Monday, February 18, 2008

Hail to the Chiefs

Oh sweet, sweet Presidents day; that lone verdant oasis in the barren holiday-less wasteland of February. You give me the strength to solider on through the cold winter to the warm shores of Easter and spring break. What a stroke of cosmic luck that America's two most distinguished and revered presidents managed to be born in the same month. Without that, we would have really strained ourselves to make up a holiday in February. So in honor of the executive branch and to avoid doing any homework for tomorrow here are three of the best movie presidents and (to not appear partisan) three of the worst movie presidents.

THE BEST

President James Marshall
Harrison Ford
Most notable achievements: Taking a firm stance against international terrorism, not tolerating stowaways on his plane.

Oh like you didn't see this coming. Presidents just don't get anymore bad ass than Ford in "Air Force One." How did they ever sell such a ridiculously brilliant concept? In any case it worked! No other branch of the government could have had a movie like this, it's a team effort with them (although a movie about a rag tag group of Supreme Court Justices fighting crime sounds quite appealing). No other film displays the singular independent power that is the head of the Executive branch than Ford here.

President Thomas Whitmore
Bill Pullman
Most Notable Achievements: Saving America from alien invasion, making the unlikely tandem of Smith and Goldblum work.

Lincoln only had to deal with the Confederacy, Pullman had to hold the country together against a hostile alien race of bionic supermen in "Independence Day." Not only did he manage to fend off the invincible armada of ships via the totally ridiculous loophole discovered by Goldblum, he actually fought alongside his men; making him the only Commander in Chief to actually fight the war he creates. As ridiculous as the set up was he looked pretty legit in that flight suit...as oppose to some other current heads of state. Oh and in between he also gives the Gettysburg Address of movie president speeches.

The President of the United States
Donald Pleasence
Most Notable Achievement: Escaping the prison colony of New York, clarifying who's the Duke of New York.

Never sell short the heart of a survivor, and that's what Donald Pleasence's unnamed President was in "Escape from New York." His plane gets shot down in the hell on earth prison colony that he was responsible in creating; he survives that. He gets captured, tortured, and used for target practice by the Duke; he survives that. He makes a daring escape off the island aided by Snake Plissken; he survives that too (and then opens up a can of executive decision on the Duke). Sure he was kind of a dick at times, and totally deserved getting double crossed by Snake at the end, but you can't deny his toughness under the circumstances.

THE WORST

President James Dale
Jack Nicholson
Most Notable Achievements: Nearly allowing the US to be conquered by Martians, starring in "Mars Attacks!"

Was there ever a President more ill prepared to handle a national crisis (don't answer that)? Through his entire existence in the movie to the part where he meets his pitiful end (literally) at the hands of the Martians he's indecisive, makes poor choices, and generally is baffled by the whole thing. When your daughter shows more leadership and intuitiveness than you; you may not be the best wartime president. His initial blunders in handling the aliens may have led to the complete take over of the US if it weren't for a lame deus ex machina plot device. One of many reasons I never liked this movie.

President Merkin Muffley
Peter Sellers
Most Notable Achievements: The destruction of all life on earth, commencing his worrying and loving the bomb.

Peter Sellers' performance in "Dr. Strangelove" was genius, but as for the character himself...not so good, Al. Although by comparison he was the sane voice of reason surrounded by all the insane characters around him, he was too weak willed, cerebral, polite to do anything but watch the bombs start dropping by the end. No matter how good your actions or intentions were, having Armageddon on your presidential resume is a real deal breaker. He also let that Commie spy take pictures of the war room...and the big board! If this was the kind of presidency that Adlai Stevenson was promising, then I sure liked Ike (wow, how topical...over 50 years ago).

President Mackenzie
Michael Keaton
Most Notable Achievements: Having a first daughter, failing in raising said first daughter.

The way a person handles their personal life can be an important indicator of how they handle their professional life. In that respect, Michael Keaton has let down his daughter and the country in "First Daughter." While I appreciate the president's work ethic and involvement in the issues, he has obviously mismanaged the rearing of his daughter Katie Holmes to the point where she suffers a severe crisis of identity when he enters college. Also is it really good parenting to be screwing around with your daughter's fragile emotions by making the cute boy she falls in love with to be a secret service agent? By comparison the Bush daughters are fine models of quality parenting.

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