By Mitch Myers
After attending the South By Southwest Film Conference + Festival, I have one question in my mind: What would President George W. Bush do if he were compelled to attend SXSW. Austin is the state capitol of Texas, so he’d definitely know his way around town, and being President and all he’d have no trouble getting into the more exclusive screenings.
Now, we all know that Bush is notorious for ignoring ideas that don’t compliment his worldview, so what would he think if he saw such powerful and pointed documentaries as Oil Crash or the credit-card saga Maxed Out, movies that show the new-world order, the inevitable results and dire implications that already effect common, everyday people like you and me?
Of course, there were plenty of films that Bush could probably get behind, like Rank, which documents the Professional Bull Riders Finals competition. But would Bush let his hair down enough to enjoy another tale of courage and contest, Air Guitar Nation, which follows a couple of American challengers to the Air Guitar Championships in Finland? Who can say?
Bush certainly would have squirmed during Jam, a poignant documentary about roller derby in the 1990s, where down-and-out, over-the-hill, blue-collar alcoholics and homosexuals populate the ranks of this strange, forgotten sport. Lord knows what he would have thought of Shadow Company, a documentary about mercenaries, or as they are called in the film, “Private Military Firms” for hire. Yikes!
Of course, a former frat-boy like George W. would have trouble resisting the Beastie Boys concert documentary, Awsome: I Fuckin’ Shot That, even if he didn’t like the title. But he’d probably opt for the user-friendly middle-American sojourn taken by neurotic sitcom star Ray Romano, in his concert-tour documentary, 95 Miles to Go.
The President would probably have gotten bored and fallen asleep during the new Robert Altman film, A Prairie Home Companion, and missed great performances from Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly. And there’s no way in the world he would’ve sat through the inspiring documentary, Al Franken: God Spoke, which illustrates Franken’s transformation from SNL funnyman to outspoken commentator and potential politician.
Bush would’ve enjoyed star-driven Hollywood movies like Even Money, a tale of gambling addiction with Forrest Whitaker, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito, and stayed away from the skin-baring epic, The Notorious Bettie Page, even though pinup gal Page is born-again by the end of the flick.
Perhaps W. would’ve preferred Tales of the Rat Fink, in which documentary filmmaker Ron Mann (Grass) illuminates the life and times of custom car creator and cartoonist, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Or maybe he would have gone for a dirt-bag comedy like Live Free or Die, where the protagonists are so dumb they get in more and more trouble until there’s no good way out of their collective dilemma (sound familiar?).
No, Bush would’ve played it safe, and seen the politically-correct Heavens Fall, starring Timothy Hutton, which tells the sad tale of nine black men falsely accused of raping two women on an Alabama train in 1931.
Or maybe he would have just checked out Summercamp!, a moving doc about children between the ages of eight and 13, and their long, difficult but ultimately important time away from home. Like so many others, these kids learned everything they needed to know about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness long before entering high school.
But again, I wonder what George W. Bush would’ve seen had he attended the 2006 SXSW film fest?