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John Mccain (#110 of 37)

Reaction Shot: Game Change

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Reaction Shot: <em>Game Change</em>
Reaction Shot: <em>Game Change</em>

HBO’s Game Change isn’t the first time director Jay Roach and writer Danny Strong have tackled American electoral politics, and it’s not the first time they’ve portrayed women in politics either. Their first collaboration, Recount, about the contested 2000 presidential election, featured Laura Dern as Katherine Harris, whose gauche gaudiness dropped into the middle of the film’s strategic maneuvering came across as the antics of some kind of grotesque buffoon played for dissonant laughs. Game Change handles Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) with a bit more aplomb, preferring sober psychological study to broad caricature. But it’s precisely in its straight-ahead characterization that the film lays bare its contempt for the political theater on display. It’s confident that Saturday Night Live-level mockery is unnecessary to highlight the absurdity of what’s being proffered to the American public—and what that public is eating up.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: Last Best Chance

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: <em>Last Best Chance</em>
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2010: <em>Last Best Chance</em>

Another documentary about the foiled fight for U.S. immigration reform from How Democracy Works Now, Last Best Chance delivers the message that was missing from the other film from this series that’s playing at the Human Rights Watch festival. Mountains and Clouds zooms in so tightly on the macro view of the fight to pass or derail a relatively small piece of legislation that we never learn what motivates the fighters, but Last Best Chance takes the wide-angle view.

Directors Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini and editor Jane Rizzo lay out the stakes this time with admirable clarity and impact, starting with a prologue that explains the need for immigration reform. The filmmakers aren’t above using PowerPoint-style lists or that honeyed, voice-of-reason voiceover that I found so annoying in both films, but they don’t resort to those often. For the most part, they stitch together powerful snippets of conversation, speeches, and lectures by eloquent and impassioned people.

Spill, Baby, Spill

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Spill, Baby, Spill
Spill, Baby, Spill

During the summer of 2008, leading up to the presidential election, Republican nominee John McCain scheduled and then abruptly cancelled a meet-cute with the press atop an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. Despite claims that weather concerns prompted the change in plans, the real reason appeared to be the fact that, nearby, half a million gallons of oil was gushing into the Mississippi River thanks to a tanker accident. The reality about offshore drilling was sullying McCain’s political plans, and Barack Obama, the man to whom he lost the election, is now facing a similar inconvenient truth as president.

In March, Obama announced plans to lift the 20-year moratorium on new offshore oil and gas drilling as part of a comprehensive energy policy. Ever the pragmatist (and hopeless romantic, apparently), Obama presumably intended to grease the wheels of an energy and climate bill that faces an uphill battle in Washington thanks to the influence of Big Oil on both sides of the aisle. Most experts agree that, for a nation that represents 20 percent of global oil consumption but is home to just two percent of the world’s reserves, the impact of offshore drilling on gas prices would be negligible, but it was part of a political strategy designed to—foolishly, if the stimulus bill, health care reform, and the right-wing response to Obama’s announcement were any indication—lure Republicans to the negotiating table.

Obama’s New Preacher Problem

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Obama’s New Preacher Problem
Obama’s New Preacher Problem

Barack Obama—and America—has a preacher problem. First, of course, was Reverend Jeremiah Wright, preaching from the pulpit with an almost gleeful hatred that, even if you empathized with the man and recognized the sources of his profound frustration and anger, felt alienating and counterproductive to the post-racial agenda Obama had so eloquently and sensitively put forward. Another preacher, evangelical pastor Rick Warren, is a man who, after inviting Obama to his church earlier this year for a nationally televised Q&A in a supposed effort to find common ground and then ambushing him with “gotcha” culture-war questions, compared abortion to genocide and Obama to a Holocaust denier. “Oh, I do,” was the leader of Saddleback mega-church’s hearty response when asked by The Wall Street Journal if he equates gay marriage with polygamy, incest, and pedophilia.

What Would Barry Do?

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What Would Barry Do?
What Would Barry Do?

To be perfectly honest, I had turned off last week’s election broadcasts by 9:30pm. My prediction that it would be decided by nine o’clock was only premature by half an hour. Instead of watching John McCain, my choice for president, get defeated by Barack Obama, I decided that the movie 300 would be a more entertaining lost cause to see played out. Based on what little of the coverage I did catch, including that high-tech news anchor hologram on CNN and those inane electronic touch screens that are more suited for weather reports, I think I made the right decision.

The Real Maverick

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The Real Maverick
The Real Maverick

While Hillary Clinton once again dominates the headlines, this time as Barack Obama’s possible Secretary of State, another one of the President-elect’s former rivals is making waves in Washington. It’s admirable that Obama has recommended that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman retain both his seat in the Democratic caucus as well as his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and it certainly jibes with his apparent desire to create a “team of rivals” akin to that of the one described in presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s best-selling book of the same name. After all, Democrats won the election and there’s always room in the hearts and minds of the victorious for forgiveness, for letting bygones be bygones. But just as it was with Sarah Palin, all one needs to do is look back on what was said and done, and more importantly, how it was said and done, to understand the lingering bad blood, and in the case of Lieberman, the desire on the part of many in Congress to see him stripped of his title.

When John McCain stumbled over this own made-up multi-syllabic epithet “redistributionist” at a swing-state rally two days before the election, Lieberman could be seen just over the Republican candidate’s right shoulder, where he resided for the entirety of the campaign, chuckling and grinning in agreement with every word that fell from McCain’s mouth, every attack on Obama’s character and patriotism, and every reproach of the Democratic policies on which he sturdily built his career over the last four decades. The one-time vice presidential Democratic candidate’s defection from the party—specifically on issues like the Iraq War, national security and torture (he described disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s position on the Geneva Conventions as “reasonable” and “progressive”)—were such that he lost the Democratic primary in his own state two years ago and was forced to run as a third-party independent. Next to Lieberman, the original Maverick himself looks like a stubborn party stalwart.