And, once again, I'm going to try to get back to doing these, at least occasionally. I actually have a couple things I've watched that I want to write up, but I never seem to get around to it these days. So today I have a cheat to get me back doing it, and I'll see how it goes.
That is, Jake Tapper did a thing about his "ten favorite" political movies. So I don't like to do personal favorite lists, but I thought it would be fun to see if I can top each one on his list.
First, the caveats. The main thing is that he just said they were his favorites, and so I certainly don't imply any criticism when I try to top them -- he's not claiming these are the best, either as movies or in their political meaning. Everyone is entitled to their favorites. Second, his ground rules were that it has to be narrowly political, which seems to be that it has to be set in either electoral politics or government. As he notes, that excludes something such as The Godfather (indeed, I think Godfather II fits under his definition, but I'll exclude it to stick with the spirit of his list). And I think by his definition war pictures have to be at least partially about high government officials; no Casablanca. Oh, and he specified no documentaries. And I guess they have to be movies, so I can't slip "Yes, Minister" or "The Wire" in here.
So I'll try to come up with either with a better movie or a movie with better politics content. Each entry starts with Tapper's choice, and then tops it. Sorry, long-time readers -- I've talked about most of these before, but maybe it'll get me back to doing movie posts more often.
10. In the Loop. One of two I haven't seen, so I'm going to have trouble coming up with a comp and won't know if I like it better. So I'll cheat and just toss out a great movie with enough politics to qualify: Citizen Kane. But after this one, they have to be matches in some way.
9. The Parallax View. Regular readers know I'm a big Beatty fan, but even I don't think it's much of a movie. Conspiracy, Beatty...this one's easy -- Bulworth is a far better movie, even if it ultimately falls short of greatness thanks to some Mr. Smithism and a bit too much conspiracy.
8. Z. The other one I haven't seen. Small country, repression, leftists: no one does that better than Life of Brian.
7. Dr. Strangelove. Can't really top it, I suppose. Still...I'm going to assume that Kubrick's two other anti-war movies, Full Metal Jacket and Paths of Glory, don't qualify; if they did, I could make a case for either of them. Instead, I'll argue for Sparticus, which surely does qualify. Because sometimes you're in the mood for an epic, and because it's about the best movie I can think of for liberal interventionists, and they should get something. Also because Charles Laughton is so wonderful in it.
6. Bananas. Terrific movie, if not quite as good as Love and Death...but, c'mon, Woody Allen really has absolutely no interest in politics at all, even if revolutions and dictators and Napoleon show up. Yes, it has one great political moment (the bit about the underwear), but so does History of the World Part I (it's good to be the king). Let's see: guy from an imperial power actually not very interested in politics but the romance of it intersects with how he works out his personal issues -- is it Bananas, or is it Lawrence of Arabia? Not sure that Lawrence is a great political movie, but it is a great movie, and it's at least as political as Bananas.
5. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Again, regular readers kmow my views on this: Sturges easily trumps Capra. Hail the Conquering Hero, or The Great McGinty? (Again, I don't think Sullivan's Travels qualifies here). Gotta be McGinty -- not quite as good a movie as Hero (or Mr. Smith, for that matter), but a great rumination on political ethics by one of the best political directors.
4. Charlie Wilson's War. Odd pick; it's okay, I guess, but I found it entirely forgettable. Do you think the rules allow for Three Kings here? Three Kings is a good comp, I'd say, and a much better movie.
3. Wag the Dog. The only one I'd call a really awful selection; I can excuse Mr. Smith because it is a very good movie, but this one is just awful. Get some real politics: watch Scorsese's Gangs of New York.
2. All the President's Men. A fine movie all around...but one of the easiest to top, with Dick.
1. The Candidate. A fine choice for the highest spot on a favorite's list -- it's not, really, a great movie, but it's awful fun, and none do a better job in getting into a politician's head, even if a lot of the details aren't all that realistic. Hey, you now what that also describes? Henry V. As usual, Branagh's version. Henry is, to me, as great a political
play as there ever has been, and I think Branagh's interpretation is
concerned with politics a lot more than Olivier's -- although you should