For over 80 years, the American Legion has been the driving force behind Boys State, a nationwide program aimed at helping high school students gain a greater understanding of the political process. Annually, teenagers descend on college campuses in every state of the union, where they have a hand in creating their own governmental system over the course of a week, with campaigns and elected officials and the whole nine yards.

The documentary “Boys State,” directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, is currently available for streaming in Apple TV+. The film premiered at Sundance, where it won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize. It’s a look at the 2018 edition of Texas Boys State, following a handful of young men as they make their way through the weeklong process. We meet boys from different walks of life, with different ideologies and inclinations, as they navigate the vagaries of Boys State.

It is one of the most compelling pieces of documentary filmmaking we’ve seen in some time. The portrait that it paints is of a group of young people who are reflections of the greater political climate that surrounds them. It is a movie that moves from sweet inspirational moments to unexpected gut punches, illustrative of the wildly swinging political pendulum in which these kids have spent their entire lives. The juxtaposition of innocent optimism and surprising cynicism makes for compelling watching; you can’t tear your eyes away from these kids, regardless of where you may fall on the ideological spectrum.

Published in Livin'

Anyone with eyes and ears is aware that we’re currently living in an extremely polarized time. That polarization makes it both a great time and a tough time to make a political comedy. On the one hand, the landscape is littered with targets for satirization. On the other hand, it’s all just so f---ing bleak out there.

Into this dichotomy drops “Irresistible.” Currently available via VOD services, the film is written and directed by Jon Stewart. It tells the tale of what happens when a small-town mayoral race captures the attention of high-level political operatives on both sides of the partisan divide. These operatives swoop in and turn this minor municipal election into a big-money campaign. It’s ostensibly an ideological fight, but it soon becomes clear that there’s far more to it than that.

Stewart’s body of work from “The Daily Show” on up would seem to make him the ideal candidate (no pun intended) to make a film like this. And it’s a dynamite cast, led by Steve Carell, Chris Cooper and Rose Byrne. The talent is here, for sure.

So why isn’t this movie better?

Not that it’s bad, per se. It has its moments. It just feels like it is trying to be all things to all people, which is ironic considering its subject matter. It never commits to a tone, resulting in an overall feeling of meh-ness that undercuts whatever satiric impact it might have made. Political commentary? Sly satire? Underdog tale? “Irresistible” is all of these – and hence none of them.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:29

The absent truths of ‘Chappaquiddick’

Truth is a funny thing.

Some people view it as an absolute. Others regard it as a concept with some flexibility. And once you’re a deviation or two away from the center, things get even murkier. There’s what happened and then there’s the story about what happened. Sometimes, the two are close to the same. More often, they’re not.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 12:43

More than a game

Game Over' shows connection between sports and politics

In today's cultural landscape, sports are much more than what takes place on the field. 

With 'Game Over,' author Dave Zirin has laid out his case for a perhaps-unexpected truth: sports and politics are irrevocably intertwined. The political theater and the athletic arena share an undeniable overlap, and the sporting world can and does have a real effect on the realm of the political.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 23:30

Marketing lessons from the presidential campaign

I am not big on politics. However, I vote in every single election, and always do thorough research beforehand in order to select the candidates worthy of my vote. I tend to be skeptical of campaign promises and try to look beyond all of the pageantry associated with political candidates. This past election was different, however. The negative competitive atmosphere was so intense that the candidates' motivations became transparent, leaving no doubt as to how far they were willing to go to win.

Published in The Marketing Edge
New book offers differing perspectives on the state of America

While I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the most politically aware person in the world, even one as ambivalent as I can see that our political system has largely become one of bickering partisanship. Democrat and Republican, left-wing and right, liberal and conservative gone are the days of cooperation between ideologies. Each side has become more shrill and strident in its insistence that it is the only correct one.

It's a bit of a turn-off, truth be told.

That's why the new book 'America, You Sexy Bitch' (Da Capo, $26) seemed to offer promise. The new book subtitled 'A Love Letter to Freedom' is co-authored by one of the odder politerary (Yes, I made that word up; 'political' + 'literary' = gold!) couples you're likely to find.

Published in Buzz


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