Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"boogie man: the lee atwater story" dvd release

"boogie man: the lee atwater story" had a 40-city theatrical release in 2008. i reviewed the documentary after it was shown in new york city. the following year, it was shown on pbs as part of the frontline series. yesterday, the directors cut version was released on dvd. bonus material includes deleted scenes and additional interviews (plus and msnbc interview with the director).

i watched the bonus material first. in fact, i watched the entire dvd before pulling up my old review to see if my impressions had changed in almost two years. i still think "boogie man" is a must watch for any political junkie. atwater was one of the most important political operatives during the last quarter of the 20th century. atwater was a major force during the politcal campaigns of the reagan/bush years. if you didn't live through these years, this documentary is a great primer.

my intitial take on the documentary still holds true - there were too many important people in lee atwater's life that did not appear in the film to make this a comprehensive look at the man. that said, the cast of character assembled to tell the tale did an admirable job presenting the good and bad of the atwater story. some of the most enjoyable interviewees were with eric alterman, tucker askew, roger stone, and mary matalin. alterman, both on screen and in the deleted scenes, comes off especially sincere (since he and atwater were on opposite sides of the political spectrum).

the most unwatchable interviewee was howard fineman. his ugly remark that, 'life has a way of getting even with you in the end" was so grossly inappropriate and mean spirited that i almost turned off the dvd! it's so pathetically facile to fall back on lame cliches like that one - but to utter it out loud (and for the record) ... shame on you howard fineman. atwater himself alluded to sun tzu's "art of war" - getting inside the head of your enemy, when he said, "now cancer used it on me." a far more nobly expressed sentiment.

all in all, atwater's impact echoed far beyond his death in 1991. his protege, karl rove, was instrumental in the political career (in texas and nationally) of george w. bush. and, politics aside, it was fun to see the musical ("blues") side of atwater's life given some coverage. last but not least, you gotta love all those 1980's running scenes :D

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