When I saw “V for Vendetta” in theaters in 2006, having gone in mostly cold, it washed over me like a new, surprising experience. Although I’d always been suspicious of authority, this movie – which often makes top 10 lists of most libertarian films – clinched it for me. Oddly, I don’t think it’s entirely because of the messages. “V for Vendetta” is certainly a message movie about the value of freedom and the untrustworthiness of governments, but more than that, it’s such a beautifully engrossing work of art.
Writer-director Alexander Payne’s breakthrough film, “Election,” was somewhat buried among the glut of teen classics in 1999. That’s appropriate, because it’s more timeless and less nostalgic than its brethren from that year; today, it remains a near-perfect portrayal of elections, popularity and the fact that God does not favor the best human beings. I almost typed “satire” instead of “portrayal,” but “Election” is too on-point to be called a satire. (It is a comedy, though, in that way of extended takes and funny images – like a tiny car peeling through town – that are Payne’s staple.)
Writer David Mamet – with Barry Levinson directing – switches his focus from the small cons of “House of Games” and the like to the global con of “Wag the Dog” (1997), a delightful and sometimes hilariously absurd examination of the cover-up of a presidential scandal. It’s also harrowing enough now and then to be more than a straight-up comedy. Savvy followers of the news cycle know the adage: If a huge story breaks, look at what the previous big story was and ask if the new one has been manufactured as a distraction.
After five seasons, “House of Cards” (Netflix) had started to stumble a bit. What had started off as a sleazy, dark-room, behind-the-scenes political thriller had become a boring relationship-centered drama. Then, with Kevin Spacey being banished from Hollywood, the writers of the show clearly had to scramble and change up their plans for Season 6. And it fails.
This blog series chronicles my first viewing of the complete MCU movie saga. I’ll examine each film under various categories that reflect popular discussion points. Next up is the ninth film, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014):
“Jack & Bobby” Season 1 (2004-05, WB), episodes 1-7 – “Jack & Bobby’s” mother (Christine Lahti) is a living, breathing stereotype of a liberal college professor who feels out of sorts in Small Town, Missouri. In the show’s second episode, she invites students to smoke marijuana and open their minds in her living room, which is littered with Kerry-Edwards placards. Bobby (Logan Lerman), the show’s future-president-as-a-young-man, wears about 30 Kerry-Edwards pins on his T-shirt.
One of my bosses encouraged us to attend “The Post” (2017) – which recently got a wide theatrical release – to rekindle our passion for newspapering. The film encourages some of that spirit, no doubt, but overall it left me sad. It’s a great movie about the Washington Post’s decision to publish highlights of the Top Secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, very much a welcome addition to the pantheon of journalism movies, but Steven Spielberg’s entry feels curiously out of time more so than, say, 2015’s “Spotlight.”
ABC’s “Designated Survivor” strained throughout its first season to show that President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is a good, decent and refreshingly different type of president. But because the show operates on a superficial level, it’s easy to expose the trick. Yes, he’s unquestionably – and boringly – a great guy; he loves his family, he treats everyone decently, he listens and learns, and so forth. But just as clearly, he’s as bad of a president as Bush, Obama and Trump.
After establishing itself as TV’s elite adrenaline rush in the epic Season 2, “24” Season 3 (2003-04, Fox; now streaming on Amazon Prime) gets introspective and examines how family and romantic relationships can suffer under the weight of a job where you must put the safety of thousands of Americans above that of a loved one (or conversely, your work can suffer because of the distraction). Simultaneously, Season 3 marks the first time when I can see how easily “24” could slip into parody. This is the conclusion of a trilogy of great “24” seasons, and the show will never again be as consistently good.