left biblioblography: The Contender: Recommended Viewing!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Contender: Recommended Viewing!

Thanks to the modern 'miracle' of Netflix, I chanced across a pertinent, powerful drama titled The Contender.

No, it's not a boxing drama. It's a well-paced, powerful political insight into the way Washington is run. Here's the answers.com entry:

The hard-ball gamesmanship and casual character assassination of American politics sets the stage for this thriller from writer and director Rod Lurie. When the Vice President of the United States unexpectedly dies, all eyes in Washington D.C. are on President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) as he chooses a new VP. Sen. Jack Hathaway (William Petersen), a respected career politician enjoying a new swell of popularity after a well-publicized attempt to save a drowning woman, is expected to be Evans' choice, but instead he picks Sen. Laine Hanson (Joan Allen), a decision that raises eyebrows on both sides of the political fence. Veteran power broker Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) is vehemently opposed to Hanson's appointment, in part because the Democratic senator was once a Republican, and vows to do everything in his power to prevent her from being confirmed. Runyon and his staff start digging for dirt on Hanson, and soon make a surprising discovery -- her personal morality is called into question when it's alleged that she took part in a group sexual liaison while she was a college student. The Contender also stars Mike Binder as one of Hanson's advisors, Mariel Hemingway as an old friend with a surprising secret, Christian Slater as an ambitious congressmen assisting Runyon, and Philip Baker Hall as Hanson's father; it was the second feature from former film critic Rod Lurie. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

I think it's germane especially in lieu of the upcoming Presidential race. A woman is nominated as Vice President (brilliantly played by Joan Allen), and Gary Oldman is savagely good as the patriot-gone-bad, with a magnificent Jeff Bridges playing the President-elect Jackson Evans. Noteworthy mentions include Sam Eliot (who is rarely bad in a movie - he's great as the POTUS advisor), and Christian Eliot (whom I've never been overly fond of - he's too smarmy in most flicks, but pretty believable in this one).

Joan Allen's character [Laine Hanson] is the liberal's dream: she's a strong, confident woman, who's switched parties (now Democrat), pro-choice, real strong on separation of church and state, and get this...drum roll please...she's an atheist!

Noteworthy moments worth savoring: Laine and her son are visiting grandpa while he's playing tennis. He tries to instruct the 6-year-old on using a topspin, and is informed it's great because Jesus created it! Gramps gets a little huffy after scooting the kid off ("I spent all those years trying to get that nonsense outta the public schools - they're paid to teach, not to preach!").

When questioned by the committee about SOCAS, Oldman's character quotes Laine as saying, "SOCAS isn't about the government trying to run religion, it's about keeping the government from being run by a fairy tale." [paraphrase].

And, in the speech she delivers to the committee (she's resisted the

"I stand for the woman's right to choose. I stand for the elimination of the death penalty. I stand for a strong and growing armed forces, for we must stomp out genocide on this planet, and I believe that is a cause worth dying for. I stand for seeing every gun taken out of every home. Period. [...] And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of church and state. The reason I stand for that is, I believe, the same reason our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government, but to protect our government, from the grasp of religious fanaticism. I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves, that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom we hold dear. My church is this very chapel of democracy, that we sit together, and I do not need God to tell me my moral absolutes, I need my heart, and my brain, and this church."

I don't mind saying, I wept a bit through the last part of this movie. She stood on her principles: she played no game but her own. She refused to discuss the alleged incident at ALL - even when provided with a devastating whammy from a friendly advisor that would've dropped Oldman's character into the dirt, clutching his groin. Why?

"Principles only mean something when you stick to them when its inconvenient."

Damned good movie. Worth adding to the collection. If I had prehensile toes, I'd give it two Big Toes Up.

And that's my 2¢ worth.

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