Politics and Popcorn at Landmark Theater in Washington DC
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LANDMARK THEATRES’ E STREET CINEMA PRESENTS
“POPCORN AND POLITICS”
Two-Part Political Film Series features DC Premiere of Laura Poitras’ Julian Assange documentary, “RISK”
Washington, DC – April 26, 2017 – Landmark Theatres’ E Street Cinema is proud to present the spring 2017 “Popcorn and Politics” film series. For two consecutive nights starting on Wednesday, May 3rd, patrons are invited to experience classic and current political films on the big screen and engage in discussions with special guests including film subjects and filmmakers.
The “Popcorn and Politics” Film Series Schedule Includes:
Wednesday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m.
Based on true events, this dramatic 2012 thriller and Academy Award “Best Picture” winner chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis—the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades. The film’s subject and retired CIA officer Tony Mendez along with his wife, retired CIA intelligence officer Jonna Mendez, will be joined by The Washington Post’s Michael Rosenwald for a post-screening Q&A. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.
DC Premiere Screening: “RISK”
Thursday, May 4th at 7:00 p.m.
Laura Poitras, the critically acclaimed director of Academy Award-winning “CITIZENFOUR”, presents her long-awaited documentary “RISK” about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. This DC Premiere will feature a Q&A with the filmmaker immediately following the film. “RISK” will open on Friday, May 5th in Washington, D.C. exclusively at Landmark Theatres’ Atlantic Plumbing and West End Cinemas.
Landmark Theatres is a recognized leader in the industry for providing its customers consistently diverse and entertaining film products in a sophisticated adult-oriented atmosphere.
Since its founding in 1974, Landmark has grown to 55 theatres, 255 screens in 27 markets. Landmark is known for both its award-winning historic theatres, such as the Tivoli in St. Louis, the Inwood in Dallas and the Oriental in Milwaukee, and its more contemporary theatres, including our flagship theatre, The Landmark in Los Angeles, the Sunshine Cinema in New York City, E Street Cinema in Washington, DC, and The Landmark Theatre Greenwood Village in Denver’s flourishing Tech Center.
Striding confidently down the halls of the Congressional office buildings, picking up the check in restaurants with crisp white tablecloths and extensive wine cellars, and, inevitably, at fundraisers, lobbyists are impossible to miss in Washington, D.C. They wear discreetly expensive suits. In fact, they are usually pretty discreet about everything, whether it is handing over money or making threats. Especially when they are making threats.
The film’s title may use the quaint honorific “Miss Sloane,” but do not let that mislead you. Elizabeth Stone (Jessica Chastain in a subtle, vibrant performance) is not looking back. She is a top lobbyist and she tells us right away that means that she always must be thinking ahead. “Lobbying is about foresight and anticipating your opponent’s moves and plotting countermeasures.” She is all about tactics, she is ruthless, and she is determined. “Make sure you surprise them and they don’t surprise you.” Everything about her is controlled and knife-edged. Her sheet of red hair is cut so severely it could slice through granite.
There are a fews signs of stress, though. When she thinks no one is looking, she pops some white pills. Some nights she goes to a hotel to spend time with a male escort. And she is rattled when the one she is used to seeing is not there and the new one (Jake Lacy as Forde), but not so rattled that she declines.
The most significant sign of stress is that in a meeting with a very lucrative prospective client, instead of listening politely when he explains his plan to create a group to promote the idea of women opponents to any restrictions on gun ownership, she laughs, harshly and derisively. Her boss (Sam Waterston) is furious. But for Elizabeth it is just one moral outrage too many. In what she herself recognizes is a “Jerry Maguire” move, she quits, taking her staff with her — except for Jane (Alison Pill), her closest aide, who opts to stay with the high salary and opportunity for partnership. Elizabeth is going from one extreme to the other, working to oppose the gun lobby on behalf of a small non-profit run by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong, usually the bad guy but here fine as an idealist).
The smart script by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera and brisk direction from John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) make this a solid Washington thriller with some telling (and accurate) details, moral dilemmas, and plot twists that keep you guessing until the last ten minutes.
Parents should know that this film includes strong and crude language, substance abuse, sexual references and a mildly explicit situation, and corruption and betrayal.
Family discussion: Why did Elizabeth allow herself to be so consumed by the job? Why did she decide to make a change? What would she recommend to improve politics and government?
After you vote, take a break from red and blue maps to enjoy some of the portrayals of real US Presidents on screen.
Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for Lincoln. I’ve already written about some of the many other movie versions of Lincoln’s life. “Wilson” stars Oscar nominee Alexander Knox in a dignified tribute to the 29th President. Gary Sinese gave a powerful performance in the HBO movie, Truman. Rough Riders has Tom Berenger as Theodore Roosevelt, leading Cuban rebels against Spain.
Perhaps the most fanciful portrayal of a real US President is “The Remarkable Andrew,” with William Holden as an honorable accountant who discovers a discrepancy in the town books and is visited by the ghost of his favorite President, Andrew Jackson (Brian Donlevy), who provides guidance and support.
President Kennedy’s WWII experience was the subject of PT 109, starring Cliff Robertson. He was also the subject of 13 Days, about the Cuban missile crisis. Oliver Stone has directed movies about Nixon, played by Anthony Hopkins (who also played a memorably cagy John Quincy Adams in “Amistad”), and George W. Bush, played by Josh Brolin. President Nixon has been portrayed in a number of other films, from the acclaimed Frost/Nixon to the humorous but touching Elvis and Nixon and the wild satire Dick. And of course he is the subject of the Oscar-winning Best Picture All the President’s Men, though he is only glimpsed in archival footage.
The Butler is based on the true story of a man who worked in the White House for eight Presidents, and we see everyone from Eisenhower to Reagan portrayed in the film. Of course Reagan himself was an actor before he went into politics. His best films include “King’s Row” (his own favorite), “Hellcats of the Navy” (co-starring with Nancy Reagan), and, yes, “Bedtime for Bonzo.”
There are some great President movies made for television: Gary Sinese gave a superb performance in Truman and Bryan Cranston was outstanding in the role he originated on Broadway, Lyndon Johnson in All the Way.
Who better to take on the story of Edward Snowden than cinema-of-paranoia director Oliver Stone? Well, Laura Poitras, who directed the documentary about Snowden, “Citizenfour,” and who is portrayed in this film by Melissa Leo. As is usually the case, the documentary is the better film. But Stone’s narrative version, “Snowden,” is an absorbing version of the story, presenting vitally important issues in an arresting, provocative manner, with some superb moments. It is flawed, as Stone’s “historical” films tend to be, by unnecessary stacking of the deck that detracts from the credibility of the film. Stone does not trust the government, which is fine, but he doesn’t trust his audience, which is distracting. If you are going to make your hero a seeker of Truth, then Hollywood-izing the story is counter-productive.
The movie takes on three big questions, answers one, partially answers another, and turns the third over to us. The first question is: what happened? How did a 29-year-old computer guy get access to what appears to be the entire scope of US intelligence, copy it, and turn it over to reporters? Second, why did he do it? And third, is he a hero or a traitor?
Snowden was an enormously gifted, deeply patriotic young man who was in training for military special forces when an injury forced his return to civilian life. “There are other ways to serve your country,” the doctor crisply advises him. Naming Ayn Rand as one of his influences does not raise any concerns in his battery of entry tests and interviews, including lie detector tests. And so he goes to work for the CIA, NSA, and private contractors for both agencies, gaining access to the information and intrusions into personal data that are being constantly combed and mined for possible terrorist activity. Think of it as the government having Google that searches not just all public material but everything we think of as private: every email, every phone call, every bank account and credit card transaction, even invading your non-digital, analog world, including your home. According to this film, the government can spy on you Big Brother style via your webcam, even if the indicator light is off. I will wait here while you go get a Band-Aid to cover it up right now.
A combination of consciousness-raising from his left-leaning girlfriend (Shailene Woodley), horrifying discoveries of 4th Amendment violations, disturbing revelations about the military-industrial complex (from Nicolas Cage!), and disappointment in President Obama’s failure to curb these abuses leads Snowden to decide to go public. Briefly touched on are some other possible factors: the abuse of Tom Drake, who tried to raise these questions through official channels, and, possibly, some psychological or cognitive disturbance resulting from the onset of epilepsy and the drug used to treat it, or from the level of work-related stress that may have triggered the seizures. There is one “Beautiful Mind”-style scene where Snowden’s CIA boss (Rhys Ifans) speaks to him via a Skype-ish video conference, with a looming, room-size head along the lines of the Wizard of Oz. It is not clear whether this is Snowden’s subjective viewpoint or intended to be a realistic portrayal, but the conversation is, even within the framework of this film about massive intrusions into private lives of citizens with no suggestion of any inappropriate activity, preposterously paranoic.
All of this would be so much easier to take if Snowden was not heroic and brilliant every single moment. Given 5-8 hours to complete a programming test at the beginning of his tenure at the CIA, he finishes in under 40 minutes (38, he corrects his instructor), and everywhere he goes, he blows everyone away with his mad skills. As he zippily downloads the files he plans to turn over to the press (in real life it took months, not minutes), colleagues knowingly nod their approval, hard to understand given his insistence that he was careful to make it clear that he alone was responsible for the breach. Gordon-Levitt is, as ever, an enormously talented actor, but he is playing something of a cipher, a person with low affect. The endlessly skilled Melissa Leo is playing a tough and savvy journalist but as written she has little to do but gaze adoringly as she points her camera. The standouts in the cast are two of the most versatile and talented young actors working on film today: Ben Schnetzer and Lakeith Lee Stanfield as two of Snowden’s colleagues. In their brief screen time, each of them creates vivid, three-dimensional characters we instantly connect to more than we do to any of the main characters.
No matter where we place the balancing point between national security and individual freedom, we can all agree that the decisions should not be made unilaterally by individuals in their 20’s like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Snowden says he is hoping to start a conversation. I hope that the conversations about this film will be less about its failings and more about what we should do to make sure the next Snowden does not decide to take this step.
Parents should know that this film has very strong language, sexual references and situations and some nudity, tense and perilous situations, and issues of betrayal.
Family discussion: Is Snowden a hero or a traitor? What would you have done if you discovered the level of government surveillance? Who should decide and how much should be disclosed?
I live and have worked in Washington DC, and more often than not we find our city badly misrepresented in movies. But this one is different because “The Congressman” was written and directed by someone who knows Washington and politics from the inside,former Long Island Congressman Robert J. Mrazek. It stars Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Elizabeth Marvel and Ryan Merriman. It is available on VOD and is showing in select cinemas.
Here Treat Williams as Congressman Charlie Winship gives a speech about what it means to be American, and to be patriotic, following the aftermath of controversy that occurred when video footage showing that he did not say the pledge of allegiance went viral. He addresses the kind of petty symbolism that our gotcha media focus on and what the principles our country was founded on really mean.