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That George Hamilton sure can move.

Movie

Bulworth
(1998)

 

Proof positive that it simply takes disillusionment with the political landscape to produce a perceptive satire. As opposed, necessarily, to falling on one or other side of it with regard to allegiance. I say that, because you wouldn’t necessarily expect quasi-commie Warren Beatty – he made Reds, after all, and it doesn’t get more Hollywood commie than that… putting to one side being very, very rich, obviously – to capture so effectively the sheer cynicism and indifference of the political system. 

Jay Bullington Bulworth is seeking re-election as a democratic senator, but he is suffering from a suicidal despair borne of the realisation that any ideals he once held dear have been thoroughly besmirched by the exclusionary goal of winning votes. Bulworth’s high points, and there are many, derive from the senator’s nothing-to-lose straight talking about the process, even if does, at other times, get rather bogged down in Beatty attempting to impress his own savvy onto the powder keg that is racial politics. That, and perpetuating his pussy-magnet legacy.

The movie’s undoubtedly sharper when its targets are reflected through the prism of what Beatty knows, understands and has directly experienced – and how that bears on African Americans and race in the country, rather than attempting to encompass and express the black experience. At which points, it falls into the trap of dubious sincerity, over-plotting and vague sops. Could Beatty have made mostly the same points without exposing his central character to the black community? Absolutely, and the movie might have steered a clearer, more satirically focussed path. 

But it would also have played safer, likely restricting itself to the halls of power and bubble interaction on the campaign trail, and it’s blatantly evident that Beatty wanted to sail close to the wind, to be provocative, to run the risk of crossing the line. Both because he was cheesed off politically – as a dyed-in-the-wool Hollywood socialist, oxymoronic as such values may seem – and as a fading star player, conscious that his last movie (Love Affair) had been a grievously misjudged exercise. He probably saw the entailing publicity as a win-win, since even if he were deemed to have tripped up, he’d be a talking point: zeitgeist-y. As he once was.

There is, of course, an inevitably limiting factor the average satire must contend with when inhabiting such a sphere; it is virtually guaranteed to entangle itself in the essential fallacy of struggling over genuine convictions within the two-party, left-right political system, a system predicated on Hegelian constraints that reinforce its “fact-of-life” immutability. Beatty just happens – well, there’s little that’s “just” about being left-leaning in Hollywood, as right-inclined pariahs quickly discover – to come down on the left side, but that doesn’t mean his picture descends into a virtue-signalling mush, nor that it shirks landing blows that know no boundaries, owing to a certain universality that comes from frustration with the system. It’s simply that the areas he thinks are wrong/being betrayed are different to those of someone on the opposite side of the spectrum (albeit, both are probably agreed that the issues – of antipathy and ineffectuality – tend to arise from each moving closer to the centre ground as a means of securing votes).

As Beatty put it, he felt an obligation to speak out for the country’s poor, the underbelly of the country whose voice was going ignored: “Even though I am a pampered, rich Hollywood cultural plutocrat, my leanings are to try to articulate something on behalf of those people”. That comes with certain limits, obviously. Peter Bart’s The Gross, a very readable analysis of the 1998 summer box-office season, saw him calling out Beatty, who took issue with Bart’s suggestion, in a Daily Variety column, that $20 million star salaries, not to mention 10-15 percent of the gross, “was increasingly untenable in the eyes of top studio executives” (Bart as an ex-exec, would have some insight). Beatty’s rebuke was that “The star system is at the centre of Hollywood, and these salaries are at the centre of the star system”. When Bart compared his position to the one expressed in Bulworth, whereby “a tiny minority makes the big bucks and the rest of the nation isn’t doing any better than they did one or two generations ago”, Beatty was unsurprisingly resistant to the point: “Stars are different. We’re talking about movie stars”. Which is very Orwellian of him, keen to preserve his rarefied “more equal than others” microcosm.

At very least then, the star’s perspective derived from an immense annoyance at a perceived weakening of his preferred party; per Peter Biskind in Beatty biography Star, “he had fallen out of love with his party, then in the full flowering of the centrist philosophy of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), embodied by Bill Clinton”. Beatty was no stranger to political campaigns, having actively supported George McGovern in 1972 and associated with Gary Hart during the ’80s (indeed, one might consider his influence being the kiss of death to ambitions towards the Presidential office). Consequently, of Hart, the “If he didn’t chase quite so much pussy, he could have been President” line. 

Per Bulworth co-writer Jeremy Pikser, “It’s okay to chase pussy, so long as you don’t do it so much that it distracts you, when it can become a problem. Warren was vehemently disgusted by Clinton’s behaviour as President. But the idea that this behaviour was scandalous, he thought was preposterous” (of course, on that front, one is mindful of Bulworth’s rap: “And when you be a senator/ you get it all the time/ The young ones, the old ones/ they really like ’em all”, and the allegations that the star groomed and raped a 14-year-old in 1973. Would Warren also consider it preposterous to suggest Clinton being identified on the Epstein client list is scandalous?)

Bulworth was, then, predominantly a means whereby Beatty “expressed his disgust with the last two decades of Democratic politics”, but it was Clinton, whose name was “mud among Los Angeles’s so-called Westside liberals” who really incited him to action: “I know what it feels like to be a suicidally depressed Democrat”. Beatty called Bulworth a “campaign finance reform comedy”. Consequently, the race-commentary component of the movie was by no means the starting point for an actor who, per Biskind, “delighted in shocking his liberal friends” by referring to faux-Yiddish “schwartzes”. And in Pikser’s view “I don’t think he has thought very carefully, or seriously or empathetically about the black experience in the US. I don’t think he set out to do a film about race. It was more a political thing than a racial thing”.

Bulworth: We stand at the doorstep of a new millennium.

Beatty announces this from the first, via footage of Senator Bulworth campaign videos, juxtaposed against each other to the soundbite mantra (above), all of them espousing positions that once would have been unconscionable to a left candidate. To wit: “California families who live by the rules and work hard and pay their taxes shouldn’t be paying for people who do nothing… I believe in a hand up, not a hand down… Our welfare system is out of control… a permanent subsidy for able-bodied people”. Bulworth will “fight to end unnecessary affirmative action programs… We can’t afford any longer to give people privileges on the basis of race. It’s time we realised discrimination in the past doesn’t justify discrimination in the future” (try telling that to the super-woked-up Oscars!) 

He also believes in “old-fashioned values of honesty and decency and fidelity” and is on a “crusade to strengthen California’s families” while recognising liberal anathema, an “obligation is to reduce our bloated government” (the irony of this is that most looking in on American politics, historically, have seen a very diluted sense of right/left anyway, even during the periods when Beatty believed there was a strong distinction, but this is in the nature of the Hegelian illusion).

Bulworth: What, are we working for the insurance companies?

Consequently, Bulworth is described by an opponent as “an old liberal wine trying to pour himself into a new conservative bottle”. One of the movie’s main subjects – it gets him “killed” – is directing barbs at the insurance industry. But, typically of Beatty’s presumptions, he isn’t critiquing the system and racket in and of it itself (that would involve deconstructing precepts of capitalism, a step too far for a TInseltown socialist). Rather, we’re told of bill S2720, regulating insurance companies, that it “makes them sell it to poor people” (which Bulworth considers a good thing, to Paul Sorvino’s ire and ultimate corporately actioned hit). Nevertheless, Bulworth spells out the false promise of such bills (“You know how much insurance companies come up with? They depend on me to get a bill like that and bottle it up in a committee during an election, and then we can kill it when you’re not looking”). 

Bulworth: Only socialized medicine will ever save the day! Come on now, lemme hear that dirty word – SOCIALISM!

It’s ironic that Obama apparently referred wistfully to idea of “Going Bulworth” and telling the truth, back in 2013 (and telling the truth about what else – admitting to the fact of Big Mike?) He, after all, initiated Obama Care, earmarked to offer affordable health insurance but doing nothing of the sort. Even more ironic that, come Trump, many grudging think pieces came out recognising that, to a greater or lesser extent, this – telling the truth – was the precise thing their nightmare candidate had done (of which more shortly).

Constituent: When the riots went down four years ago you promised us federal funding to rebuild. What happened?
Bulworth: What happened was we all knew that was gonna be big news, so we all came down here – Bush, Clinton, Wilson – got our pictures taken, told you what you wanted to hear and we pretty much forgot about it.

As intimated by Obama’s reaction, the movie is firing on all cylinders when Bulworth starts telling it like it is at a series of fundraisers and televised debates. The Network comparisons are apt, because it represents a not-taking-it-any-more, off-the-leash frustration with the way things are, a variant of which was seen half a decade earlier in Falling Down (regardless of whether Beatty would blanche at such a suggestion). 

What’s crucial here, as Biskind recognised, is that “The movie was an equal opportunity abuser… What is unprecedented… is that Beatty names names – individual politicians, specific corporations, particular lobbies – something few, if any, American movies had ever done” (he did draw the line, however, with a line about how long it would take a wage slave making Mickey Mouse dolls for pennies in Haiti to earn what Michael Eisner made in minutes: “I don’t want to do that… because Mike Eisner is friend of mine”. But let’s not dwell on Haiti, or we’ll be back discussing the Clintons again).

Black Constituent: So the Democrats don’t care about us?
Bulworth: Isn’t that obvious?

Naturally, a much-vaunted black President went on to do nothing to change the situation: “What are you going to do, vote Republican? Come on. You’re not gonna vote Republican. Let’s call a spade a spade. I mean, you can have a Billion Man March. If you don’t put down that malt liquor and stop backing a running back who stabs his wife you’re never gonna get rid of somebody like me”. It’s particularly notable here that Beatty is expressly using language that’s inflammatory: the “spade a spade”, and the “malt liquor” stereotype. It’s designed to provoke (because the language and assumptions are insensitive) as well as offering political honesty (because that’s the how politicians see the situation, if they think about it at all).

Darnell: You ain’t no real nigger.
Bulworth: Is you a real nigger?
Darnell: You callin’ me nigger, motherfucker? Don’t call me nigger, motherfucker.
Bulworth: Would you prefer “motherfucker, ” motherfucker?
Darnell: What the fuck? You can’t call me motherfucker.

On the one hand, Bulworth’s cultural appropriation is farcical – wearing the hip-hop gear and launching into cringey rapping – but on the other, Beatty’s confronting racial taboos, such as the reaction of Nina’s brother (above). It’s interesting to see the exchange today, as much as it is Bulworth’s hippy, ebony &ivory, paean to “Everybody just gotta keep fuckin’ everybody til they’re all the same colour”, particularly since Bulworth repeatedly uses the phrase “coloured people” (unwise two decades later, as Benedict Cumberbatch discovered). Occasionally, the rapping side reaches a kind of glorious absurdity, such as his riff on obscenity – “Now, shit, fuck, cocksucker, that’s the real obscenity” – but Pikser is clear that “They were never supposed to be good raps”.

Interviewer: Senator, are you saying that the Democratic party doesn’t care about the African-American community?
Bulworth: Isn’t that obvious? A lot of people think there are no black leaders today because they all got killed but I think it’s the decimation of the manufacturing base in the urban centres. Don’t you think so?

Beatty’s on solid ground when he’s commenting on political attitudes towards the black community, then, but much less so when he attempts to represent this community in a responsible way. So you have the somewhat indigestible – robotically eloquent, but intended as a deserved rebuke to Bulworth assuming her ignorance on the subject – speech Nina gives in response to Bulworth’s patronising “Why do you think there are no more black leaders?” Similarly, LD (Cheadle) justifying the life of a drug dealer to an apparently unimpressed Jay Bullington; the only real saving grace of this is that Bulworth assimilates both responses, appropriating them in his later political commentary (with regard to the decimation of the manufacturing base, and the redundant option of working at Burger King). 

LD: Fuck, how a man gonna handle his financial responsibilities workin’ at motherfuckin’ Burger King? He ain’t. And don’t start with the school shit. They ain’t no education goin’ on up in that motherfucker.

Because he’s presenting a hero narrative as well as a satire, though, Beatty’s unable to avoid, at points, pushing Bulworth into a white-saviour position, leading the way for the black community, be it standing up to violent white cops or – entirely unpersuasively – inspiring LD’s plan to “flip this whole power shit a different way” (there’s also the element that, as a Hollywood star, the character has to appeal to his vanity). 

Cheadle, who later sacrificed himself suppliantly at the altar of Marvel, was uncomfortable playing a drug dealer. In context, his objection was entirely reasonable, given there’s never room for LD to become a convincing character (perhaps his best moment is one of his early scenes, where it’s clear his position weighs upon him, giving him acid reflux; per Biskind, Beatty let the actor rewrite his dialogue. He wasn’t mollified enough to do publicity for the movie, though. Cut forward a dozen years, and contrast with his Marvel duties). It seems “he felt the real motivation of the Bulworth character is that he’s a white man after dark meat. The rest of it was ‘bullshit’” Which is absolutely fair comment. After all, that is, essentially, what we see on screen. Bulworth is motivated to live – and immerse himself in black culture – entirely as a result of seeing Nina (“Woof”). Sure, he gets a buzz from telling it like it is, but his will to live is Nina. 

On similar lines, Nicole Peroni referred to the objection that “trying to make the black point of view his own, without succeeding, that it was a bit of a rape” (but again, as referenced, the senator is explicitly seen to be magpie-ing others’ viewpoints). Where the picture succeeds is just going for it, caution to the wind, Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder style. Simply because it’s so rare to have Hollywood movies that don’t trip over themselves in their efforts to avoid causing offence. Where it most singularly falters is in attempting to preserve the functions of a straight drama and character. Biskind refers to criticism of sentimentalising the black underclass as “the repository of sexuality, vitality, and truth”, such that it is “only when Bulworth is able to tap into the life force of the streets that he is able to liberate himself from the straitjacket of opportunism” (again, though, Cheadle’s characterisation of Bulworth is the clearest and most unvarnished in terms of his “arc”). 

Nina: Oh, come on, Bulworth. You know you’re my nigger.

Pikser accepted the criticisms: “If you do a movie which is to a large extent about racism, in which the hero is a white guy, that’s gotta be racist to a degree, because it’s saying that the solution to the problem has to be a white guy, instead of saying, the real hero for this situation should have been Don Cheadle. But Warren Beatty is our star”. The solution might have been to pay less attention to its “balance” as a drama, one that needs to pay due deference to social conscience (where it ultimately comes unstuck), and instead stick to its guns as a satire. 

Pikser also fesses up to the somewhat painful hobo sage of Rastaman (Amiri Baraka) popping up intermittently to offer cryptic pearls about being a spirit not a ghost. He admits he’s “the magic Negro. But at the same time, you could also say it’s an enduring theme of American history that the soul of politics has relied on black people to give it progressive force… the joke is always on the white people. And to me that’s what makes it antiracist”. Yeah, I’m not so convinced by that part, Jeremy, but good try.

Bulworth inevitably receives less attention for its other targets, then, but some of the most enjoyable commentary is found there. The senator’s foray to Hollywood finds him opining how “uh, lousy most of your stuff is”, but the reason he is there is that “My guys are not stupid. They always put the big Jews on my schedule. You’re mostly Jews here, right? Three out of four anyway”. And they shouldn’t worry, as he’s sure Murphy (Platt) “put something bad about Farrakhan in here for you”.

Interviewer: Is campaign finance reform your central issue now?
Bulworth: It’s the only way to go.

Big money (or Big Money) gets further grief when Bulworth’s rapping, as “the ones that make me listen/ pay for 30 seconds spots”. Thus the banks – Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank are named – and the oil companies mean environmental concerns take a back seat (“As long as we keep driving cars, they’ll let the planet die/ Exxon, Mobil, the Saudis and Kuwait, if we still got the Middle East, the atmosphere can wait”) along with the veiled threat of Middle Eastern war (“But if the brothers raise the price, we’ll blow them all to hell”). Of course, being very limited and Hegelian, the senator can’t account for the additional layer above, the Elite dictating later likes of Greta, Agenda 30, WEF et al. And Beatty, like Bulworth, was only concerned with the superficial preventatives to an honest political system: finance reform.

Bulworth: Why are you here? Admit it. It’s ’cause you make a bundle.
TV Debate Interviewer: I beg your pardon?

Bulworth: You’re not here ’cause you’re getting paid a bundle of money. Come on, come on. We got three pretty rich guys here getting paid by some really rich guys to ask a couple of other rich guys questions about their campaign. But our campaigns are financed by the same guys that pay you guys your money so what are we talking about?

The news debate is also amusing, again breaking everything down to money while Jay’s opponent (Die Hard’s Hart Bochner) is utterly at a loss over how to respond to his suggestions he knows what Bulworth’s talking about (that, and his offer of a tipple). Admittedly, it comes with some leading assumptions (that government is a force of good, left to its own devices), but the general thrust is legitimate: “Come on, the guys you and I get our money from, they don’t want the people to have the news. They want you to think that corporations are more efficient than government, right?” And further, “I would cut to a commercial if you still want this job/ Because you may not be back tomorrow with this cooperate mob/Cut to commercial, cut to commercial, cut to commercial”.

Murphy: I’m concerned that you told 300 people in a black church they wouldn’t be a factor as long as we’re controlled by insurance. I’m concerned you went to a Beverly Hills fund-raiser and told people in entertainment their product is lousy. And, since many of them are Jewish you thought it prudent to mock their Jewish paranoia.

Biskind is on point when it comes to his passing critique of the picture, “a shotgun marriage between message and genre” that, until the final act, is “an achievement of the first order”. But then “the plot takes over, and the picture is held hostage to its conventions… there is way too much business… too many false endings”. The picture needed to remain irreverent, but it gets caught up in the sincerity of its romance and the “tragedy” of the senator’s (possible) demise. You can almost forgive it that, since it is so blazing – compared to other Hollywood movies – when it’s in the zone. 

As Time Out’s Geoff Andrew said, it’s “that rare thing: a Hollywood satire/conspiracy thriller that takes its politics seriously, is prepared to provoke and even offend, and actually takes risks, dramatic and otherwise. It’s a sharp, brave movie, a little ragged around the edges, but that’s to its advantage… Intriguing, intelligent and ambitious”. Beatty boasted “Was there something this radical before that from the mainstream? I don’t think so”. But his suggestion that its strength lay in its leftism seems to me flawed: “Very few movies about politicians make a decision to go ideologically in one direction or the other, because of the common assumption that you lose half your audience”. Because what it’s doing, when it’s doing it well, is more universal, pointing out the corruption inherent in the system (hence the Trump comparisons, when he came along).

Nevertheless, the riskiness of the project is fair comment. As Biskind says “Allowing himself to look bad was one thing, but a middle-class white guy rapping was like wandering into heavy traffic wearing a blindfold”. It was set up at Fox, and Peter Chernin didn’t really want it. Bill Mechanic did. Bart has it that no one at Fox was sure who greenlit the movie. Beatty blamed poor marketing for it underperforming, but Mechanic commented: “It was a difficult sell. A white guy in a black world, so who’s the audience? Certainly, you’re not going to go inner city and think that Warren Beatty is important to them, and then you’re not going to go into the white world and say these are relevant issues, even if they should be”.

Pikser had issues with the assassin plot and how it developed, the complications that ensued from developing Nina’s role therein and further with the resolution. Bulworth had to be shot, because otherwise “How do you fix a broken world in a movie? that’s the trouble with political comedy. If you really set out the problem in anything like its true dimensions, you can’t solve it in the third act”. It seems Beatty filmed a scene of Jay recovering in hospital (hence sequel Bulworth 2000: “For years Beatty clung to the notion of making a sequel, which would begin with that scene”). With the scene excised, Pikser thought the ending should be reshot (to have Bulworth show signs of life), objecting that its message was “if you stand and say what you believe in, you will get killed!” Certainly, I’d always assumed Bulworth was dead at the end, but further still, that such a message was the only “realistic” one to take away, in the spirit of the ’70s movies – à la Beatty’s own The Parallax View – from which it inherits is pulse. 

Pikser’s experience with Beatty wasn’t altogether happy, such is working with Beatty generally. Like others in Hollywood – Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey – Beatty was always a glutton for unmerited recognition: “Warren takes a script credit on everything that he’s directed. He didn’t want anybody to take the limelight away from him… I was the least threat. Nobody would say, ‘He got all these ideas from Jeremy Pikser’, like they would with Elaine [May]”. While Beatty actually wrote nothing, Pikser admitted “You’re writing to order, and in that sense, it was his script”. At one point, Aaron Sorkin was brought in – whom Biskind pithily characterises as a writer who “played the game of provoking thought without, in fact, provoking thought” – without either he or Pikser being informed of their contributions (Sorkin’s idea was to make Bulworth a sell-out, diluting the entire grist of the movie).

More of Beatty’s grab for glory can be found in You’re the Director – You Figure It Out by James Christie, detailing the reasons Richard Donner doesn’t think much of him (originally documented in Bart’s The Gross). His wife Laura Schuler Donner had negotiated the rights for a Jules Verne book (Tribulations of a Chinaman in China), which has the basic premise of Bulworth, minus the political dimension. Diller mentioned it to Warner Bros, who knew how to make it work; she was “instructed she must co-produce with Beatty”, but it became “clear that not only was he unwilling to accept input from her, but that he desired to take over the project in its entirety”. It was only later, when the project berthed at Fox, that Mechanic and Chernin insisted that the excluded Donner’s fee and credit be honoured: “Beatty seethed” but agreed. Donner okayed it, provided she had no involvement in the production, and opted for an executive producer credit; Beatty initially reacted by saying he’d “kill me in the press” but relented (her credit is on screen for a fraction of a second). Donner (Richard) opined “It’s the sickness of this town, and in my eyes, Warren is one of the sickest”.

Donner was a White Hat, as of course is the Donald. Where Beatty stands – or stood? – is unrecorded, but having a trans child is usually a fairly strong indicator (on top of his expressly expressed politics, accusations against him and colourful history). In the build up to and subsequent to Trump’s election, various pieces appeared, reluctantly recognising similarities between Jay (left) and Donald (right). Common to these articles – invariably left-skewed – was recognition that Trump was a Democrat before running on a Republican ticket, also invariably characterising his motives as consequently cynical and invidious. But like, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Your Film Professor (say what?), in a 2016 essay, took the tack that “a Bulworthian model of the power an authentic populist approach to serving the people could enact if done not in terms of hate and fear but rather done in terms of empowering ALL the people through class consciousness”; Trump “(and Sanders!)” speak to such a yearning, “forwarding a progressive agenda that is all about the needs of the people and the planet and not doing what they have been doing instead, representing the singular needs of the transnational corporate apparatus, e.g., putting profit, unsustainable growth and expansion before people” (“Bulworth was brought down not by a specific individual but by corporate power; he had to be shut up because he was threatening the transnational corporate machine!”) Sanders and Trump obviously aren’t the same kettle of fish (only one of them ended up in Gitmo), but the message seems clear: unless you adopt identifiable (ie media-endorsed) tools of debate and positions on issues, you’re going to be tarred with an “even worse” brush of doing what we all know all the politicians do anyway. 

The following year, Will Ashton in Medium asserted “it’s evident that many saw in Trump what many liberals likely saw in Beatty’s Bulworth. Notably, they saw a radical disgusted with the injustice and the political mistrust, one that — through foul language and politically incorrect terms — became an unfiltered wildman, ready to loosen up his tie, roll up his sleeves and give the Washington insiders a taste of their own medicine”. This piece does, at least, note “Political parties hold little relevance in the world of Bulworth… Everyone is looking out for their own personal interests —or, at least, those that best serve their individual political parties”.

A year after that, it was Joe Reid in Decider vomiting such begrudging recognition as “You’d be hard-pressed to call Donald Trump ‘honest’ with a straight face, but what he does possess… is a brand of reality-TV-ready overtness. It’s the ‘keeping it real’ principle, where if you tell people to their face all the awful things you’d normally say behind closed doors, it gives the air of honesty. Donald Trump is ‘honest’ because he doesn’t pull punches when discussing his enemies. He’s ‘honest’ because he doesn’t filter his tweets. Bulworth’s assertion that the Democratic party does not care to help black people sounds very similar to statements that Trump made in his campaign and Kanye West has been making in recent weeks. Is Donald Trump the 2010s version of Jay Bulworth? 

From the jaundiced position of Trump being a dishonest guy selling honesty, Reid concludes that the movie is a “naïve fantasy”, one that “goes back to the idea that if politicians would just be honest with us, everything would be okay… everything would be better…” And sure, he’s correct. It is naïve, because it counts without the Elite, the Deep State, and a media ensuring anyone professing to be honest is denounced as anything but (per Reid, Trump’s honesty has “led to reactionary, backwards-looking pleas to go back to a time not when politicians were more honest but when we didn’t notice the dishonesty”).

Right up to date, celebrating Bulworth’s silver jubilee, there’s Henry Tonks in The Washington Post. He notes that Beatty, like Trump, flirted with the Reform Party but otherwise refrains – surprisingly – from direct allusions. He avers, however, that the movie “was prescient in anticipating not just the rise but the shortcomings of 21st-century populism” and suggests that “If politicians and political commentators wish to locate the origins of turbulent post-financial crisis, pandemic-era politics, with their multifaceted backlash against the failures of globalisation, they need to turn to the decade after the end of the Cold War”. Which is an interesting position, but a bit of a “throw a dart in the board” one. As ever, if one wants to locate the origins of anything, one needs to turn to the terrain of conspiracy. Which, obviously, is diametrically opposed to anything MSM have to offer.

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