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    Political Movies That Matter

    Jan Wahl

    By Jan Wahl–

    Movies that satirize, examine, or even celebrate politics have always been on the cinematic scene, from Citizen Kane to Seven Days in May to The Kingmaker to Michael Moore’s Where Do We Invade Next? But there are a few that are so relevant to right now that I vote for a repeat or new viewing. Google to find out where these treasures can be found.

    The Contender (2000) tells the story of a Senator (Joan Allen) being confirmed after the death of her predecessor. Attacks on her personal life as well as past comments and allegations of all sorts threaten to derail her possibilities. Writer/Director Rod Lurie said he wrote the part expressly for Allen, but she plays it as any person caught in the corruption of the system. Gary Oldman, Jeff Bridges, and Sam Elliott costar in a powerful and under-rated film.

    Get Me Roger Stone (2017) is the life and career of political strategist and lobbyist Roger Stone, who is demystified in this excellent documentary. We get insight on how he planted the seeds that allow his friends, wealthy businessmen, and moguls to enter the arena of power and upend the Establishment. Is it due to narcissistic ability or loyalty to his tribe? Follow this one up with 2019’s Where’s My Roy Cohn? Then call a therapist.

    One of my favorite films ever made is 1957’s A Face in the Crowd. You will never look at Andy of Mayberry the same as Andy Griffith makes his film debut as the ruthless, nightmarish Lonesome Rhodes. He’s an Arkansas drifter who becomes a media sensation, diving into egomaniacal madness. Written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan, the film follows fame to political power, using celebrity to mold the American mind. 

    Even the most frustrated of us need to lighten up through smart, witty movies about politics. One of the best is 1997’s Wag the Dog. These days I seem to view this one at least every few months. A spin doctor and a Hollywood producer fabricate a war to distract Americans from a presidential scandal. Politics and showbiz meet in a brilliant comedy so outrageous it could be true!  Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, and Willie Nelson are part of the remarkable cast.

    There is no way we do not include the strong, unforgettable Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). When an earnest young man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate, he collides with dark and detailed political corruption. From government lackeys to thugs to the destruction of ideals, how much hardball is needed to play with the big boys? James Stewart as Jefferson Smith completely captures patriotism to despair, fighting the bullies to filibuster. This is a Frank Capra film that everyone should see at least once.  

    The Candidate, Bulworth, Lincoln, JFK, Milk, Suffragette, and others are to be included here. But start with the aforementioned and buckle up for some bumpy months ahead.                     

    Emmy Award-winner Jan Wahl is a renowned entertainment reporter, producer, and teacher. A member of the prestigious Directors Guild of America, she is regularly featured on KPIX television (every Monday morning starting at 6:15 am) and on KCBS AM & FM and other media outlets. To read and listen to her reviews for KCBS, go to: https://kcbsradio.radio.com/authors/jan-wahl For more info about her remarkable life and career: http://www.janwahl.com/ Check out her entertaining and informative videos at http://sfbaytimes.com/

    Published on August 27, 2020