Levitt Reviews Films On Politics



Many are already sick of this political season.  With the sheer volume of candidates, the volatility of the candidates, and the endless 24 hour analysis cycle some wonder when it will ever end.  Debates, town halls, analysis of debates and town halls, facebook posts , angry tweets, venting,  your friends make fear dire predictions if the wrong person will gain the top post,  Others warn of the government siphoning off your income for nefarious purposes and some even threaten to leave the United States if their candidate doesn’t win the presidency. Bon Voyage!

So, in keeping with this busy, hot-headed political season, I’ve decided to add my voice to the mix and review political films.  Now, When I decided to embark on this topic, I suddenly realized that I really don’t like political films all that much.  There are only a handful that I can bear to watch more than one time.  Then I thought about why.  I think the main reason is that politicians by in large do not directly control their destiny. They can give fiery speeches or debate an issue but they still have to wait and convince other people to take action.  Wheras Bruce Willis can just shoot somebody in the face. problem solved.  waiting for laws to pass through legislation is just not rich dramatic material.  You never hear someone exiting a theater stating that ” whew, thank god that law was enacted, that bill passed, that policy ratified.  Its just not compelling drama.

Furthermore politicians have to project and sometimes even assume a persona which exudes bragadoccio. Constantly under the lens of the media, they are forced constantly to defend their actions publicly and, as such, can almost never let down their guard, show indecision, humility, and exasperation.  The most memorable movie characters however openly show their flaws and their humanity to give movie goers a true mirror to their own souls.  Simply, Politicians barely ever show us “The wheels turning”.

So therefore, given the slow pace and stiff exterior of politics, my favorite movies about politics have less to do with governing or making changes in policy but using politics as back drop for stories more about life, people, and character.

The American President


The most populous movie about politics that comes to mind is of course “The American President” (B). Basically the movie is about a relationship that happens despite the public scrutiny, limitations of the office. A widower president is a novel idea for a president and the romance is still a classy noble affair showing the president (michael Douglas) discussing policy/falling in love w political lobbyist (annette Benning).  Its a good movie well written in the Sorkin style and with good performances especially by Martin Sheen and Michael J Fox who basically jump-started their careers (each with a political TV series) again with their standout performances in this film.  I found the main relationship a little too buttoned up and classy. They not only like each other but respect each others political views.  Now, that’s hot!  Sorkin seems too interested in provided a balanced relationship with two intelligent, well spoken, politically conscious people.  Relationships usually operate on more primal levels. Not that I wanted a more lurid/50 Shades of Gray treatment exactly but the two leads admire each other and are too sensitive regarding each other’s respective political roles that the actual romance part is a little too polite/passionless for my tastes.




Dave (C)- is a sort of “fish out of water” tale of a regular amiable temp employment agency owner who is asked to temporarily impersonate the president-because of his physical resemblance- while the president is unconscious in a coma.  Dave (Kevin Kline) spends much of the film trying to dutifully carry out the role of president while Chief Of Staff just wants him to be a “suit” who reads speeches and doesn’t take any of his own initiative.  The films most inspired part has Dave even hiring his own personal accountant to work out the kinks in the national budget.  I could have used more cute satirical touches like this. The film is okay, pleasant enough but suffers from the main character being too earnest and bland.  Dave dilligently tries to help people and repair estranged relations with his vice president and his wife so that an actual romance ensues. However ,I would have prefferred the Dave character to have more of an edge, a kid in a candy store  or party vibe that would have leant more fun to the most powerful office in the land. He should have relished his power… “I can tell people to do anything” and the film could have badly also used some scenes of him stirring up trouble, more pandemonium etc since he was only temporary and he didn’t really have the any of the real weight or responsibility of the office.   Instead, the real edge of the film and most of the scene-chewing in this  film is provided by by Frank Langella whose character because flawed is more able to interestingly misuse his authority, act selfishly, and to color out of the lines.

*Other notable films about politics: Nixon (strangely miscast, muddled narrative, I ended up disliking Nixon even more than before I watched the film. Not a good sign) Mr Smith Goes To Washington (saw it a long time ago, don’t remember much but it has Jimmy Stewart so it must be good) Same thing for Fail-safe (didn’t see it but it has Henry Fonda and was directed by Sidney Lumet so it must also rule.






Levitt’s Take On The Week In Politics


Historically I have always hated politics and anyone who takes strong stances on anything outside their direct experience tiresome to listen to.  I do, however, enjoy the theater of politics.  I enjoy debates because, despite politicians being able to identify a problem and volunteer a solution (take an immediate and clear action, impanel a committee, make it a #1 priority on “day one” of their administration), usually the politician who is less objectionable cosmetically (looks at their watch less, takes more modest sips of water than their challenger, rubs their nose rather than picking it, smiles rather than grins, and pronounces the names of foreign leaders with more finesse than their competitors wins.

Despite my aversion to anything involving policy or the daily workings of government, even the casual observer does have to admit that it was a big week in politics.


Last Saturday Bernie Sanders was mimicked and reduced to a caricature by Larry David on SNL.  Their similarity in voice and “rumpled-ness” of demeanor is hard to dispute and, consequently, the internet went bonkers in celebration and Larry David landed himself an excellent post-Curb gig. Soon, It got so bad that When Biden Suddenly dropped out of the race for president its quite possible that his thought processes went something like this:  “After careful deliberation, I have concluded that I do not believe in my heart that SNL has any cast member who is competent enough to impersonate me in a sketch. That show rises or falls based on its ability to nail its political satire. With me as a candidate, they have to settle with some second rater like Kyle Mooney trying to impersonate me…and that’s just not something I can, in good conscience, allow.”


Later in the week we learned that former president George W Bush suddenly resurfaced to give his candid impressions of republican candidate, Ted Cruz.  “I just don’t like the guy”. In the coming weeks I also look forward to Bush’s other poignantly stated and randomly unsolicited opinions. like “Carly Fiorina…she looks like someone whose hair smells”


This week we also learned that Jeb Bush finds the actress who plays Supergirl “Hot”. Creepiness aside, I think this revelation opens a door into Jeb’s unconscious desire to meet a powerful woman who will, like he said about his brother George W post 9-11,  “Will keep him safe”.

Lastly, we were witness to the spectacle  Hilary Clinton’s Bengazi hearings.  Through 11 hours of tough questions, it was reported that Hilary Clinton used the techniques of Yoga to stay relaxed. I wonder if she was able to mirror the practices of many Yogis who, through careful meditation and biofeedback, are  able to slow her heartbeat from 88 beats to 32 beat per minute  In that case, its quite possible that the former first lady was able to maintain a semi-conscious state broken only by certain involuntary motions of the body such as rapid eye movements and the noisy expulsion of gas.


Right after the Benghazi hearing, Hilary appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and explained that the first thing she did after the hearing was to eat Indian food and drink beer/wine with her associates. Wow, who knew she could be that relatable! That is such a coincidience. After a tough 11 hour grilling from the Bengazi committee, I also like to kick back, flanked by my closest advisors, with a little chicken tikka and a good bottle of the ol’ Pinot.