The Best of Enemies : Movie Review

It’s 1968 and America is in turmoil. Martin Luther King has been shot, riots have broken out across the country, the Vietnam War is faltering, Robert Kennedy has been assassinated and Richard Nixon is campaigning for President.

The American Broadcasting Corporation also has its troubles. As the third (or fourth) network of three, it is struggling. As one pundit says, “If the ABC fought the Vietnam War, it would be cancelled in 13 weeks.”

To improve their ratings during the two political presidential conventions, they come up with an idea that will change TV forever. That idea is to put together William F Buckley, arch-conservative interviewer and writer with Gore Vidal,  the Oscar Wilde like enfant terrible of the political and literary scene as convention commentators.

There’s one small problem. Both men loath and detest each other.  Yet despite their earlier clashes, they agree to work with each other for the ten days covering both conventions.

This is the basis for the documentary, Best of Enemies

which covers the debates between Vidal and Buckley. Both men had clashed before but this was the first time they would be withing arm’s length of each other. And what results is electrifying and ultimately disappointing.

Two intellectual giants trade brilliant put downs and swap clever put downs. But at no time is there any meeting of minds. In fact the debate created an unbroken animosity between the two men.

Best of Enemies, showing at the Cinema Nova, Melbourne is fascinating : a super sugar hit for a political junkie with an unfortunate climb down. Scarily, the commentary offered on the politics of the day still is relevant now, despite the change in word and phrase as well as manners over the years.  Sadly, too, the dynamic of pitting two protagonists, neither of whom will listen to the other, is now the basis of present media political commentary.  Finally, this dynamic has resulted in a fragmentation of media coverage (both mainstream and new).  As  Nick Davies has pointed out, the media no longer provides multiple points of view for multiple audiences, it now provides what people want to hear. Which began with Vidal versus Buckley.

Best of Enemies is an enjoyable, extremely well put together but ultimately dis quietening documentary.




The Why Is Missing from Politics….

The Why Is Missing

Today in politics we had a Prime Minister reelected overwhelmingly by her party. The former Foreign Minister is now vanquished and will eventually shuffle off into the political night. Such is politics.

Like many people, I was left wondering why.

Why did Julia Gillard defeat Kevin Rudd the first time? Why did Kevin Rudd attempt to win back the Prime Ministership? Why are they even in politics at all?

When faced with such deep questions, I do research. In truth, I avoid finding out the truth. I just end up surfing the net as a distraction until Twitter hit me between the eyes.

On Twitter, I came across a presentation called “We should start with why” ( which the comment implied might show some insight into today’s events.

It appealed to the annoying child I was and some say still am. I always, always asked why. I am pretty sure I drove everyone around me crazy. I may still do.

The presentation’s premise appealed to me. It is that people identify with the why of a cause/product/you name it, not the product itself or even how it was made.

And it left me wondering. I can identify with Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela. I know why they do what they do.

I cannot identify with just about any of our politicians. I have no idea what they do, how they do it and especially why they do it.

So to our politicians, if you could indulge the annoying child in me, why?

And please don’t say a fair go or moving forward or something trite that you’ve been told to say.

In a time of such political cynicism, tell us why. Say what is in your heart.