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Political docs are often dry and impersonal. This portrait of
republican strategist Lee Atwater is anything but.
Boogie Man is a compelling story of an intense man driven by power and attention. Like so many in politics, but also on Wall street or in Hollywood, this guy is about winning at all costs. It has great music that keeps you tapping your foot. The film also provides a compellingly smart analysis of media and advertising strategies given by experts in the political world. The film's unexpected story arc that kept me riveted to the screen.
The archival footage of the Bush family is also priceless.
Much of what is worst in American politics is on display in the career of Lee Atwater, a bogeyman for Democrats he put to the sword with underhand tactics both offensive and dishonest. Two interesting things emerge from this documentary: firstly, that far from being an ideologue, Atwater played the game for its own sake, with a ruthless cynicism so naked as to almost be disarming: sometimes it's easy to love an unashamed rogue, even if that rogue does more harm than a conventional hypocrite. Secondly, although Atwater died (of a brain tumour) in the early 1990s, in many ways, George W. Bush is Atwater's legacy; and indeed, Karl Rove was Atwater's protégé. Michael Dukakis, floored by Atwater's dirtiest campaign, is an interesting interviewee here: he comes across as naive in expecting anything better, and maybe that's the saddest aspect of the way that Atwater changed politics. It's probably mistaken to assign too much influence to one man; but it's also possible to fear that the demon of spin will never return to the box.
The film is a fascinating look at a man who profoundly changed the
tenor of modern political campaigns.
Stefan Forbes does an excellent job of charting Lee Atwater's political life, and you get enough of the personal to get a sense of the complexities of the man. As you hear stories told by people who are still very active in politics todayEd Rollins, Terry McAuliffe and Tucker Eskew it's easy to make a connection between Atwater's political legacy and current election dramas . . . It's something to see Tucker Eskew speak with such glowing admiration of Lee Atwater knowing that he was recently hired by the McCain campaign!!!
I really enjoyed the filmfound it entertaining and enlightening.
I couldn't sleep one night and this documentary was on CBC Newsworld.
The political career of Lee Atwater and how he helped Ronald Reagan and
George Bush get to the White House is sobering stuff.
Atwater was a master at spin. He would use every dirty trick in the book to make the GOP's opponents in the elections look bad. Unscrupulous, underhanded, ruthless and unrelenting, he would do everything he could to undermine the opposition. He even would attack his own, such as Bob Dole. He would use the power of fear to get people to vote for the Republicans.
Despite all this, he still comes off as a charismatic, very likable, affable and cool guy. His love of blues music and the guitar just make you want to forgive him for his evil ways. He comes off as a true charismatic enigma.
A very interesting look at how the political machine worked in the 1980's and how easy it is to control people with words and images, Boogie Man is definitely worth a watch to see how Atwater manipulated the American people to see things his way.
OK bias declaration time here because this film is, by covering the
material really well, a tad critical of the Republican party, so it
helps if readers know at least where I approached it from. I am
generally liberal but in the case of partisan films I will try and put
that to one side, hence I can agree with Michael Moore's points but yet
also see the massive flaws in many of his films. I say this because I
enjoyed this film a great deal, finding it fascinating and am assuming
that anyone who disliked the film will assume that I have simply toed
the party line whether it was any good or not. I can assure you I have
I came to this film on BBC4 in the UK (where it was called "Dirty Tricks: The Man Who Got the Bushes Elected") because I, like many, have an interest in how American politics operate. Fear seems to play a big part, as does the exaggeration of the importance of patriotism and patriotic symbols and it amazes me how it appears to work to convince people to apparently vote against their own interests because the Republican party is, like the UK conservative party, the party of the wealthy and the party of the rich. OK that is a sweeping generalisation that is not as true as it was (all major parties are the parties of the rich!) but it has some merit. This can be seen in the most recent elections where Obama is attacked as being elitist due to his education, while Bush is painted as a "good ol' boy" despite his massive wealth and Harvard education. Or how such a fuss was made over Obama's flag pin or not having his hand on his heart etc. To be blunt it can be seen how there was a constant suggestion about Obama's religion which backfired wonderfully as McCain found his voters making racist statements ("he's an Arab") like a monster that you have raised that suddenly turns on you.
I wasn't initially interested in this as a subject though because I cynically assumed that things were always like this and didn't think that this approach would have had a founding father or a development. However what this film does that is so fascinating is the way it tells the story of the rise of Lee Atwater as an adviser to the Bush campaign and the tactics that brought him and his party success in the elections in such a clear way that you can see where his actions have led us. This allows the film to engage for those of us who have never heard of Atwell, because his relevance is obvious. To me I found the bigger picture to be much more interest than the man himself and as a result the film is less engaging at the start and end when it focuses on him as more of a man. Where it really is at its best is in the middle section where we are shown the approach of putting fear and patriotism onto the agenda and making them weapons to be used against Dukakis and in particular the racial element and the way that a rapist was essentially made his "running mate". It is here where you can see the damage and the sheer cruelty and deception of his game and it helps that Dukakis presents himself well because we feel much more sympathy for his failed campaign.
Although the title suggests that this is about Lee Atwell himself, it is a much more effective look at the birth of a destructive but effective political approach that the Republican party continue to use and indeed the Democrats themselves have picked up, perhaps having learnt that fighting fire with fire is the only way ahead. The film remains focused on its subject and, while I would have liked another thirty minutes that follows the path that Rove and others continued down, it does still work as an effective look at the subject that allows the viewers to follow that path themselves.
Terry McCauliff introduced this mind blowing film at the Democratic
Convention. The Starz sponsored "Impact Film Festival 08" showed Boogie
Man at both political conventions. That says everything about the
conflicting legacy of Lee Atwater, presented with heart and humor in
The filmmaker Stefan Forbes is brilliant in his storytelling. Where did he find those old clips of Atwater, in a creepy, sweaty trance.....performing funky blues on his electric guitar. Atwater's raw passion and his demons were in the room when he wailed into the mic. Bill Clinton playing saxophone looks darned angelic in comparison.
Forbes' bluesy, gritty music track is so intertwined throughout that is seems to ooze out of Lee Atwater's crazy pores.
When you see this film, you'll know what the Democrats need to do to get Barack and a new Congress elected in November. And beyond. I promise!
First off, this wasn't an entirely bad movie. I found it to be an
interesting look into Lee Atwater and his life. It also shows his
strong impact upon the Republican Party. Additionally, we get to see
how Atwater's tactics may have helped play a role in Bush, Sr.'s defeat
of Dukakis back in 1988.
However, this movie is yellow journalism at its finest. The director falsely portrays Atwater as a one-dimensional, evil genius (who became evil because of a tragic incident involving the death of his little brother) who was the godfather of dirty mudslinging politics as we know it, and who had nothing redeeming about him. Dirty politics have always been around, and with some comprehensive reading, it becomes obvious that Atwater was not the one who started dirty politics. Also, the film makes it seem like everyone around him was a hapless, stupid puppet who quickly became a servant (or a victim) of the godfather Atwater and his evil empire. Additionally, the only characters who appear human in this video are, of course, Atwater's Democratic and Republican political rivals, while everyone else was just puppeted by Atwater. And surely, Atwater didn't just join the GOP just because he had no competition. He would certainly have to have agreed with at least some of what the GOP was saying, rather than just trying to do nothing except win all the time and be the one who controls the political "horse race".
All in all, while this movie is interesting, it reaches very silly conclusions about Atwater as a person and his role in contemporary politics.
This is an investigative documentary about Republican operative Lee
Atwater. He's a blues-playing hyper-competitive southerner from South
Carolina rising to be GOP Chairman. Supposedly, he picked Republicans
because of their inferior state and therefore greater opportunity to
advance. He interns for Strom Thurmond. In 1973, he becomes the head of
college Republicans with his protégé Karl Rove beating the expected
winner by challenging every vote and handed the victory by George H.W.
Bush. He is able to tap into southern white resentment using every
trick possible as long as he gets the win. He is instrumental in Reagan
and becomes the favorite hired hand of the Bushes. However it's George
W. Bush that is his true soulmate. Both men have been in the rougher
street-level world unlike the high class Bush family. He is unrelenting
in his drive and remorseless to his enemies.
This is a damning indictment on politics and a compelling personal study. It's easy to understand the Democrats hating the man and his methods. It is more fascinating to hear it from his former Republican colleagues like Ed Rollins. That's behind the scenes from somebody who was actually behind the scenes. It probably needs to expand on his childhood. Of course, the right has bones to pick about this movie. It has a point of view and it's not a fluff piece of Lee. The funny thing is that Lee would probably be secretly proud of this assessment of his work while railing against it as all lies.
American politics at it's most revealing, in "Boogie Man: The Lee
Atwater Story", illuminating the most destructive forces at work in
American politics over the last thirty years.
The media, candidates, personal friends and colleagues reveal a deeply troubled man, seeking power at all costs. Lee Atwater is a real bully in every sense of the word, using his somewhat smarmy southern charm to both make himself look like "every man", as well as, the candidates he represents.
At one point, the conservative political strategist, Mary Matalin defends Atwater as "brilliant" and appears sentimental about her colleague and his unethical approaches to politics. In every clip, quote and historical reference Lee Atwater appears to be the Devil himself. The scariest part of this film, is seeing Rove groomed to be Atwater's successor.
Rove can attribute every one of his devious political strategies to the mastermind evil genius of Lee Atwater. This film portrays the average American as a sentimentalist, carefully "played" at our most basic fears and prejudice.
Watch this film and share it with others, to awaken your consciousness to what is truthful and real in the dirty world of American politics. What you hear in the next campaign slogan, should be considered carefully, as a probable misrepresentation of the truth.
I expected this documentary to lean left. I expected it to show all of Lee Atwater's warts. I expected it to shine a harsh light on the dirty campaign tactics that define modern politics. However, I wasn't prepared for the severe leftward tilt of its content. Goodness, if only we had known how angelic Michael Dukakis was, we wouldn't have elected him president, we would have proclaimed him pope! Viewing this film it becomes obvious that his political views and poor campaign had absolutely nothing to do with his landslide defeat. It was all because of that awful man from South Carolina and the millions of sheep who were tricked into voting for the vice president! It's a shame there couldn't have been more balance instead of a litany of complaints from defeated opponents and a condemnation of many of the same tactics used by Democrats. I would have preferred a more rounded look at the man and of politics in general, where both sides have committed their share of bashing, scheming and pandering.
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