Ty Burr tallies his votes

By Ty Burr
Updated November 08, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST


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Political movies provide some great — and scary — candidates

The election turned has turned into one of those photo finish electoral college boondoggles, with a recount now underway in the pivotal state of Florida. When we do find out who our new president is, you’ll be either gnashing your teeth in dismay, or you’ll be smug in the conviction that the globe is spinning in its proper direction. Or maybe you cannot tell the difference between these guys and just wish this site would post some more of them wicked cool ”Charlie’s Angels” photos (either that, or the Ralph Nader swimwear shots).

I won’t bore you with my own political views (just assume they’re the standard East Coast lefty mediacrat positions, adjusted to taste). Instead, allow me to dredge up some candidates from movies of the recent and distant past and suggest that things could have been a lot better. Or worse. (If this approach seems unduly frivolous, please remind yourself that you are reading an entertainment site, not watching CNN.)

Don’t you wish you could have voted for…

Bill McKay (Robert Redford) in ”The Candidate” (1972)
PROS: Nobody expects him to get elected, so he’s able to speak his mind on abortion, health care, the environment. Plus, he looks just like Robert Redford.
CONS: As soon as it looks like he has a shot, he starts getting packaged for mass consumption (yep, the movie remains relevant). This guy would attract so many political groupies, he couldn’t help going the way of Gary Hart.

Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) in ”Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)
PROS: Idealistic, good hearted, and determined, he’s the personification of American democratic values in the face of bureaucratic corruption. Likes kids, Mom, Jean Arthur.
CONS: He’d last about as long in the real U.S. Senate as Sonja did on ”Survivor”

Daniel McGinty (Brian Donlevy) in ”The Great McGinty” (1940)
PROS: Talk about all American can do: In Preston Sturges’ cynical farce, McGinty rises from bum to governor by playing the Democratic machine like a fiddle. Film’s point of view is summed up by one character: ”If you didn’t have graft, you’d have a lower class of people in politics!” At least he’s honest about being dishonest.
CONS: Inconsistency: McGinty marries an idealist who sets him on the path of righteousness (and jail).

And aren’t you glad we didn’t have the option of voting for…

Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in ”Election” (1999)
PROS: The school buses would run on time.
CONS: People with irony would be relocated to reeducation camps in the desert.

Senator Jay Bulworth (Warren Beatty) in ”Bulworth” (1998)
PROS: Probably wouldn’t be the most psychotic U.S. president we’ve ever had. Says what he thinks, anyway.
CONS: Lousy rapper. Entertains the delusion (shared with the filmmaker/ star, apparently) that he’s attractive to young African American women who look like Halle Berry.

Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) in ”The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)
PROS: Since she wouldn’t actually BE the president — but would instead be controlling her wimpy husband (James Gregory) like a crazed puppetmaster as she furthered her dreams of Communist/ Fascist consolidation and global conquest — it wouldn’t require actual impeachment proceedings to get rid of her. Doting mother.
CONS: No ”Murder, She Wrote.” Wait a minute — is that a con? Is it too late to draft Angela?

For more EW.com commentary about the TV coverage of the election, read <a href="http://www.ew.com/ew/daily/0,2514,3908,all-nightmarathonnowinner.html&quot; Bruce Fretts' Hot Topic and tell us what you think. .


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