Is it over yet?
This dang election season goes on without end–in fact, it feels like it somehow started before the 2016 election. With just about a day until the big day, we figure some of you could use a little help in passing the time. For anyone that loves politics but feels a bit burned out on cable news, we offer up this fun alternative: a compendium of election-related movies to help pass the time.
Sometimes scripted, sometimes not; some funny, some scary as hell; they all tell the story of American democracy, and reinforce the call for all LGBTQ people to vote in this election. For more information on voting, visit our Vote Center, located on our sister site LGBTQ Nation.
Beyond that, have a look-see at these epic films which can help explain how the United States found itself in its current political mess…and offer a road map for how to escape it once and for all (spoiler alert: voting!).
The Comey Rule
To begin close to home, the two-part miniseries The Comey Rule will rattle some viewers still reeling from the trauma of Election 2016. Based on the memoir by former FBI director James Comey, the series recounts the lead up to and aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. Moreover, though the film goes out of its way to emphasize Comey’s roles as a loving husband and father, it can’t get around the fact that his dogmatic, rigid worldviews and habits left him totally unequipped to deal with an unprecedented situation (Trump’s campaign compromised by Russia) with far-reaching consequences. Jeff Daniels gives a fine performance as Comey, as do Brendan Gleeson as Trump and Kingsly Ben-Adir as Barack Obama. The Comey Rule offers perspective and analysis, but little in the way of resolution, probably because Trump is still in office. How history will view Comey—and indeed, the miniseries—remains an open question.
Streams on Showtime & Amazon.
Otherwise known as Mike Nichols’ (The Graduate, Angels in America) most underrated movie, Primary Colors began life as an incendiary novel published by an anonymous author. The movie retains that explosiveness, as the film presents a roman-a-clef for the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. John Travolta gives the performance of his career as the Clintonesque Jack Stanton, and Emma Thompson’s channeling of Hillary will alternatively fascinate and chill viewers. Kathy Bates also scored an Oscar nomination for her rabid performance as Stanton’s lesbian campaign manager, Libby Holden (an amalgam of Vince Foster & Betsey Wright). The movie also has another queer twist or two, which we’ll not reveal here. By turns hilarious and jaw-dropping, the movie captures the mystique and moral ambiguity of the Clintons, even without mentioning them by name.
Streams on Amazon, Peacock, YouTube, iTunes & VUDU.
All In: The Fight for Democracy
Stacey Abrams plays the unofficial host of this Amazon documentary about voter suppression, and by proxy, Abrams’ 2018 Georgia gubernatorial run. Few movies cry out for viewers to vote like this one: All In captures the way voter ID laws are used to disenfranchise voters, particularly people of color and low income. The film also indicts the Republican party for deliberate voter suppression, and reminds viewers that, once upon a time, most Americans couldn’t vote. That so many Americans today forsake that hard-earned right is a disturbing thought, indeed.
Streams on Amazon.
On a lighter note, director Jay Roach’s Election 2000 dramatization will score some very big laughs from viewers…even if the consequences of that election are no laughing matter. Kevin Spacey stars as Al Gore’s campaign manager Ron Klein as he scrambles to deal with the mess of the Florida recount. The comedy comes in large part thanks to a movie-stealing performance by Laura Dern as Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, one of the most bizarre characters (and that says something) to ever stand on the American political stage. Furthermore, the film uses Harris to exemplify a clown car of American politicians that have no idea what they are doing beyond posing for pictures. If that doesn’t sound familiar in the year 2020, it should.
Streams on HBO Max, YouTube, VUDU and Amazon.
Jay Roach made this film as a semi-sequel to Recount, this time taking on the 2008 Presidential Election. Game Change takes its basis from the outstanding nonfiction book of the same name—possibly the best book ever written about an American election. The amazing thing about the movie is that it covers roughly only the last quarter of the book, which played like a love story between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The film, by contrast, focuses on the rise of Sarah Palin and the no-nothing Republican party. Julianne Moore captures all the camera-ready charisma, ego, and ultimately the ineptitude of Palin in a magnificent performance.
Streams on HBO Max, Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Borat 2)
Wait, Borat 2 is a political film? You bet it is—one with laughs big enough to rattle the furniture. This outrageous sequel—which is an odd blend of documentary, improvisation and a scripted feature—finds Borat returning to the US to regain his reputation as a journalist after the disastrous events of the first movie. His 15-year-old daughter Tuta comes along as well, in a plot that turns into a scathing indictment of the myth of the United States. How can a nation so great and powerful that values equality above all else treat women and other minorities as it does? Why are Americans so preoccupied with ridiculous—often contradictory—conspiracy theories? Hilarious for its first hour, the movie takes a hard right turn in the last 20 minutes, as Tuta meets with Rudy Giuliani in a now-infamous scene. Even more upsetting: the film’s final moments where the “Running of the Jew” is replaced by the “Running of the Yankee:” a festival that involves caricatures of a Karen & a Q-Anon follower spreading COVID-19.
Streams on Amazon.
City So Real
This National Geographic doc highlights life in Chicago under the administration of Lori Lightfoot, the city’s African-American, lesbian Mayor. Follow Lightfoot in the lead-up to her historic election in 2019. The final episode recaps her first year in office amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the #BlackLivesMatter protests, and the general insanity of 2020. Lightfoot comes off as a very politically savvy woman, which gives us hope at a time we really need it.
Streams on Nat Geo and Hulu.
Former Trump political strategist and advisor Steve Bannon self-immolates in this controversial documentary from Oscar-winner Errol Morris. The film attempts to digest the election of Trump as well as the Alt-Right, Nationalist worldviews of Bannon that helped shape Trump’s campaign and first term. Critics attacked Morris when the film debuted, accusing the director of treating his subject with kid gloves. Careful viewing of the movie, however, shows Morris letting Bannon dig his own grave as he spouts incendiary, incoherent, and oft-contradictory logic in expressing his racist vantage points. And don’t even get us started on Bannon’s laughable analysis of several classic films. Watching the film is like watching an epic explosion, with Bannon chained to a bomb and lighting the fuse himself.
Streams on Amazon, Kanopy, YouTube & VUDU.
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