The Arts & Life team has recommended election-themed watches, from documentaries to satires, to meet your 8th November entertainment needs.
‘All the President’s Men’ (1976) – Trevor Louis
41 years before 2017’s The Post, we had All the President’s Men. Released less than two years after the Watergate scandal on which it was based, Alan J. Pakula’s political drama thriller helped cement in American society an ideal of what journalism can be at its best – a true fourth branch of government and control of power. The film stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the famous duo who cracked Watergate for the Washington Post. As the film shows, they were in serious danger of losing their careers, because no matter how clear the truth may seem, it’s not always easy to get the facts right… in the records.
The story of how the film was made is almost as amazing as the story itself. Redford took a serious risk and decided to produce the film at a time when movie stars weren’t regularly taking over the business behind the camera. He brought in William Goldman, one of the greatest screenwriters of all time, and later Pakula to direct. The group worked hand in hand with the actual Woodward and Bernstein and created a masterpiece. The film received a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, a Best Adapted Screenplay win for Goldman, and surprisingly, a Best Supporting Actor win for Jason Robards (who steals the show in a movie starring two of the biggest A-listers his time).
Cheers Season 11 Episode 21: Woody Gets an Election (1982-1993) – Elena Vasilache
In its 11th and final season, “Cheers,” the popular sitcom about a bar where “everyone knows your name,” sees Woody Boyd—a humble country boy-turned-bartender—running for city council. dr Frasier Crane, bar patron and disaffected voter, bets the bar owner that Woody can win the election because “Boston’s voters are sheep.” After realizing the damage an inexperienced person can do in the office, the doctor changes his mind and asks Woody to withdraw from the race. Of course, fate and Woody have other ideas, and therein lies the hilarity.
The episode was filmed in the ’90s, and a lot has changed since then for both the voters and the candidates they supported. Political experience and credibility are no longer prerequisites for obtaining office; in some cases political outsiders are favoured. To see the surprise ending, search the episode online and enjoy a good laugh.
“Dave” (1993) – Peyton Lee
Though devoid of election imagery, “Dave” retains a surprising relevance to today’s political climate. The film answers a simple question: what if an ordinary American with no political experience became president? The titular Dave is recruited to play fictional President Bill Mitchell, who finds himself in both comedic and momentous situations while repairing Mitchell’s reputation as President and as a husband. Central to the film’s plot are issues of employment, welfare, popularity and scandal, all of which are handled by Dave better than the veteran politicians around him. Funny, well-produced, and surprisingly profound, “Dave” is an actualization of my naïve optimism about the potential of American institutions.
“Parks and Recreation” (2009-2015) – Anthony Martinez Rosales
Michael Schur’s Parks and Recreation mockumentary highlights the government’s shortcomings but also points to the need for leaders with strong passion. Protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) is an optimistic and sometimes pushy leader. She’s an anxious, perfectionist waffle lover, but at the end of the day, she cares about the people she represents and her close friends.
The show’s cast – Aubrey Plaza, Retta, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari and more – bring soul and endearing characters to the show. Despite some outdated political references, Parks and Rec remains relevant when it comes to poking fun at government bureaucracy. It emphasizes the love and guidance necessary to truly help people. I promise you it gets better after the first season and in my opinion it’s better than The Office.”
“The Politician” (2019-2020) – Blyss Cleveland
Ryan Murphy’s first Netflix show is The Politician, a satirical comedy that will take your mind off all the contentious races in the current midterm election. Set in Santa Barbara, California, the first season chronicles Payton Hobart’s (Ben Platt) ruthless campaign for high school president. Yes, it will take strong will to undo your disbelief that Platt is a teenager and that Payton (who’s wealthy, ambitious, and characteristically annoying) has managed to assemble a team ready to plan and commit crimes to help him win a high school election. However, once you’ve taken that leap of faith, the show is a fun ride.
The characters’ wardrobes are stylish, the sets opulent, and the storylines raise philosophical questions about the dark side of youthful ambition. Power corrupts, but does it matter if you’re really a good person or not, as long as you work for the greater good? Gwyneth Paltrow’s role as Payton’s distant but overly supportive mother is absolutely perfect. While The Politician stays true to Murphy’s style and burns through the storylines, the storytelling mimics the twists and turns of a real election. If there’s a recount in this year’s midterm election, you’ll finish both seasons when the final results are announced!
“Boy’s State” (2020) – Amelia Butala
Close your eyes and imagine sitting in a room filled to the brim with a thousand teenage boys. Not nightmarish enough? Add to that image that every single one of these boys is here to discuss and debate politics, including women’s reproductive rights. The 2020 documentary Boys State follows every twist and turn of these surreal circumstances, offering a magnified look at a situation some of us wouldn’t dare to face.
The film documents a roughly week-long program in which teenage boys are tasked with building a government from the ground up. The guys are persuasive, obnoxious at times and genuinely passionate about what they do. I guarantee that by the end of the film you will have invested more into the success of at least one of them than you ever expected.
Since coming to Stanford, I’ve met people who have attended Boys State, and their descriptions of their own experiences are just as bizarre. I could not have imagined this program in my wildest dreams and it was a fascinating experience to observe everything from such a close perspective as this documentary. This was my favorite documentary of 2020 and I cannot recommend enough the sheer absurdity of a thousand teenagers choosing the winner of an election based on who can do the most push-ups.
Derry Girls Season 3 Episode 7: The Agreement (2022) – Cameron Duran
The third and final season of Netflix’s Derry Girls culminates in a touching conclusion about Northern Ireland’s 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum from the UK.
The series finale focuses on the protagonist’s indecisiveness as she decides how to vote in the referendum for peace that takes place just after her 18th birthday. The finale balances light-hearted jokes about the complexities of the arrangement with candid discussions about the implications of the vote, including an expertly written clash between the show’s core cast of friends.
Derry Girls deserves its must-watch status. The series skillfully juxtaposes the characters’ everyday high school drama and the intense political struggles surrounding them. The writing treats a controversial subject with grace, focusing on the human implications of the issue with nuance and humor. The montage of each character standing in the voting booth and feeling the weight of this historical moment will stay with you.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective thoughts, opinions, and criticisms.