Friday, June 27, 2008

Hail to the Chief: Presidents in Film.

Perhaps one of the most persistent and recurring roles on television and film is that of the President of the United States. While Hollywood's portrayal of the executive office may be far from the truth, it way more entertaining and revealing than any press release or declassified document. Hollywood remains light years ahead of reality, having already portrayed a female and african-american president, something we still grapple with here in the "real-world". Hollywood presidents don't just create policy on terrorism, in some cases they roll up their sleeves and kick a little ass too. Here are the top five films featuring our fearless Commander in Chief.
5. Air Force One

This film makes the list purely because it transforms the President (played by Harrison Ford) into an ass-kicking terrorist fighter. I can't think of many films where the Commander and Chief interprets his title literally by donning an MP5 aboard a hijacked jumbo-jet. While there are many moments in this film where you will yell "Bull Sh&%" at the outlandish feats that are accomplished mid-air, you will certainly get a good laugh in the process. Additionally, the casting of this film will surprise you, since William H. Macy, Gary Oldman, and Glenn Close provide outstanding supporting roles in this Wolfgang Petersen cheezefest. This is yet another cinematic steal you can find in the five dollar Wal-Mart bin that isn't as heady or as preachy as the next few films.

4. Dr. Strangelove

While Kubrick uses comedy to liven up the Cold War, he somehow reminds us of the delicate balance between preservation of humanity and total annihilation. I have always thought Peter Sellers was one of the most under-celebrated actors of the last generation, having been so much more than Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther films. Any student of film history simply must go out and buy this film in order to appreciate its artistic splendor, and for satirically capturing the spirits and sentiments at the height of the nuclear age.
3. Primary Colors


IMDB.com joking quips that this movie should be called "Hillary and Bill: The Movie". While I have never read the novel that this film was based upon, it encapsulated many of Clinton's shortcomings that have become the basis of so many Oval Office jokes in the past eight years. This film was also beautifully cast and adds a new dimension to the myriad of roles played by fictional presidents, that being the inspirational and morally bankrupt slime-ball.



2. The American President

After watching this film I am convinced of many things, one of which is that Michael Douglas should run for President of the United States. He has wonderful hair, even more so than John Edwards. Secondly, Michael J. Fox is a hell of a press secretary, it's shameful that George W. Bush didn't make use of his talents to spin his public relations disasters. The American President is the movie that has something for everybody. It's intelligent enough to not be considered quirky, yet endearing enough to qualify as a romantic comedy. While The American President can never be classified as a "chick flick" it would rank high on the "list of guy movies that women will watch" for it's love story between Douglas and Annette Bening. The American President could seriously make a run at number one if not for the strength of our final film.
1. JFK

While many of the facts of this film are distorted and/or created purely for Oliver Stone to make his epic film, it does not diminish the movie's obvious brilliance. I once asked a colleague what percentage of the facts did he believe were correctly represented in Stone's film. He guesstimated about 40 percent of the events of the film have historical backing and are "irrefutable". If this percentage holds true, then Stone has made a compelling argument for conspiracy theory that will be debated until the National Archives are completely declassified in the coming years. I have always believed that JFK was more like a religious experience than a movie. I was very young when I watched this film for the first time, yet it had a profound impact on my understanding of the workings of government and its relationship with its citizenry. I'm not saying I took this film at face value, but it certainly impressed upon me the need to constantly search for the truth, something that our Founding Fathers stressed approximately two centuries ago. That's what I call a powerful film.

2 comments:

Bryan Pol said...

Outstanding post fortified by great choices. Honorable mention goes to Jack Lemmon and James Garner in "My Fellow Americans," an underrrated comedy in its own right. Cameos in this film included the work of Dan Akroyd and one Wilford Brimley and his 'diabetis.' Damn! How did I forget to put HIM in my moustache post!

Michael said...

good call, bryan! hail to the chief, he's the chief and he needs hailing! here comes the chief so everybody hail like crazy!