Sunday, September 21, 2008

In More Important Election News...

Roger Ebert has a post on his blog about the presidential candidates' favorite movies:

Everybody is making lists of the questions the candidates should be asked during the debates. My question would be: What's your favorite movie? As my faithful readers all know, the answer to that question says a lot about the person answering. It could be used as a screening device on a blind date. Among other things, it tells you whether the person has actually seen a lot of movies, and I persist in believing that cinematic taste is as important as taste in literature, music, art, or other things requiring taste (including food and politics). I know the answers of the most recent Presidents: "High Noon" (Clinton) and "Field of Dreams" (Bush). What might this year's candidates say? A Google search suggests their answers, (alphabetically):

Joe Biden on Facebook: Didn't reply on Facebook. Google search yields nothing.

John McCain on Facebook: "Viva Zapata!," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Some Like It Hot."

Barack Obama on Facebook: "Casablanca," "Godfather I and II," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Sarah Palin on Facebook: Didn't reply on Facebook. Google search yields only her official website, where "favorite movie" is ominously listed under "Trivia," and even more ominously is left blank. Movies are not trivia.

So let's see what we've got here. As Ebert goes on to say, McCain's answers are pretty good. Letters From Iwo Jima is a bit too recent, I think, to be named a favorite by anybody, but at least McCain picked the weirder, Japanese half of Clint Eastwood's project and not Flags Of Our Fathers (I only saw Iwo Jima, but I liked it), and of course it's not surprising that McCain would gravitate toward a war film. Some Like It Hot is a nice, safe choice from someone of his generation; hard to argue with that one. Viva Zapata! is the most interesting selection, both because of its relative obscurity and its subject matter. Wasn't Zapata a Mexican revolutionary? Not exactly the first movie you'd expect a Republican presidential candidate to admire, but no matter. In sum: McCain knows his movies.

Obama's picks are even more down my alley, so in one way I'm impressed, but in another way I have to say that his choices are a little less idiosyncratic than McCain's. No, I am not going to fault a man for naming Lawrence Of Arabia, Casablanca and The Godfather as favorites, if you know what I mean. And even Cuckoo's Nest is in my DVD collection. But come on, who doesn't like these movies? Still, these are excellent choices.

As for W., I have to say that Field Of Dreams is a pretty solid, if not mindblowing, pick. Let's just say you could do worse (some websites suggested his favorite movie was Armageddon, but subsequent research has proven this inaccurate). Besides, the man loves baseball - he used to own the Texas Rangers. You know, I sometimes think I could have a pretty interesting conversation with W. about baseball if I ever had the chance.

But it seems like Bill Clinton is the master in this contest, as demonstrated by an interview he did with Ebert back in 1999. It's weird to hear a sitting president expressing such open admiration for films such as Fight Club, American Beauty, and Three Kings, but there you have it. Some highlights:

RE: You know, one thing that has struck me this year, there's been a whole group of movies that seem to be very negative about affluence or consumerism. There was this very popular movie "Fight Club," where the guys-

WJC: I saw it.

RE: You saw it.

WJC: Tough movie.

RE: Where they had to fight each other in order to feel authentic because they're Ikea couches were not doing it for them. What did you think about that?

WJC: Um, well I thought it was a pretty compelling movie. I think Norton and Pitt were good in it. I mean, they played their roles really well. And I think that it is, now that we have the most prosperous society we've ever had and we've got a thirty year low on unemployment and a twenty year low on poverty, I think that it's a good thing for people to remember that life is about more than money. But I also think it's important not to disparage prosperity for it gives people the opportunity and the leisure and the security to think about other thing. And you know, so maybe it's the public servant in me, but I think the proper response to the questioning of it is to try to make sure that the people who don't have enough, have enough and then to think about what we're going to do with time and the fruits that we have. But you know, so it was a little too nihilist for me, but I thought it was very compelling. I thought that those two guys were great and I think that Helena Bonham Carter was in it and she was a very compelling figure in it. I thought it was quite good.

RE: I loved the performances and I loved the first half of the movie, but it seemed to me that-

WJC: It gets old though. Doesn't it?

RE: Well, they have to fight each other in order to feel real. It seems to me that there's enough suffering in the world without having to go out and find it.

WJC: There is. And it's simply not true that this that the material advances we've had are inherently bad or empty. They give you the power to define your life more. And I don't mean just for rich people, I mean people that have a decent middle class life. You know, to have the lowest African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates we've ever had, to have a twenty-year low in poverty, to have a forty-year low in female unemployment. These things are not bad. It's just not enough. It's not all there is to life, but it creates the possibility of fashioning a life that has integrity and meaning.

RE: I think so. I gave a negative review to the movie and I got an email from somebody who said, "Well, my generation," this is an amazing email, "my generation has been denied the opportunity your generation had to fight a war like Vietnam. We don't have any way to test ourselves so we have to go to movies like "Fight Club."" And I'm thinking, "That's not what wars are for." His reasoning seemed to be so screwed up.

WJC: Well, the young people they don't have to deal with Vietnam, but I think if they had they would find it was way overrated. You know, losing 58,000 people and a whole other generation of people who were alienated from it and the traumas that so many people went through and there's not a person who went through it who's still not marked by it in some way. Or even more importantly, the civil rights movement, you know that was a very positive thing, but for the people who suffered under the oppression of segregation or who like Congressman John Lewis had their lives threatened because they stood up for civil rights. You know, I wouldn't wish that on the young people of this...there's still a lot of problems in this world. You know, if they really want to throw themselves into something they could figure out what to do about the AIDS epidemic, threatening Africa and increasingly Indians in Asia. They could figure out what to do to save a lot of these kids that are still being lost in our own country. There's still mountains to climb out there. There are things outside yourself to throw yourself into. You don't have to get beat up by somebody you know.

Thanks for the policy plug, Bill.


Herr Zrbo said...

Did you just cut/paste that cause there's some weird grammatical choices going on. Like "increasingly asians in india"(?)

I love how old Bill is plugging away his 'accomplishments' like any good politician.

Little Earl said...

Yeah, it's like, "And while we're on the subject of Fight Club, did I mention that we have 'a thirty year low on unemployment and a twenty year low on poverty'*wink wink* *nudge nudge*?"

One of the weirdest parts is when he starts talking about Three Kings:

WJC: I loved "Three Kings." Did you like "Three Kings."

RE: Oh, I loved it.

WJC: I loved it because it accomplished all these different things. It's a great cheap thrills movie, Clooney's unbelievable you know the screen loves him and he's compelling and all the other guys are good.
And it's a tragedy as well as a comedy. You know, there's heartbreak.
And then they do all that sort of high tech stuff showing you how bullet wounds effect the body.

RE: Oh yeah. The bullet goes right in the body.

WJC: And they do that a couple times, which I thought was fascinating. And they tell the very sad story that our country has to come to terms with of how we falsely raised the hopes of Shiites in the south of Iraq. And what has been done to them since then. Draining those swamps, changing their lives after thousands of years. It's an atrocity what Saddam Hussein did to them. Not just the ones that were physically hurt, but they literally had their whole lifestyle taken away he could continue to be a dictator over a people with a culture that is very alien to that kind of a government and that kind of oppression.

Hey, so, whatever happened to that guy?

And yes, it's just a transcript from an interview so some of the grammar is odd.

ninquelote said...

McCain's picks are very evident of "his" time period and exactly the types of movies that you would think he would like. Even Viva Zapata! I think is a good choice for him because it's about someone fighting against corruption and whatnot. And come on; Marlon Brando! At least there weren't any, "He likes 'The Ten Commandments' because he was, like, there," jokes.

Barry's choices seem a little safe to me. Borderline pandering. I think he's trying to capture that over 55 and white vote. I mean seriously; a bunch of movies about a bunch of white people doing white people things. He should have at least thrown in a "Shaft" or "Do the Right Thing". Even Viva Zapata! would have been good. Or are Dems not allowed to like the same movies as Republicans?

For Sarah Palin I would venture a guess at either "Nanuk of the North" or "The Deer Hunter". And Old Man Joe looks like Shirley Temple fan to me.

Little Earl said...

On the good ship, Lollipop
It's a sweet trip, to the candy shop