The Brink (2019)


The far right kingmaker ponders his next move.

(2019) Documentary (Magnolia) Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, Daniel Fleuette, Joshua Green, Deb Haaland, Raheem Kassam, Kevin Sullivan, Sam Nunberg, John Thornton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ari Melber, Roy Moore, Sean Bannon, David Frum, Christopher Hope, Paul Gosar, Paul Lewis, Anne Karni, Steve Cortes, Lena Epstein, Giorgia Meloni, Ilhan Omar, Sharice Davids. Directed by Alison Klayman

 

Steve Bannon has never, to my knowledge, been elected to any office, but he remains even now an important figure in the Republican party, although admittedly less so than he might have been in 2016 after steering Donald Trump’s unlikely Presidential win. He became a policy advisor to the 45th President for the first year of his term, before being unceremoniously dumped from his post following the Charlottesville protest.

This documentary follows him during the year after his dismissal from the White House, accompanying him on a whirlwind speaking tour as he attempts to assemble a global unity of populist parties (some would say white nationalist) that he identifies as “The Movement,” meeting with far right party members in far-flung locations like the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, and France.

Bannon can be charming and disarming, but one doesn’t have to listen all that closely to realize how monstrous his message is. Considering that he is currently under indictment for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the January 6th committee regarding the events of that day, he is a mass of contradictions, espousing a return to law and order yet defying the law when it suits his interests.

Bannon clearly craves the spotlight, and the power that comes with it and it seems likely that he is deliberately steering the documentary towards keeping him in the limelight as much as possible, because that’s where his effectiveness is essentially made by uttering controversial statements, and by appearing to be a Red Bull-chugging, slovenly Sasquatch-in-a-suit. Is he a demagogue? Absolutely. Is he dangerous? Without a doubt. Is he a fitting documentary subject? As a cautionary tale, yes.

REASONS TO SEE: A terrifying look at the playbook of the far right.
REASONS TO AVOID: A very polarizing film, as some will see Bannon as a hero, others as a villain (the filmmaker’s position is clearly obvious).
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is one of two documentaries shot concurrently about Bannon, the other being Errol Morris’ American Dharma.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Flix Fling, Google Play, Hoopla, Hulu, Kanopy, Microsoft, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/5/2022: Rotten Tomatoes: 85% positive reviews; Metacritic: 71/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: American Dharma
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Fahrenheit 11/9


Trump supporters wearing their thoughts on their sleeves.

(2018) Documentary (Briarcliff/AnnapurnaMichael Moore, Donald J. Trump, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, Bill Maher, Bernie Sanders, Chris Matthews, George Stephanopoulos, Wendy Williams, Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, John Podesta, Roger Stone, Paul Ryan, Joe Scarborough, Larry King, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Ashleigh Banfield, April Cook-Hawkins, Brooke Baldwin. Directed by Michael Moore

 

During the 2016 Presidential election, one of the lone voices on the left predicting that Trump would win was gadfly and documentarian Michael Moore. The favored son of Flint, Michigan takes the time to illustrate just how this came to pass when virtually nobody thought it would – other than Trump and his followers.

This is perhaps Moore’s most serious documentary, with less of the stunts that characterize his other films (although he does attempt to make a citizen’s arrest of Michigan governor Rick Snyder and dares politicians to drink a glass of Flint water) and gives the movie a bit of a bleaker turn than most of his other work.

Moore doesn’t pull punches and he doesn’t always play fair with his facts; some of his commentary is a bit of a stretch and like that guy whose sense of humor isn’t always apparent, you’re never sure if he’s kidding or not.

Moore spends most of the movie illustrating how corporate America has essentially bought our democracy and has turned it into their own private ATM, making sure legislation favors the wealthy and the corporate at the expense of the working class and of course the poor – two classes that are virtually indistinguishable now. He does show glimmers of hope with the Parkland students rising up and leading a massive national march for gun control, and profiling politicians like Rashida Tlaib and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez who might just make a difference in years to come.

Those who lean to the right in their political thinking are not likely to see this, but then again, this movie isn’t really for them – it’s more of a call to arms for the left which Moore criticizes has become complacent and self-destructive. We must all stand together, he opines – or as the Founding fathers might have added, we will all hang separately.

REASONS TO SEE: Adequately explains what got us to this point. Smart and occasionally mind-blowing.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit scattershot and at the end of the day, probably doesn’t accomplish what it set out to.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of profanity and some sexual innuendo.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While the film made its official world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Moore hosted a special premiere in his home town of Flint, Michigan (which figures heavily in the movie) four days later.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC On Demand, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/15/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews: Metacritic: 69/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Fahrenheit 9/11
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Life, Itself