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Political Themes and Schemes

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Need a break from the reality of our current Canadian political climate? Not sure you want to sit through another CNN special report on President-Elect Obama? Then try out some of these and escape into the surreal world of politics as seen through the eyes of the dramatic lens.

High in the ratings has to be Doctor Strangelove:or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. This 1964 multi award winning film by Stanley Kubrick (2001:A Space Odyssey; Full Metal Jacket; Spartacus; Paths of Glory) consistently turns up on list after list--often across different genres. Set against the very real fears of nuclear annihilation during the height of the cold war, Kubrick somehow manages to turn this storyline into a comedy- albeit a very black one. Peter Sellers is brilliant playing three different characters, and watching Geroge C Scott as General Buck Turgidson is to see an actor at the top of his craft. An indictment against the insanity of nuclear deterance through nuclear proliferation, the movie is both absurd and profound--and a must see. Trivia: the films original release was delayed by the studio because of the Kennedy assasination of 1963.

House of Cards/To Play the King/Final Cut. These BBC productions from 1991 star Sir Ian Richardson as the political pyschopath Francis Urquhart. Starting out as Party Whip, he dreams, schemes and murders his way to become Britain's Prime Minister. Once there, he rules with an iron fist, destroying all comers and even trying to bring down the monarchy. The acting is excellent, the storylines are complex and well crafted, and the ending is superb. It is a real committment to watch these as it amounts to close to 20 hours, but it is absolutely worth it. Do watch them in order or you will be lost.

Last King of Scotland2006

This is an excellent historical fiction that tells the story of the murderous reign of Idi Amin, as seen through the eyes of his personal physcian, a naive yet arrogant young Scotsman. As Uganda falls deeper into ruin under Amin's despotic rule, the young doctor looks for a way to escape the clutches of the increasingly mad dictator. Forest Whitaker (Vantage Point, Crying Game, Bird) won an Oscar for best actor and James McAvoy (Narnia, Atonement,) adds another strong performance to his growing list of achievements. Quite a few Oscars have gone to actors representing living or dead historical figures, and while there is no denying that Whitaker is excellent as Amin, I wonder if there shouldn't be a category for " Best Resemblance and Impersonation of a Real Person" award. Think of Helen Mirren as The Queen, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote, Ben Kingsley as Gandhi and Jamie Foxx as RayCharles- I feel a new blog coming !!

The Candidate1972

A well crafted character study depicting what happens to an idealistic young man who gets swept up (and away) after agreeing to run for public office. Robert Redford losses himself in the political process and mutates from a commited individual into just another cliche. Like the candidate himself we are left wondering "'what do we do now?"

Also worth a watch:

Manchurian Candidate- 2004 Denzel Washington

Wag the Dog- 1997 Hoffman/De Niro

13 Days- 2000 Kevin Costner

Missing- 1982 Jack Lemmon

Quiet American- 2003 Michael Caine

H2O- 2004 Paul Gross

3 Days of the Condor- 1975 Robert Redford

All the President's Men- 1976 Redford/Hoffman

Proof- 2006 Finbar Lynch

and if all these political machinations prove too much for you, lighten up with the BBC series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.


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