Wednesday, April 20, 2016

100 Must-See Films! -- Politics

Yikes! I’m running a day behind! In the interest of time I shall decline an introduction to today’s topic other than the following warning: If you are a devout Republican and like yourself that way, you may not wish to read any further! You will find no sand below in which to bury your head.

59. Thirteen Days (2000, USA)
Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Shawn Driscoll

This is a hugely engaging dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis based on book The Kennedy Tapes (1997) by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow, and, to clarify, not on the book Thirteen Days by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (played here by Culp), which spawned a previous Missile Crisis docudrama called The Missiles of October (1974) which lacked the benefit of declassification of materials over the intervening decades.

Forgivable liberties are apparently taken in order to give Costner’s character (O’Donnell) key access so that he may serve as narrator in essence. While potentially awkward, I think it works well to provide the viewer with an edge-of-the-seat vantage to one of the most frightening and potentially impactful events in human history including a very privileged look into the troubling inner politics of politics and then the added human perspective via the Costner character’s somewhat Cleaverish family.

Excellent performance by Greenwood as JFK. Intensely suspenseful and highly re-watchable. 

Writers: David Self (Road to Perdition), Ernest R. May
Director: Roger Donaldson (The Recruit)
Budget: $80,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.3

60. Fair Game (2010, USA/UAE)
Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Sonya Davidson

This is the theatrical version of the well-documented story of CIA agent Valerie Plame whose life was nearly forfeited, intentionally so, along with many of her associates in the field, when the Bush government leaked her identity out of spite when her husband outed Bush’s treachery in the New York Times with regards to the Iraq oil invasion and the twisted fairy tale of weapons of mass destruction which we should all know by now were never remotely possible.

The tone is perhaps a bit light given the outrageousness and maliciousness of the conspiracy for which none of Bush’s creepy pals ever suffered a shred of judicial accountability. Another heap of evidence on the mountain of it which damns the white house for its increasingly untouchable deviousness, elite-serving agenda and their devout enmity with the American public who suffers their tyranny under the threadbare guise of public service.

Writer: Jez Butterworth (Spectre), John-Henry Butterworth (Edge of Tomorrow)
Director: Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity)
Budget: $22,000,000
IMDB rating: 6.8

61. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006, USA/UK)
Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian

Master troll Sacha Baron Cohen endeavors to take a page from documentarian Michael Moore’s playbook, offering interviewees the chance to hang themselves with their own words, but not through Moore’s ambiguous approach but rather through deliberate masquerade, creating utterly ridiculous scenes which are falling-down hilarious and absurdly incriminating in terms of the barely-veiled tribal insanities and narcissism present in some of the American victims he targets. That said, it is rarely clear in each case, to what degree these subjects are being authentically outed or to what degree they are playing along.

This project was an all-out comedic riot the first viewing and still wildly funny on subsequent views but increasingly disturbing. 

Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines (Bruno)
Director: Larry Charles (The Dictator)
Budget: $18,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.3

62. The Corporation (2003, Canada)

Is the insipid and illegitimate nature of the corporation construct now common knowledge in today’s society, and thus it is for some blend of fear, paralysis and guilt that we allow it to go on existing, to our terminal detriment? Or is this only a perception within specific social circles including my own? Back in 2003 I was still relatively clueless about many things and this film was a startling wake-up call.

This is a valuable tool in terms of understanding both the genesis of the corporation structure and its all-pervasive role in defining our society, and makes a good start in terms of its troubling implications for the future.

This is a deep, highly-regarded documentary, nominated for dozens of awards internationally and featuring eminent scholar Noam Chomsky whose every word always compels. It piles a lot of information into a small space. Highly re-watchable.

Writers: Joel Bakan, Harold Cooke (Surviving Progress), Mark Achbar
Directors: Mark Achbar (Manufacturing Consent), Jennifer Abbott (A Cow at My Table)
Budget: unknown
IMDB rating: 8.2

63. Farenheit 911 (2004, USA)
Documentary by Michael Moore

Here’s a documentary film, undisguisedly opinionated but factual, concerning the Bush administration; apparently one of the singular horrors of the modern age, largely examined in the context of the 9-11 attacks and the subsequent, very lucrative “War on Terror” enterprise. Perversely entertaining, darkly funny and even heart-wrenching at times.

It was the most commercially successful documentary of the decade if not all-time, receiving the longest standing ovation in memory at the Cannes Film Festival where it took home the coveted Palme d’Or. And precisely as Moore predicted, corporate American news, where freedom of speech routinely means freedom of ignorance, jumped all over that, claiming, “What do you expect from the French?” despite the panel of nine containing one single French juror and four Americans! Yeah. Business as usual. 

Writer/Director: Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine)
Budget: $6,000,000
IMDB rating: 7.5

Short List:
Food Inc. (2008, USA) documentary with Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998, USA) Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire
Not Without My Daughter (1991, USA) Sally Field
The Pelican Brief (1993, USA) Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington
If a Tree Falls: The Story of the E.L.F. (2011, USA/UK) documentary with Daniel McGowan
Fast Food Nation (2006, UK/USA) Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis

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