Political Film Society

During the Prohibition era the police were asked to enforce laws while lawbreakers made millions. Although The Untouchables (1987) focuses on heroic efforts of the federal government against Chicago mobsters, less attention was directed at corrupt police departments that wiped out criminals because they wanted to monopolize the trade in booze and flesh. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Changeling, primarily a biopic of Christine Collins (played by Angelina Joli), provides details on the Los Angeles Police Department during that period. In the early part of the film LAPD is depicted as shooting unarmed criminals on the spot in a major raid, while payoffs enriched cops on the beat and possibly the head of LAPD and the mayor of the city. In 1928, when the film begins, Christine comes home from work to discover that her 9-year-old son Walter (played by Gattlin Griffin) is missing. A single mom, she calls the police but encounters bureaucratic delays (which persist to the present, wherein a missing person report requires a person’s social security number, something usually unknown to all but the very closest family members). She is persistent, however, eventually attracting the attention of Rev. Gustav Briegleb (played by John Malkovich), pastor of a nearby church who spreads news about the corrupt and incompetent LAPD on regular radio broadcasts. Five months later, the police present Christine with a young boy as her long-lost son despite her protest that he is not her own. Actually he is 12-year-old Arthur Hutchens (played by Devon Conti), who has been coached by the police. Continuing to insist that LAPD should be looking for her real son, the police eventually place her in a mental ward of the local hospital along with other women deemed troublemakers. The standard treatment consists of forced medications, desperate women sharing locked cells, and shock therapy for the most recalcitrant. However, Briegleb mobilizes not only street protests but the pro bono services of S. S. Hahn (played by Geoffrey Pierson), who ultimately brings corruption to an end in several dramatic developments at the end of the film. (For Angelenos, Changeling explains why the Hahn family has been held in such high esteem politically ever since.) The Political Film Society has nominated Changeling as best film exposé and best film on democracy and human rights for 2008. MH

, directed by Oliver Stone, places filmviewers in the role of amateur psychologists, seeking an explanation for the irrational behavior of the current President Bush (played by Josh Brolin) from the prolonged adolescent rebelliousness of a son who never grew up. Flashing back to earlier days and forward to Bush as president, he is portrayed as a reckless nitwit finally able to control his alcoholism with the aid of his fascinated spouse (played by Elizabeth Banks), his religion, and fulfillment of his quest for power. While those around him are able to manipulate him to parrot their thinking, the father-son conflict and sibling rivalry with brother Jeb is never resolved. Appearing to rely on Woodward’s first three books, the film portrays a groupthink that particularly humiliates Colin Powell (played by Jeffrey Wright). In the end, Bush is distraught when things go wrong, blaming others and returning to “near beer” for solace. Although many reviewers believe that pour entendre c’est pour pardonner applies, the fact that George H. W. Bush (played by James Cromwell) never really disciplined his unruly son seems the best explanation for the disaster resulting from empowering someone who lacked the judgment that develops from learning from one’s own mistakes and making appropriate personality adjustments at an early age. Instead, Bush operates on the naïve belief that expertise and wisdom count for much less than muscle and resolve. The Political Film Society has nominated W. for best film exposé of 2008. MH

November 1, 2008

[ Previous Newsletters ] [ Other PFS Publications ]

The Bank Job
Battle in Seattle
Before the Rains
Body of Lies
The Children of Huang Shi
The Counterfeiters
Dark Matter
The Duchess
Eagle Eye
Flash of Genius
Frozen River
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
La misma luna (Under the Same Moon)
Miracle at St. Anna
Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington
Sangre De Mi Sangre
A Secret
Stealing America by Vote
Still Life (Sanxia haoren)
Stop Loss
Summer Palace
Swing Vote
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers
Uncivil Liberties
Vantage Point
The Visitor
War Dance
War, Inc.

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