251. The American President

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Movie: The American President

Release Date: November 17, 1995

Director: Rob Reiner

Starring: Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Richard Dreyfuss, Davis Paymer, Samantha Mathis.

Tag Lines: “Why can’t the most powerful man in the world have the one thing he wants most?”

Relevance: In 1995 and 1996, I wasn’t very political. At the age of 24 and 25, I was registered to vote but I didn’t exercise that right for a couple more years down the road. You can judge me for that. I can take it. I had opinions about politics, politicians and certain core beliefs but I usually just kept them to myself. I didn’t engage in political conversations and I didn’t debate others if they thought differently from me. I just lived my busy day to day life as footloose and fancy free as possible. That was my state of mind when I first watched ‘The American President.’

I don’t remember the exact moment I saw the movie, but I do know that I didn’t see it in theaters. I am guessing it was sometime in the Spring or Summer of 1996 via VHS rental from our local Blockbuster. I also know that I watched it with my mom, but I can’t remember if me watching it with her was my first time or not. It is possible I had already seen it and recommended it to her when I was visiting. As I have mentioned before on this blog, my mom was a huge fan of the romantic-comedy genre. She loved them. She also loved all of the actors in the film including Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening, Richard Dreyfuss and Michael J. Fox. And she was a life long Democrat. There was no way she wasn’t going to love this film.

In fact, we both loved the film. It was a smart, charming, funny movie that entertained both of us, but also stirred us up politically in a way we didn’t think a movie could do. After the movie, my mom and I had a long conversation about politics. Like me she had her opinions, but usually kept them to herself. It was nice to hear her talk politically giving her thoughts and ideas on a range of topics. I was also thrilled to hear that we were both on the same page, although it wasn’t surprising that her life long democratic blood trickled down into her son. Apple. Tree.

By the time ‘The American President’ was released, I was already a huge Rob Reiner fan. He had directed and starred in some of my favorite movies of all time. This is his first of five films to appear on my list of most influential movies. I was also a fan of the movie’s writer, Aaron Sorkin. His words and dialogue on both stage and screen are incomparable to any of his contemporaries. I had a privilege of saying some of his words on stage in a production of ‘A Few Good Men.’ It was one of the most intense and rewarding performances in my community theater career. Mr. Reiner and Mr. Sorkin worked together in the film adaptation of ‘A Few Good Men’ which is also a remarkable film.

‘The American President’ is a movie that I have returned to many, many times throughout my life. Its existence led me to “The West Wing,” a show that I hold in very high regard. It is also a movie that I steal quotes from when I engage in political debates with others. Yes. I am now an active member in the political world, an activist to some degree. And it was a movie, this movie, that started me on the path of where I am today. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

Today’s Thoughts: Watching ‘The American President’ today when America doesn’t really have one was very interesting. It reminded me how I used to feel when I watched “The West Wing” during the “Bush” years. I used to think those were dark times. Boy was I wrong. The over-bloated, babbling, moronic, orange buffoon we have pretending to be our leader today makes George W. look almost presidential. Almost.

The movie itself is still entertaining and funny as ever. The cast is beyond superb. There isn’t a weak link among them, right down to the small role of the florist clerk, played by Kamilah Martin. She has one of the best gags in the film. It is laugh out loud funny and the scene that amuses me every time I watch it. Oh, and for those counting movies that make me reach for the Kleenex box, you can add this one to your list. I am my mother’s son. A well written romance always makes me cry.

The movie also angered me a little. One of the plot points in the movie involves a crime bill and an environmental bill that the administration is trying to pass. This movie was produced in 1995. It’s now 2020. We are still arguing about climate change and gun control. That is absurd to me. The political activist that now resides in my skin was both saddened and angered. It’s reminders like this that light a fire deep inside of me to go out and fight for our democracy. We so need a Democrat back in the White House. That’s why I am Ridin’ with Biden!

‘The American President’ has so many memorable quotes and ones that are still so relevant today. One of my favorites is from Michael J. Fox’s character.

“I’m a citizen, this is my President. And in this country it is not only permissible to question our leaders, it’s our responsibility!”

Does it really get more relevant than that?

I will leave you today with a small portion of one of Michael Douglas’, as President Andrew Shepherd, biggest speeches he makes near the end of the film. It’s one that makes me stand up and cheer. I urge you to watch ‘The American President.’ I urge you even more to go out and vote Democrat in November! Our very lives depend on it.

“…America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free…”

Awards: Academy Award for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score, Marc Shaiman (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director, Rob Reiner (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Annette Bening (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Michael Douglas (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Aaron Sorkin (nomination), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Aaron Sorkin (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Hulu, DVD Availability.

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