With President’s Day arriving—that celebration of the birthdays of founding father George Washington and Abraham Lincoln—Streampix has a selection of movies to satisfy every political persuasion. From comic colonial re-enactments (“Sweet Liberty”) and Civil War spectacle (“Gettsyburg”) to the beginnings of the CIA (“The Good Shepherd”), Middle East intrigue (“Syriana”) and Presidential hijinks (“My Fellow Americans”), you’ve come to the right place for some bipartisan fun.
“The Good Shepherd”: Robert De Niro directs and stars in this 2006 drama about the creation of the CIA from its origins at Yale’s secret Skull and Bones society (where Presidents William Howard Taft, George Bush and son George W. were most famously members), featuring Matt Damon as Edward Wilson Sr., a character based on the real-life operative James Jesus Angleton. Angelina Jolie plays his wife, heading up an all-star cast that also includes Alec Baldwin, William Hurt (a role based on CIA Director Allen Dulles), Joe Pesci (playing a composite Sam Giancana-inspired mobster), John Turturro, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, Timothy Hutton and Keir Dullea. The screenplay was written by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,”) with announced plans at one point for Showtime to produce a series based on the film.
“Syriana”: A CIA agent (George Clooney, who took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar), an energy analyst (Matt Damon), a prince (Alexander Siddig), a pair of Washington, D.C. lawyers (Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Wright) and two oil tycoons (Chris Cooper, Tim Blake Nelson) get caught up in a web of corruption and betrayal in this 2005 political thriller by writer/ director Stephen Gaghan (who won an Oscar for his screenplay for “Traffic,” another Streampix feature, and earned a nomination for this one). The story is practically ripped from the headlines, wit a narrative that remains relevant today. Also in the cast are Amanda Peet, William Hurt and an uncredited cameo by Viola Davis as a CIA Chairwoman.
“My Fellow Americans”: Peter Segal’s frenetic 1996 comedy stars Jack Lemmon and James Garner as a pair of ex-Presidents (and bitter rivals) on the run from assassins. The all-star cast also includes Dan Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall, Esther Rolle, John Heard, Wilford Brimley and Bradley Whitford. Lemmon’s original “Odd Couple” co-star and frequent collaborator Walter Matthau was slated to co-star, but health problems forced Garner to be brought in to replace him. Those on the set reportedly referred to the movie as “Grumpy Old Presidents.” Lemmon plays Republican Senator Russell Kramer, a narrow winner of the Presidential election over Garner’s Democratic rival Governor Matt Douglas, who in turn takes a landslide victory over his foe four years later. After both are out of office, Kramer and Douglas become the targets of an assassination plot arising from “Olympus,” code name for a series of bribes paid by a defense contractor (James Rebhorn) to the pair’s successor, Aykroyd’s President William Haney, and mayhem ensues.
“The Seduction of Joe Tynan”: Noted liberal Alan Alda wrote and starred in Jerry Schatzberg’s 1976 political film about a senator’s crisis of conscience, when he’s asked to lead the opposition to a Supreme Court appointment and finds himself struggling with his own morality after having an affair with a lady attorney (Meryl Streep) which threatens his marriage to Barbara Harris. Streep earned Best Supporting Actress awards from several organizations, including the L.A. and N.Y. Film Critics, the National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics, despite the death before filming began of her boyfriend, actor John Cazale. The cast also includes Rip Torn and Melvyn Douglas as fellow senators.
“Born on the Fourth of July”: Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone’s 1989 anti-war docudrama, based on the best-selling autobiography by paralyzed Vietnam vet Ron Kovic, earned an Oscar nomination for Tom Cruise, one of a total of eight for the film. The movie depicted Kovic’s disillusionment with the war and his rise to become a symbol of the protests that arose at the time. The film traces Kovic enlisting in the Marines after being inspired by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, the war injuries which left him without use of his legs and his appearance at the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami, where he forces his way into the hall during Richard Nixon’s acceptance speech to lodge his objection to the war, which makes national news. The movie is considered the second in Stone’s Vietnam trilogy, following 1986’s “Platoon” and preceding 1993’s “Heaven & Earth.” The cast also includes Kyra Sedgwick, Frank Whaley and Willem Dafoe.
“Sweet Liberty”: Alan Alda writes, directs and stars in this 1986 comedy about a professor whose sleepy North Carolina college town is invaded by a zany Hollywood film crew intent on adapting his historical novel about the Revolutionary War into a comic romance. The film’s top-flight cast includes Michael Caine as the production’s leading man, Michelle Pfeiffer as his Method actress co-star, Bob Hoskins as a low-brow screenwriter, Lillian Gish as Alda’s ancient mom, Saul Rubinek as a condescending director and Lois Chiles as the wife of the town’s Mayor and object of the married Caine’s affection.
“Gettsyburg”: Ted Turner’s Turner Films distributed this epic 1993 movie about the pivotal three-day Civil War battle in July 1863, written and directed by Ronald F. Maxwell, who adapted Michael Shaara’s historical novel, “The Killer Angels.” The movie stars Tom Berenger as General James Longstreet Jeff Daniels as Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and Martin Sheen as General Robert E. Lee along with Sam Elliott, Stephen Lang, Kevin Conway, C. Thomas Howell, Richard Jordan, Kieran Mulroney and Donal Logue. Turner has a cameo as a Confederate soldier, and was so impressed, he decided to theatrically release the movie, which was filmed on the actual Gettysburg battleground with thousands of Civil War reenacters, thanks to cooperation from the National Park Service.