Starring Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jeffrey Wright, Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Banks, Thadie Newton, Toby Jones; Directed by Oliver Stone
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
A documentary about the Republican political operative directed by Stefan Forbes
Movies are like political elections. (And I’m not talking just about political movies.) They compete for your time and attention. They can be popularity contests depicting favorite actors or issues. When you see a movie, you are essentially “voting” for it. (Sure, you may end up filled with regrets after you buy your ticket and popcorn and settle in for a two-hour turkey, but that’s not unlike what can happen after you cast your vote.) Given that movies are like elections, why don’t we see a fair and balanced campaign for and against them? It seems only appropriate, so here are some possible examples.
• [From a 527 group called GET STONED:]
Narrator (in a sinister baritone): You’ve seen his propaganda before (images of director Oliver Stone in grainy black and white walking on sidewalks with paparazzi, getting out of limos, hobnobbing with liberal movie stars). He’s part of the liberal Hollywood elite. And it shows in his diatribes. They ridicule and demean much of what this country stands for and its leaders (images from his films JFK and Nixon). Why does Oliver Stone hate so much (scenes from Platoon)? Is it because he’s secretly a communist (scenes from Born on the Fourth of July)? Or that he is paranoid (scenes from Nixon)? Or that he glamorizes drugs (scenes from The Doors) and violence (scenes from Natural Born Killers)? Or that he just simply hates you, the viewer (scenes from Alexander)?
Now he’s going after our current president (scenes from W.), and we know the answer. He clearly has unresolved psychological issues with his liberal audience (images of Freud and people on couches and in mental hospitals receiving electroshock therapy).
We all know that Hollywood directors bring their own biases and insecurities to their work and project them onto the screen. And this work is filled with outlandish implications that George W. Bush — a national hero after 9/11 (images of the real president at Ground Zero) — was gripped by a desperate need to secure his father’s love, pride and respect. That says a lot about Oliver Stone and his own complex — trying to appease his liberal audiences (more images of director Stone at lavish Hollywood parties). He calls this art. We call it psychobabble. Different narrator (in a clipped, hurried officious tone): This ad is not affiliated with any competing biopic, documentary, book or film studio.
• [From a 527 group called STONING THE VICTIM:]
Narrator (in an equally sinister baritone): Victims. Given the plunging stock market, skyrocketing gas prices, home foreclosures, ballooning national debt, tainted toys and food, and the inability to secure loans, we all feel like victims (images of Wall Street, rapidly descending stock prices, boarded-up homes, empty store shelves). We are hoping for change — not only of the pocketbook kind but real change (images of money stacking up and the seasons changing). Now comes a new film called W. It purports to change our views of the past eight years under President George W. Bush (scenes from W.). But what we get is more of the same. We’ve seen and heard this all before — the Yale fraternity boozing and hazing, the arrests, the womanizing, the failed jobs, the baseball team ownership, the lost congressional race, the political advisers, the bickering among members of the Cabinet and the inner circle (images of headlines, tell-all books, news clips, talk show hosts, the Oval Office). It sticks to the Bush narrative and never seems to go over the top — except in one shocking way. (Screen goes dark. Narrator pauses, then continues.)
It makes George W. Bush a victim! (Images of President Bush with a puckish, sheepish expression.) That’s right. Oliver Stone would have us believe that the president was duped into going to war over the “missing” weapons of mass destruction (a mushroom cloud appears) and that he lacked the intellectual heft to avoid being used and manipulated by those around him (an image of Albert Einstein appears). Now who’s the victim? Bush? The truth? Or you the viewer? Different narrator: Al Gore and John Kerry are not affiliated with this ad.
• [From a 527 group called ATTA BOY ATWATER!:]
(Scene of an average American family — Mom, Dad, Daughter, Son and a black lab — in their living room watching their big screen, high-def television and eating popcorn. As the family watches, the aspect shifts to behind them so that we can see what they are seeing. On the television is a negative political ad. Switch to close-up of Daughter with a disgusted look.)
Daughter: Aw, not another negative political ad!
Son: Oh, man! Dad! Hurry! Change the channel!
Narrator (As Dad fumbles for the remote, the aspect changes to show the whole family head-on): Are you tired of all the negative ads?
The whole family (stopping and looking at the camera): YES! (The dog barks.)
Narrator: Have you even been curious about where they came from and how they got to be so nasty?
The whole family (pausing and looking puzzled and dumbstruck), then Dad: Uh …, not really.
Narrator (changing the subject): Hey, Kids! Would you like your parents to take you out to the movies?
Daughter and Son (jumping up and cheering): Yeah! Can we please?
Narrator (as the parents looked surprised): You kids like scary movies, don’t cha?
Daughter and Son (jumping up and down with arm flailing): YEAH!
Narrator: I have just the film. It’s called Boogie Man, and it will scare the bejeezus out of you.
Mom: I haven’t heard of that movie. Is it appropriate for young kids?
Narrator: Oh, my yes! It’s all about a guy named Lee Atwater who worked for George W. Bush’s dad and used negative ads to help get his candidates elected. The film will help you to learn how these dirty tricks got started and why they work, things like push polls, digging up dirt on people who received electroshock therapy, lying about records, exploiting racism, releasing rapists and murderers, dalliances with prostitutes and ….
Mom (interrupting as the kids’ enthusiasm dies down and the family looks stunned): That sounds very inappropriate! I don’t want my kids seeing that! How dare you!
Narrator: Well, if you don’t see this movie, you will have to keep suffering through these negative political ads because you won’t learn how they come about and why they keep coming — and you could maybe even help start a movement to end them.
Dad (disgustedly): So be it.
Narrator: But don’t you wish you could stop them?
Mom: Oh, you betcha!
Narrator: Well, ha! Too bad! You can’t. Nyah-nyah. (The whole family looks at each other quizzically and then Dad hurls the remote at the television, whereupon the screen fills with snow and white noise and a new narrator comes on and says:)
Narrator: Not affiliated with any currently running negative ad, but paid for by a 527 far from where you live.
Doug Young is, indeed, The Statesman’s outstanding film critic. He also works for Congressman Mark Udall as an environmental policy adviser.