I’m so glad Aaron Sorkin wrote The American President and its intellectual sequel, The West Wing, at the time he did. It’s hard to imagine either working today. If you’re a fan of The West Wing and have never seen The American President, you absolutely should. It’s a wonderful film, and you can clearly see Sorkin working out ideas that he would later expand on in much more detail in The West Wing. A number of cast members, led by Martin Sheen who plays White House Chief of Staff in The American President and President Bartlet in The West Wing, star in both the film and the TV series. Both Sorkin projects are unabashed love letters to the American system of democracy and the ideal of public service. Those concepts have been so tarnished in the decade since The West Wing left the air that I can’t give any serious credence to the rumors of the show’s revival.
The Presidency and The White House are as much a part of the cast of The American President as Michael Douglas or Annette Bening (both of whom turn in some of the best performances of their careers). There have been hundreds of film Presidents, but The American President takes a uniquely human look at the President. Andrew Shepard (Douglas) is looked at as a father and a man in love as much as he is the President. The film captures the last era before the Internet would change how everyone, including POTUS, would interact forever. All in all (and I realize I’m publishing this on a blog, the irony does not escape me) it was a more civilized age. It’s nice to be able to go back to media time capsules like this and unplug from the current political paradigm. Sorkin is my favorite writer in any medium, and I can’t wait to see what does next.
The West Wing remains my favorite of Aaron Sorkin’s creations on the big screen or small. It stands, especially in these times, as an idealistic vision of what government could and should be. It’s populated by wonderfully developed eccentric devoted public servants, each of which is so fully-realized and distinct from each other that they feel like old friends more than characters on the screen. This same treatment is extended to even minor characters and, in the show’s first two seasons, no minor character was as much fun as Mrs. Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), President Bartlet’s wonderfully cryptic and acerbic assistant, gatekeeper, and confidante.
In the show’s first Christmas episode, “In Excelsis Deo”, the show takes two characters, Mrs. Landingham and Richard Schiff’s Toby Ziegler, and has them deal with the ghosts of the Vietnam War while the rest of The White House prepares for Christmas festivities. The two stories come together in a stunningly powerful final scene for the episode: one of the best Christmas episodes in dramatic television.
Aaron Sorkin has written Emmy-winning TV shows (Sports Night, The West Wing, The Newsroom) and Oscar-winning films (Moneyball, The Social Network), but Molly’s Game is the first one of his scripts that he also chose to direct. What does an Aaron Sorkin-directed film look like? Well, it’s a lot like his scripts as it turns out. It’s fast, it’s smart, it’s funny, and it’s brilliant. Throw in the performance of Jessica Chastain’s career, an astounding true story, and Molly’s Game is one of the best films of 2017.
Each Thursday we look at what is going to be coming out in theaters this weekend, show you the trailers for the big releases, predict the box office winner and just generally give you enough of a carrot to pull you through the rest of the work week. This weekend sees another Oscar contender go wide and three 2018 films, two of which definitely scream JANUARY RELEASE: BEWARE! Continue reading In Theaters This Week (1/12/2018): Paddington 2, The Commuter, Proud Mary→
Each Thursday we look at what is going to be coming out in theaters this weekend, show you the trailers for the big releases, predict the box office winner and just generally give you enough of a carrot to pull you through the rest of the work week. This weekend one awards contender goes wide and one tired horror franchise kicks off 2018’s slew of upcoming franchise installments. Continue reading In Theaters This Week (1/5/2018): Insidious 4→