As a DC native, inauguration day, much like the entire month of August, and anytime an ambassador decides they want a limo ride, is a day to stay inside. The city is jammed packed with tourists and traffic eager to see our new President take the reins. This year will be a little different, but we'll be inside just the same. And while you're inside, here's some political movies and TV shows to get you ready for inauguration day.
Let's start with movies...
Milk - 2008
Milk, the 2008 film directed by Gus Van Sant that gave Sean Penn a Best Actor Oscar, tells the story of Harvey Milk, the country's first openly gay elected official. Not to spoil the movie, but Milk was later assassinated by Dan White, another member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. Milk is a movie that tells the story of a hero who lacks the credit he deserves, a man who fought for who he was and what he believed in to the very end. It's inspiring as it is heartbreaking, and Penn's performance deserves a lot of credit for it. If nothing else, watch this movie for Penn's performance, which, in my opinion, is the best of his career.
Obviously, the movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis is going to be fantastic, and Lincoln did not disappoint. Telling the story of Abraham Lincoln as he tried to emancipate the slaves, Lincoln is as much a close, personal look at Abraham Lincoln himself as it is an overview of how politics in the 1800s functioned leading up to the Civil War (spoiler alert, it's a little sloppy).
Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: 1964
Aside from The Shining, this is personally my favorite Kubrick movie. Currently available on Hulu, this story where everything that possibly go wrong with nuclear war does, in fact, go wrong with nuclear war, has a dialogue and feel to it that holds up remarkably well for a film of this era, especially one shot in black and white. Actually convincing enough to prompt change in the chain of command in the United States involving nuclear weapons, Dr Strangelove is a realistic, powerful, funny, and horrifying display of mastery from the greatest director who ever lived.
The Campaign: 2012
This 2012 political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis is the story of two men running for the same seat in Congress. This movie features Will Ferrell punching both a dog and baby in the face, releasing a sex tape, and getting arrested for drunk driving, which in light of recent times actually seems pretty tame. Meanwhile, Zach Galifianakis struggles with the morality of accepting help from the subtlety named "Moch" brothers. While undeniably silly, raunchy, and over the top, it still delivers a message on American politics and the dehumanization of political figures in general.
Citizen Kane: 1941
I don't know if Citizen Kane is necessarily a political movie, but everyone else got to put it in their lists, so why not me? Regarded by many as the best film ever made, this Orson Welles-directed classic follows the story of a man who rises from poverty to magazine magnate in a matter of years, telling a story on the corruption of wealth, and the hubris that comes with it.
Next, let's see what TV shows are worth watching.
The West Wing: 1999-2006
Running successfully on NBC for seven years, The West Wing is a drama following the career of Democratic President Josiah Bartlet, as well as his cabinet members and staff. This show is enticing, with a drama created by the pure chaos of having to react to news and events that affect the entire nation in a matter of hours.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj: 2018-2020
The Netflix original was recently cancelled, to the anger of fans everywhere, but the former Daily Show correspondent more than holds his own as host in this political education comedy. Once a week, Hasan would deliver a thought provoking expose on something he considered corrupt, or bring light to a previously unreported or undiscussed issue. It may be slightly out of date now, but there's still plenty to learn from a show that, in terms of Daily Show spin offs, sits only in the shadow of John Oliver.
Veep, the HBO original starring Julia Louis Dreyfus, follows the life of the first female Vice President, Selina Meyer. Presenting the corruption and backstabbing we see so much from American political TV in a satirical, goofy manner, this show is an Emmy Awards sweetheart that's won just about everything you can imagine.
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