Best Of Enemies Reviews
At the heart of it all we find the conservative intellectual, William F. Buckley, and his opponent / counterpoint, the liberal author Gore Vidal, who embark upon a series of fiery debates: one for each night of their respective parties' conventions. In retrospect, their early arguments seem downright civilized - both are eloquent, engaging, brilliant conversationalists and they make for a fascinating contrast - but as the routine bears on and the speakers' attacks grow more personal, the cordiality of their discourse deteriorates. Finally, after slyly baiting his hooks for several such confrontations, one speaker elicits a jolting moment of unguarded, contemptuous rage from his opponent and, knowing his battle won, smugly settles in to enjoy the moment.
It's difficult to get completely behind either man, really. Each spins a mesmerizing oral web, but they also fall into the trap of continually one-upping each other, and that betrays the spirit of the debate. Personally, I'd love to spend a dinner party with either, but wouldn't want to make a habit of it. Deeply interesting historical material that answers many questions about how we arrived at this era of brash 24-hour opinions and endlessly question-dodging presidential debates.
I'm a big liberal so I obviously side with Gore Vidal in the debates. Frankly, I would hate a guy like Buckley today. In reality, they're both a little hard to watch. Who was watching these debates back then? Both spoke in a language hard for most to understand. Did people just enjoy the drama?
More importantly, this really was the beginning of the format we see so often today. Don't so much tell us the news as entertain us. Give me someone from each side and let's watch them go at it. Look how well that's worked for us. Neither side wants to trust the media, and a guy like Trump slipped through the cracks.
A fascinating and in depth look and the Buckley-Vidal debates and the precursors to the world we find ourselves in today.
More interesting since I lived through this period and watched these debates in real time. We find ourselves in a world today not much different than the world of 1968 on race, economic inequality,far right and far left politics and down in the mud politics that doesn't debate issues but personal demagoguery. Buckley ran for mayor of NYC and discovered the angry white man as his main constituency, sound familiar Donald J. Trump.
This magnificent documentary does much more than analyze the debates themselves. It also gives an intimate portrait of these two men and the ideological motivations that led to their overtly hostile encounter. Entertaining in its narration and thoughtful in its commentary, the documentary and the interviews it contains are some of the absolute best I have ever witnessed.