1998
Directed, written and produced by Warren Beatty.

Warren Beatty is Jay Billington Bulworth, a Californian politician driven over the edge by his miserable life. Decides that life isn't worth living, takes out ten million dollars life insurance which will go to his daughter and not his evil wife, then hires a hitman to kill him. What ensues is the (IMO) greatest political satire ever. It delves deep into the faults of American Politics and lifestyle.

C'mon everybody! Say that dirty word! SOCIALISM!

Three years ago, I wrote briefly for the now defunct eyepiece.com. The following was a review dated May 23, 1998.
Bulworth
Twentieth Century Fox, Rated R

"There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today... There is only one holistic system of systems; one vast, interwoven, interacting, multivaried, multinational dominion of dollars!"

No, that's not a line from Bulworth. That's a line from Network, over 20 years ago. Looking around today, Network wasn't nearly as much of an eyeopener as its makers had hoped, since very little has changed. The same will be said of Bulworth. Right up there with Network in terms of brave and blunt filmmaking, but also right up there with Network in terms of influence on the world around us.

You can tell a lot about the political stance of movie reviewers over their reviews of films like Bulworth or A Friend of the Deceased. Like A Friend of the Deceased our protagonist, Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty), hires a hit-man to off himself over a bout of suicidal despair. And like Network, it is only the suicidal that have the guts to say things that many people know but are unable to make public.

"Does political scare you?" wonders Robert Altman. Political political scares us, but softcore political, like The American President, Dave, Primary Colors, and Wag the Dog are fine. Softcore political is the first thing Beatty is trying to avoid. Not only does he use the word "socialism" in the film, but he uses it in a non-pejorative context. Twice. The gall! What would Ronald Reagan say? He even takes on that little talked about fact that entertainment is a mostly Jewish dominated industry, much like how Chinese once dominated the California laundry business. He even mentions their paranoia (you can't really blame them after what happened during the last World War, but then again, so many Holocaust films are sponsored that they may be fueling their own paranoia). And, of course, he takes on the Democratic Party, quite full of closet socialists, but you can never tell from their actual behavior (as dictated by the people who pay for their TV commercials).

The performances are solid. Halle Berry as a gorgeous punk. Don Cheadle as a fatherly gangster. And Oliver Platt as a comically flabbergasted campaign manager. But it is not so much the acting or even the writing that makes Bulworth. It is the audacity that the people involved managed to find (however briefly) to say what they had to say.

Now I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" But you didn't, did you? Not 20 years ago, and not now.


Some things I notice, now rereading my writing, besides what has been mentioned previously:
1. Attempts to goad people into standing up for themselves. The shame!
2. Cynical defeatism used in attempts at reverse psychology.
3. Shouldn't have used such a broad brushstroke to paint the Jewish community. Certainly there are some of every type, just like any group of people.
Some brief background on how this film was made:

Warren Beatty was originally supposed to make Dick Tracy with Fox, but Fox backed out of the deal. It still got made by Touchstone/Buena Vista, in 1990. (remember Madonna's Vogue?) But that didn't change the fact that Fox had broken their agreement with Beatty. He had reasonable grounds to sue them.

Instead, he made an informal agreement with Fox. They would give him a $30 million budget, and complete control over his next film. The film he eventually made under that settlement was Bulworth, in 1998. It probably would not have been made, otherwise.

I remember seeing this film and thinking, Uh oh, he'll never act again. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. I just noticed that he has only made one movie since this one. But that seems to be typical of Beatty; he makes a movie every 3 years or so. It took some guts for him to make this one.

Even though the plots are completely different, I think of Wag the Dog as a similar movie. Late 90's political satire, I suppose.

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