FIVE FILMS: Presidential Edition
With the election season drawing to a close this week, political junkies nationwide are at risk of going into withdrawal. The clamor of pundits and poll results in regards to presidential possibilities is about to go silent, but as any runner coming down from an endorphin high will tell you, you don’t want to come to a cold stop. You need to have a critical cool down period. So to ease the transition, here are five films that will hopefully get you through until the campaigning for 2016 starts up—probably sometime next week.
Gabriel Over the White House (1933), directed by Gregory La Cava
Walter Houston gives a barnstormer of a performance as a president who, after a car crash-induced coma and a subsequent visit from the Archangel Gabriel, turns the US government inside out as he fires Congress, revokes the Constitution and becomes an all-powerful dictator working towards social justice for all and world peace. While its politics are questionable, its popularity was not: audiences reeling from the Great Depression made the film one of the biggest hits of the year.
Wild in the Streets (1968), directed by Barry Shear
“Fourteen or fight!” That’s the rallying cry of teenagers throughout the land as they protest, vote and dose a nation into electing a twenty-something millionaire rock star as the President. Although time has dulled the edge of its satirical look at Sixties politics and youth culture, this 15-day wonder from AIP still packs enough outlandish twists and turns in its tale of generational war to make it more than just a Day-Glo nostalgia trip.
The Man (1972), directed by Joseph Sargent
When the President is killed and the Vice President refuses to take his place, the chain of succession leads to the President pro tempore of the Senate, who happens to be African-American. With a screenplay by the Twilight Zone’s Rod Sterling based on a novel by Irving Wallace, The Man takes itself very seriously, at times coming off as a very solemn TV movie (which in fact is how it was originally conceived), but the cast is uniformly excellent, especially James Earl Jones as the former Senator struggling to come to terms with how he got into the Oval Office.
Secret Honor (1984), directed by Robert Altman
Filmed as an extension of a class Altman was teaching at the University of Michigan and based on a one-man play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, Secret Honor finds Richard Nixon alone in his study with only his memories, a bottle of scotch and a gun to keep him company. Altman did a number of theatrical adaptations in the Eighties—Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Streamers, Fool for Love, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial—but Secret Honor is easily the stand out, due to Altman’s commitment to the material and Philip Baker Hall’s fiery performance as Nixon.
Dreamscape (1984), directed by Joseph Rubin
Dennis Quaid stars as Alex, a psychic with the ability to enter into other people’s dreams who reluctantly agrees to take part in a government program. At first, the program is proposed to help people with severe sleep disorders, but when the President begins suffering from debilitating nightmares and whistleblowers start dying, Alex discovers its true purpose: assassination and world domination. Okay, maybe this one isn’t as on point as our other suggestions, but come on. It features a fight between a man and a snake-man that takes place in the hellscape of a president’s imagination. That’s political enough for me.
November 6th, 2012 • No Comments