Michael Clark / Movies from the Right
While every aspect of our lives has been severely altered by the global spread of the COVID19 virus, few entities have been as immediately and publicly shaken more than the movie industry and the 2020 presidential election.
Always odd bedfellows, politics and film have shared an uneasy alliance for the better part of the last century. Rarely achieving blockbuster status at the box office, this micro-thin genre is generally smarter and darker than their mainstream counterparts and nearly all of these films become huge cult favorites.
The following aren’t necessarily the best of their kind but they are my favorites. All titles are available on the streaming services Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, and YouTube and hopefully the time spent at home while “sheltering-in-place” will allow you and yours to discover (or rediscover) these gems.
- "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) – This Cold War thriller starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and a truly evil Angela Lansbury was light years ahead of its time. Upon returning home after being a Chinese POW, a brainwashed Korean War vet is programmed to assassinate the political rival of his step-father. Do not under any circumstances confuse this masterpiece with the embarrassing 2004 remake.
- "Wag The Dog" (1997) – In this wicked black comedy, Robert de Niro (as a wry spin doctor) and Dustin Hoffman (as a film producer) successfully divert the country’s attention away from the report of a (nameless and unseen) U.S. president seeking re-election accused of inappropriate behavior involving a preteen female in the Oval Office.
- "JFK" (1991) – Starring Kevin Costner as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, this polarizing and mesmerizing epic covers every detail (and then some) of the (first) Kennedy assassination. When called to task regarding the provable truth contained in the film, director Oliver Stone wisely quipped "it’s not a documentary."
- "All the President’s Men" (1976) – From late director Alan J. Pakula, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) become the most famous newspaper writers in history for uncovering the darkest hour of the U.S. presidency. The killer supporting cast includes Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook and Jason Robards who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Post editor Ben Bradlee.
- "Citizen Kane" (1941) – Perhaps Michael Bloomberg should have watched this before spending nearly $1 billion to win American Samoa on Super Tuesday. Director/co-writer Orson Welles plays the title character, a media mogul based on William Randolph Hearst who unsuccessfully attempts to buy a presidential election. In retaliation, Hurst newspapers refused to run print advertisement for the film which permanently derailed Welles’ career.
- "Bulworth" (1998) – The least known and most underrated 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 status-quo establishment.
- "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.
- "Lincoln" (2012) – Far from the definitive bio-pic the title might imply, Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner (adapting Doris Kearns Goodwin’s "Team of Rivals") put the focus on the last four months in the life of President Lincoln (Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis) and his battle with Congress over the passage of the 13th Amendment forever outlawing slavery.
- "Election" (1999) – Although it takes place in a high school during a campaign for class president, this unbridled and foul-mouthed satire is intended for adults only, earning every bit of its hard "R" rating. In what has been described as an “anti-Ferris Bueller” character, Matthew Broderick plays a teacher with questionable ethics and morals butting heads with an aggressive and frequently off-putting overachieving student (Reese Witherspoon).
- "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939) – One of three movies he made with director Frank Capra, “Mr. Smith” stars James Stewart in most "Stewarty" performance as an idealistic yet slightly naïve, recently appointed U.S. senator whose attempts at reform and change are met with unyielding resistance. For vastly different reasons, it should be required viewing for supporters of both President Trump and two-time presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.
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. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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