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BEST OF ENEMIES (review)

boeposterBEST OF ENEMIES

Directed by Morgan Neville & Robert Gordon
Television Network President: Argument is sugar and the rest of us are flies.

There is something undeniably thrilling about watching an argument play out. Assuming, of course, you’re not directly involved in said argument. And oftentimes the more hostile each party is, the better. While we now have the ability to witness spats on a daily basis via social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, the accessibility of a good old argument 50 years ago was obviously quite different.

But when the rare opportunity did come along, the end product was also that much more satisfying. Morgan Neville (TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM) and Robert Gordon (JOHNNY CASH’S AMERICA) remind of us of how glorious a battle of wits between two well-armed parties could be with their documentary BEST OF ENEMIES.

Back in 1968, ABC News was hurting. Stuck in the dreaded last place standing behind their much more popular competitors NBC and CBS, network executives knew they had to do something to encourage viewers to tune in and pick up their numbers.What they came up with was genius. Using the politically charged state America was in to their advantage, they decided to set up and televise a series of debates between ultra-conservative socialite commentator William F. Buckley, Jr. and the extremely liberal (and controversial) writer Gore Vidal. Five sessions would take place at the Republican Convention in Miami, and five would take place at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

best-of-enemies

Featuring the fully restored original broadcast footage of the debates, a multitude of interview recordings with the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky, and narration by Kelsey Grammar and John Lithgow to give life to Buckley Jr.’s and Vidal’s writings, BEST OF ENEMIES is a fascinating look at 1960’s America and the social, political and cultural issues that divided the nation. Buckley Jr. and Vidal were masters of the English language, their intelligence matched only by their eloquence – which makes the inevitable nastiness that emerges all the more fun to watch. By no means did their social status keep them from treading in controversial territory and their mutual hatred of each other eventually won out, with each saying whatever necessary to try and shut the other down. The results both entertained and shocked the viewing public and followed the involved parties for the rest of their lives.

4 sheep

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