Best Of Enemies - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Best Of Enemies Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2019
I've previously seen and enjoyed the documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, which spends some time talking about this big rivalry and televised political debate. Here is a documentary released two years later that dives more deeply into that debate and give a little biography about both Buckley and Vidal. As the tagline on the poster says, "Buckley vs. Vidal. 2 men. 10 debates. Television would never be the same." The filmmakers suggest that this directly led to the televised coverage of American elections today and the level of commentary that often falls into personal attacks rather than focus on the issues/policy/truth.
July 24, 2018
Turn back the clocks fifty years and we find the birthplace of today's angry, confrontational news programming. In the late sixties, standard operating procedure for network television reporting was straight, impartial, monotone and almost entirely fact-driven. ABC, at the time a very distant third to perennial front-runners NBC and CBS, gambled on rowdy, opinion-driven segments during their convention coverage and won... or did we all lose?

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.
June 10, 2018
Not bad, and informative about these pundits and their role they played in politics.
June 10, 2018
A hit piece on William F. Buckley. Two hours meant to punch the memory of Buckley as a closet homosexual. A few impartial interviews and the archival footage and exposition of the conventions make the film barely worth watching.
May 4, 2018
Watch this film. Best of Enemies has an almost epic feel of battle while also providing educational material and historical context.
½ May 20, 2017
The historical context and events around which much of the documentary is based upon, is more interesting than it's main two protagonists.
March 14, 2017
Intelligent documentary about a fascinating political rivalry, that should appeal to those that like literature and politics in equal measure.
½ January 30, 2017
A little boring, it's a fascinating look not only at this political rivalry, but really the start of contentious, ratings-driven news.

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.
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2016
An exciting analysis of the beginning of a major change in political journalism as it became a theater stage for egos, shown in this pivotal debate between two arrogant men who we can't deny were brilliant orators - even though I despise Buckley's political views and Vidal's aggressive ad hominem attacks.
November 13, 2016
An excellent examination of history and politics :) Great viewing, especially in light of recent Governmental developments
October 4, 2016
10/3/16 PBS Independent Lens
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.
½ September 9, 2016
Enjoyable review of the infamous (and in hindsight damaging) series of debates. 7/10
½ August 29, 2016
Amusing film about two unpleasant affected egotists.
August 23, 2016
Very well made documentary about the classic debates between Vidal and Buckley. Interesting take on the debates.
August 12, 2016
The best documentary I've seen in quite some time.
½ July 2, 2016
Learned a lot about a subject I had never before really had an interest in.
May 31, 2016
The world of contemporary political punditry had a vigorous birth. William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, two of the most eloquent intellectuals of their time, forever changed the world when they decided to trade rhetorical blows in an unconventional series of televised debates. What was intended to be a survey of the Republican national convention immediately devolved into a war of words as these two men chose and used the most powerful weapons at their disposal: their ideas.

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.
½ May 28, 2016
I was not a fan of William F. Buckley but I did respect him because of his intellectual prowess. A friend of mine who had conservative tendencies used to rave about him all the time and watched Buckley's show on PBS, "Firing Line." This documentary delves into the debates between Buckley and one of the most prominent liberals of the day, Gore Vidal. I had heard of both men but this film goes into a lot of things about them that I was not aware of.
May 26, 2016
An interesting look at the politics of the late 60's and the formation of the Political Divide that exists today. The debates between Gore Vidal on the Left and William F. Buckley on the right. Debates between two real intellectuals. Something that certainly and unfortunately doesn't exist today.
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