I'm a big Warren Beatty fan; I like him so much that I liked Ishtar. No, really, I thought it was a fun movie.
But anyway, this is about politics, and Ishtar wasn't, mostly. Beatty's career is a little tricky to think about. Off the screen, Beatty has long been thought of as one of the most politically active Hollywood stars. He only directed four movies (at least so far): two political, two (Heaven Can Wait and Dick Tracy) were not. He also took a producer's credit for Bonnie and Clyde, which one could argue is pretty political, although to me it's more movie movie than it is something to get me thinking about politics. If you know what I mean. He also starred in The Parallax View, which I don't think is much of a movie, but it is a prime example of politics-as-conspiracy, which I think is sort of the flip side of Mr. Smithism.
I saw Reds a long time ago...I don't know really remember it well enough that I should talk about it, but it struck me as more of a standard Hollywood biopic and spectacle than a real movie about politics. I could be wrong.
That leaves the key political Beatty movie, and one that I think is well worth seeing: Bulworth. Three things to say about Bulworth. First, it's really, really funny. (Yes -- even funnier than Ishtar). Unfortunately (for those who haven't watched a lot of Beatty movies), the funniest thing is just an inside joke between Beatty and his long-time audiences: He's Awake! Trust me, it really is very funny. The third thing to say is that, alas, it isn't really about politics; Beatty fully buys into a Mr. Smith/conspiracy view of things. Standard Hollywood garbage (you know, if only one honest man would stand up and fight for what we all know is right...but, also, even if someone did that then They would stop him).
So why am I pushing this movie as a key movie on American politics? Race. We don't have a lot of complex, thought-provoking meditations on race, identity, and America in the movies, certainly not from a white point of view (you have seen The Boondocks, haven't you? Season one, at least -- even then it's wildly inconsistent, but at least they remembered that Huey is the main character and Riley is comic relief). I don't know what Beatty thought he was doing, and perhaps he didn't either, but the result does a terrific job of shaking up your assumptions, whatever they were. As I saw the movie, Beatty was unfortunately smug on most public policy issues that he was preaching about, but (and I guess I will try to figure out what he thought he was doing) when it came to race, he knew that he was lost. And we get lost with him. And that's a good day's work.
Plus, it really is a funny movie. It's not a great movie, like Bonnie and Clyde, but I think it's well worth seeing.