Tag: politics


Get Me Roger Stone

June 29th, 2017 — 6:52pm

The following is a guest review  by Larry Hott,  a prominent film maker and movie critic with whom we are very close. (see his bio and link to radio interviews about this film at the end of this review)

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Get Me Roger Stone -nf

Review by Larry Hott

Have you heard stories about a political operative who has a picture of Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back? Roger Stone is that guy. He’s the protagonist of the new Netlfix documentary that’s out in theaters right now and online on Netlfix.

Some reviewers say you’ll feel the need to take a long hot cleansing shower after watching this snake and I couldn’t agree more. The filmmakers, (three are named directors – Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme) let you know that they think Stone is responsible for the rise of Trump and virtually every evil that’s happened in American politics since the age of Goldwater.

Stone, who is this weird looking guy who kind of reminds me of Julian Assange (in fact there’s a Julian Assange connection) gets his start by befriending the infamous Roy Cohn, the chief counsel to Joe McCarthy and also, by no coincidence, an advisor to Trump.   Stone helped run the Reagan campaign, was instrumental in defeating Gore in Florida during the 2000 recount, and has been involved deeply and malevolently in the Trump campaign from the start. “The New Republic” called him “The State of the Art Washington Sleazeball.”

This movie has amazing interviews, including a sit down with Trump that almost makes him, Trump, seem like a reasonable person. Maybe it’s by comparison to Stone, who keeps spouting his personal rules, which include “The Past is F-ing Prologue,” and “Hate is a more powerful motivator than love.” Trump loves this guy and owes him a lot. It’s not clear if Stone really believes in anything but himself and winning and making a ton of money. This is a guy who got caught advertising sex parties with his wife and him online and then denied it, then admitted it, and thinks now that it serves his brand. He’s in deep with Alex Jones, the delusional Info Wars conspiracy theorist and that’s all you really need to know about his mentality.

It’s fun to watch this film if you’re both a political junky and a masochist. It’s weird to see Trump talk about someone other than himself, to see Paul Manafort spill the beans on their strategy and then have every move picked apart by the extremely articulate writers Jane Mayer and Jeffrey Toobin, who should be given the documentary award of merit for demonstrating some sense of decency and honesty around these cynical and hateful political manipulators.

If you need a primer on the last election, the film will do nicely, but it’s also very up-to-date, with a mention of Stone connection to Julian Assange and the possible Russian collusion with both of them to release documents about Hillary Clinton’s emails. (WikiLeaks published emails related to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that intelligence agencies say were hacked by Russian intelligence.)

As a documentary it’s not perfection by a long shot. You have to know the characters and there’s no scorecard. It’s a bit like switching channels from Fox News to MSNBC to CNN and PBS News Hour back and forth for 90 minutes. Like Laura Poitra’s Julian Assange documentary “Risk,” however, you do get to know the personalities and you’ll be a better informed political junky if you watch it through the painful recap of the 2016 election. As a filmmaker there is fun recurring bit – Roger Stone, who seems to enjoy being on camera more than screwing his enemies, introduces the film crew to everyone they meet as a bunch of liberal, commie pinko filmmakers. It’s nice to be in such good company.

One more thing, there is a piece of music the filmmakers use that is eerily similar to Errol Morris’s soundtrack in the classic film “Fog of War,” the portrait of Robert McNamara. McNamara comes off as a saint compared to Stone, who is Machiavelli’s love child, no doubt.(2017)

Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey began work­ing together in 1978, as members of the Florentine Films consortium.  They formed Florentine Films/Hott Productions in 1981. Since then they have produced two dozen films for national PBS broadcast as well as several productions for web and educational distribution. Their awards include an Emmy, two Academy Award nominations, a duPont -Columbia Journalism Award, the Erik Barnouw History Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, five American Film Festival Blue Ribbons, and 14 CINE Golden Eagles.  Their films have been broadcast internationally and Hott and Garey have presented their documentaries in special programs in Canada, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Algeria, Great Britain and Vietnam.

You can hear two Larry Hott interviews about this film on WHMP Radio at http://whmp.com/podcasts/vaya-con-munoz-6-17-17/ and http://whmp.com/podcasts/who-framed-roger-stone/

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

Best of Enemies

July 30th, 2015 — 2:05am

***Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.48.44 AM

Best of Enemies

The 1968 democratic political convention was held in Chicago in a year filled with violence, political turmoil, and civil unrest. Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for president because of the controversy over the Vietnam for war. His Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the nomination beating anti-war spokesperson Eugene McCarthy. In the Republican Convention in Miami, Florida, former Vice President Richard Nixon beat Ronald Reagan for the nomination and went on to win the election. One of the memorable aspects of this political year was a series of 10 debates between William F. Buckley Jr., conservative spokesperson and Gore Vidal, liberal spokesperson that was aired on the ABC television network during the political convention. It is these debates that are the subject of this thought provoking and revealing documentary film produced and directed by Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon. It is ironic that when ABC made the decision to inject the debates into its TV coverage of the conventions, they were number three in the ratings and were a poor number three at that. Yet, their use of these debates propelled them to the highest ratings over the other two networks who were doing gavel-to-gavel convention coverage. This is probably the beginning of the type of news coverage which we see today which is filled with pundits discussing and debating the news on many different networks.

In 1968, there was no more well known spokesperson of the conservative points of view than William F. Buckley Jr. For many years he had a popular television program “Firing Line” where he took on people with opposing views and demonstrated his brilliance. He also was a columnist for well-known conservative magazines. Gore Vidal was an equally brilliant, articulate liberal spokesperson who not only spoke “the talk” but wrote many very successful books about American history and also penned successful novels including one well-known fiction work titled Myra Breckinridge.

As we see in this 87-minute documentary film edited by Eileen Meyer and Aaron Wickenden, these 10 debates were very fascinating to watch and were watched more than for the discussion about the conflicts of ideological viewpoints. Certainly, Buckley expressed his view that people should be more self-sufficient and shouldn’t depend on government handouts. Vidal made the point that the government has responsibility to support people in need. However, the essence of this historic debate was how these brilliant men try to take apart not only each other’s arguments but each other.

We didn’t see all the raw footage of the debate, but in a post-film discussion with Mr. Neville, one, of the director producers, he shared his analysis which counted that more than three quarters of the time, these men were trying to dissect each other, rather than carrying on a rational discussion of the complicated issues of their time. One can’t help reflect how this film reminds us that this may be how we are approaching our modern day political debates as the right and left trash each other.

It of course makes great television and there have been very few more exciting moments in live widely watched television than the culminating mutual attacks on each other that occurred in the Buckley-Vidal debates. There needs to be no “spoiler alert” here since the following moments which we will describe are well-explored in this documentary. Mr. Buckley compared the anti-war protesters (who were probably demonstrating at that very moment outside the convention hall) “to be bullying fascists.” Vidal then says, “The only pro or crypto-Nazi I can think of is yourself.” Buckley then uncharacteristically loses his temper and says, “Listen you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” (The fact that Vidal turned out to be “gay” was completely irrelevant especially since he was not out at that time and Buckley had used a very disparaging word in reference to him.) Another irony is that at the very moment that Buckley threatened to punch Vidal, the police outside were probably punching the protesters. In any case this documentary film gives an inside view of the meaning of this debate using commentary of people who knew the two men at that time and later in life. We learned that Vidal’s feelings and comments about Buckley, even at the time of Buckley’s death were as angry and as bitter as ever. Similarly, Buckley’s people who knew him suggest that Buckley never got over his feelings about Vidal.

A good documentary film not only presents the facts but also tries to put them in some kind of perspective. To a certain degree, the filmmakers here may have succeeded. You may need to be a student of television and politics to fully appreciate how the debate may have been a turning point in how such debates are handled in the modern media. However, if you step back you can perhaps see that our current political discourse in 2015 over ideological differences, may be getting very personal. This film presents a worthwhile lesson in these situations of what can go wrong between “The Best of Enemies.”

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

Lincoln

December 1st, 2012 — 9:39pm

*****

Lincoln -rm                                                          

The problem with any movie that gets a lot of hype because it is about two giants in in their respective spheres of influence, Lincoln and Spielberg, is that you expect to be blown away, enthralled , introduced to new ideas that you never thought about before etc. etc.  What we have here is a good movie, a really good movie that provides insight into one of the greatest American Presidents, as well as a lesson in political history that brought about one of the most important pieces of our constitutional history, the 13th Amendment that prohibits slavery. However, in order to appreciate this movie, you have to do more than sit back and enjoy, you really have to concentrate and think about what is going on before you. You are skillfully helped in this task by the screenplay by Tony Kushner based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “ Team of Rivals”, superb acting especially by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln , Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and, of course, the brilliant directing of Steven Spielberg.

The portrayal of Lincoln is distinctive and consistent. We have no way of knowing how on the mark it was, but his thoughtful, intense caring persona yet with a  sense of humor makes him appear to be a  person we would like to think that he was. He also was shown to be struggling with a parental dilemma with which we can  easily identify. Imagine if you had a son that wanted to enlist in the military where young soldiers were dying by the thousands. Would you do everything you could to stop him ( and what if you could, since you were the Commander in Chief?). Or, if you understood how he could never forgive himself if he didn’t enlist would you allow him to choose his destiny (despite the protests of your wife). This was just a small side theme of this movie.

Thaddeus Stevens, one of the Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, appears to be a fascinating person, as dedicated as Lincoln to their common cause but quite feisty with a sharp tongue that he wasn’t afraid to use. One of us was moved to read a little bit more about this man who was shown in the film as having a secret that was actually true to life.

The potential pertinence of this film to our modern day political issues was quite apparent. We know that there is a great deal of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes and the cynical among us would say that most politicians can bought if you find the right price. But what if in the end, the goal in this case a constitutional amendment, was actually priceless in human terms. What do you bargain away to get it? It left much to think about regarding compromise and it’s many layers, as well as stopping ”perfect from being the enemy of the good.”

Then there is the “Rocky Factor”. Whenever there is a situation where a good guy has an uphill battle, can the movie send a chill up your spine at the right time. This one did. (2012)

Comment » | 5 Stars, History

The Ides of March

October 30th, 2011 — 8:30pm

****

Ides of March– rm-  It is not a coincidence that this movie opens in the US as there is a hotly contested primary race in one of the political parties prior to the 2012 Presidential Election.The stories that emerge from behind the scenes of these campaigns usually mesmerizes the public. The people running these campaigns have to be the brilliant tacticians who understand politics and the power of the press. They encounter nosey reporters exemplified in this story by NY Times reporter Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei). They play a complicated chess game as they present their candidates. Everything and everybody is expendable including the campaign leaders themselves. Steven Myers (Ryan Gosling) is  the idealistic very smart staffer working for Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) under very wise campaign director Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). The campaign manager for the oppositional candidate is a very crafty (Paul Giamatti). The Governor while politically very principled has some Clintonesque weaknesses and we should mention there is a pretty young intern (Evan Rachel Wood). Mix these ingredients together and you get a suspenseful fast moving screenplay by Grant Heslov with contribution from Clooney who also directed the film. It was based on a play, Farragut North,  by Beau Willimon which having seen it in Los Angeles, we felt the suspense and surprises of the story were slightly muted. In real life, reading the newspapers and various biographies, we get snippets that makes us understand that in big time politics  there can be  deception, lying and compromising of principles. This movie gives us a depressing view how it might go down. This isn’t a pretty picture but it is a great story and an effective movie (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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