Wag the Dog/A-,A

New Line/1997/96m/ANA,WS1.85,FS 1.33AAA

      An American president is accused of sexual improprieties in The White House less than two weeks before the election. Bring on the spin doctor, the political fixer who can turn the proverbial sow's ear into a silk purse, the only guy with the ruthless political savvy to Wag the Dog. Strategist Connie Brean decides the only thing to save the President's re-election is to divert attention from the accusations; and what better way than creating a war. Yes, creating. Bring on producer Stanley Moss. If Moss is good enough to produce the Academy Awards, than Brean reasons he can produce the necessary war.
     You've got to hand it to Barry Levinson. Working from a screenplay by Hilary Henken and David Mamet, the director moves Wag the Dog along like a sailboat gliding across a perfect horizon. Effortlessly mixing hilarious moments with faint touches of gravity, Levinson's movie dances along the high wire of topicality and broad satire. When does satire approach reality? There were times I was laughing so hard, I know I missed some additional funny lines. There were other moments when the possibilities of political abuse were all too frightening.

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Moss manufactures war.İNew Line

      Dustin Hoffman's forever optimistic movie producer Stanley Moss is an ebullient character. Moss compares every obstacle to a past movie obstacle overcome. Once he joins the team, the film takes off in turbo mode. Connie Brean is a terrific role for Robert De Niro, one in which he disappears convincingly, creating an effortless portrait with consummate professional elan. The free spirited circumstances of Wag the Dog is a fertile creative ground and under Levinson's knowing direction, the actors all flourish. Add the interesting angles from which cinematographer Robert Richardson records the proceedings and the knowing score from Mark Knopfler and Wag the Dog is a completely delightful experience.
     This splendid anamorphic DVD has incredible film-like images. Absolutely consistent in its display of detail under all lighting conditions, the colors on Wag the Dog are alive and natural. Hoffman's bronzed tan is perfectly balanced with the chalk white indoor complexion of Ann Heche. The music fares very well in this mix. During the recording session, with Hoffman blithely shadow conducting behind the glass, the location and varied tones of the choral singers comes across with excellent airiness and comfortable dynamics. The DVD package is chuck full of extras including a featurette with interviews commenting on the politics of political satire, the theatrical trailer, bios, an essay on politics and the media, and an enjoyable audio commentary by Barry Levinson and Dustin Hoffman. Wag the Dog is definitely archive material.






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Vietnam: The Hollywood Pariah

During World War II, Hollywood pumped out war movies one after the other. Vietnam was was another story. As far as Hollywood was concerned it was a pariah.

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