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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Retro Moment: Primary Colors

One can see how much things have changed by watching the 1998 political comedy Primary Colors, starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson.

Within 15 minutes of the movie, the Bill Clinton-esque Governor Jack Stanton (Travolta) has already told a lie (about his family) and has cheated on his wife (with school teacher Mary Anne Walsh, played by the West Wing's Allison Janney).

The movie however is centered around campaign staffer Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), and the cast of characters that includes a James Carville redneck type, played by Billy Bob Thornton.

But the real star is Emma Thompson, who plays, unofficially, Hillary Clinton. In her very first scene she rips into her husband, yet in the next shows her charm and polish. Throughout the movie she steals scenes in a way that could be a portent of things to come in 2008.

The movie's biggest failing is that it's too accurate: not necessarily of the Clinton campaign in '92, but of the pace and feel of political campaign life. Most people who saw it seemed unimpressed, and most of the film's humor went over their heads and the characters seemed unbelievable. As a former campaign worker however, however, I think it is brilliant. The crazy characters are dead on, and the silly situations quite common.

Midway in the movie, the idea of "opposition research" is discussed probably for the first time in an American film, and the hard nosed researcher played by Kathy Bates is on the mark. There is no ideal of campaign life, in a comedic way, the hard stuff is given the spotlight.

But in watching the movie today, what you can really see is how much America has changed since September 11th. Today's issues, such as global terrorism, are not even implied. The movie varies from talking about important issues like jobs to seemingly shallow ones like the candidate's extramarital affairs.

But in doing so, this movie really nails the decade of the 90s perfectly, promoting faux liberalism for the sake of self-centered people winning. If this movie was a drama, it would have been very controversial.

Instead, few people took it seriously. It's a shame, as there was no movie that really captured the 1990s like this one.

Primary Colors and the 1992 Clinton Campaign

Buy Primary Colors

Buy the book Primary Colors, which is even better than the movie. Here is chapter one.

MovieWeb: Primary Colors

Primary Colors movie review.

Other Retro Moments