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George W. Bush Might Approve of “Star Trek Into Darkness”

I was back in The Atlantic yesterday with a thinkpiece on the politics of Star Trek Into Darkness. Here’s an excerpt: “Kirk’s bravado stands out because we were supposed to have left this type of leadership behind. President Bush traded on the cowboy archetype in the days after 9/11—promising to capture Bin Laden “dead or…

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We Are All Kathryn Bigelow

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this interview of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow by The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins. Here is an excerpt: The film includes wrenching scenes of a terrorist suspect being waterboarded and subjected to other forms of torture by C.I.A. operatives; the suspect eventually surrenders information that…

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Blood and Politics in “Killing Them Softly”

Watching Killing Them Softly, one can almost picture the “a-ha” moment when writer/director Andrew Dominik was reading “Cogan’s Trade,” the book on which it is based, and came up with the idea of setting this story during the early days of the 2008 financial collapse. Images and sound bites of George W. Bush and Barack…

Matthew McConaughey in "Magic Mike"

How “Magic Mike” Could Save Obama

From Obama: 2016 to Argo, the movies of 2012 have been particularly heavy on political content, and naturally some pundits have wondered if a film can influence an election. It seems clear that many in Hollywood think it could – and they want nothing to do with it. Three political films originally scheduled to hit…

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Will Ferrell: Liberal Folk Hero

There is a certain kind of comedian – the best kind, really – who is more  truth-teller than entertainer. We laugh with them because they so perfectly capture with words what the constraints of polite society keep us from saying and sometimes even thinking. A short, incomplete list of these comedians would include Will Rogers,…

The Campaign

“The Campaign” Brings Modern Insight to a Familiar Story

“The Campaign,” the new election-season comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, does exactly what you expect it to. It delivers big, raunchy laughs, while offering soft satire of the American political system. It is the rare political comedy that will play in both DC and Peoria. The film succeeds the most when it lampoons…

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Was the Worst Robin Williams Movie Just Ahead of its Time?

It’s difficult enough to make a successful commercial movie that affects the way we think about political or social issues. In general, people go to the movies to escape the stresses of the modern world, not be confronted with a reflection of them. But if you are going to make a movie that pushes political…