Who won last night’s debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? A lot of day-after punditry gave the debate to Romney because he was so much more fired up than Obama, who appears to think before he speaks, causing millions of liberals across the land to yell at their televisions for him to TALK FASTER OMG! and then go to Twitter to start fake Big Bird accounts.
The style-over-substance scoring of most presidential debates might drive you crazy, but unless you have an economist sitting next to you while you watch them it’s tempting to call it for the guy you were going to vote for anyway and leave the undecideds to vote for the guy with the most presidential tie / gestures. (Obama: “I have a fact.” Romney: “That is not a fact!” Me: “ONE OF YOU IS LYING, WHY ISN’T THERE A REAL-TIME FACT CHECK CRAWL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN??”)
Which is why in times of crisis I find it calming to turn to Hollywood’s candidates. Come hide your head in the sand with me!
In Bulworth, Warren Beatty plays a politician who, disillusioned with the entire political process, puts a contract out on himself and begins derailing his senate campaign by speaking his mind to voters and sending his staff into a slow, controlled panic. His outbursts are so subversive and weird (he is rapping like your grandpa, after all) that they attract a whole new section of the electorate, including Halle Berry, who plays a young campaigner who hides Bulworth in her family home. Co-starring Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warden, and Isaiah Washington. Directed by Beatty, written with Aaron Sorkin and James Toback.
Angry black woman: Are you saying the Democratic Party doesn’t care about the African-American community?
Bullworth: Isn’t that OBVIOUS? You got half your kids are out of work and the other half are in jail. Do you see ANY Democrat doing anything about it? Certainly not me! So what’re you gonna do, vote Republican? Come on! Come on, you’re not gonna vote Republican! Let’s call a spade a spade!
[Loud, angry booing]
Bullworth: I mean — come on! You can have a Billion Man March! If you don’t put down that malt liquor and chicken wings, and get behind someone other than a running back who stabs his wife, you’re NEVER gonna get rid of somebody like me!
Vinnie Barbarino John Travolta plays a Bill Clinton-like southern governor running for president while his wife (Emma Thompson) stands by her man in a Hillary Clinton-like display of anger, pride, jealousy, and then furiousness when he is accused of fathering a child with a teenage waitress from his favorite barbecue joint. The casting here is terrific, with Adrian Lester as his young black campaign manager, Billy Bob Thornton as a James Carville-like campaign strategist, Kathy Bates as a suicidal spin doctor (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), and Larry Hagman (!) as a rival candidate. Directed by Mike “EGOT” Nichols, written with Elaine May, based on the book by Joe Klein.
[with a gun in her enemy’s crotch]
Libby Holden: I am a gay lesbian woman! I do not mythologize the male sexual organ!
Chris Rock plays Mays Gilliam, a D.C. alderman who gets chosen as a presidential candidate after the original candidate’s plane crashes head-on into the vice presidential candidate’s plane. Chosen for his likability by a party that figures he will lose anyway, Gilliam begins to rise in the polls after he starts speaking out about poverty, racism, and other issues he faces every day. After the party chooses his brother (Bernie Mac, R.I.P.) as his running mate, Gilliam finds out the truth about why he was chosen but soldiers on anyway, [SPOILER ALERT] ultimately winning the election. Also starring Robin Givens and Dylan Baker. Written by Chris Rock and Ali LeRoy, and directed by Rock.
[Mays is trying to save an old woman from a house that is about to be demolished]
Mays Gilliam: Miss Pearl! You gotta get outta here. They’re gonna blow this place up.
Miss Pearl: Oh, they wouldn’t do that, would they? When they know we’re in here.
Mays Gilliam: Miss Pearl, I love you. I’ve known you a long time. You’ve seen a lot of things in your life. You’ve seen churches burned to the ground. You’ve seen dogs sicced on children. You’ve seen Malcolm X killed. You’ve seen JFK killed. They shut up Muhammad Ali. They shut up Richard Pryor. They gave Magic Johnson AIDS. They even turned Michael Jackson white! Now, do you really think these people give a damn about you?
In this satire of high school student government elections, Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick, a type-A senior running for student council president unopposed until one of her teachers, Mr. McAllister (played by a clammy Matthew Broderick), steps in and persuades a football jock to run against her. Tracy Flick represents everything McAllister fears about politics, and life in general (ruthless ambition, petty vindictiveness, manipulatiion), so stopping her from winning would represent a personal triumph for the frustrated history teacher whose life in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, is going nowhere. With brilliant performances by Witherspoon and Broderick, it won Best Film at the Independent Spirit awards that year. From the novel by Tom Perrotta; directed by Alexander “Sideways” Payne.
Tammy Metzler: [her campaign speech] Who cares about this stupid election? We all know it doesn’t matter who gets elected president of Carver. Do you really think it’s going to change anything around here? Make one single person smarter or happier or nicer? The only person it does matter to is the one who gets elected. The same pathetic charade happens every year, and everyone makes the same pathetic promises just so they can put it on their transcripts to get into college. So vote for me, because I don’t even want to go to college, and I don’t care, and as president I won’t do anything. The only promise I will make is that if elected I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again!
[the student body erupts in huge cheers. They start chanting “Tammy! Tammy!”]
Tammy Metzler: Or don’t vote for me! Who cares? Don’t vote at all!
[they all rise to give her a standing ovation]
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Pedro: Do you think people will vote for me?
Napoleon Dynamite: Heck yes! I’d vote for you.
Pedro: Like what are my skills?
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, you have a sweet bike. And you’re really good at hooking up with chicks. Plus you’re like the only guy at school who has a mustache.
Other fictional movie presidents who’d probably win a debate just by hiring the right stylist:
Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact
Harrison Ford in Air Force One
Michael Keaton in First Daughter
Christina Applegate in Mafia!
Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove
Michael Douglas in The American President
Gene Hackman in Absolute Power
James Earl Jones in The Man
Phil Hartman in The Second Civil War
Kevin Kline in Dave
Jack Nicholson in Mars Attacks!
Leslie Nielson in Scary Movie 4
Loretta Switt in Whoops Apocalypse
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