Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Anticipating "Thank You for Smoking" and the art of satire

Great news for those of us stuck in wide-release world: After it cracked the top 10 on a limited number of screens, "Thank You for Smoking" has been deemed worthy of gracing our theaters.

It won't be here until Friday, and only at the AmStar here in Macon, but early word from bloggers is positive. I'm hopeful that, for once, the satire will be sharp and no one will be spared.

The New York Times has posted the trailer and four very funny clips here, so click and judge for yourself.

In honor of this welcome change of pace, here, in order, are my favorite political satire movies (and one TV show, it's my list after all.)

10. "Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb": What could be funnier than the end of the world? You'll see Peter Sellers' name on this list more than any other, and his multiple roles were all great in this one, but even better was George C. Scott as Gen. Buck Turgidson. Pure madness from the mind of Stanley Kubrick.

9. "The Mouse that Roared": How could a little movie made way back in 1959 be so silly and yet still so relevant? Sellers again in multiple roles in the tale of a small European country that declares war on the U.S. in hopes of reaping the benefits of losing. How sad that since the end of the Cold War things have only gotten worse.

8. "Citizen Ruth": Long before he wowed the world with "Sideways," Alexander Payne brought us this too broad but often deadly look at the war over abortion. This one is almost worth it just for the cast, especially Laura Dern as our glue-sniffing "heroine" and Burt Reynolds in full bluster as an appropriately ridiculous right-to-life crusader.


7. "Duck Soup": The best Marx Brothers movie is so funny I almost forgot how political it is. Watching Groucho woo and then go to war for Mrs. Teasdale reminds us that American humor has always been as lowbrow as it is now, it just used to be a lot more funny.

6. "Clockwork Orange": Kubrick again in a movie that disturbed me too much to enjoy it the first two times I saw it. After you get over the shock, however, Anthony Burgess' novel about a futuristic Britain and what means it employs to control crime makes a nearly perfect movie.

5. "Bob Roberts": These days it's hard to believe that Tim Robbins was once a very funny guy. Witness "Tapeheads" with John Cusack, and later this skewering of right wingers. Roberts is scary enough as the candidate himself, but I especially liked Giancarlo Esposito as the quite-possibly-crazy journalist who, of course, knows the truth.

4. "South Park": Like I said, it's my list, so TV counts too, especially when it's this good. I think one episode sums up its power perfectly, the one where the late Christopher Reeve not only gains the power to walk again but even superpowers, all from sucking the blood from discarded fetuses. It's hard to watch, as the sharpest satire should be.


3. "Being There": Sellers again, in my favorite of all his roles, Chance the gardener, aka Chauncey Gardiner, who ascends from his servant's role to the presidency spouting lines he garners from TV. At the time it could have been seen as a mockery of President Carter's homespun wisdom, but it fits even better with the White House's current resident.

2. "Mash": Not my favorite Robert Altman movie, which would be "Nashville", but damn close. I admit I didn't see this until well into the TV show's run, near the end when Alan Alda had turned it into a preachy mess. It was so refreshing then, and still is, to see how easily Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould made the only real Hawkeye and Trapper John come to life in the Chaos that was Korea.

1. "Election": The second Payne flick is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. A war between arguably the two most adorable people in America - Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick - in the hell that is high school. Witherspoon's Tracy Flick is pure evil, and the screenplay based on Tom Perrotta's novel is deadly. Rent it now.

All right, enough from me. Now go see "Thank You for Smoking" this weekend so we can keep more good movies flowing into wide-release world.

12 comments:

km said...

Hi there, reel fanatic, just saw your comment over at my blog about the Top 10 screenplays....

Looking at your list, I see you are also a Peter Sellers fan :)

You missed "Wag The Dog" and Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" in your list of political satires!!

But then again, you included "Duck Soup" and that saves you from eternal damnation :))

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for sparing me .. agreed that "The Great Dictator" is a masterpiece, but not a huge fan of Wag the Dog

Maxine said...

Hello, thank you for your comment on Petrona -- have just found your very interesting blog as a result.

Quite agree with you about The Village; it was a disappointment to me, having enjoyed The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but in mitigation I did watch this dreadful damaged DVD so it wasn't very fair. The next movie does not sound promising from what you say.

I like some of the movies you mention in your satire list very much. I loved Duck Soup years ago, ditto Clockwork Orange on its first time round, though I have not revisited it since its re-release. Dr Strangelove was great -- those "essential bodily fluids"!

I haven't seen Sideways yet, someone gave us the DVD for Christmas so who knows, maybe I'll get a spare hour or two sometime (unlikely, sadly). Interesting to read about "Citizen Ruth", will look out for that --- and "Thank you for Smoking" if it ever makes it to the UK.

I don't know if you count this as "political" satire, but one of my favourite movies in the genre is Lindsay Anderson's "If" --- brilliant! (I liked his subsequent two in the "loose trilogy" less -- Oh Lucky Man and Britannia Hospital, but I suppose you could say that the latter two are more "political" satires than the first.)

Tim Robbins--- hmmm -- I haven't seen him in much, thought he was good in Shawshank Redemption but I could not believe how awful his segment was in "War of the Worlds" -- a pretty poor movie in most ways, but that Tim Robbins segment -- ouch!

cinefille said...

Hey there. Good list. I would've included "The Great Dictator" as well. But you have enough Peter Sellers on your list so that makes up for it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have not seen "If," but I will check it out .. thanks ... Love all the love for Chaplin ...

Stephanie said...

Thank You for Smoking totally kicked butt!

ChasingMoksha said...

Okay, I could only go with you on Election. The rest will have to wait, or never make the cut. HAH!

I will see the smoking one on DVD, until then.......

Chick Pea said...

thanks for your comment on my blog reel fanatic... :)

it was a fantastic movie.. i think it was brilliant...being a cancer doctor it hit home harder..

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Dr. Strangelove is one of my all-time favorites.

RC said...

Fun list...can't say i'm the biggest satire fan...

love duck soup though...but clockwork...i understand it's masterpiece, but it's just not enjotyable movie watching for me.

Glad to read you enjoyed thank you for not smoking.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

themarina said...

Election. I remember the first time I saw it in a theatre with a bunch of old folks (obviously there for the subject matter) and teeny boppers ("OMG!! It's REESE!!!"). Too bad for the teeny boppers...they missed nearly all of the hilarity! Great list!

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