Election 2010 at the movies: a video gallery

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With the poll in full swing, Time Out heads to the ballot box with a selection of the great and good of election-based movie moments, from the underhand tactics employed by 'Election's' Tracy Flick to the unrealised desire to send America back to the dark ages in David Cronenberg's 'The Dead Zone'.

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Standout candidate: ‘Pedro’ (Efren Ramirez)Platform: Geek powerMeek, servile and sporting the kind of moustache not usually seen outside a Tijuana rub’n’tug shop, Pedro’s chances of overcoming the corn-fed all-American charms of his rival – red-hot favourite Summer Wheatley – for the position of class president are as slim as his bolo tie. But that bald profile doesn’t factor for the wild ingenuity of his ginger spin-doctor, Napoleon Dynamite, who unleashes all manner of crowd-pleasing moves aimed squarely at the floating voter.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Standout candidate: Rance Stoddard (James Stewart)Platform: Statehood for unnamed Western US backwaterJimmy Stewart is at his prudent, politic and pussyfooting ‘Well, let’s just wait a minute here!’ best in John Ford’s majestic essay on the gulf between myth and man. Corralled into running for the role of congressional delegate, Stoddard soon rises through political office but can never outrun the insoluble guilt of his career being forged on a lie.

Medium Cool (1969)

Standout candidate: Hubert HumphreyPlatform: Not being Richard NixonPolling night at the community centre was never like this! The 1968 Democratic Convention to select a candidate to run against Tricky Dicky forms the backdrop of Haskell Wexler’s volatile mash-up of narrative trickery and vérité daring. The convention explodes into terrible violence and Wexler’s roving lens captures the carnage, which he then went on to fashion into a pointed docu-drama that says much about the state of late-60’s America.

Persepolis (2007)

Standout candidate: Islamic RepublicansPlatform: The usualBruce Lee, Michael Jackson and Karl Marx are on hand to guide spunky little Iranian waif Marjane Satrapi through the tumult surrounding the elections that followed the Iranian Revolution. The squiggly lines are the only thing that's black and white in a wonderful autobiographical animation that places the personal alongside the political.

Bulworth (1998)

Standout candidate: (Anyone but) Senator Jay Bullington Bulworth (Warren Beatty)Platform: The truth. In rap form.With re-election looking unlikely, Beatty’s US Senator does what any hardened political shark would and takes a hit out on himself, turns on to the chronic and gets jiggy with it in a rap-stylee. Ill-conceived, badly executed and excruciating in every way, the film can at least lay claim to putting the all-but-final nail in Beatty’s cruelly overextended film career that featured peerless election special ‘The Parallax View’ amongst its many highs.

The Dead Zone (1983)

Standout candidate: US Congressional Candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen)Platform: Nuclear holocaustWe all know election promises are political toilet paper, but when the electorate in question is clairvoyant, things get a little stickier for any prospective representative. Martin Sheen presses the wrong flesh when shaking hands with the telepathic Christopher Walken and inadvertently reveals his unconscious plans for an itchy-trigger Armageddon. Walken manfully does the decent thing and takes potshots at him at a political rally, causing Sheen to wig out and use a baby as a human shield – something that never goes down too well with the voters.

The Glass Key (1942)

Standout candidate: Ralph Henry (Moroni Olsen)Platform: Misc reformThe mob rules in this masterly Dashiell Hammett adaptation that served as a major inspiration/virtual template for the Coen brothers’ serpentine gangster classic, ‘Miller’s Crossing’. The ethically sketchy Henry’s election as Governor of some unnamed state is little more than a backdrop for double-crossings so complex that they make the Gordian Knot look like child’s play. Still, it sure racks up the tension and perfectly serves as a smooth metaphor for a city on the make.

Election (1999)

Standout candidate: Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon)Platform: Malice Surely the election film to end them all, Alexander Payne’s caustic dissection of high school politicking is part ‘Breakfast Club’, part ‘Cape Fear’ and part Florida Recount. Reese Witherspoon excels as a straight-laced, knee-high Nazi who is a shoo-in for student body president, while Matthew Broderick – as the right-minded, wrong-headed teacher looking to give her a lesson in humility – oozes hope and despair in equal measure. Guess who wins…

Taxi Driver (1976)

Standout Candidate: Senator Charles Palatine (Leonard Harris)Platform: ‘We ARE the People’‘Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets’. Well, quite! Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) could be voicing the thoughts of many members of our ‘broken society’ with this stark assessment of pre-Giuliani New York, but his methods don’t bear any kind of close scrutiny. The city simmers with summer heat and election fever while De Niro goes off message and paints the town red with impotent fury.




China O’Brien (1988)

Standout Candidate: China O’Brien (Cynthia Rothrock)Platform: High kicks and low blows.VHS kung-fu diva Cynthia Rothrock has a tough time running for sheriff of the rotten borough of Beaver Creek, Utah in this enjoyably daft post-pub classic. Aided only by a Native American biker clad entirely in denim and a clutch of Tori Amos songs, she trades on traditional American values and gives the voters exactly what they want: lunatic stiletto karate and enforced apple-pie conformity. To the polls!  

Author: Adam Lee Davies



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