"Bob Roberts" was Tim Robbins first foray into political filmmaking. He draws on his family experience as traveling folk singers and fashions a story of a conservative, religious political candidate who sings family songs on the campaign trail. The film itself is good stuff, well acted and produced, but the message is clear: White conservative Christians are just frauds and cannot be trusted. One watches it and wonders what a truthful depiction of Jesse Jackson would look like. Or an inside look at Joseph P. Kennedy pulling the strings in Jack's Congressional and Senate campaigns? Or the inside deals that kept Teddy Kennedy in office after Mary Jo Kopechne was killed? How about Al Sharpton and the Tawana Brawley incident? "Bob Roberts" is one of those movies that you just watch and shake your head.
THIS TAKES A SWIPE AT CLINTON
"Absolute Power" had me thinking that somebody read my screenplay, "A Murderous Campaign", used my idea but gave me no credit. Maybe. "Absolute" is a Clint Eastwood picture, playing on the public perception that Bill Clinton might just be a murderer. However, the President bears no resemblance to Clinton.
"CONTENDER" TRIES TO PUT DOWN CLINTON INVESTIGATION
"The Contender" was made by a former West Point guy who is a liberal, a rarity in and of itself. It does not take a highly liberal position, but it is not conservative. The film's message is that the right's overarching investigations into Clinton's sex life were intrusive, although it does not examine the fact that his lies came under legal oath.
The V.P. dies and a woman Senator is nominated to replace him. A rumor circulates that while in college she was gangbanged by a fraternity. She refuses to answer the allegations. A conservative Senator (Gary Oldham, who is actually conservative and later expressed dismay at script changes to make conservatives look worse than originally planned), opposes her because of her alleged youthful promiscuity. He is also in league with another Senator who he wants to get the nod. The President (Jeff Bridges) sticks by the nominee and after a few twists and turns she gets in. The charges are never publicly refuted, which is the film's message. She reveals privately that the gangbang story was false, and the moral is that politician's personal lives are not open season for the press. This resonates to an extent, but the timing of the film, in light of the Clinton scandals, makes it obvious that the purpose is to dissuade the public that Clinton's immorality is our business.
"American History X" may not have have accomplished what it set out to accomplish. The film centers on a white supremacist in the once-pleasant, now-crime stricken Los Angeles beach enclave of Venice. Edward Norton plays the racist, but the dialogue is sharp and intelligent. While there is no question that Norton is not in the right, and that his racial hatreds have taken him down a perilous personal path, he makes certain biting commentary about race and society that are entirely true and worth agreeing with. Whether the filmmakers wanted whites (and blacks) in the audience nodding in agreement with a guy they would like to show to be a monster is not known. He is charismatic, and intelligent enough to see the light after being stigmatized in prison. With the help of a black teacher, he turns his life around, but sees the damage he has caused to those around him. Heavy-handed political bias cannot be helped. Norton's sidekick is an utterly reprehensible, stupid white racist of the worst stereotype, who blathers about those who do not agree with him as "Democrats."
ROBBINS, SARANDON AT THEIR BEST
Tim Robbins made another "political" film." "Dead Man Walking" stayed on an even keel. Starring Sean Penn in a bravura performance as a murderer getting ready for his execution, it takes a surprisingly Catholic point of view, in which Susan Sarandon plays a nun who makes him take responsibility for his actions, ostensibly to save his soul. It could be interpreted as being against the death penalty, but this is actually a stretch. This film is a good example of how much talent Robbins has and how, when he avoids major Left wing politics, he produyces some real genius.
THOSE RIGHT WING WACKOS
After Tim McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma Federal Building, the Left went berserk, although their own Ted Kazcysnski (the Unabomber) beat them back. What has emerged in the years since is that if a real bad guy looks like McVeigh, he does the "perp walk" and is displayed for the cameras. If he is black, a black Muslim, or some such thing, he gets the hidden suspect treatment. "Arlington Road" is Robbins as a right-wing wacko who plans to blow up the government. The message is that the right in this country is dominated by white racists who think nothing of killing many, because they are Fascists. It is heavy-handed and compared with Truth fails miserably.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism