Best of Enemies (2015)
During the 1968 Republican and Democratic National conventions, floundering ABC news shook things up, hiring conservative intellectual William F. Buckley Jr. and liberal intellectual Gore Vidal to debate the issues.
The “debate” quickly became personal and heated, culminating in an ugly exchange where Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responded by calling Vidal a “queer” and threatened to assault him.
This is fascinating because the two men profiled are fascinating. The personal animosity and rage were unheard of in 1968, but have since sadly become commonplace; their confrontational rivalry is the template for today’s nightly cable news channels.
Their hatred for each other did not subside with the conclusion of the program. Each man wrote an inflammatory article recounting the experience which led to a protracted legal process alleging libel and slander. Their enmity lasted for the next forty years: when Buckley passed away in 2008, Vidal wrote he hoped Bill was enjoying his time in hell.
The film uses archival footage to recreate the intensity of their time together, as well as personal written material of the two principles, with Kelsey Grammer reading as Buckley while John Lithgow stands in for Vidal.
I love politics, and I love arguments, and I especially love eclectic characters. This is a great movie about an important turning point in our political discourse.
Ex Machina (2015)
Using data mined from his work as CEO of Bluebook (the world’s largest search engine), Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) has built Ava (Alicia Vikander), a humanoid robot with a sophisticated AI. He invites programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) to test his creation.
Isaac has, over the past half decade, established himself as one of the most electrifying, diverse actors in Hollywood. One of the most memorable scenes from any film in 2015 is his bizarre dance sequence with his maid.
2015 was a breakout year for Gleeson. The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Brooklyn. His resume for the year rivals what many actors achieve in a career.
While the male leads are great, the star of this movie is Vikander. Most of the film, she exists as a disembodied face, but still makes us believe in her pain and suffering.
This fantastic essay on what it means to be human serves as a counterpoint to Spike Jonzes’s wonderful film Her (2013), and is destined to join the pantheon of sci-fi classics dealing with expanding notions of humanity.