Cinepub


Review: The Ides Of March by Jamie

I fucking love American politics, especially during election season. They’re so much more ridiculous than the humdrum British politics I have to deal with. They’re basically just a massive spectacle, every candidate bending over backwards in order to please as many people with as many different views and opinions as they possibly can. You want to appease the anti-immigration crowd whilst also trying to attract a portion of the Latino vote. And there’s also the uncompromising religiosity (Christian religiosity, of course) that, if you don’t actually believe it, at least have to pay lip service to. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”, indeed.

So I was quite looking forward to watching ‘The Ides of March’, the George Clooney directed film about Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney), his campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and deputy campaign manager Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as they attempt to defeat Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell) and his campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) in the Democrat primaries and win Morris the Democrat nomination for president.

As you can imagine in a taut, political drama things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Morris is unapologetically liberal, leaving him slightly unpopular with moderates and deeply unpopular with the more conservative contingent in Ohio, a problem because Ohio has an open primary meaning that registered Republicans are allowed to vote in the Democrat election. Both sides are also hoping to gain the endorsement of Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) who, with his 356 delegates, would be able to secure the nomination for either man. The only problem with this is that Morris deeply dislikes Thompson and refuses to capitulate to his demands in return for the endorsement.

That’s about all I can say about the plot without giving too much away. Suffice to say it is a well acted, well scripted and well paced political drama with the number of twists that you’d expect to see in the week of any average political campaign (See the current Republican primaries for examples). Does it, however, really say anything new about the political process? Honestly, it really doesn’t. Yes, it’s an entertaining film but the commentary it has with regards to the world of politics, it’s ability to corrupt and jade anyone who involves themselves in it for any particular length of time, is something we have pretty much all been aware of since the Watergate scandal if not longer.

Of course, this isn’t the fault of the film. Politics and power corrupts. What more can you really say about that world at this point? Does that mean that we should stop making political dramas at all? Well no. Just because it has nothing new to say doesn’t mean that The Ides of March isn’t a good film. I suppose if there is anything new that it brings to the table it’s that it makes the political process far more personal than I remember seeing before. So there’s that. Anyway, I highly recommend this film, especially if you love the tipsy-topsy world of American politics as much as I do. Four pints out of five. Laterz.



Documental: Why Democracy?: Please Vote For Me by Jamie

Ah, democracy. It’s a funny old thing. People vote and people get elected and on and on it goes. Good times. Yeah, I don’t have that much to say about democracy. It’s pretty good, I guess. Better than a dictatorship at least. Good for democracy.

Anyway, with that pointless rambling out of the way, let’s get onto the review and it’s something a bit different today. It’s a short documentary, less than an hour long in fact, and is part of a series, ‘Why Democracy?’, which was shown worldwide on the subject of democracy. I can’t say I know much about the series having never seen or heard of it before nor seeing any of the other films within the series so I’ll just say I’m sure it’s a very good series which raises many important points about worldwide democracy though I will point out that the opening claims that it is being watched by 300,000,000 viewers. That might seem impressive but keep in mind that’s not even a quarter of the world’s population. Still, whatever.

So this film is called ‘Please Vote For Me’ and it takes place in the Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan, China. It follows the first ever election for class monitor in all of China amongst a class of 8 year olds. The first candidate is Luo Lei, a boy who has been chosen by the teacher to be class monitor for the past two years and has a reputation for being quite strict when it comes to enforcing the classes rules, even going so far as to beat other children when they step out of line. The second candidate is Cheng Cheng and I can only really describe him as a real life Chinese Eric Cartman without the foul mouth. He’s very manipulative and tries to manipulate every situation to his advantage. The third and final candidate is Xu Xiaofei, a girl who is perceived as being quite shy and not particularly adept at coping with stressful situations.

The first thing you notice is just how quickly one of the candidates, Cheng, turns to dirty tactics in order to try and make the election go his way. Each of the three has to perform in a talent show and Cheng decides to tell his helpers to encourage people to boo and hiss during Xu’s performance, leading to her breaking down in a flood of tears. Whilst Xu is outside being comforted by her mother and teacher, Cheng heads outside and apologies for Luo, claiming that the entire plan was thought up by him. Devious little bastard.

Also interesting is the ways in which the parents try and help their children during the election. Luo Lei’s father is the head of the local police force and as such he organises a trip for the class on the monorail, the most up to date form of transport in the area. It also seems as though this is where Luo get’s his inspiration for his strict enforcement of the rules. Cheng’s parents help him by writing his speeches and telling him exactly how to catch put his opponents and make it seem as though they are liars. Xu’s mother is divorced and is the head of the school. She doesn’t seem to provide much of the way in tactics but helps by boosting her daughters confidence as much as she can.

I don’t want to give away the ending of the film as it’s a really interesting piece that you should probably watch it for yourself and it can probably be found fairly easily on the internet. Ah yes, here it is on YouTube. What I will say is that the film is a fascinating look at the way that the voting process works. You might think that all the mudslinging, underhanded tactics and bribing of the electorate is exaggerated because the election is being held amongst children but really, is it that different from what happens in real elections? Think about it. Yeah, deep.

All in all, I’ll say that despite it’s short length, ‘Please Vote For Me’ is a really enjoyable film and is really quite comedic in it’s look at the democratic process. I highly recommend you view it. Four pints out of five. Laterz




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