At The Thread we’re already exhausted by the “upcoming election,” the debates, who will run, who will drop out, who will burn out–not to mention the reality show that is Donald Trump!
We need to take a deep breath as this is one seriously long, tedious haul and it’s only just begun!
So this week at The Thread we are seeking some perspective and humor as we take a cynical look at the Art of Spin and the Darwinian role of the doctors who play it.
Out this week is David Gordon Green’s film based on the 2005 documentary of the same name. The documentary followed James Carville’s political consulting firm as it managed Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada’s campaign for president of Bolivia in 2002.
This time around the Carville part is played by Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock): a political operative in self-imposed retirement following a scandal that earned her the nickname “Calamity.” Jane is coaxed back into the game when an opportunity presents itself to beat her professional nemesis, Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), now coaching the opposition (interestingly, Thornton played a Carville-like character in the movie Primary Colors).
Our Brand is Crisis reveals the cynical machinations and private battles of world-class political consultants for whom very little is sacred and winning is all that counts.
Rachel Boynton’s documentary follows James Carville and a team of U.S. political consultants as they travel to Bolivia to help Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (a.k.a. ‘Goni’) win the presidential election in Bolivia. The documentary examines the team’s marketing tactics as it strategizes for the struggling candidate using media strategies from the dog fight that is American politics.
While the documentary is ultimately about Americans trying to spread Democracy overseas, its finale is a shocker. Carville’s team rebrands Goni as an appealing figure in an attempt to win an election whose aftermath is nothing short of devastating. Spoiler alert: Goni now resides in the US living in exile despite Bolivian attempts to have him extradited.
Barry Levinson (see last week’s Rock the Kasbah) directs this dark comedy, based on the novel American Hero by Larry Beinhart and with a script co-written by David Mamet. Robert De Niro stars as a Washington spin doctor who hires an archetypal Hollywood producer, Dustin Hoffman, to create a fictional war to distract the public from a scandal threatening the President of the United States’ reelection campaign.
It’s a bitingly funny look at the marketing machine behind political campaigns and the very real process of manipulating public opinion on a massive scale. The film takes liberties with the novel – in this case a good thing. It may be exaggerated for comic effect, but it gets you thinking about how politicians curry favor and the fantastic lies that have become an everyday part of our politics.
Director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Elaine May crafted this adaptation of the Joe Klein (originally “Anonymous”) 1996 bestseller—a funny and troubling fictional account of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
Jack Stanton (John Travolta) is a virtually unknown Southern governor on a quest for the White House alongside his strong and equally ambitious wife, Susan (Emma Thompson). The campaign is joined by an idealistic young advisor, played by Adrian Lester, and a tough veteran played by Kathy Bates. They roll off on a hilarious and ultimately depressing roller coaster ride to the pinnacle of power. They’ve earned it — but do they deserve it?
You have to wonder if Joe Klein is at his computer right now working on a novel based on Hillary’s campaign—between Benghazi and her email server and everything else, it would certainly make a juicy follow-up.
D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’ documentary captures the brainstorming and bull sessions of Bill Clinton’s team of consultants in the 1992 presidential election. James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, both of whom went on to become media stars in their own right, inject a savvy and youthful spirit into the process of campaigning. Despite a series of potentially disastrous revelations about Clinton’s past (adultery, draft-dodging, that joint he smoked but didn’t inhale) the team hews to their broader strategic plan and reach The White House.
As an added bit of delightful improbability, in the midst of the campaign Carville starts an unlikely romance with Mary Matalin (chief strategist for George Bush). That relationship is still going strong today.
Decades before “spin” was a term for both a cardio class and a transparent lie, Pennebaker mentor Robert Drew directed this cinema verité feature following Democratic presidential hopefuls John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey for five days of campaigning during the 1960 Wisconsin primary.
When Drew first approached Kennedy about making the film “Kennedy asked questions about how this would work. Was I out to get him? He didn’t use those words, but that was his question,” recalls Drew. “I told him we were partial to neither side and would edit fairly, and for this to work at all, he would have to trust me.” He gave me a long look and said, “If I don’t call you by tomorrow, we’re on.” “And he didn’t call, and we were on.” Humphrey likewise assented and Primary was underway.
Primary captures the campaign process as it had never been seen before. Kennedy’s charismatic presence vs. Humphrey’s populist appeal — mixed with the anxiety and contrasting campaign styles of the two men — makes this a must-see for all political buffs.