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September 9, 2013 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Reel Politics

Below is a list of 12 films which are either about, or have something to do with, politics. Much like the government, there are a lot of films about or made by men, especially straight white men. Many featuring deceit, scandals, conspiracies, some committees, and even a bit of romance.

For your fill of ladies in politics I’d recommend two hilarious TV shows: Parks and Recreation and Veep—waddup strong female leads. Enjoy.

1. In the Loop (2009) dir. Armando Iannucci – Based on the hilarious The Thick of It, a satire of the backstage quarrels leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Brits head to Washington, chaos ensues. Peter Capaldi is fantastic as the ever-swearing, always-fuming Malcolm Tucker, along with a ton of notable cast members including Steve Coogan and James Gandolfini. It’s all about politics, it’s hysterically funny; well worth a watch, or ten.

2. All the President’s Men (1976) dir. Alan J. Pakula – Two Washington Post reporters (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) uncover the Watergate scandal which leads to President Nixon’s resignation. Journalism. Politics. SCANDAL.

3. Election (1999) dir. Alexander Payne – Student politics; well, high-school student politics. It gets even dirtier than the VUWSA general elections. Reese Witherspoon gives a stellar performance as Tracy Flick, the do-no-wrong, tightly wound, straight-A gal running for student president. Peter Bradshaw described it as “satisfyingly nasty on a number of levels”.

4. Die Blechtrommel/The Tin Drum (1979) dir. Volker Schlöndorff – A black comedy set in Danzig in the 1920s/’30s. The film focusses on Oskar Matzerath, the son of a local dealer, who is equipped with a full intellect right from birth. We see the eve of the Second World War and the Nazi occupation through his unusual eyes.

5. The Great Dictator (1940) dir. Charles Chaplin – Possibly one of the greatest political satires: Charlie Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel, a dictator with a doppelganger, a poor Jewish barber living in the slums who is one day mistaken for the dictator. Hilarity ensues.

6. The Sound of Music (1965) dir. Robert Wise – Not exactly a political film, but there is war and there are Nazis, dammit. It’s The Sound of Music and it deserves a mention. I’ll assume most people reading this know what it’s about. Will leave you humming for at least a day, and the amount of sheer emotion in that last scene is enough to shed at least one small tear.

7. Frost/Nixon (2008) dir. Ron Howard – A retelling of the interviews between British talk-show host David Frost (who recently died actually, R.I.P. good sir) and former president Richard Nixon post the Watergate scandal.

8. The Birth of a Nation (1915) dir. D. W. Griffith – One of the most watched movies of its time, focussing on the American Civil War and the anarchy in the ‘black-ruled South’ after the war. It’s pretty obviously racist, but worth a watch as a ‘look back’ on a time past.

9. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) dir. Stanley Kubrick – Peter Sellers is Dr Strangelove, an insane general who starts the process to nuclear holocaust within a ‘war room’ of politicians and generals. Kubrick first set out to make the film as a serious take on war but turned it into a comedy part way through, realising the absurdity of the whole thing.

10. The Lives of Others (2006) dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – Set in East Berlin in 1984, focussing on a writer, his lover, and an agent of the secret police who is conducting surveillance on the writer. Lives become intertwined. Strangely relevant now, with all the discussion surrounding what the government does and does not have a right to see.

11. Milk (2008) dir. Gus Van Sant – The story of Harvey Milk, an American gay-rights activist who fought for gay rights and later became California’s first openly gay elected official.

12. The English Patient (1996) dir. Anthony Minghella – This movie will probably make you cry. A lot. Famously referenced in that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine exclaims: “Stop telling your stupid story about the stupid desert and just DIE ALREADY.” Elaine does not know the true pain and heartbreak and EMOTION that is felt during this film. There are a lot of hot shots of the desert and sex and serious discussion of war. Also, maps.

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