Archive for Sunday, November 2, 2008

Endorsing the top political movies

November 2, 2008

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— Even the most patriotic of us might be feeling election fatigue at this point. Campaigns generally are messy affairs, with stories that keep changing and endings that never seem to come, and the Obama-McCain battle has been no different.

But that's not the case when Hollywood directs a political race. In the movies, candidates make clever speeches, the bad guys get their due and things are wrapped up in a couple of hours. These election pictures get our votes:

Best movie for blue-state audiences

"The Candidate." Screenwriter Jeremy Larner won an Oscar for his perceptive 1972 political satire starring Robert Redford as Bill McKay, a young, environmentally conscious Senate candidate who begins to compromise his ideals in order to win the election. Directed by Michael Ritchie.

Also worth a spot on your Netflix queue: Ivan Reitman's 1993 "Dave."

Best movie for red-state audiences

"State of the Union." Actors Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take a walk on the right side in Frank Capra's compelling 1948 adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway smash by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Tracy plays an aviation mogul running as the Republican candidate for president who finds himself battling his integrity during the campaign as well as having an affair with the ruthless newspaper publisher (Angela Lansbury) grooming him for the presidency. Hepburn plays Tracy's wife.

And set your DVR for Capra's 1941 "Meet John Doe."

Best truth-is-stranger-than-fiction film

"The Best Man." Released during 1964, the LBJ-Goldwater election year, Gore Vidal's savvy adaptation of his hit Broadway play pits Henry Fonda as the idealistic Democratic presidential nominee against Cliff Robertson's ultraconservative Republican candidate. The Republican likes to play dirty, especially when he begins to exploit the fact that Fonda has a history of mental illness. The film foreshadowed the George McGovern-Richard Nixon race eight years later, when mental illness played a pivotal role. McGovern's initial running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, bowed out of the race when it came to light that he had received electric shock treatment and psychiatric care.

Best for the millennial generation

"Election." Alexander Payne co-wrote and directed this observant 1999 comedy about the machinations behind a small-town high school election. Reese Witherspoon came into her own as Tracy Flick, the ultimate overachiever running for president who finds her bid thwarted by a popular teacher and student government adviser played by Matthew Broderick.

Best romantic comedy

"The American President." Aaron Sorkin penned this 1995 hit starring Michael Douglas as a widowed president about to run for re-election. In the midst of dealing with approval ratings and a right-wing political opponent (Richard Dreyfuss), the president finds himself falling in love with a beautiful environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening). Four years later, Sorkin tapped the presidential well again, creating the Emmy-winning NBC series "The West Wing" (with "American President" costar Martin Sheen as commander in chief). Also a solid contender: 1947's "The Farmer's Daughter."

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