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If the candidates’ shticks and the talk shows are boring you, why not spice up your election season–and start some smart conversations with those you love–by buying or renting one of my Top Five Election DVDs of All-Time. With respect to “The Manchurian Candidate,” “Dave,” “The Distinguished Gentleman,” “Primary Colors,” “Bulworth,” “The Seduction of Joe Tynan,” and “Bob Roberts,” here is my list, with heavy points for watchability, intelligence, and relevance to our current situation:
1. “The Candidate”: The first of the wonderfully reflective perspectives on our election system–at least that I got to see–Robert Redford plays an honest son from a political family who never wanted to get involved because he didn’t like the political system. He gets involved in a no-win Senate election for the chance to state his views without the moderation of political advisors. As his chances to win grow stronger, his convictions become more tested. I wish someone would have thought to remake “The Candidate” for this election year, but it’s still a smart picture that leaves you with more questions than answers.
2. “The American President”: Directed and written by the crew that gave us “The West Wing,” Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Anna Deavere Smith and Richard Dreyfuss star in a pleasant tale that has a lot of love story in it but it’s really about the choice between conviction and compulsion in a heated election. So much of what really happens in an election is decided by people behind the camera and their interaction with the candidate…and this film highlighted that conflict. The whole film is worth it for one of the most powerful speeches ever given in a movie, delivered by Douglas towards the film’s end.


3. “Wag the Dog”: Lots of Hollywood’s best wanted to be in this one, directed by Barry Levinson and including Robert De Nero, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Leary, Willie Nelson, Kirsten Dunst, Anne Heche, William H. Macy, and Woody Harrelson. In a time of competing perspectives about war such as we’re in now, this 1997 movie is still current and relevant…and delightful!
4. “Power”: Richard Gere is a merciless political consultant who gains a conscience. The only problem is that he’s chosen the wrong industry. This was Jerry McGuire before there was Jerry McGuire, and provides an entertaining and enlightening expose about what really gets people elected. Add Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman, Julie Christie and Kate Capshaw under Sidney Lumet’s direction and you’ve got a smart movie that stands the test of time.
5. “Election”: Based on a novel by Jim Perotta, the basis of the movie is an election for student council in a Nebraska high school. The hijinks and mudslinging seems pretty ridiculous in a high school setting, which is the satirical point that prompts a wonderful discussion about how even more ridiculously the adults act when our Presidency is at stake. This movie wasn’t famous but its writing is sharp and the rental or DVD purchase is worth it, especially if you have teens and want to engage with them on a movie they can relate to.
And if you want to read a great blog about why we should all certainly exercise our right to vote, check out Brian McLaren’s work over at God’s Politics.

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