It’s an incredibly tight presidential campaign this year…but Forget those two guys, isn’t this one “cool as a cucumber” Commander-In-Chief? And this guy’s not so bad either:
And don’t you wish ALL Reporters were as cool and hip as these two?
In this presidential election year, I plan to bone up on some of the greatest political movies of all time. I already posted about three great political movies where the Vice President was key to the plot – now, let’s focus on the big guy!
The American President
Look at the pedigree for this great romantic comedy! Director Rob Reiner, Writer Aaron Sorkin and stars Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Michael J. Fox and Martin Sheen
“The American President” is an underrated and sometimes overlooked political comedy-romance-drama that is a must see this election year!
Michael Douglas is President Andrew Shepherd, who is approaching the end of his first term as President of the United States. He’s a widower with a young daughter and has proved to be popular with the public. His election seems assured.
All seems assured until he meets Sydney Ellen Wade, a paid political activist working for an environmental lobby group. He’s immediately smitten with her – and the election is turned upside down.
His relationship with Wade opens the door for his prime political opponent to launch an attack on the President’s character, something he could not do in the previous election as Shepherd’s wife had only recently died.
Here is the first meeting of the President and Sydney:
[Sydney is unaware the President is listening]
Sydney Ellen Wade to his Advisors: “Your boss is the chief executive of fantasy land!”
President Andrew Shepherd: “Well, let’s take him out back and beat the shit out of him!”
Aaron Sorkin’s script is witty and smart – and just like Sorkin’s TV show “The West Wing”, it’s full of great political insight…such as when close advisor AJ decides its time to clear the air with his boss:
President Andrew Shepherd: Is the view pretty good from the cheap seats, A.J.?
A.J.: I beg your pardon?
President Andrew Shepherd: Because it occurs to me that in twenty five years I’ve never seen YOUR name on a ballot. Now why is that? Why are you always one step behind ME?
A.J.: Because if I wasn’t, you’d be the most popular history teacher at the University of Wisconsin!
President Andrew Shepherd: Fuck you!
Martin Sheen, Anna Deavere Smith, Nina Siemaszko, Beau Billingslea, Joshua Malina, Ralph Meyering Jr., Richard McGonagle, Thom Barry, Gabriel Jarret, Ron Canada, Nick Toth and Aaron Sorkin all had roles in both “The American President” and “The West Wing”. Both were written by Sorkin. Some unused script ideas for the movie were later used on the show.
Here is Douglas’s dramatic speech near the end of the film:
President Andrew Shepherd: I’ve loved two women in my life. I lost one to cancer, and I lost the other ’cause I was so busy keeping my job I forgot to do my job. Well, that ends right now. Tomorrow morning, the White House is sending a bill to Congress for its consideration. It’s White House Resolution 455, an energy bill requiring a 20 percent reduction of the emission of fossil fuels over the next ten years. It is by far the most aggressive stride ever taken in the fight to reverse the effects of global warming. The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns. We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Andrew Shepherd, and I *am* the President.
Director Rob Reiner finds the perfect mix of romantic comedy, political intrigue and character study….
A really funny, smart, warm movie about the toughest job in the world – especially if you are looking to date!
And a quick “kudos” to Michael Douglas, who makes things look a bit too easy some times in his films, because he isn’t usually showy, he’s just really really good – lots of great examples of that…speaking of a really good Actor who also is taken for granted at times:
This is a GREAT political drama starring Robert Redford. As you’ll read soon, this astute and timely political film was ONLY made because Redford leveraged his popularity to make it a reality…kudos to him as well.
Redford plays Californian lawyer Bill McKay, who fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It’s agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he’s in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change.
Lucas: You’re the Democratic nominee!
Bill McKay: You make it sound like a death sentence.
“The Candidate” was released a month prior to the 1972 California Presidential primary. Promotional sheets were put up in southern California resembling political posters. They had simply a photo of Robert Redford, with the slogan, “McKay: The Better Way!” – “McKay” got write-in votes in the June election!
Dinner MC: [Introducing McKay to fund-raiser dinner audience] Seriously folks, you better watch your step when he comes out here because he’s a man who shoots from the hip and a man who’s hip when he shoots. Join me in welcoming Bill McKay!
Bill McKay: [with his team after giving one speech too many] Can’t any longer play off black against old – young against poor. This country cannot house its houseless – feed its foodless.
[and he begins making gaga noises]
According to wikipedia, Robert Redford and Director Michael Ritchie had recently worked together on “Downhill Racer”, when they approached Jeremy Larner together wanting to make a movie about “a candidate who sold his soul.” According to Larner: “Warners would not have financed the film were not Redford willing to take responsibility for it, and though he did not want the credit, he was a most conscientious producer from beginning to end, and the movie certainly reflects his personality.”
This movie is as timely today as when it was released, and an important political movie to watch in an election year…I mean, look at that poster!
And speaking of an important movie that only came together because of Redford’s clout, how about the most important political films ever made – and just one of the best movies EVER – from the most important nonfiction political thriller of all time:
All The President’s Men
This is a masterwork from everyone involved, turning this blockbuster book into an amazing cinematic achievement. Kudos to Director Alan J. Pakula, Writers Carl Bernstein Bob Woodward and Screenwriter William Goldman, along with stars Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook and Jack Warden.
In the run-up to the 1972 elections, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward covers what seems to be a minor break-in at the Democratic Party National headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. He is surprised to find top lawyers already on the defense case, and the discovery of names and addresses of Republican fund organizers on the accused further arouses his suspicions. The editor of the Post is prepared to run with the story and assigns Woodward and Carl Bernstein to it. They find the trail leading higher and higher in the Republican Party, and eventually into the White House itself.
It’s hard to imagine it was only 40 years ago that President Nixon resigned in disgrace, and this book was the reason…the movie captures how the Watergate break-in was uncovered by two young, industrious reporters for one of the world’s greatest newspapers..but there were many roadblocks.
This is a perfect film, an intelligent thriller about politics, coverups, and the incredible pressure this entire group of people were all under as they uncovered more and more layers of guilt, leading to the President himself…
Again, credit goes to Robert Redford for using his star power to get this film made…Warner Brothers agreed to finance the film only on condition that Robert Redford – then the number one box office star in the world – starred as Bob Woodward.
Washington Post boss Katharine Graham, who was initially very apprehensive about the film using the paper’s name, loved the film and later wrote a letter of praise and approval to star and co-producer Robert Redford.
One scene involving Robert Redford on the phone is done in a continuous six-minute single take with the camera tracking in slowly. Towards the end Redford makes a mistake – he calls the phone caller by the wrong name – but as he stays in character it simply appears genuine and this was the take used in the final cut.
The Mysterious DEEP THROAT!
Hal Holbrook was the first and only choice to play the informant Deep Throat.
During the casting process, Bob Woodward, while looking at various actors photo head shots and resumes, but not revealing Deep Throat’s true identity, told and insisted to director Alan J. Pakula that Holbrook was the best choice to play Deep Throat. (Holbrook, in fact, bears a strong resemblance to W. Mark Felt).
On Tuesday, May 31, 2005, in advance of a revelatory July 2005 “Vanity Fair” article written by his attorney and spokesman, 91-year-old W. Mark Felt acknowledged publicly for the first time that he was in fact the informant “Deep Throat,” a fact corroborated by Bob Woodward and the Washington Post. At the time of the Watergate break-in, Mr. Felt was the Deputy Director, the second-in-command, of the FBI. Talk about a front seat to history…
“All The President’s Men” was a huge box-office and critical success, winning 4 Oscars including Best Screenplay by William Goldman and Best Supporting Actor for Jason Robards, who played cranky Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee.
However, the film did NOT win Best Picture of 1976. In what I consider one of the greatest nominee lineups EVER, the film was up against the following classic films: the brilliant TV satire “Network”, the Woody Guthrie bio-pic “Bound For Glory” and Martin Scorsese’s incendiary “Taxi Driver.” What did they all lose to?
Three of these four nominees are better films than “Rocky”, but when you watch “Rocky” again, as we do on a regular basis, you realize that it’s a classic movie as well – what a great year for film!