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Movie Review

Truth And Crisis In Politics And The Media

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KMUW movie reviewer Jim Erickson looks at a pair of movies that deal with similar themes.

Sandra Bullock's Our Brand Is Crisis and Cate Blanchett's Truth both feature unattractive aspects of current American culture at home and abroad, and both are doing poorly at the box office, not necessarily deservedly.

Our Brand Is Crisis is about the export of American personality politics to Bolivia at decade or so ago, with Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton ignoring the issues in favor of dirty tricks and personal attacks to get an elitist nominee elected to the presidency, preferably without his saying much of anything at all. Advice like, "Pay no attention to the question, just stick to saying what you want to say," will remind viewers of American political debates, and so will a lot of other things.

Bullock is pretty burned-out and uninterested at the start, but develops a little as the picture goes along. But she never becomes a very sympathetic character, and because the political speeches are never more than boilerplate cliches, there is little to take an interest in. We are told that advertising has taken over politics, as if the action didn't make that unmistakably clear.

Cate Blanchett's Truth is about media problems at home, specifically "60 Minutes"' attempt to tell the U.S. about George Bush's inglorious record in the Texas National Guard and the Bush establishment's counterattack that didn't so much deny the facts as just demand an all-but-impossible amount of evidence, as well as apparently intimidate witnesses. It's based on the memoir by Mary Mapes, one of "60 Minutes"' producers, so it can hardly avoid bias, but reviewers seem to accept it as factual. Robert Redford is pretty quiet as Dan Rather; the story is largely Blanchett's as Mapes.

Truth shares with Our Brand Is Crisis an inadequate concern with complicated situations, but both try to bring forth extremely important social issues. I only wish they had done a better job of it.