With election day nearly upon us, now is the time to put some popcorn in the microwave, add the salt and butter, and plop down on the couch to watch early vote counts, polls, analysis, and Senate majority updates with breath held and butt on the edge of your seat. The only problem with that is what I like to call campaign cramping. This is what results when you’re clenching your hands in such self-justified frustration and rage — often at both parties — that your hands cramp up.
The only cure is a short break from present day political controversy and a dash of humor. Below are 10 excellent solutions to this conundrum, each a political satire worthy of laughing off some of the election strain. The first five are more recent and somewhat less than a cerebral watch, to say the least, but still a good bit of fun — with perhaps the exception of In the Loop, which is modern but not quite as off the wall as say, South Park’s political discourse. The last five are political satire gone vintage — but don’t let that put you off.
1. Team America: World Police
It would nearly be a crime not to include this well-known raunchy stop-motion animation. Political satire in the form of action figures is still funny, and even the film’s title suggests the self critical but humorous content. Like most good political comedy, the film is offensive, not to mention profane, and some of the humor is a tad more low-brow than the rest, but all in all, it’s made worthwhile by the singing and dancing scene with Kim Jong Il.
2. The Interview
The Interview follows two journalists, played by comedy team Seth Rogen and James Franco, who are hired by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un during an interview. The film gained a fair amount of attention for having attracted the ire and anger of North Korean leadership. “President Obama should be careful in case the U.S. military wants to kill him as well,” said Kim Myong-chol, the executive director of The Centre for North Korea-U.S. Peace, and the unofficial spokesperson for the regime in Pyongyang, according to Telegraph.
3. The Dictator
Starring Borat’s Sacha Baron Cohen as Hafez Aladeen, The Dictator has a similar level of offensiveness in common. It tells the story of Aladeen, an authoritarian leader of the Republic of Wadiya, his hatred for democracy, and his trip to the United Nations in order to hear complaints on his Nuclear Weapons Program. A clear and obvious satire on Iraq and the United States, the film has been called offensive and, realistically, has earned the label.
4. The Campaign
The campaign stars Will Ferrell, Jason Sudeikis, and Zach Galifianakis, and is truly an election-appropriate film. As you’d expect, it deals with a scandal ridden incumbent member of Congress — Will Ferrell — who is being faced down by a challenger, funded by two wealthy brothers (clearly a spoof on the Koch brothers), played by Galifianakis.
5. In the Loop
In the Loop is a British satire starring Peter Capaldi, Gina McKee, and Tom Hollander. Basically the film creates a what-if scenario in which the U.S. President has decided, alongside the U.K. Prime Minister that now is as good a time as ever for a war. However, other members of the United Kingdom’s government are not so eager, and what follows is a series of ridiculous and winding political shenanigans to avoid a conflict, but also keep their jobs.
6. Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Fear of communism, the Russians, and nuclear war all stack up in this hilarious yet intellectual look at what happens when the nuclear holocaust countdown is accidentally begun by a crazy general (who’s afraid of what they put in the water). Dr. Strangelove is a classic for a reason, and absolutely a must see on the political satire list.
Even the names, “Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper,” “Colonel Bat Guano,” and “General Buck Turgidson” are worth a laugh, and the fatalistic, game-theory filled plot has just enough ridiculousness to take the edge off.
7. The Great McGinty
To really escape present day conundrums, The Great McGinty takes viewers back to the 1930s and 1940s, when rigging a vote was all part of the system, at least for Dan McGinty. What really gets the story going is the corrupt political lackey’s run for Mayor, which requires him to marry for the sake of his public image. Enter here the moral and lovely Mrs. McGinty — played by Muriel Angelus — and the major plot twist.
Bananas is an older Woody Allen film from the 1970s which follows Fielding Mellish (Allen), a regular New Yorker who falls in love with a political activist. After failing to gain her attentions, he resorts to drastic measures, joins a rebel group in San Marcos in Latin America, and becomes president. Funny and smart, the film hits satirical and still relevant note on just about everything. When the news in real life gets to be too much, switch to anchors in Bananas, who say things like: “New York garbage men are striking for a better class of garbage, and the National Riffle Association declares death a good thing.”
9. Wag the Dog
Is there anything worse for a politician than a sex scandal? Unfortunately there’s probably a long list of individuals you could ask, but the premise of Wag the Dog is that there is nothing worse — not even war. Which is why Conrad Brean (Robert DeNiro), who works as a PR magician to keep politicians squeaky clean, brought in Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Dustin Hoffman) to fake a war using American media. The war is meant to distract Americans from a potential scandal involving a girl scout and the president that could otherwise break just prior to elections.
10. The Mouse That Roared
The Mouse That Roared tells the tale of a small European country in a bit of a pickle when their wine industry is hurt by an American competitor. In order to economically survive, the nation’s leaders come up with the brilliant plan to sail to America in an act of war, promptly lose, and reap reparative rewards to help the small country survive.
Predictably, things get out of hand, the war is not lost, and instead kidnapping, love, potential world destruction, and political tomfoolery result.
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