Thursday, May 08, 2008

One Bright Shining Moment

One Bright Shining Moment (Stephen Vittoria, 2005) [5]
I just finished reading Hunter Thompson's fantastic book on the George McGovern '72 Presidential bid, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, and this seemed like a natural follow-up. While Thompson uses his wit and offbeat tangents to deaden some of the political venom in his book, this film get tripped up by its starry-eyed canonization of McGovern as well as their all too easy demonization of the Nixon era. If a documentary is going to be so blatantly one-sided in its portrayal, it has to do something with humor or other sleight of hand to soften some of the edges. This film is only going to appeal to those who truly believed in McGovern or the followers of the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party he created. It's probably just what it wants to do but a good film it does not make. For a film whose title refers specifically to McGovern's presidential campaign, it shouldn't take more than half the film just to get there. The first half of the film is nice in setting up who McGovern is, what a nice guy he is, how he was respected, and so on. It's all good but it pales in interest compared to the nuts and bolts of running for President. There are a number of interesting facets to McGovern's run that get covered. The weakness is that they aren't gone to in an in-depth way that would have made a more credible film. The basic thesis of the film, that an principled, ethical liberal such as McGovern, who was thought to have a snowball's chance in Hell of being nominated, and then actually succeeding, says a lot about the political process. The addresses it but never really gives an acceptable discussion on it. That the delegate rules of the '72 made the old labor/city boss style of politics in the Democratic party is interesting but discussion never goes beyond the inclusionary values of the new system. Nixon is handled in too broad of terms but the raising of the Southern Strategy and the veiled racism it entailed, could have been brought out more because of its resonance. I think George McGovern was a good guy. He ran a Presidential campaign as close to my own beliefs as anyone of the last half-century. It's too bad that Vittoria couldn't make a little bit better film out of the information given.

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