Friday, July 11, 2008

Flashback Friday: The Distinguished Gentleman

For this week's Flashback Friday, I wanted to write about a movie that I first saw in the early 1990s, Eddie Murphy's "The Distinguished Gentleman." When I saw it way back then, I thought it was dumb and completely forgot all about it.

After my internship experience in D.C., especially since I worked in the Vice President's office in the U.S. Capitol building (by far the most exciting office environment I've ever worked in), I watched everything about D.C. that I could find. I even watched the Frank Capra classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" for the first time in my life. A funny thing happened between the time I first watched "The Distinguished Gentleman" in the early 1990s and the second time I watched it in late 2000: the film was brilliant and hilarious! I finally got a lot of the inside jokes and was impressed how well the makers of the film pegged our government. I saw Senators and members of Congress up close and personal. Some of them, you wonder how they even got elected (I was wondering that about Senator Evan Bayh, who seemed clueless at a special dinner for Senators the night of the State of the Union. He kept asking Feinstein and another Senator what they had to do next and where he needed to stand). Some were so corrupt, you could feel the sleeze ooze off of them if you stood really close (cough, cough, Delay).

What I loved about "The Distinguished Gentleman" is that it's about a conman (played by Eddie Murphy in full comedic glory) who discovers that Congress is the biggest racket of all time and wants in. His name happens to be similar to a longtime Congressman who conveniently dies (in a manner most appropriate for a Republican politician) so he runs on name only and wins. In his victory speech, he shows himself to be so intellectually vacant that all he can offer are lame soundbites from other politicians ("the only thing we have to fear...", "ask not what your country can do for you...", "read my lips"). He arrives in Congress just as clueless, bringing along his entourage of fellow con artists and they proceed to do a con job, until they stumble upon an important issue and realize that real American lives are affected by decisions made on Capitol Hill. Thus, we see the transformation of a con artist who only sought ways to line his own pocket into a person witty and sly enough to con the biggest con artists in government: corrupt politicians who smile for the camera while making deals that go against their public image.

If you've never seen this film, I highly recommend it with a personal guarantee that a lot of what the film portrays is exactly the kind of shit I saw in my time as an intern in D.C. It shouldn't surprise anyone, really, because that's the way the game is set up when you have big money able to influence policies and politicians who require money to run for office. Nothing will change until America gets serious about campaign finance reform (my big issue, which I wrote my final college term paper on).

Most of all, the film's poster is one of my favourites of all time. It's a brilliant rendition of what goes on in Washington...the idea of the Capitol Dome as a dish cover, beneath which lies the specialty: oodles of cash.

I also liked Eddie Murphy in this film. Similar to "Coming to America", he speaks with many accents and voices, which adds to the hilarity factor. One role his con-man plays is speaking as a black minister in which he sounds almost like Martin Luther King himself. A decade ago, when I attended a booksigning by Andrew Young (former Atlanta mayor and a lieutenant in Dr. King's SCLC organization), Young told the people gathered there that he wanted to see Eddie Murphy play Dr. King in a movie someday. The audience laughed at that suggestion, almost as though they thought it sacriligious to say so, but he claimed that Eddie Murphy came close to having the same sense of humor that Dr. King did. After seeing him speak as a black minister in "the Distinguished Gentleman", I have to agree with Andrew Young. Eddie Murphy is the best actor to play Dr. King (if Hollywood is reading this, please make it happen!).

What this film reflects to me is not only how my first impression can change (I can't believe I didn't like it when I first watched it), but also how a movie can come so close to reflecting what I experienced or saw, especially in a place like the U.S. Capitol building. Even though its a comedy and a satire, I would say that it probably hits closer to the truth than any documentary ever could.

5 comments:

Margie's Musings said...

Interesting remarks, Nicholas. I miss your political commentary on Kristi's board.

Right now I'm wondering what on earth the Republicans have on the Democrats that enables Nancy Pelosi to say impeachment is off the table. Also, this week, Obama went back to vote FOR the FISA act. What on earth is going on? I don't know what to think.

Sansego said...

I'm never going back there, Margie. Whenever I think about that trio, I just think they have serious issues with men and they weren't honest with me. They want to pretend that they know men better than me, but they have no clue. For example, once I posted that every guy I knew LOVED the movie "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and the Trio couldn't believe anyone liked that film because they found it "offensive." They refuse to believe that men and women do have different tastes. There's a reason why people refer to romantic comedies and period pieces as "chick flicks." When I point out the obvious, they shoot me down as sexist.

If my honesty causes so much problems for them, I don't care to know them at all. They have bad attitudes, negative energy, and prefer to live in a fantasy world where everyone is an angrogynous clone. No thanks.

Sansego said...

Oops...I meant "androgynous."

What I also wanted to say is that the Trio have an intolerance of anyone whose opinions don't match their own, so if you like a movie that they find offensive for whatever reason, they think the worst of you. I know so many people who laughed hard while watching "The 40 Year Old Virgin", yet they won't watch it because they find the premise offensive, when the movie is actually sweet with a positive message. But, they are egotistical and want to censor anything they find offensive. In my six years of posting on that webboard, I never known the three of them to have much of a sense of humour at all. So, you have to wonder about people who look to get offended at everything and censor anyone who finds joy and humour in things.

Don't worry, Margie...I'll post my political opinions on my blog and comment on your blog. I'm chosing to not associate with humorless people who get offended by things too easily and hypocritically mislabel people who should be natural allies. They lost someone who would've been a good friend and ally...but there are people out there who are looking for my support, friendship, and ideas so that's where I'm expending my energies these days.

Margie's Musings said...

O.K. Nicholas. I understand. I feel the same way about the church's board. Pickle deeply offended me there. So I understand how you feel.

Sansego said...

It's not about being offended, really. It's a principle that I'm upholding. They don't value honesty like they claim that they do. It's funny to me in the past when they complained about the lack of people posting and even posing a question about where everyone went. Duh! They chased away anyone with a different opinion than what the feminazi trio finds acceptable. They can't see that their own fascist tendencies towards "groupthink" has pushed away anyone who has a different opinion. The fact that they labeled me a misogynist and sexist and then complained that I wouldn't apologize for my honest opinion post about gender differences was just galling to me.

They are in the wrong but they can't admit it because deep down, they hate men. In their minds, men are always going to be wrong and they just can't stand that a man like me doesn't cower in the face of their wrong opinion that Hillary's campaign was done in because of a sexist bias rather than a poorly run campaign strategy.

So, I want nothing to do with the humourless trio and their easy offensive over every little thing. I learned that they don't value honesty, so I hope that they are constantly lied to by the men in their lives. Maybe someday, they'll learn to appreciate what true honesty means and how lies might be flattering in the beginning, but the damage is long-term.