Lost in the Movies: Election Overlook

Election Overlook

In lieu of an October Overlook, this is a survey of the twenty-five posts I fired off in response to election season. Get out the door and vote if you haven't already, but if you have, kick back and check out my election series. Feel free to jump in and comment; these issues will still be with us after today, and I'll respond to anyone who's just catching up with my blog now.

1. Countdown to the Election
"For the moment, politics will be our focus: the good, the bad, the ugly, and yes, on occasion, the idealistic too."

2. W.
"By the end of the movie, we still don't quite understand what's going on in that head, why things came to this point - but the man at the center doesn't really seem to understand either, and we're brothers in confusion."

3. Primary & 4 Days in November
"Ironically, it was the cameramen who captured Kennedy at the dawn of his presidential career who would have been most suitable to record its poignant sunset - along with the intimations of a dark, uncertain night to come."

4. The Candidate
"At any rate, it's difficult to imagine Obama pinning David Axelrod in a corner at an election-night victory party and pleading, almost plaintively (as McKay does in the film): 'What do we do now?'"

5. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
"Jefferson Smith, for all his initial naivete and incompetence, couches his idealism in American history, in the Constitution, America as an ideal, a set of principles, not a geographic land blessed by God out of some arbitrary favoritism. Though admittedly, he has been known to pal around with terrorists."

6. Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?
"Smith, though 30, looks about 5-10 years younger. He's short, slightly awkward, and speaks with a high-pitched lisp. As he drives around in his little car...the candidate admits that even his parents and brother won't donate money to his quixotic campaign."

7. The Contender
"And, given the [Palin pregnancy], it was conservative Republicans who shrugged at a youngster's fornication, slapping a 'Shit Happens' bumper sticker next to the Jesus fish on their SUV."

8. The Weather Underground
"They declare a desire to 'bring the war home' but while Asian hamlets are being napalmed, they hold orgies in order to 'smash monogamy' and destroy any last semblance of bourgeois conservatism."

9. Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater
"McCain could definitely use Goldwater's clarity of purpose and conviction. Say what you will about Barry, he lost by sticking to his convictions rather than abandoning them."

10. Fahrenheit 9/11
"The film stokes paranoia in more subtle ways than mere verbal insinuation. Its electric editing, pervasive musical score, and lingering slo-mo close-ups build a feeling of dread."

11. So Goes the Nation
"[John Kerry's] verbal contusions offered ample ammo for a glib Republican catch-phrase: audiences eagerly chant 'flip-flop, flip-flop' and even dress as man-size sandals to prove their point."

12. When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
"In other words, despite his fierce anger and defiant attitude, there's an underlying longing for community and understanding that characterizes this film, and indeed all of [Spike] Lee's work."

13. Sicko
"[Michael Moore's] usual impulse is to storm the citadels of power with his camera and poke it into the faces of those who have devastated average lives...but he holds back. And cathartic as it would be to see him make the insurance company sweat, it would be easy and, in a sense, miss the point."

14. Maxed Out
"Maxed Out saw the storm on the horizon. Watching it today, about a year and a half after it was released, in the wake of the meltdown of the debt-based U.S. and world economy, is an eerie experience."

15. A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash
"One by one, alternative energy sources are considered and brusquely dismissed by the talking heads, especially by one young fellow who seems to delight in throwing cold water on every prospect for hope and a way out of our overreliance on oil."

16. An Inconvenient Truth
"Gone were the turtle suits of Seattle and Davos, replaced by a well-groomed (if slightly stocky) man in a dark suit, travelling around the world, one hand on his laptop like a post-Information Age, nonviolent, Tennessee-accented James Bond."

17. The Devil Came on Horseback
"As hundreds of thousands were killed and millions displaced, it dawned on the world that systematic genocide was taking place in Darfur. And Steadle was there to observe."

18. Inside North Korea
"On the North Korean side of the divide, two guards face one another, ready to shoot the other if he tries to jump over, while another guard stands further back, evenly between them, facing the other way in case someone tries to escape from that direction."

19. Iran: The Next Iraq?
"We see boy soldiers (some as young as 13, though they look even younger) primed for war and a Tehran fountain commissioned with red-colored water - it's supposed to flow with the 'blood of martyrs.'"

20. Frontline: The War Briefing
"Its title frames the issue as something the next president must focus on, and indeed after years of flirting with Iranian strikes, and dealing with the distracting mess in Iraq, we're back to square one: Afghanistan, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Pakistan."

21. Frontline: The Al Qaeda Files
"The image of bin Laden, with the long beard and robes, hidden deep in a cave somewhere on the outskirts of civilization, may frighten many Americans, but it seems supremely calculated to do so: it's an image bin Laden has created himself, not one he was born into."

22. Taxi to the Dark Side
"From a simple, almost thoughtless action, the jotting down of some comments, the typing of a memo from behind a comfortable Washington desk, thousands of people can suffer - and the depth of their experience has no correspondence at its root."

23. No End in Sight
"For Iraq, a war of choice in which we had all the time in the world to think ahead, postwar planning did not begin in earnest until two months before the invasion began. This boggles the mind, but it's only the beginning."

24. Iraq in Fragments
"Now that I better comprehend the big picture, Iraq in Fragments seems more vital, more important, than ever. It is important as an experiment with the documentary form, it is important as a document of Iraq, and it is important as a work of art in its own regard."

25. The Choice
"Both John McCain and Barack Obama have been lifelong tight-rope walkers. Now, at the hour of utmost need, McCain has fallen from his perch and Obama remains, teetering on razor's edge."


Dean Treadway said...

A great post! I have to say that I think MAXED OUT is the most important inclusion, along with Moore's best film SICKO (I'm glad to see he's growing as a filmmaker). But MAXED OUT is a movie that's been dying to be made for over 20 years, if not longer. Hell, I remember my parents being stressed out by credit card debt in the 1970s. This movie shows what it's like now, and it is not pretty. Shocking, depressing, and totally relevant, MAXED OUT may be the greatest documentary made in the past 20 years.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks, Dean - glad to see people are still checking out that election season is over - and election fatigue has set in. I wouldn't go so far as to call Maxed Out the greatest documentary in the past 20 years, but it's certainly one of the most relevant, and that's saying something. What impressed me was the way it went beyond credit-card debt to all kinds of debt, and how it saw the big picture as to what this means about our society and what it says about us. I can't think of any other film I've seen that gave me such an eerie feeling - I mean, they hit the nail on the head a year in and a half in advance, to uncanny effect! Though, as I point out in the review, I doubt that gives them much pleasure now.

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