Now that Labor Day has passed, the political season is now in full effect. Politicians vying for your vote tomorrow are asking for your support today but underneath some of the campaign promises, there lies an underlying truth that most of them can’t (or won’t) be fulfilled after the election is over. With that being said, it’s a perfect time to check out the HBO original movie All the Way, which was released on DVD this week.
The film originally aired in May on the pay network but it’s a must-see in this political season. Bryan Cranston stars as Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson who, in the film’s opening moments, becomes President of the United States after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Johnson is soon forced into the spotlight where he uses his newfound power — and the memory of the late 35th president — to fight for the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Standing alongside him are Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr. (Anthony Mackie) and the liberal Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey (Bradley Whitford). Standing against him is his former ally Senator Richard Russell (Frank Langella), a Southern Democrat who wants the president to take his time on the Civil Rights agenda.
The feature has its flaws (check out my full review here) but it’s still one of the most urgent and important political films of the year. It shows that a political figure can be both angry and effective. Johnson proved that time and again as he often bullied his adversaries in order to build a better future for this country.
The feature illustrates the important dichotomies in Johnson’s personality — dichotomies that can be at times both refreshing and revolting.
The feature, which was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, received eight Emmy nominations. It was nominated for outstanding television movie, outstanding lead actor (Cranston), outstanding supporting actress (Melissa Leo, as an understated Lady Bird) and best director (Jay Roach)and also received nominations for outstanding music, outstanding make-up and outstanding hairstyling.
The DVD includes strong special features including a look at how Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston transformed into Johnson and a historical look back at Johnson’s presidency and the Civil Rights bill. Featuring historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the latter feature really brings a great background and historical perspective to the movie’s proceedings.
Regardless of your political standing this election year, All the Way is an important movie to watch to learn more about the fluid and oftentimes baffling political process. Even when there are imperfect people in office (and many of the candidates running for office this year are undeniably flawed), great change can be made even though the way it happens is sometimes discouraging.