August 11 – 13, 2000

American Cinematheque & LA WEEKLY present...

POLITICS IN FILM

Sponsored by LA WEEKLY

The LA Weely will have a daily coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Films Selected by Manohla Dargis, Harold Meyerson and Ella Taylor.

Series Compiled by Dennis Bartok.

 

Special Thanks to: Kelly Mayfield/L.A. WEEKLY; John Kirk/MGM-UA; Torrie Rosenzweig; Heidi Kuebler & Leslie Fenady/WARNER BROS.; Michael Schlesinger/COLUMBIA PICTURES REPERTORY; Arthur Dong; Brian Claussen/SWANK MOTION PICTURES.

 

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EGYPTIAN THEATRE

 

One of the great myths about American filmmaking is that our movies aren’t political. In truth, almost all American films are political, from the Westerns of John Ford to the bleak, post-war noirs of the 1940’s and 1950’s, to supposedly "escapist" fantasies like STAR WARS and JURASSIC PARK (which reflect their culture and politics as surely as MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.) One of the most famous images in American film, Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane standing beneath a massive, demagogue-like campaign poster, could easily stand in for all the political campaigns of the past century. Even when American films aren’t trying to be consciously political, they are – Paul Brickman’s RISKY BUSINESS was either the best advertisement, or the best satire, of the Reagan era made in Hollywood (depending on your point of view.)

To coincide with the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, the film critics at the L.A. Weekly have selected a short series of films – both features and documentaries -- that look at the American political process, and reflect our own combination of hope, anxiety, paranoia, anger and excitement at the thought of choosing yet another President …

 

Friday, August 11 – 7:00 PM

Big Tobacco vs. the United States

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: A HISTORY OF DENIAL, 2000, Rosenzweig Co., 74 min. Alternately chilling and perversely entertaining, director Torrie Rosenzweig’s SMOKE & MIRRORS is a superb study of the growth of the tobacco industry in America, and a stunning indictment of the ways Big Tobacco has used advertising, the media and even patriotic fervor to influence the public. (During WWI, the industry virtually created a generation of smokers by shipping one billion free cigarettes to soldiers overseas.) A kind of companion piece to Michael Mann’s THE INSIDER, SMOKE & MIRRORS is essential viewing for anyone interested in the politics of control and deception. Discussion following with producer/director Torrie Rosenzweig.

Friday, August 11 – 9:15 PM

Politics as Paranoia

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, 1962, MGM/UA, 126 min. Dir. John Frankenheimer. Ex-prisoner-of-war Frank Sinatra tries to connect the dots when decorated comrade Laurence Harvey starts acting strange only to have a nightmarish labyrinth unravel in his lap. Korean War brainwashing, Harvey’s rich control freak mother (Angela Lansbury), her right-wing candidate hubby (James Gregory in a savage parody of Sen. Joseph McCarthy) and an assassination plot mesh in this suspenseful adaptation of Richard Condon’s satirical thriller. With Janet Leigh. Actress Tippi Hedren will introduce the film. Screenwriter George Axelrod will not be able to attend.

 

Saturday, August 12 – 5:00 PM

The Making of the President

THE WAR ROOM, 1993, USA Films, 93 min. "I’m a political professional, and I’m proud of it," grins spin-meister supreme James Carville, in director D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus’ ridiculously entertaining portrait of the men who ran Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign. Together, Carville and cohort George Stephanopoulos hustle, cajole, threaten ("If you do this, you’ll never work in Democratic politics again!") and do major damage control, as they navigate the campaign through Gennifer Flowers, Ross Perot and George Bush, on the road to victory. "THE WAR ROOM presents these two as tireless new-breed strategists whose fast, aggressive tactics helped to reshape their party’s political thinking …" – Janet Maslin, N.Y. Times.

THE CANDIDATE, 1972, Warners, 110 min. Dir. Michael Ritchie. Idealistic, supposedly lame-duck candidate Robert Redford surprises everyone, including his cynically manipulative handlers, when he turns out to be more politically savvy than expected in this trenchant satire that cuts even closer to the bone today than when it was released nearly thirty years ago. With Melvyn Douglas, Peter Boyle.

LA WEEKLY executive Editor Harold Meyerson will lead a discussion of these two films.

 

Saturday, August 12 – 9:30 PM

The Washington Merry-Go-Round

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, 1939, Columbia, 139 min. Dir. Frank Capra. Na´ve, straight-shooting idealist Mr. Smith (James Stewart) is elected to Congress then used and eventually framed by his corrupt mentor Claude Rains and fatcat Edward Arnold. A still incredibly topical slice of Americana with unflinching insights into how easily a free enterprise system can be debased and exploited by ruthless profiteers. Smith pleading his case before a cold-hearted unbelieving Congress sends chills down the spine and remains one of the most moving sequences in the history of cinema. Jean Arthur is the worldly cynic who has her heart melted when she realizes Smith is the real thing. With Thomas Mitchell.

ADVISE & CONSENT, 1962, Columbia, 139 min. Using the Allen Drury bestseller as a springboard, director Otto Preminger blazed new trails of frankness in this skewering of American politics, pulling back the curtain to reveal the behind-the-scenes skullduggery and cutthroat scandal-mongering endemic to the system. A smorgasbord of delicious performances by such greats as Henry Fonda, Franchot Tone, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Lew Ayres and, of special note, Don Murray as a bisexual politician outed with tragic results.

Author/Journalist Nelson Aspen will introduce these two films.

Sunday, August 13 – 3:00 PM

Confronting Violence Against Gays

LICENSED TO KILL, 1996, 79 min. Dir. Arthur Dong. Winner of the Audience and Best Director Awards at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, director Arthur Dong’s unflinching portrait of violence directed at gay men features interviews with six convicted killers, all of whom targeted homosexuals. Slowly, with almost unbearable honesty, the film examines both the killers themselves, and the larger political body of religious hypocrisy, police indifference and societal hostility that condoned this type of violence for far too long. "They’re not monsters. They’re human beings who kill gay men. They’d kill me. I wanted the audience, including victims, to see these people, to understand something about them." – Arthur Dong. Discussion following with director Arthur Dong.

Sunday, August 13 – 5:15 PM

The Unmaking of the President

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, 1976, Warners, 138 min. Dir. Alan Pakula. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman shine as Washington Post investigative reporters Woodward and Bernstein, the pair responsible for uncovering the shocking truth behind the Watergate break-in. A tense real-life detective saga demonstrating what a courageous free press can accomplish. With a sterling supporting cast that includes Jason Robards, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Jane Alexander, Hal Holbrook and F. Murray Abraham.