With the election season and temperatures on multiple fronts heating up, what could be better than taking your mind off of things than staying inside while gorging on movies which poke fun at politics?
All titles are available on the streaming services Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, and YouTube and hopefully the time spent at home will allow you and yours to discover (or rediscover) these gems.
- "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) – Instead of a faithful dramatic adaptation of Peter George’s novel "Red Alert," director Stanley Kubrick, George and third screenwriter Terry Southern made it as a deep black satire that hasn’t aged a day. The highlight is arguably the performance(s) of comedic genius Peter Sellers in three different roles. It is arguably Kubrick’s funniest, most engaging and audience-friendly effort of his brilliant career.
- "Wag The Dog" (1997) – In this wicked black comedy from director Barry Levinson, Robert de Niro (as a wry spin doctor) and Dustin Hoffman (as an egomaniacal film producer) successfully divert the country’s attention away from the report of a (nameless and unseen) U.S. president seeking re-election and accused of inappropriate behavior involving a preteen female in the Oval Office. The stellar supporting cast includes Anne Heche, Denis Leary, and Woody Harrelson.
- "Bulworth" (1998) – The most frequently overlooked title on this list stars Warren Beatty as a U.S. senator Jay Bulworth who is so depressed he orders his own assassination. After pulling an all-nighter at a hip-hop club in Los Angeles in the company of a mysterious woman (Halle Berry), Bulworth gets a second wind and begins speaking frankly in profane rhymes, much to the consternation of many members of the crooked, bought-and-sold status-quo establishment.
- "Dave" (1993) – Kevin Cline plays both fictional U.S. president Bill Mitchell and the title character, his newly-hired public appearance stand-in. When Mitchell goes ill, his slippery chief-of-staff (Frank Langela) attempts to use Dave as a puppet to push through a sinister set of pork-heavy bills and for a while it fools everyone including Mitchell’s estranged Ellen wife (Sigourney Weaver). Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Ben Kingsley, and Laura Linney all have small but crucial supporting roles in director Ivan Reitman’s uplifting, only slightly-cynical crowd-pleaser.
- "Being There" (1979) – In the final and many say the finest performance of his esteemed career, Peter Sellers stars as Chance, a gentle, slightly dim gardener who only knows the outside world from what he watches on TV. After being involved in a car accident, he starts spending time with Eve (Shirley MacLaine) and her husband Ben (Melvyn Douglas), who are close friends with the empty-suit U.S. president (Jack Warden). The socially-awkward Chance’s simple observations are misunderstood by everyone as sage advice and he is quickly considered to be a diplomatic genius.
- "Bob Roberts" (1992) – Tim Robbins wrote, directed and plays the title character, a guitar-playing, folk-song-singing candidate for the U.S. Senate in this satirical mockumentary. Based on a skit he performed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," Robbins’ Roberts is a calculating conservative; glib and falsely charming, hell-bent on winning over the electorate with Bob Dylan-flavored "cause" songs in order to defeat the liberal incumbent played by an effective, mostly adlibbing Gore Vidal.
- "The Campaign" (2012) – Will Ferrell plays Cam Brady, a seemingly undefeatable Democratic congressman running unopposed for a fifth term. After being involved in a scandal, Cam drops in the polls, leading two Koch Brothers-inspired Republican big-wigs (Dan Akroyd and John Lithgow) to handpick novice Marty Huggins (Zack Galifinakis) to enter the race. For such a broad, hard R-rated comedy, there is a surprisingly high amount of "inside baseball" political jargon.
- "The Great Dictator" (1940) – The highest-grossing and first full “talkie” film of Charlie Chaplin’s career, "The Great Dictator" satirized Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy at a time when both countries were still "friendly" with the U.S. Writer/director/composer/leading man Chaplin plays both a Jewish ghetto-dweller and a barely-cloaked version of Adolf Hitler. The mix of politics, comedy and tragedy is still biting and also provided the basis for Mel Brooks’ "The Producers."
- "In the Loop" (2009) – Before he went on to be the show runner for "Veep," writer/director Armando Iannucci helmed this black comedy based his own BBC TV show "The Thick of It." In his first role after "The Sopranos," James Gandolfini plays a "dove" U.S. general opposed to war in the Mideast, due to a lack of troops and bona-fide reasons to invade. The parallels to the Iraq War are unmistakable, yet Iannucci is still able to remain party/ideology-neutral throughout.
- "The Death of Stalin" (2017) – After he left "Veep," Iannucci came close to topping himself with another satire, this time set in 1953 Soviet Russia, right after the death of Josef Stalin. Not even bothering to have the performers speak or even sound Russian (which is actually a plus), the film is very universal in its scope as it shows how vicious the power-grab will get after the unexpected passing of a dictator. Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and others make up a firecracker ensemble.
. . . And this just in . . . being released on June 26 is "Irresistible," a hilarious and scathing indictment of the election process from writer/director Jon Stewart, starring Steve Carell and Chris Cooper. Check back here on June 26 for my full review.
Originally from Washington, D.C., Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets, is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle in 2017. Over the last 25 years, Mr. Clark has written over 4,000 movie reviews and film related articles and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. film critics. Read Michael Clark's Reports — More Here.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.