Great political films for an unusual election seasonNEW YORK - There are some wonderful idealistic films about American politics, warm with optimism and belief in Washington’s system. None of them resemble this election season.
Yet for a presidential campaign that has felt more like “Mad Max: Fury Road” than “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” there are still plenty of films that suit the moment and may just offer a desperately needed break from television news in the final days before Tuesday.
Before the real ballots are in, let’s cast votes for 10 of the best political films, many of which shine all the brighter with relevance these days:
1. “ Weiner.” In many ways the movie of the year is Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary about Anthony Weiner, the woebegone former New York congressman who has proven an unexpectedly central figure ahead of the election. “Weiner” chronicles his initially promising but ultimately doomed 2013 mayoral campaign, with his wife and top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin, by his side.
2. “ A Face in the Crowd.” Elia Kazan’s 1957 classic about a populist fraud has proven salient in more elections than one. In arguably his greatest performance, Andy Griffith stars as an Arkansas drifter, Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, who rises from a small radio station to great heights of national television, only to be brought down by his womanizing and disgust for common people.
3. “ Election.” An ambitious, uber-prepared blonde woman running for president is nearly thwarted by those who innately detest her. No, Reese Witherspoon’s high school president-to-be Tracy Flick isn’t Clinton. But in Alexander Payne’s comic satire, there are some striking similarities between the two.
4. “ All the President’s Men.” The keystrokes are sounded with the oomph of cannon blasts in Alan Pakula’s Fourth Estate classic, with Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The excellent “Spotlight” drew deserved comparisons to this 1976 film.
5. “ Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Who should have their finger on the button? In Stanley Kubrick’s classic farce, not only were the fears of nuclear command and control satirically undressed, so was a war-crazy, sex-obsessed all-male government.
6. “ Bulworth.” Warren Beatty is now returning with his first film as writer-director since this 1998 comedy. Still fresh today, it’s about a disillusioned California senator (Beatty) who, with plans to commit suicide, decides to tell the truth.
7. “ Advise and Consent.” The title, pulled from the clause in the Constitution, refers to the nomination process of Supreme Court judges and other president-appointed positions. Otto Preminger’s dense and dark 1962 film set on Capitol Hill is about a Secretary of State nominee (Henry Fonda) with a hidden past.
8. “ In the Loop.” Before there was “Veep,” there was “In the Loop” (and the equally sharp BBC series “The Thick of It”). No one has pulled back the curtain on politics quite like Armando Iannucci, whose foul-mouthed, aide-surrounded officials sway _ comically, desperately _ with the winds of daily news cycles.
9. “ Lincoln.” The biopic-like title, in a way, distracts from the point of Steven Spielberg’s 2012 drama. No other film has more fully captured the dirty, horse-trading business of the legislative process, in all its colorful and compromising sweep.
10. “ The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” There’s perhaps no greater political truth in all of movies than that famous line from John Ford’s 1962 film: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”