Four days ago the brilliant Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday ran a piece called “The 34 Best Political Movies Ever Made.” Everybody has their own list of such films. I’m good with almost all of Hornaday’s choices, although I would have deleted Mean Girls and Born Yesterday in favor of Franklin J. Schaffner and Gore Vidal‘s The Best Man (’64 — that Lee Tracy performance!) and Michael Ritchie‘s The Candidate (’72).
For the sin of boredom Lincoln doesn’t make the HE chart, but you know what does? Paths of Glory, which is more about politics and class than it is about warfare.
Hornaday explanation: “There are titles not on this list that are sure to launch a million “How could you leave out…?” objections. Not because [this or that political film isn’t] worthy, but to make room for films that may be more obscure but are no less revelatory or fun to watch.
HE to Hornaday #1: “It’s funny and admirable that you decided on 34 films, which you’re not supposed to do, of course. Some say list pieces should only include ten noteworthies, and fewer will say 20. But you MUST use multiples of ten or five, and NEVER, EVER go beyond 25. 34 is hilarious!”
HE to Hornaday #2: “Gabriel Over The White House has faded in my memory, but I recall an actual trumpet (playing some kind of sad, melancholy tune) signaling the moral awakening of Walter Huston.
HE to Hornaday #3: “Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers (’56) is about ‘50s Eisenhower culture in the tidy suburbs — vanilla complacency and conformity, robotically expressed assurances that everything’s fine, and no place for subterranean riffs and reflections from people like Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Arthur Miller, Chet Baker and Nicholas Ray. It’s about “the bland leading the bland.” In summary, I don’t see how a film about the muffling and narcotizing of the human spirit is political, but I guess it is on some vague level.”
HE to Hornaday #4: “Election‘s Tracy Flick is a resentful, ultra-determined, extra-carnivorous version of Richard Nixon. In ‘08 or thereabouts Hillary Clinton reportedly said to Reese Witherspoon that “everyone’s telling me about Tracy Flick!” She didn’t even realize she was being put down. I don’t think Matthew Broderick has been gradually exposed as the villain, as somebody (Matt Zoller Seitz?) recently wrote. Broderick is playing an angry stifled hypocrite and an overly emotional, sloppy-minded idealist — he finally decides to stop Tracy but unscrupulously. And he doesn’t even think to destroy the ballot that favors Flick but throws it into his own garbage basket!”
HE to Hornaday #5: “Congrats to the great WaPo illustrator Stephen Bliss!”