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The Weekly Assignment: In Search of a President For the Big Screen

by
February 18, 2011

Harrison Ford in Air Force One

Next assignment! We've all seen them. Hollywood's "Presidential Pics" which portray the leader of the free world as only the film industry truly can. Sometimes he's a heroic leader, like Harrison Ford in Air Force One, or maybe he is braving an alien invasion like Bill Pullman did in Independence Day. The President might not be the President at all, rather a comedic impersonator as with Kevin Kline's Dave, or he may be a wig-wearing lawyer of the Revolution like Paul Giammati in the HBO mini-series John Adams (which, by the way, is absolutely excellent and directed by Oscar-nominated Tom Hooper of The King's Speech, too).

Now that we know how varied Hollywood Presidents can be, I give to you this week's assignment: Pitch in the comments a premise for a "Presidential" movie (can be dramatic, comedy, real, campy, anything) and the actor you think would play the best President in that idea. Bonus points for anyone who casts their Vice President and/or First Lady in the movie as well.

My Suggestion For Weekend Viewing: The first season of Aaron Sorkin's (yes, him again) The West Wing [Amazon/Netflix]. I know it's a TV show rather than a film, but I can promise you the screenwriting, production, and acting are top of the line. For those of you who have never seen it, The West Wing follows the newly elected President Jed Bartlett (played by the incredible Martin Sheen) and his upper-level staff who work in, you got it, the west wing of the White House. The pace matches Sorkin's dialogue as the staff tackle real issues of politics, press, and personalities with sharp wit. Sheen's Bartlett is a wise Baccalaureate and Nobel Prize winner who guides the supporting cast and the audience through the triumphs and failures of his administration. Sadly, Sorkin left the show after the fourth season and though it was still very strong, it never retained the power of language held by the first three. Thus, I suggest starting with Season One!

I've also compiled a list of President-related films in honor of the upcoming holiday (it's Presidents' Day on Monday). Take a peek at the list and I hope you find something worth watching over the holiday weekend! Top suggestions: Aaron Sorkin's The American President, Frost/Nixon, Oliver Stone's biopics Nixon, JFK and W., Thirteen Days, Primary Colors (Travolta as Clinton, basically), Murder at 1600, Dick, Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (some of the most incredible, and famous, production design ever) and finally, Barry Levinson's Wag the Dog.

For the more adventurous cinephiles, there are some oldies that might be worth checking out, including: controversial director D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) which quite vividly depicts Lincoln's assassination, Griffith's early talkie Abraham Lincoln (1930), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939 and starring a young Henry Fonda), or also The President's Lady (1953) and The Buccaneer (1959) both of which star Charleton Heston as Andrew Jackson. And if Oliver Stone's Nixon starring Anthony Hopkins is too long for you (at over three hours), check out Robert Altman's much shorter Nixon flick Secret Honor (1984).

Looking forward to hearing your "Presidential" suggestions! The Weekly Assignment is a discussion series written by Cate Hahneman that encourages further discovery, exploration and most importantly, a healthy discussion about cinema past and present. Last Week's Assignment: An Unconventional Romance.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/freakykillerhats Ben Roth
    You're missing Dave for a nice comedy.
    • CisforCinema
      It's hidden in there actually, just didn't get italicized! Great pic, really funny.
      • http://www.facebook.com/freakykillerhats Ben Roth
        Ah, I see it now. I had to do a find on the page, but it's there! :)
  • Loser
    Robert Redford President, Anette Benning First lady, Jack Nicholson Vice President. Crisis: North and South Korea nears open conflict and the USA which are allied with the south tread a narrow path between threaths and diplomacy while nearing reelection. The right wing presidential Candidate Alec Baldwin runs a dirty campaign accusing the President to be soft on communism and Warren Beatty playing a left wing candidate from the same part running against Redford as a "Indipendent" attacks at every turn.The Vice President an old war hero is eager for a show of military power and is not a stranger for playing dirty to get to battle. Korea comes closer every day to full out war. In steps the Chinese and a race against the clock is in full motion
    • CisforCinema
      A for content and promptness!
  • Anonymous
    Got it! Tom Hanks as President Marvin McCoy. Jason Alexander as Vice President Ashley Noyce. Vera Farmiga as Georgia McCoy. Premise: AS his second term comes to a close, Pres. McCoy is notified by his Chief of Staff Roland Meers (played by Kevin Klein) of a hostage situation in Bugscuffle Tennesee. The hostage William Freed (played by William Fincher) is holding twenty four souls at gunpoint in the towns City Hall, including Pres. McCoy's brother Allen McCoy (Dan Folger) Allen McCoy the local Govenor of Bugscuffle, TN recently pardoned the man responsible for the murders of Freed's wife and child, and he aims to take vengeance on the man who let the murderer walk free. The murderer James "Jimboy" Garner played by (Eric Bana) is demanded to come to City Hall and take his place among the hostages. Pres. McCoy must race against time to bring Freed out and save the hostages before he executes them one at a time. How's that for a slice of fried gold?
    • CisforCinema
      A for content and promptness! haha
      • Anonymous
        internet hi-5!
  • birddog
    Off topic but the best scene ever to take place in the White House/Oval office is Nightcrawler's attack in X2! And in honor of Black History month there should be mention of Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact and Dennis Haysbert as President David Palmer in 24
    • Anonymous
      The Deep Impact pres. wouldn't have gotten my vote! There's a meteor and he doesn't fill me in!? No way would I vote for him again, ever!
      • Anonymous
        hmm...I think I may type a short spec script on it.
  • dave
    one last woof: a prestigious romeoandjulietesque slapstick tale of the presidents' three legged dog (jula roberts ) and how she fell in love with a terrorists persian cat( sayid from lost), and how the relationship sustains throughout the troubles of the humans! starring steve martin as president zach galifinakis as vice president danny devito as 1st lady
  • Anonymous
    Aaron Eckhart - President Richard Adams Naomi Watts - First Lady Melanie Adams John Cusack - Vice President Jonathan Davis A massive explosion at Area 51 is explained to the public as an equipment malfunction. In reality, an alien spaceship has attacked the facility so as to rescue several extra-terrestrials being held in underground cells. Scientists at Area 51 have intercepted and translated messages from the alien spaceship which indicate that they will continue to attack the country in retaliation for the alleged mistreatment of the prisoners, and for experimentation on other aliens in the past. The President works to keep the truth from the people of the U.S., while at the same time contemplates offering himself and his family in exchange for the aliens' cessation of their attacks.
  • Dave Parfitt
    Alec Baldwin - President Steve Buscemi - Vice President No First Lady - She has passed away. In a setting not so different than our current one, a tired and beaten down president (Alec) desires to somehow leave all this behind and pursue his passion for directing dance. With the help of his VP (Buscemi), he must concoct a plan to convince a nation of the presidents untimely death. What insues is both comical, stressful, and insightful into the human condition and the often conflicting emotions we all have. End scene.
  • rocKicker
    President- George Clooney First Lady- Julia Roberts Vice President- Tim Robbins a thriller with the russians and newly formed asian coalition (north korea, south korea, japan, and china) vows to overtake europe and become a unified nuclear power. our president is forced on the front lines as most advanced technology has been whiped out by a massive emp attack to both sides during the war. its an old-school war setting in western europe which sees out president lead the charge as our leaders did during the revolutionary war.
  • dave
    i still think mines is the best, what i would give to see that film. danny devito has to be a convincing 1st lady tho serious theatrical music will play in his scenes
  • Rosaleeadams
    I am voting for Bill Pullman PERIOD He was believable in Independence Day.
  • Anonymous
    Terry Crews was the greatest President we will ever have. I would have liked to have seen Beef Supreme succeed him; however, Luke Wilson will become the President we need to get the country back on track. Unfortunately Starbucks will still be a whorehouse for centuries... ... so my idea is to just sit back and watch Idiocracy on channel HB0827.
  • cinemabandit
    What about Jack Nicholson's turn as POTUS in Mars Attacks, with Glenn Close as FLOTUS. (she was also the VPOTUS in Air Force One) A Comedy President? Chevy Chase as POTUS. Dramatic. Viggo Mortensen? Action Pres..... Bill Paxton? Tina Fey could be FLOTUS in any scenario
  • Anonymous
    I would love to see a treatment of the supreme court decision Marbury v. Madison - the first supreme court decision to invalidate a law by declaring it unconstitutional. It could be an interesting political/legal drama, and the presidential characters (Adams and Jefferson) would be on the periphery trying to exert their political influence; seeing the frustration of presidents unable to directly wield their power would be a unique twist on the role. James Madison - Jeremy Irons William Marbury - Timothy Spall John Marshall - Michael Caine John Adams - Paul Giamatti Thomas Jefferson - Robert Redford
  • Lebowski
    This one's easy. You get Will Ferrel on the phone, and then adapt his George W stageplay. Will is obviously dubya. Amy Poller for Laura. Fred Willard is Rumsfeld, Paul Giamatti for Cheney, he's got proper comedy chops. Condaleeza is harder, I reckon Taraji P. Henson, but Condi would be a good straight man against Ferrell and Willard. Plus there is room for an amusing recurring joke featuring Bush's drunken blond daughters, it would be funny to see the Olsen Twins in the roles. Adam Mckay co-writes and directs. BOOM gimme a job hollywood.
  • Harm
    President Rockwell - Daniel Day Lewis VP - Dan Akroyd First Lady - Edie Falco The country faces another 9/11 - a horrendous sucker punch terrorist attack. The movie follows the first 12 hours afterwards as the president and his cabinet seek to counter from it, to find leadership afterwards. As the decisions that are made about respecting freedom or locking it down patriot act style. As the movie progresses even more coordinated attacks come including a briefcase nuke, dirty bomb etc. The movie ends with Americans being invaded by a joint superpower China/Russia. It would not be a happy movie. But it would be incredible to see the emotional gamut of leadership/emotions throughout the day. DDL wins another shiny statue.

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