After being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the president does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media. Written by
The Using English website states that "to 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. The expression comes from the saying that 'a dog is smarter than its tail', but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would 'wag the dog'. The expression 'wag the dog' was elaborately used as theme of the movie. 'Wag the Dog', a 1997 film starring 'Robert de Niro' and Dustin Hoffman, produced and directed by Barry Levinson". See more »
When the limo pulls out of the Hay-Adams Hotel and passes the Washington Monument, a camera is reflected in the car window. See more »
Oh, it's better than lovely. This guy made a deal with Governor Knee-High of Vermont...
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Dustin Hoffman's main title credit is faded in over a close up of a vacuum cleaner. See more »
During the campaign to re-elect the president of America, an underage sex scandal between a girl scout and the president in the oval office. To divert attention spin doctor Conrad Brean is called in to manage the fall out and hold it off for the 11 days till the election. Conrad employs Hollywood producer Stanley Motss to produce a war in Albania to divert the media away from the real story.
This was made before Clinton was accused of misconduct with Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent re-start of military action in Iraq. This seemed to give it a much greater feel of realism and much more credibility. However even before this happened it was still a very sharp and very good satire on political spin, but also managing to have a dig at Hollywood movie types. The story is told in a very stage-play fashion and is dialogue driven with very funny moments throughout. It's not as terrifying as a real look at media manipulation could be because it chooses to be a comedy instead but it still makes plenty of valid points.
The two leads are excellent at the head of an all-star cast. De Niro manages to be a professor-style character while at the same time having an easily accessible sense of menace just beneath the surface. Hoffman is good sending up Hollywood producers well and drawing parallels between the creation of a film and the creation of political news stories. The cast also has a series of cameos and extended cameos who add both humour and quality to the film - Willie Nelson, Denis Leary, James Belsuhi, William H Macy etc.
Recently in the UK we've had huge problems with spin doctors running the Labour Government - to the extent that 11th September was described as "good" by one as it gave them the chance to bury several bad news stories that they had stored up. And more recently with various Governments' waging a media war to win support their stance regarding military action. This film doesn't make hugely serious points but it does make you think about how the media is used to shape public perception and make us think what those in charge want us to think.
Overall a very funny, very clever satire that has a great cast, the only criticism being that it stretches it's point a little too far with the "old shoe" section.
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