his opponent’s campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) that gets him fired when his boss (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets wind of the meeting from an instigating New York Times reporter (Marisa Tomei). Riveting in spite of Clooney’s plethora of presidential platitudes.
The American President (1995) Michael Douglas is a widowed President who romances a lobbyist (Annette Bening) while trying to run a re-election campaign against a conservative family-values Republican challenger (Richard Dreyfuss). Douglas' charm and pragmatism win the day in this -- do I even have to say? -- Rob Reiner-directed romcom/drama. Great chemistry between Douglas and Bening.
The Candidate (1972) If idealism was sugar, Robert Redford’s oratory would send viewers into a diabetic coma with his portrayal of liberal lawyer turned liberal candidate Bill McKay. Though the post-election victory quote, “What do we do now?” is considered iconic, the real question is: how would Jay Gatsby react to McKay’s ‘tax the rich’ policy? Famous last lines: What do we do now?
Man of the Year (2006) In this paean to populist politics, talk show host Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) is recruited to run for President, hardly expecting a victory. But when a software glitch in the new electronic voting machine skews the results and delivers him one, he has to choose between a career as the jester or as the jestee. Will Rogers-type commentary never goes out of style.
Swing Vote (2008) A preposterously unlikely tie and a malformed ballot leave apathetic schlub Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) casting the single “swing vote” that will decide a presidential election. Every vote counts, but apparently Bud’s counts more as each candidate targets their campaign messages specifically to him with hysterical commercials lampooning wedge issues like abortion and illegal immigration that will make you laugh out loud if not squirm in politically incorrect discomfort.
Chris Miksanek, The Med City Movie Guy