October 30, 2008

Countdown to Nov 4.

Art by Drew Friedman "I'm David Bordwell and I approved this message." He's noticed that "the terminology of Big Theory in the humanities has trickled into journalism and politics" and "the term that has gotten the most play is 'narrative.'" Tear your eyes away from FiveThirtyEight or whatever else you've got open in that other window and spend some time with this entry.

Besides the candidates' books and a slew of other touchstones, David Bordwell eventually turns to American Stories, the infomercial the Obama campaign ran last night and "a gift to the film analyst." For more on that, see Karina Longworth at the SpoutBlog and Heather Havrilesky in Salon.

Updated through 11/4.

"John McCain was featured prominently in my documentary film Why We Fight," writes Eugene Jarecki, beginning a story that explains why he feels "compelled to share a cautionary tale of my own firsthand experience with the Straight-Talk Express."

Also at the Huffington Post, Danny Elfman tells the story behind Our Greatest Fear.

For the LA CityBeat, Andy Klein reviews "The Presidential Election 55. Written and directed by Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and Alan Greenspan. With Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden and the electoral college. Opens Tuesday countrywide."

Having just launched People in the Middle for Obama, Errol Morris visits the Living Room Candidate to trace the history of "real-people political ads."

Also in the New York Times:

  • "Think like a diva. Where would you go rogue?" From The Maverick Wears Prada, a screenplay by Maureen Dowd.

  • "[T]he writers of The West Wing are watching in amazement as the election plays out," writes Brian Stelter. "The parallels between the final two seasons of the series (it ended its run on NBC in May 2006) and the current political season are unmistakable. Fiction has, once again, foreshadowed reality." More from Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian.

At Hollywood Bitchslap, Peter Sobczynski talks with Stefan Forbes about Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.

Online viewing tip. Slate's "Power Recap," from the last debate to the final week in two minutes.

Updates, 10/31: "'Celebrity' may have been a dirty word in the presidential race this summer, but as the campaign steams into its final four days, Democrats and Republicans are rolling out their boldface political names," reports Jack Healy for the NYT.

Online browsing tip. Elections in the movies: a photo gallery in the Los Angeles Times.

Online listening tip. Elvis Mitchell has a fun talk with Stefan Forbes about Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.

Online viewing tip #1. Who would Rabbit vote for? NYT Book Review editor Sam Tanenhaus asks John Updike.

Online viewing tip #2. Ted Johnson has Samuel L Jackson's ad: "Vote No on Prop 8. It's unfair. And it's wrong."

Updates, 11/2: "As a rough gauge last week, I watched a movie I hadn't seen since it came out when I was a teenager in 1967," writes Frank Rich in the New York Times. "Back then Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was Hollywood's idea of a stirring call for racial justice.... [W]hat's most startling about this archaic film is the sole element in it that proves inadvertently contemporary. Faced with a black man in the mold of the [Sidney] Poitier character - one who appears 'so calm' and without 'tensions' - white liberals can make utter fools of themselves. When Joe Biden spoke of Obama being 'clean' and 'articulate,' he might have been recycling Spencer Tracy's lines of 41 years ago."

Observer: That's All Folks For the Observer's Review, seven novelists reflect on the "state of America after Bush": Tobias Wolff, Edmund White, Yiyun Li, Walter Mosley, Rick Moody, Siri Hustvedt, Aleksandar Hemon and Uzodinma Iweala.

"The idea for Jesus Politics, a road trip documentary spanning 4000 miles and 17 states in which director Ilan Ziv interviews the religious activist supporters of both Democratic and Republican candidates during the presidential primaries, came when Ziv noticed the prominent role religion was playing in the most recent campaigns." A review from Lauren Wissot at the House Next Door.

Online viewing tips. Phil Nugent lists the "20 Greatest Campaign Ads of All Time" at Nerve.

Update, 11/3: "My sudden eagerness to see W. - I hadn't had the slightest desire to see it before - must have something to do with my ever-less-tentative belief that the movie is a post-mortem, not a prediction," blogs Hendrik Hertzberg. "W. was far, far better than I expected it to be. One test of a movie like this one is this: ten or twenty years from now, would it give an intelligent fifteen-year-old a reasonably accurate overall summary of the people and events it depicts? If I remember right, Oliver Stone's other Presidential pictures, JFK and Nixon, failed this test. W. passes it."

For the Guardian, Lesley O'Toole talks with Thandie Newton about playing Condoleezza Rice in W. More from Sian Lewis in the Independent.

"The San Diego-based Museum of Hoaxes just named its top 20 satirical political candidates of all time, noting that comedians Will Rogers (1928), Gracie Allen (1940) and Pat Paulsen (1968) paved the way for this year's ill-fated bid by Stephen Colbert - and perhaps even Al Franken's serious bid for one of Minnesota's seats in the US Senate," notes Darren Garnick, introducing Slate's own "slide-show essay on history's greatest fictional presidential candidates."

David Barsamian talks with Gore Vidal for In These Times.

"The era of market idolatry is over," declares John Cusack in the Huffington Post.

Hammer to Nail presents its list of "our favorite politically-themed/motivated/charged movies when it comes to the ol' U S of A."

Online viewing tip #1. David Lowery has a PSA of sorts.

Online viewing tip #2. Ray Pride's got one by Dave Willis (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) and Scott Jacobson (The Daily Show).

Online viewing tip #3. "When I got my hands on a copy of the soundtrack to Benh Zeitlin's Glory at Sea earlier this spring, I made the joke that if Obama started using it as his campaign theme, the race would be over," writes Michael Tully. "Well, one day before one of the most historic days in this country's history, it looks like my dream has finally come true."

Online viewing tip #4. The New York Times's "Choosing a President," an overview of the last two years. Stick with it through to the end; the section on the voters, with comments from NYT photographers is particularly good.

Updates, 11/4: In Newsweek, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver offers an hour-by-hour guide to Election Night - what clues to watch for and how to read them.

"Daring to Dream of a Black President." At Alternet: "Some of America's leading black voices, including Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Spike Lee and Tiger Woods share what it means to them."

"On the final day of campaigning, with charges still being traded on the stump and in adverts, Granta asked writers from America and around the world to offer their stories and opinions of the race. Read pieces by Daniel Alarcón, Ruth Franklin, Andrew Hussey, Hanan al-Shaykh, Akash Kapur, Lionel Shriver, Paul Kingsnorth, Ariel Leve and Dinaw Mengestu."

"Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died this morning in Hawaii after a long battle with cancer at the age of 86," wrote John Heilemann for New York yesterday evening. "[T]hat this woman - who was Obama's guardian for years while his mother lived in Indonesia, whom he fondly called Toot, and who referred to him as Bear - has succumbed now, a little more than 24 hours before her grandson will most likely be elected the first black president of the United States, is almost unspeakably sad.... It would be banal to point out the drama of this moment, the absurdly novelistic timing of it — yet another plot twist in this astonishing campaign that would be laughed out of a Hollywood pitch meeting for its sheer degree of incredibility."

Online listening tip. A discussion of Recount, Rendition, W. and DC 9/11: Time of Crisis on the Leonard Lopate Show.

"Political Memories" at n+1: AS Hamrah, Marco Roth, Alexander Chee and Emily Votruba.

Online viewing tip. At the Onion: "Voting Machines Elect One of Their Own as President."

Two lists at the SpoutBlog: Kevin Buist's "Election Returns of the Dead: Where do the candidates stand on the Apocalyptic issues?" and Kevin Kelly's "Presidential Election Movies to Get You Through Election Day."

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Posted by dwhudson at October 30, 2008 2:01 PM


I encountered an interesting example of what David Bordwell is writing about yesterday, the same day his article was posted, in one of the more detailed extras included in the forthcoming Criterion DVD of Samuel Fuller's "White Dog" (which I've just sampled), when his widow Christa Lang-Fuller alludes to both "deconstruction " and Jacques Derrida.

Posted by: Jonathan Rosenbaum at October 31, 2008 8:46 AM