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.
Among Spielberg’s “important” films, Amistad isn’t the home run that Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List is, but it’s still a powerful film and one with an incredible ensemble cast anchored by Anthony Hopkins in an Oscar-nominated performance as former President John Quincy Adams.
In today’s political climate, it’s hard to imagine, but after Adams lost his bid for re-election as President, he ended up running for Congress and returned to the House of Representatives (the only former President to do so) and government service. There, he was enlisted to represent the “cargo” of the slave ship La Amistad before the US Supreme Court. The Africans enslaved by the ship, had escaped the hold and slain their captors before being apprehended when their ship arrived in America. The 1839 case hinged on whether this was a matter of kidnapped human beings rising up and shaking off their chains or human cargo that should be returned to its “owners”. Hopkins arguing on their behalf before the court with a ten-minute dissertation on freedom is one of the most riveting monologues and pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. Hannibal Lecter’s introduction may be the most obvious best scene of Hopkins’ career, but this is every bit as good.
When Billy Crystal’s career is all said and done, he’ll most likely be remembered as the pre-eminent Oscar host of the modern age. There’s no doubting that Crystal is talented and funny, but that has rarely translated to a good screen vehicle. City Slickers is the best vehicle he’s had to showcase his wit and dramatic chops, playing one of three friends suffering a collective midlife crisis on a dude ranch vacation. City Slickers deserves permanent props, if for nothing else, than it provided Jack Palance with his Oscar and one of the best Oscar moments of all-time.
Based on the Jack Ryan character created by the late Tom Clancy, the film is a contemporary action thriller set in the present day. The original story, written by David Koepp, follows a young Jack as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. Pine is such a fantastic actor, I think he could really embody this character as no one before has and play him for years to come. The first domestic trailer looked like significant parts of Jack’s origin from the books are going to be changed. I wonder if they’re going to go all original stories with the character or, after an origin, they’d start remaking or adapting Clancy’s novels. Jack Ryan will open on Christmas Day.
Based on the Jack Ryan character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy,who passed away this week, the film is a contemporary action thriller set in the present day. The original story, written by David Koepp, follows a young Jack as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. Pine is such a fantastic actor, I think he could really embody this character as no one before has and play him for years to come. Jack Ryan will open on Christmas Day.