The Best of Enemies

August 12, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

This light and generally amusing documentary gives us an inside view to the Buckley/Vidal debates during the 1968 Republican and Democratic Conventions. In a ploy to increase its dismal ratings, ABC chose to provide only a truncated summary of the conventions each day, followed by what they had hoped would be a lively intellectual debate about the content of the speeches. To achieve this they brought in famed arch-conservative William F. Buckley and ultra-liberal author, Gore Vidal. Both men were stunningly intelligent, eloquent and outspoken and they absolutely hated each other. What fun! Buckley apparently approached the debates as ABC had intended them, prepared to have a spirited discussion of the issues. Vidal, on the other hand, had a different agenda: to expose Buckley as a dangerous menace to society. The results were a ratings boon for ABC and they set the stage for all bloviating punditry that clogs are airwaves today. Watching these two men go after each other with one contemptuous quip after another was great fun, though I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that I did not like either of them. They were both arrogant and petty and enjoyed their cruelty far too much. So, as much as I enjoyed this film, it was tempered, in part, by knowing who I was laughing along with and, in part, by knowing how much those “debates” have changed the discourse in our national media for the worse.

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