Tuesday, May 24, 2005

DVD: Advise & Consent (1962)

Warner Brothers has excellent timing, releasing Otto Preminger’s political potboiler on DVD as the arcane rules of the Senate are in the news.

It’s odd to see this film hailed on editorial pages as a classic when for years it was dismissed as tedious, along with much of Preminger’s later work. His reputation hasn’t been completely rehabilitated; in a sidebar to Time’s 100 Greatest Movies list, Richard Schickel cites Preminger’s ANATOMY OF A MURDER as one of his five guilty pleasures.

Aside: I haven’t looked at the full Time list, and I’m not going to. Such lists are always a waste of time, but seeing Schickel’s idea of guilty pleasures – GUN CRAZY? – turned me off completely.

What happens when a Hollywood left-winger like Preminger tackles a novel by a well-known conservative (Allen Drury)? A sharp political film that focuses on process instead of issues. Some of the plot twists are dated, and the scenes involving compromised senator Don Murray and his family are actively bad. But the film is compelling from the first frame and features a host of memorable performances, led by Charles Laughton as a horse-trading Southern politico.

Much of the recent coverage of the filibuster battle has been about preserving the Senate’s role as a deliberative body, which is difficult considering that over half of its current membership comes from the more partisan atmosphere of the House. ADVISE & CONSENT undermines that argument. It also made me long for the days when members of both parties could play cards together. It’s a far cry from today. Not only do Senate leaders Bill Frist and Harry Reid not like each other, but it turns out that “neither one has a working sense of humor.”

The villain of the movie is a rabid liberal played by George Grizzard. I’ve got to say that a left-wing heavy made for a great change of pace. But to have him be the senator from Wyoming? The state once represented by Dick Cheney? Even in 1962, that was a reach.

Miscellaneous: Of Local Note

My adopted home state of Washington will never challenge California or Florida for sheer weirdness. But we’re making a run at it. Our governor’s race is being settled in the courts in a case that could have repercussions nationwide. And now comes word that the state issued the formula for methamphetamine on a vanity license plate.

Miscellaneous: Links

A former member of the Doobie Brothers joins the war on terror. And at long last, proof that prayer works.