Interpositive Media // 2008 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Marco Duran (Retired) // February 13th, 2010
A Southern Boy's Rambunctious Rise from Humble Roots to Political Rock Star.
Lee Atwater was the political strategist for the Republican Party from 1980 through 1988. What is a political strategist, you may ask? A strategist devises the best way to win an election, whether it's starting false rumors about the opponent or spinning bad publicity. In other words, whatever it took to get to where he wanted to go, Atwater was willing to do it.
Boogie Man is a film about muckraking, cover-ups, spins, and clever politics, one you have to come into with a fair understanding of how politics works and who people like Strom Thurmond and Karl Rove are. The film has no backstory or intro explaining what we are about to see. It hits the ground running and you may find it easy to be left behind if politics isn't your bag. That is the only point of contention I have about this film. It really should have started by telling us why we should even care about Lee Atwater. Instead it assumes you know who he is and that's why you picked up the DVD.
Boogie Man goes through Lee's whole life -- growing up in the South, losing a brother in an accident he created, not being sure which party to be affiliated with, and finally choosing the GOP because he felt he could rise to power faster. It's as if the film is trying to find the reason any man could be such a boldfaced liar and not have a guilty conscience about it. Lee Atwater was a consultant to Reagan and both Bushes. There is plenty of archival footage on all of them and many scenes of Lee whispering into their ears.
All of this is interspersed with Lee the blues guitarist, and let me tell you, he is made to look like a complete goof when he's on stage. The man who is quoted as saying, "Never, ever, allow yourself to be photographed with a funny hat," is shown prancing on stage at GOP conventions like some spastic James Brown. It really is a display by someone so self-centered and full of pride; he doesn't care what he looks like because he's having fun. Boogie Man never makes any reconciliation between the politico and the musician, which makes me feel as if there never really was any. This was a man who knew what he loved and pursued those things regardless of whether or not they went together.
While I have never been into politics, Boogie Man makes politics exciting. It's intriguing to see the tactics taken to throw the opposition off their game, to get them on the defense and then attack them again for being so defensive. Intriguing how a simple answer to a question by a reporter could throw the entire media into a frenzy and distract people from the true underhandedness taking place right under their noses. Lee is said to have had a love for professional wrestling because, "it is obviously dishonest." That was how he approached politics. That was how he helped get George H.W. Bush elected as President of the United States. If it wasn't true, it might be funny.
At the end of his life, Atwater had many setbacks, the worst of which was being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. What followed was a large amount of soul searching and desperate crying out to gods, spirits, and anyone who would listen. Regardless of what you thought of him, it's difficult to see the man bloat up as a result of the chemotherapy and have to be carted around in a wheelchair, his arm constantly in a sling. At this point, he was almost unrecognizable and it all seemed to happen in a blink. Friends who were at Lee's bedside said that he truly repented and was quoting Bible verses to them. "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul?" was one of his favorites. When Lee died in 1991, the turnout was tremendous. They say he was buried in his tracksuit. Afterward a good friend was speaking to Lee's wife and she told him (in confidence) that as she was going through Lee's things she found a Bible he had been given. It was still in cellophane, never opened.
Presented in 1.78 anamorphic widescreen, the archival footage is grainy but the new footage is crisp and clear. Standard 2.0 Dolby stereo is adequate for the subject matter. There are English subtitles, but very small and fairly hard to read. The DVD is well stocked with extras, including additional interviews with all of Lee's friends, cohorts, and an insightful discussion with director/producer Stefan Forbes. A photo gallery, bio, and trailer round out a well assembled package.
The man who brought blues to the White House is an intriguing subject of how perception dictates reality. Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Interpositive Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Gallery