Weekend Streaming: This Fucking Week Edition

It’s been a rough week. To recap:

  • The Trump administration announced it would be kicking all transgender individuals out of the military
  • Newly installed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci revealed he’s a foul-mouthed and vindictive incompetent who obsesses about other men autofellating
  • North Korea successfully launched another ballistic missile
  • Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, spend multiple days trying to pass various half-baked versions of bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which most economists said would result in anywhere from 15-23 million fewer people having health insurance, would raise premiums dramatically, and could result in a death spiral that would destroy the individual insurance market.

But somehow we made it to the weekend! I’ve selected some political films in which people do the right thing, whatever that may be, and some films where cynicism reigns supreme. Those are the poles we live between, and there’s no escaping them.

Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith wants you to shove those bills where the sun don’t shine (Columbia Pictures).

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith, a literal boy scout, is no match for the cynical elders of the senate after he is appointed to fill a deceased senator’s position. But he’s far from the pushover they imagine, and he’s willing to filibuster the senate to do the right thing. It’s strange to watch Frank Capra’s film in light of how the senate has been degraded—but inspiring nonetheless. Stream on Hulu, rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.

All the President's Men
Woodward and Bernstein making some calls in All the President’s Men (Warner Bros.).

All the President’s Men (1976)

Alan J. Pakula films an act of journalism the same way he filmed The Parallax View (1974), as a suspense thriller. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman perfectly embody the nobility of Woodward and Bernstein. It’s Hollywood mythmaking, but still essential, especially now, when great journalists are under attack from the politicians they cover. You can stream it if you have a Cinemax subscription, and rent from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play.

JFK
The great (unfulfilled) promise of John F. Kennedy is alive in Robert Drew’s documentaries.

The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates: Primary (1960), Crisis (1963), and Faces of November (1964)

Documentarian Robert Drew was one of the earliest practitioners of what would become known as Cinema Verité in France and Direct Cinema in the US. There are some differences between the two styles, but both forms of documentary place the camera right in the action. There is no narration, no talking heads, and no interviews, all devices that can distance the audience from the immediacy of the visuals. In Primary, Drew follows John F. Kennedy during his Democratic primary battle with Minnesota senator Hubert Humphrey, who already seems incredibly old-fashioned next to the youthful Kennedy. Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment documents Kennedy and his attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, as they integrate the University of Alabama against the wishes of Governor George Wallace. The twelve-minute-long Faces of November is an impressionistic portrait of President Kennedy’s funeral procession. Stream on FilmStruck or rent on all the standard sites.

In the Loop
Peter Capaldi has two modes, Rage and Meltdown, in In the Loop (IFC Films).

The Thick of It (2005-2012) and In the Loop (2009)

Before Armando Ianucci created Veep, he’d already made a smaller scale show about political cynicism and incompetence in the UK, The Thick of ItIn the Loop is his more ambitious film, which transports several characters from the series into a satirized version of the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Several Americans that would be mainstays on Veep pop up in the film. Never has the rush to a pointless and costly war been so funny. Stream The Thick of It on Hulu or rent on all the standard sites. Stream In the Loop on Netflix and Hulu, and rent from Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

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