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Classic Political Satire on Film

Political satire is a tricky business. Campaigns and government have been so
especially nutty of late that hardly anything is too crazy to actually happen. Case-in-point #1: "conservative"
talk show host Stephen Colbert makes a sort-of good faith lunge at a presidential
candidacy and attracts some serious news coverage and a fair amount of grass
roots support before running afoul of the humor-challenged South Carolina
Democratic Executive Council. Case-in-point
#2: fictional character Borat (created by Sacha Baron Cohen) endorses Barack
Obama for President – exact quote "I personal would like the basketball
player, Barak Obamas to be
Premier" – and the Washington Post, among many others, covers his

Which is not to say there aren’t plenty of excellent films
that successfully spoof the political process, some broadly, some insidiously. In Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, showing tonight and throughout November on AMC, Harvey Korman plays greedy
and conniving State Attorney General Hedley (not Hedy!) Lamarr, and Brooks
appears as cross-eyed, dim and amorous Governor William J. Le Petomane.

After the jump, three political satires worth checking out:

Bob Roberts (Tim
Robbins, 1992). A conservative folk
singer (Robbins) sets out to unseat a Pennsylvania Senator (Gore Vidal) with
lies, smear tactics and a sympathy-garnering staged assassination attempt. The idea of a right-leaning politician who
sings is funny but unsettling, much like ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s
rendition of his original song, "Let the Eagle Soar."

Wag the Dog (Barry
Levinson, 1998). When a sex scandal
threatens the President’s re-election, a White House spin doctor (Robert
DeNiro) hires a veteran Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to distract the
American public with a fake war in Albania. The film was released less than a month after the Clinton/Lewinsky firestorm, making it seem eerily prescient. But it’s based on a book which
explicitly references George H.W. Bush and Desert Storm.

Bulworth (Warren
Beatty, 1998). A long-serving Senate
Democrat (Beatty) becomes disgusted with his life and with politics in
general, so he takes a hit out on himself. Impending death frees him to finally speak his mind, which makes him
more viable than he’s been for years. It’s
jarring to see Beatty’s old, white Senator rapping and cursing, just as it was
to see Bob Dole shill for Viagra a few years back.

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