June 3rd, 2019

The Front Runner was a TIFF movie starring Hugh Jackman as the 1984 and 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee, Colorado resident Gary Hart.  Early on Hart was the front runner as the State primaries were beginning.  The film is directed by Canadian Jason Reitman, who also directed Up in the Air, Juno and Thank You for Smoking.   Gary Hart was to be the first successful Democratic nominee to win the Presidency from a western State.   Think about who was before him.   Hart was a smart, policy-focused candidate who believed in the “three Es – Economy, Education and Environment”.   He gained wide support as a surprise upcoming nominee in 1984, when Walter Mondale won the nomination (and defeated soundly by Ronald Reagan) and then became the favourite fours years later.   His campaign, and how it ended in scandal, became a turning point in Presidential politics.   Hart was involved in an affair with Donna Rice, a pretty blonde and infamously was on a yacht called “Monkey Business” where pictures of them circulated.    The press hid out after being challenged by Hart to follow him, and found him in a flat in Washington with Rice.

Before this candidacy, the press and the American public seemed to be not all that concerned with the personal lives of their candidates.   The seedy underside of background was not as important as the policies and charisma of the leader.   America looked the other way on Kennedy’s indiscretions, and pasts of others, but not always as we saw with Chappaquiddik.    Hart was a married man, but the relationship was a complicated one.   Married since 1958 to Lee (played by Vera Farmiga) and also in Up in the Air, they were separated in 1988 at the time of the apparent indiscretion.

Hart took the high road as the scandal broke focusing on his platform.  He felt that it was “not relevant” nor anyone’s business and revealed little about his ability to be the President.    His staff felt that the known newspapers (like the NY Times or Washington Post) would avoid the gossip and report on the issues.   But we see Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward in the offices of the Washington Post (who broke Watergate in the early 1970s) debating this story, and how they didn’t want to be accused of sitting on the sidelines when the story broke.   So what began as two guys from The Florida Herald lurking in the bushes became covered broadly.    And even though Americans on news TV felt that Hart didn’t do anything wrong, it still took him down.    But how far have we come?   From losing a nomination and the support of constituents because of this relationship, to becoming President despite paying off porn stars after having sex with them or talking about grabbing women in the [soft areas] during sponsored beauty pageants.   Hart’s position was that this type of reporting kept the potential quality candidates from coming forward because of the intense scrutiny it takes on every aspect of their personal lives.   You are no longer a private citizen.   You become public property, and with the endless debate of the talking heads on 24 hour TV.

The movie is an interesting one, and doesn’t touch upon the life of Donna Rice after her name becomes public.   Her life, as she knew it, was over.   She has later talked about her sympathy for Monica Lewinsky.   Both women have become leaders in the women’s rights movements and bringing forth the horrors of what happens to people thrown into the spotlight by dealing with powerful political men.

Meanwhile Gary Hart and his wife are still married.  They are out of the public eye for the most part.   He talks periodically about issues as they arise.   But this was the turning point in following candidates and shows the flaws in a system where not every quality leader (or candidate) can be able to survive the public scrutiny and holier-than-thou attitudes of those digging.    And paradoxically we have a sitting President seemingly impervious to real life flaws (three times married and endlessly philandering it seems).   So this movie reflects the times then, and shows the differences of where we are today.   There is part of me that thinks that the Trump years will be long forgotten and looked upon bleakly by those 100 years from now, in the same way that Martin Van Buren (1837-1841) or Herbert Hoover (1929-1933).    At least one can always hope.

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January 14th, 2019

This week I went out with youngest son to see the latest Best Animated Film from the Golden Globes, which is Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse.   It defeated Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet.   Now I preface the review with the well-known understanding that I am not a big superhero guy.   I just am not, unless it has Christian Bale acting as Batman.   Beyond that I am not really interested (okay, well maybe still Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, but in truth that has nothing to do with being a super hero).   Both son and I found the story here to be a bit confusing.   In short we have the (laughable) bad guy Kingpin.  Laughable because only in animation could a character be so unbelievably big through the shoulders and body and actually move.   Every time he came on screen I had to chuckle.  So there was that.  But he creates a machine, not really explained, that can create alternate dimensions where his own wife and son could return to him.  As part of this we see a young man with his police father who is bitten by a radioactive spider.   He then becomes another spider-man in addition to the already known Peter Parker.   The stories of the alternate dimension spider-people stand on their own (one voice was particularly interesting) and they do come together.   The animation was very good, incorporating comic book views, as well as visuals that can only be accomplished through animation.   Still.   Maybe it is just me, but the super hero overload, and especially Spider-man who seems to have a re-boot every three to five years, just wears on me.   The wrinkle is that alternate dimensions means anybody could be Spider-man, and even have some unique powers that he currently does not as Peter Parker.   But for me, I only live in one dimension, and that is the Peter Parker dimension.   Yes, I like the added flair with personalizing the individual Spidey look but in the end there isn’t a big emotional connection to the story.   For the Incredibles, I can feel for the family and hope that things go well.   I suppose this young new Spidey I hope for too, but it’s not the same.  And yes it isn’t lost on me that the Incredibles are super heroes too, but again, it’s not the same.

On Netflix they have released Chappaquiddick, starring Jason Clark and Kate Mara, and the dentist from The Hangover.  This is the Teddy Kennedy story and his car accident very late at night with a woman not his wife, off a bridge on an island in Cape Cod.   Its Senator Kennedy in 1969 as Apollo 11 has left to land on the moon, and he is on the island preparing for a potential Presidential bid.   He has gathered up some staffers who worked on brother Bobby’s campaign.   The accident takes place and you see through it all the actions and in-actions of Teddy.   The knee-jerk reaction for most people, I think, would be after the accident and miracle of escaping a car overturned in water, would be to seek help (just a short run up the way) and help the woman with you.   But Senator Kennedy is not most people.   He thinks of himself and his political career.   “There goes the White House” he says.   And after a failed attempt with his friends to assist, and being told to “get help” Teddy doesn’t.   Family patriarch is the aging Joe Kennedy, crumpled and barely able to speak, and he provides no help nor comfort.   He is played by Bruce Dern, and shows a man incapable of compassion nor love for his only remaining son.   It was an eye opening film, and makes you realize the celebrity and power of the family that has many powerful people spin-doctoring their way through a crisis.   You can youtube the actual address to the people with Teddy explaining the incident.   I am amazed at the end result and won’t spoil it here for those who don’t know it.   But suffice it to say that even though the people of Massachusetts decided to forgive and forget, I am not so sure that a man of character such as this should be representing The People.