Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Danny Strong
Cinematography: Jim Denault
by Jon Cvack
HBO makes some of the great political films, with The Pentagon Wars and Jay Roach’s Recount being two of the best. I had seen Game Change when it first came out, enjoyed it, but also felt it was almost a bit too soon. Sarah Palin was still a bit more relevant compared to her present absurdity, but like Oliver Stone’s W. it felt like it was still too fresh.
When I think back on Sarah Palin, you can’t help but think it was a prelude to the Age of Trump, in which a person can border on anti-intellectual and be revered. It was a scary moment in realizing that some people just didn’t care if someone was stupid. For some, the country needed “common sense solutions,” not ivory tower elitism. It always boggled my mind that while Wall Street is celebrated for getting the best and the brightest, revering those who have the business acumen to succeed and create successful endeavors, government needs common sense and simple solutions. I recall an interview with Matt Damon who said he doesn’t feel safe knowing that someone who believed dinosaurs existed six thousands years ago had access to the nuclear codes. It’s a great point, and yet some really don’t see the problem. They see government issues as overly complicated, and indeed sometimes, if not many, they often are. But to believe that issues on foreign policy or economics, that it’s better to have a common sense politician to solve these, when the people providing them with the information are some of the brightest in the world and that the president is responsible for selecting these individuals - well, I just don’t understand the lack of consistency. I recall one conservative I knew who while criticizing Obama’s incompetence, also defended her resigning the governorship as the more responsible and honorable thing to do for Alaska. I suppose I agree, but I’m certain it’s for entirely different reasons.
John McCain was indeed a maverick, having been in documentaries alongside Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, and other intellectuals. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t have been necessarily devastated if he got elected. And then Sarah Palin was brought onto the ticket and so began the blitzkrieg into pop culture, where SNL pioneered some of the greatest satire, and with complete ease (such as when Tina Fey’s interview with Amy Poehler simply used the actual transcript). Yet beyond the satire, Sarah Palin brought into the Tea Partiers in droves, leading us in many ways to the current gridlock we’re now experiencing, where John Stewart said it best on "The Axe Files" podcast in that Republicans can point to the inefficiencies in government, then refuse to do anything to amend them, allowing the problems expand, creating a tautology that their supporters just don’t care to acknowledge.
Given the recent election, one of the more interesting moments that I think is long forgotten is how much of a celebrity figure Obama was. I recall seeing him speak in the Boston Common, where the lawn was packed to the brim, allowing me to see only a tiny speck in the crowd, or when I got to go to his Chicago inauguration which was even fuller, witnessing tens of thousands in the black community breaking down in tears, knowing that they had finally made the progress they’ve been waiting for. Obama was a cool guy, and he continues to be a cool guy, where we can look to hundreds of videos of him doing everything from having coffee with Jerry Seinfled to doing stand up with Keegan Michael Keye. While so many often criticized a president with being out of touch, Obama seemed incredibly in touch. I think of what he did for the presidency - making it respectable and yet accessible; serious but always willing to maintain the humor. I forget that Obama was a celebrity moments after he spoke at the 2004 DNC Convention, with many knowing he’d be the next contender.
Stay tuned for Part 2...
BELOW: The rise of anti-intellectualism
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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