The Impeachment trial is underway. Watch, read, and pay attention to what is done in this trial. However, if you need a break from the gravity of this serious, historic event, cuddle up with the Constitution, popcorn, and watch films on politics. If government is to be gamed, and the Constitution compromised, let it be in the fantasy of film, not real life. Public servants, are choosing to serve themselves, as the swamp they’ve created in the White House, isn’t big enough to harbor the hazards of the current Oval Office occupant.
Here are a few of my favorite films:
This 1975 film starring Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Perkins, blends the worlds of fashion and politics seamlessly by director, Berry Gordy. Filmed in Chicago and Rome, Mahogany is one of my favorite films, where the catwalk, and Constitutional activism, collaborate creating a timeless collection. I would be remiss not to highlight the incredible theme song for the film, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To,” by Diana Ross, which literally asks life’s quintessential question, “Do you like the things that life is showing you?” If you don’t like the things life is showing you, change the scene, revise the script, and vote. Votes are “notes” for politicians. We all create change with elected officials, and with one of the greatest scripts ever written, the US Constitution, it’s a working draft, which, “We the People” may amend.
James Stewart, playing Jefferson Smith, in the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, gives me hope that there are Senators with an actual priority to the people they represent, willing to literally stand up, and fight big money – to go right at corruption without fear or comprise. Yet, the majority of current Senators, worthy of public trust, are in films, not in the actual Republican led Senate. Money in politics, manipulates minds, forcing good, to take a backseat, to greed.
Chris Rock, wrote, starred, and directed the 2003 film, Head of State, where he plays, Mays Gilliam, a local hero, who finds himself as the Democratic Presidential candidate, obviously pre-Obama era. Bonus, Bernie Mac, plays Mitch Gilliam, Mays’ big brother, and running mate. Head of State keeps it real about the issues, while still keeping it real funny.
In my mind, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, and I are best friends. In the film Dick, Kristen and Michelle are best friends, Betsy Jobs and Arlene Lorenzo, who together bring down President Dick Nixon. The teens become informant, Deep Throat, in the Watergate scandal, while also being official White House dog walkers. Will Farrell, portrays Bob Woodward and Bruce McCulloch plays Carl Bernstein, in Dick. This 1999 film makes me want to party like it’s 1999, in hopes the current Oval Office, dick, will also exit after his impeachment.
*Frank Wills was the Watergate security guard who discovered the break-in, June 17, 1972 at the Democratic National Committee. Frank Wills is a Black man, unfortunately, in the film Dick, the security guard role is not played by a Black actor. Which is disappointing, yet sadly typical. Some white people have knack for erasing Black people from history, even in comedic films.
Robert Redford, plays Democratic Presidential candidate, Bill McKay, in this 1972 film, which I find interesting, considering in the HBO series, Watchmen, Robert Redford “is” the President. Another one of those things that makes you go, hmmm. The Candidate, is an exploration into the 1970’s campaign world, and the film’s writer, Jeremey Larner, won an Oscar for writing.
The current state of politics is an unfolding thriller (and nightmare), yet the 1962 film, The Manchurian Candidate, is an authentic thriller. Starring, Frank Sinatra, as Major Bennett Marco, and Angela Lansbury, as Elenor Shaw Iselin, based upon the novel written by Richard Condon. This is a mother of a film, literally.
Allow me to first say, I adore Peter Sellers, he is a comedic chameleon, with the ability to morph into unique characters that simultaneously occupy the screen. Brilliant. The film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, would not have been possible without Peter Sellers, as he is among rarefied talent, with the innate ability to successfully “be” multiple characters, and do so with perfect comedic delivery. George C. Scott’s performance as General Buck Turgidson, is genius. Director, Stanely Kubrick, created a humorous, terrifying, film about politics, and the not so fail safe, rules of war. The film is unfortunately relevant today, with regard to having an insane person, in a position of power, with the capability to start a war. I guess fluoride in the water will do that. Hopefully there are more like, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake in the world.
I love Reese Witherspoon, and Reese totally makes, Tracy Flick, the main character in the 1999 film, Election, memorable and real. So memorable in fact, that I wonder what kind of woman, Tracy Flick would be today? Election focuses around a high school student body election, that goes off the rails, due to the combination of a teacher abusing his authority, and a teacher losing his mind. Matthew Broderick, plays Jim McAllister, one of Tracy’s teachers. And, having a perfectionist student like, Tracy Flick, with excessively high expectations, is the cherry on top of this comedy cake. Election is pure humor about the differences between morals and ethics.
It’s hard not to love any film with Goldie Hawn, as she simply adds that special lotus flower light to everything she touches. Released in 1975, Shampoo takes place during the seriously chaotic campaigns of the 1968 Presidential election, between former Vice President Richard Nixon, and incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey. America was experiencing dramatic events. Yet, the hair salon in Shampoo, had turbulent events on its own. Starring, Warren Beatty as George, a hair dresser in high demand, Julie Christie, as Jackie, Lee Grant, as Felicia, and Goldie Hawn as, Jill, Shampoo gives new meaning to having a blow out. And, keep your eye out for a young Carrie Fisher, who plays Lorna.
Hal Ashby directed, Being There, (and Shampoo), this film also stars Peter Sellers, who plays Chance, a special gardener, who lands in a wealthy, elite, politically connected household, due to a series of events that revolve around his love of television. Sellers is amazing, in this film, playing a gentle, vulnerable, innocent soul, with no political agenda, yet who ironically gains political prestige. Being There also stars, Melvyn Douglas, who plays Benjamin Rand (Douglas is also in another film on my list, The Candidate), and Jack Warden, who plays the President (also appears on my list in Shampoo). The outtakes with Sellers at the end of the film, is a generous gift.
The world was made better by Robin Williams and Mike Nichols. Their re-make of the French, La Cage Aux Folles, in the 1996 film, The Birdcage, is what a political family film is all about, scandal and sequins. The Birdcage stars Robin Williams, as Armond Goldman, owner of a gay cabaret; Nathan Lane, as Albert, Armond’s partner, and sensitive star of the cabaret; Gene Hackman, as Senator Keeley; Dianne Wiest, as his wife, Louise Keeley; Calista Flockhart, as their daughter, Barbara Keeley; Hank Azaria, as Agador, and Christine Baranski, as Katherine. Full disclosure, I adore Christine Baranski, watch, “The Good Fight,” she is incredible, as Diane Lockhart. Back to The Birdcage, we need more Drag Queens in politics, Drag Queens are well adept at reading, know how to command top down, and bottom up, and unlike Republican men, Drag Queens know how to tuck and cover, without comprising integrity, or the Constitution.
Wil Haygood, wrote an article for the Washington Post in 2008, about Eugene Allen titled, “A butler well served by this election,” Haygood’s article later became the basis for the 2013 film, The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels, at the helm of a roster of talented actors, all of whom delivered outstanding performances. The film focuses around the life of Cecil Gaines, and his family, as Cecil serves as a White House butler, over the course of eight Presidents, through historic events. Cecil Gaines, is played by Forest Whitaker, his wife, Gloria Gaines is played by Oprah Winfrey, whom is known globally simply as, Oprah. However, in The Butler, Oprah is not “who” we see on screen, it’s all Gloria Gaines. Oprah became, Gloria Gaines, with every manner, as a mother mediator between her husband and their sons, to how she flicked ash from her cigarette, while her mind reflected the moment, and the massive past. She made Gloria Gaines a whole woman: a sexual being, a nurturing being, an intellectual being, a vulnerable being, a flawed being. The historic span of this film was matched by the depth of acting with the cast, which included, Vanessa Redgrave, David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, Jesse Williams, John Cusack, Liev Schreiber, Jane Fonda, Alan Rickman, Melissa Leo, and pay close attention for Mariah Carey, who delivered a brief glimpse into a Black woman’s soul, destroyed by slavery.
I cannot imagine the cinematic world without the words of Buck Henry. Among his numerous works of art, was the 1984 film, Protocol, it is humorous, highlighting the hubris and hypocrisy of politicians, delivered by a golden performance from, Goldie Hawn, playing a waitress, Sunny Davis. Sunny literally finds her ass in the wrong place at the right time, and is called to serve her country at the US State Department. Along side actor, Jean Smart, who plays fellow waitress, Ella, diplomatic outreach, to the Middle East, is one for the US State Department record book. How refreshing it would be to have an honest, humble leader in the US State Department right now, it is high time for a national hero dispensing diplomacy, like Sunny Davis in Protocol. I’ll take cocktails over corruption, and truth over tyranny, any day.
There are numerous films that should be added (The Landlord and Loving). I have only listed 13 films (in no particular order) as the 13th Amendment is my favorite amendment (obviously) the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. To paraphrase, Ruby Dee’s character, Rachel, in the 1951 film, The Tall Target, ‘Freedom isn’t something you should “give” to someone, freedom should be something you are born with.’