Hello moviedebaters, I’d like to write to you about that silver screen that’s shrunk down in your living room and/or bedroom. That’s right, this is an article about television. In particular the fireplug television show that is The Newsroom. I’m writing this piece a few months after the last episode of the first season to eliminate spoilers but be advised: if you haven’t seen the show don’t read this article. Continue reading
Well Folks, it’s November and the election has come and gone. Whether or not you’re a fan of the result we here at MovieDebaters would like to keep the Presidential debate season going. We’re going to switch the focus of these debates from the economy to cinema and examine the Best President portrayed on film. Sure there is a plethora of great candidates including such respected actors as Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Sir Anthony Hopkins but we’re going to pick out two maybe lesser known choices: Bill Pullman as President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day and Peter Sellers’ President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Harrison: There has never been and I doubt there ever will be a real life president like Bill Pullman’s Thomas J. Whitmore from Independence Day. Sure there were larger than life presidents like Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt but to be the president today requires a deft touch, an ability to connect to everyone in the country. So I freely admit that Bill Pullman in Independence Day is a cartoony, unrealistic president, but dammit if that isn’t someone who I’d love to see in office. He’s the type of president who will quite literally fight for his country and his people. It’s over the top, but awe inspiring.
Josh E: President Merkin Muffley is not the toughest president nor is he the coolest, rather he is the most mild mannered, unsure, wobbly character to ever hold the highest political office in the United States – making him a perfectly hilarious choice to lead the United States in a Cold War Doomsday scenario in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Harrison: Here’s what I like about President Whitmore. He’s a guy who holds one of the most, if not the most, powerful political office in the world. It’s not an easy job under normal circumstances. Then he has to deal with an alien invasion. And not only does he manage to rally his fellow Americans in a time that should be filled with mass panic and record low morale, he fights along side other soldiers to push back the aliens.
Josh E: We can’t disagree that there has been fewer more directly heroic presidents in the history of cinema and it’s plausible that the innocuous appeal of Bill Pullman could be an asset in the election but I have to bring up two points he doesn’t have a good command of the job and give maybe the worst speech in the history of American cinema
Harrison: Heretic! President Whitmore’s speech is one of beauty. As a True American, I listen to it every Fourth of July.
Josh E: I think if you asked people who could remember any quotes from Independence Day it would be Will Smith’s famous one liner:
Harrison: I’m not claiming Independence Day is a good movie. In fact, it kind of sucks. Despite that, President Whitmore is an awesome fictional president. If I remember correctly, he let’s random civilians into Area 51. Screw national secrets! People are in need! Let ’em in.
Josh E: Truly what is the point of Area 51 when the aliens blow up the major us cities and the white house. My point is this: Independence day didn’t need Whitmore flying around in the f22 at the end. Dr. Strangelove needed Merkin as a comment on the lunacy of the nuclear stalemate that was the cold war. See my evidence:
Harrison: So you’re saying that in this fictional world it’s good that there’s a buffoon in the Oval Office so that the citizens of the U.S. could see the lunacy of the cold war before they meet their demise?
Josh E: I’m saying that in the world that the film creates, Merkin Muffley is the man for the job. The film is a satire on Cold War Paranoia and what better way to show the pointlessness (word?) of the era than to show two buffoons (the USSR premier Demitri doesn’t seem like the best ruler either) with their hands on red buttons? In Independence Day, Whitmore is supposed to be one of the characters we rally around when really he’s not very admirable. He’s wishy washy, drab, and doesn’t really do much until the last few minutes.
Harrison: Our arguments are slightly out of alignment. I’m saying if you plucked these two fictional presidents out of their film worlds and had them run for office. Or, even better, let’s say run for a second term. President Whitmore beats out Muffley every day of the week.
Harrison: I agree that President Muffley is a good sounding board, a good platform to show the inherent silliness that was the cold war. That means he’s a good character. But as a fictional president, he seems highly ineffective.
Josh E: If you’re talking about putting these two up against each other it’s Nixon Kennedy part two. People are going to vote for the handsomer more rousing speech giver Bill pullman. However, Merkin Muffley is the RIGHT man for the job. He’s a nerdy thoughtful leader who takes his time to come to the correct decision and relies on his trusted advisers.
Harrison: Ah. So here’s a monkey wrench in our arguments. Basically each president is the opposite of each other and through the course of their movies, they react in the opposite way you’d expect. The empty president Whitmore rises to the occasion and defends his country. The thoughtful president Muffley panics and freezes up when his country needs him.
Josh E: I don’t think it’s necessarily a monkey wrench, we just need an out.
Harrison: President Thomas J. Whitmore is the exact person needed in office to lead our country (and the world) through an alien invasion. He’s there to give hope to the survivors and will power to fight back the alien oppressors. He leads through his words and actions. Through speeches and jet planes. He’s a True American Hero.
Josh E: I think the people of America in Independence day are lucky that Whitmore got his shit together in act 3. Damn lucky. In fact he doesn’t really do much more than allow the true hero of the film (Randy Quaid playing himself) to ram a fighter jet into an alien spaceship. This is where President Merkin Muffley succeeds. he’s a thoughtful intelligent peace loving president who would have gotten the US through the Cold War if those stupid Commies didn’t build a ridiculous doomsday machine. He isn’t afraid to take charge and end conflict:
Who do you think is the best movie president? Comment below!
-Josh E. and Harrison
MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD — MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD
If you’re solely interested in my review of Skyfall, you’d probably be satisfied with just Part I of this article. However, it would be great if you ended up reading the whole thing.
Part I: Skyfall
I think it’s safe to say that Casino Royale was a game changer for the Bond franchise. The Bond series started in the 60s when action cinema hadn’t figured itself out yet. Sequences of action come off as clumsy. Perhaps in the 60s this was perfectly acceptable. As time went on, other filmmakers began to understand the way in which to film action and craft an action filled movie. However, the Bond series remained as slightly silly, light hearted movies. The Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan era movies tried to kick start the movies with more modern aesthetics, but they still remained slightly fantastical. (The Brosnan movies in particular regressed with each subsequent film from GoldenEye.)
Then Casino Royale came along and catapulted the Bond franchise into modern day. There was a mature (I don’t mean graphic) story, great action, and a willingness to commit to the idea of a super spy movie without nodding and winking that it’s a silly idea. The movie went all in.