Tuesday, 11 November 2008

All The President's Men...(and a political rant)

For a while now I've been wondering - what exactly was the Watergate scandal? I've heard and seen numerous mentions of it and references to it across a variety of movies and television, but it's always been in the context of assuming the audience knows what it's all about. Of course, they're American shows and movies, and being that it was an American scandal, they're probably not that bothered about educating foreigners who are not in the know (be it fully or totally).

The straw that broke the Camel's back so-to-speak, was finally getting around to watching Oliver Stone's Nixon - which of course partly involves the whole Watergate thing, but even here I wasn't fully clued in.

Then - All The President's Men - I'd seen snippets of it on Sky Movies and figured it'd be my kind of flick, I don't half dig a bit of 1970s 'New Hollywood' era cinema. I just love the vibe of it, the look of it, the acting talent, the sense that these films struck out from the status quo and signalled a significant shift in cinema.

What it's all about, is indeed, the whole Watergate scandal - so finally I got off my arse and nabbed the 2-disc DVD for a fiver and set about indulging myself in a bit of the aforementioned New Hollywood vibe. At last, I got the bottom line on what Watergate was all about.

Watergate, home to the Democratic Party offices, was broken into by five guys working secretly on behalf of the Republican Party (who were in power at the time, and looking for dirt on their opponents to secure a second term for Nixon - which happened due to government stalling, but of course led to Nixon's impeachment). A 'slush fund' set-up for shady dealings, such as the Constitution-shafting bugging and snooping around being conducted, paid for this - and that's the career-making story that Woodward and Bernstein (Redford and Hoffman in the film) found themselves caught up in ... at least that's what it is unless I'm mistaken somehow, ha!

Also, I finally got to see where all this 'Deep Throat' business came from (which of course was all referenced in the first season of The X-Files, and indeed that vibe continued throughout the show's run) - here he's played by Hal Holbrook, whom I know from George A. Romero's Creepshow (currently being absolutely name-raped by Taurus), so that was pretty cool as I haven't seen many Holbrook flicks.

Continuing on from my love of the New Hollywood cinema, a love that fed into the absolutely superb Zodiac by David Fincher (which appears to reference ATPM via the San Francisco Chronicle), it was such a pleasure to see pure, old school journalism on show.

If I could time-travel, it'd be neat to visit that vibe - but I'd not want to stay, I couldn't do without broadband and all the other technological (de)vices I crave. No mobile phones, simply wired rotary jobbies, phone booths, paper records in the library, the office full of bright 70s desks adorned with type writers (a device I've only ever briefly played with in my youth) ... like I said, New Hollywood cinema, I dig it.

It also got me thinking about the current state of journalism, an issue discussed in the extras, and indeed it's certainly not the same as it used to be. Now we have corporate news not wanting to piss anybody off, not looking to put out the dangerous story (and sometimes when they do, they've blatantly fucked up in epic style - Piers Morgan knows a thing or two about that). This is an era of 24/7 news, an ever-rolling repeat of the same old shit over-and-over four times an hour, the very same shit all the other news networks are reporting at exactly the same time.

This of course was another thread of discussion in the extra features on the DVD - the political leanings of the news networks (in America it is seemingly either rabidly left, or rabidly right), a bunch of preening celebrities reading news that scrolls mindlessly infront of their eyes - these are not journalists, not proper journalists anyway.

The 'blogosphere' may not be the perfect thing, but at least it affords the everyday person with an opportunity to speak at length, to air their frustration and anger at a system that refuses to listen, a system that refuses to report fairly...it truly does depress me to great lengths.

Returning to ATPM, Bernstein was a Democrat and Woodward was a Republican, and both respected the system to use it, and fight for it and to help maintain proper practice within the government. Damn straight, we could do with more of that passion and political fairness today.

Hooray indeed for All The President's Men, a superb political drama, a superb journalism story, a superb slice of New Hollywood ballsy grit ... go on, once more - superb.

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