Wag the Dog (1997)
Written by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet
Directed by Barry Levinson
When the President is under the weight of a scandal he gets help from Conrad Brean, a master spin doctor who has an endless bag of tricks to manipulate the media. He creates distractions that get people talking about the spin instead of the scandal. So the President needs his help when he is caught fooling around with an underage Firefly scout during her troupe’s visit to the White House. Brean strikes upon the idea of creating a false war with Albania to fill up the news cycle. Brean gets help from White House staffer Winifred Ames and Hollywood producer Stanley Motss to create a false yet believable war. This war comes complete with footage from war-torn Albania, a star-studded patriotic anthem, and war hero that needs to be brought home.
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The American President (1995)
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Rob Reiner
President Andrew Robinson is looking for support on a crime bill, having dropped the gun control pieces much the chagrin of an ideological staff member. While his people work on the crime bill, Robinson meets Sydney Ellen Wade, an environmental lobbyist with her bill to push. She accidentally insults the president to his face, and they proceed to spar with Robinson feeling very charmed by her lightly. He’s been a widower for several years, going between being president and raising his daughter. Robinson and Wade develop a mutual attraction and eventually being a relationship that becomes impossible to maintain privacy with as the media swarms. Conservative politician Senator Rumson sees this an opening for presidential election bid and begins to frame this relationship as antithetical with American family values. What throws another wrench in things is that support for the crime and environmental bills is becoming a tug of war in the Senate.
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Written by Gary Ross
Directed by Ivan Reitman
President Bill Mitchell is a no-nonsense executive with a messy personal life, cheating on his increasingly estranged wife. He employs a double to help hide his escape with his mistress and this time around he picks the uncanny doppelganger of Dave Kovic. Dave runs an employment agency in Georgetown and impersonates the president on the side. Everything is going smoothly until Mitchell has a stroke while he is with his mistress. The quick thinking and insidious chief of staff Bob Alexander persuades Dave to help them cover up this tragedy by continuing to impersonate the president. Dave does so hesitantly but quickly falls for Mitchell’s wife Ellen which complicates matters.
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Bob Roberts (1992)
Written & Directed by Tim Robbins
During the 1990 Pennsylvania Senate race the world was introduced to candidate Bob Roberts via a documentary being made by Terry Manchester, an English filmmaker. Roberts stuck out so starkly in the political landscape first as a Billboard charting folk singer, recontextualizing the word of Bob Dylan into Conservative screeds against the Left. As Manchester explored the meteoric rise of Roberts, he discovered a connection to former CIA agent Lukas Hart and his failed Central American gun-running efforts. There is also the constant figure of Bugs Raplin, a journalist who is out to uncover the truth about Bob Roberts and stop his ascension to the seat of power in Washington D.C.
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Being There (1979)
Written by Jerzy Kosinski
Directed by Hal Ashby
Chance is a gardener who has never left the grounds of the Washington, D.C. townhouse where he was born. One day, his wealthy employer dies, and Chance is left entirely alone in the world. Forced out of his home by the estate lawyer, the mentally disabled man stumbles through the modern world until befriending business mogul Ben Rand and his wife Eve through accident. The mistakingly hear his name as Chauncey Gardener and believe him to be a struggling business person who speaks in metaphor and parables. His relationship with the Rands leads to his meeting with the president of the United States and the public becoming obsessed with this visionary stranger.
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All the President’s Men (1976)
Written by William Goldman
Directed Alan J. Pakula
On June 17, 1972, a security guard at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. reported a break-in. Police arrived and found five men who had burglarized the Democratic National Committee headquarters there with the intent to wiretap the phones and offices. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is covering the early morning arraignment of the burglars and learns they already had counsel on retainer with signs pointing to a more powerful organization behind them. Fellow reporter Carl Bernstein is put on the story with Woodward, and they unravel a conspiracy that seems to trace back to the Committee to Re-Elect President Nixon. Millions of dollars have traded hands, and employees of the campaign are afraid to talk, alluding to threats against them. What have Woodward & Bernstein uncovered and how will it affect the nation going forward?
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The Candidate (1972)
Written by Jeremy Larner
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Marvin Lucas is an election specialist looking for a viable Democratic candidate to oppose incumbent California Republican Crocker Jarman. Lucas finds his candidate in Bill McKay, a lawyer, and advocate for some liberal causes (labor, desegregation, environmentalism). McKay is promised that Jarman will inevitably win and the young man can speak his mind. Lucas just wants an opposing voice in the race. However, McKay begins to find himself being tweaked and shaped by a political machine that is interested in appealing to an open center. This results in the lawyer speaking platitudes he fundamentally disagrees with. As the countdown nears to election day, McKay finds himself increasingly at odds with Lucas and his poll numbers rising.
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