(Above: Henry Fonda in ‘The Best Man.’ Source: IMDb)
Don’t expect any drama at the virtual Democratic and Republican conventions over the next couple of weeks. Instead, we recommend seeing a couple of great movies — The Best Man (1964) and Medium Cool (1969) – set during truly dramatic Presidential conventions.
Here’s why we recommend each of them – plus a related film we thought you might like — with supporting video evidence, namely the entire films:
The Best Man
Not to be confused with the 1999 romcom of the same name, The Best Man was written by Gore Vidal and stars Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson as two Presidential contenders maneuvering for their party’s nomination at a fictional Los Angeles convention. One candidate’s a “ruthless opportunist willing to go to any lengths to get the nomination,” notes Wikipedia. The other is a former Secretary of State who’s a “principled intellectual.” Things get heated, to say the least.
Haskell Wexler, with a background largely in documentaries, was cinematographer for The Best Man, his first Hollywood film. A few years later, he made Medium Cool, his first foray into writing and directing a fictional film. Or was it a documentary?
Sort of both. Wexler filmed Medium Cool in the parks and streets of Chicago as demonstrators gathered to protest the 1968 Democratic Convention – and as cops and National Guardsmen gathered to confront the protesters in what a Federal commission later labeled a “police riot.”
A jarring moment in the movie is when tear gas is fired and a voice warns the director, “Look out Haskell, it’s real!” That’s also the name of the following 2001 “Making Of” documentary:
Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8
As a companion to Medium Cool, we present Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8.
Some background: Despite the Federal report concluding there had been a “police riot,” a Federal grand jury indicted eight protesters for inciting the Chicago riots, resulting in the infamous “Chicago Eight” (aka Chicago Seven) trial of 1969-70.
The trial was dramatized in a 1987 HBO movie, Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, with a script coming mostly from the original trial transcripts. The cast, which includes Elliott Gould, Peter Boyle and Robert Carradine, has their real-life counterparts pop up now and then to provide commentary.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
A new movie, this time titled The Trial of the Chicago 7, will drop Friday, October 16, on Netflix. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, its large ensemble cast includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, William Hurt and Michael Keaton.
(Note: The above is an updated version of a previously published article)
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