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    Wahl vs. Trump: Movie Critic Stand Off

    By Jan Wahl–

    It is so nice to have some competition. Mr. T [President Trump] decided to issue a critique on the movie Parasite while extolling the virtues of Gone with the Wind and Sunset Boulevard. While there are definite similarities between Norma Desmond and Mr. T, it seemed a proper time to suggest a few films that he should now sit down and study. Okay, to just sit down and watch.

    Wag the Dog

    Wag the Dog (1997)
    This film portrays a U.S. president who, two weeks into his reelection, finds himself in the midst of a sex scandal. The Prez was accused of molesting a Girl Scout. He seeks help with this PR crisis, eventually employing s spin doctor who understands a serious diversion is needed. A Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman as Robert Evans) decides that the best course is a well-documented war in Albania. With everyone in the country now following the fabricated war (theme music by Willie Nelson), the sex scandal is a thing of the past. Many people think of this movie when the real-life news is filled with another world conflict, thinking diversion is a tool often used by those in power. The film was directed by Barry Levinson and written by David Mamet and Hilary Henkin. It features outstanding performances by Robert DeNiro, Anne Heche, and Hoffman.

    The Front (1976)
    One of my favorite films of all time is The Front. A restaurant cashier owes gambling debts. He is completely apathetic of the politics surrounding him during the shameful McCarthy witch hunts. When a blacklisted TV writer approaches him to put his name on the writer’s scripts so that he can work, our cashier agrees, soon fronting for other blacklisted writers. The film was written and directed by actual victims of the blacklist (in the closing credits we get the year they were put on the list) and features them as well. They include director Martin Ritt, stars Zero Mostel and Herschel Bernardi, and screenwriter Walter Bernstein. Even in its comical moments (the film also stars Woody Allen), it is a brilliant, poignant film with a conscience.

    Seven Days in May (1964)
    A best-selling novel inspired this film. JFK read the book and decided that its events could happen in this country. He became an advisor, through then press secretary Pierre Salinger, to director John Frankenheimer. The political thriller is the warning story of a powerful air force general who plans a coup d’etat to remove the U.S. president and seize control of the country, beginning with the media. It becomes complicated as the coup deepens. Soon we feel as if we are in the Twilight Zone. That is not a surprise, since Rod Serling adapted the screenplay. Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Frederic March, and Ava Gardner add luminous star power and fine acting.

    Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1968)
    This film brings back a memory of interviewing Sterling Hayden and listening to him bursting with pride at being a part of this masterful comic satire. He portrays the paranoid Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper. He deploys a nuclear attack on the USSR in order to preserve our “precious bodily fluids.” In the Pentagon War Room, important persons including Dr. Strangelove, a former Nazi, are desperately trying to stop the attack before it is too late. Peter Sellers and George C. Scott join a great cast of character actors in this Stanley Kubrick classic. Look for Keenan Wynn as Colonel “Bat” Guano. Art can warn, entertain, enlighten, inspire. This movie does it all.

    So, let’s do this, Mr. T. I’ll look forward to hearing from whomever explains these to you. JFK loved James Bond and The Longest Day. Eisenhower and Clinton were fans of High Noon. Truman often extolled the virtues of My Darling Clementine. LBJ chose The Searchers. As the great Norma Desmond said in one of your favorites (directed by political liberal and immigrant Billy Wilder), I’m ready for your closeup, Mr. T.

    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 KCBS AM & FM and other media outlets. To read and listen to her reviews for KCBS, go to:

    Published on March 12, 2020


    Spotlight Film for SF Pride 50: Saving Face (2004)

    By Jan Wahl–

    Ma is deeply disappointed that her up and coming surgeon daughter is not yet married. She is clueless that her daughter is a lesbian who is deeply in love with a sexy, rebellious dancer. Ma has a complex life of her own, just being thrown out of her home for a pregnancy by an unknown man and forced to live with her daughter. It is the passionate affair between the dancer and the doctor that draws us into this lovely romantic and poignant comedy of family and Chinese American tradition. Everyone can relate to director and writer Alice Wu’s rich characters and obvious affection for everything that goes on in this lively, beautiful film. Michelle Krusiec, Lynn Chen, and Joan Chen shine!