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Screening process: Rating GOP candidates' favorite films

November 11, 2011|By James Oliphant
  • Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" (1995), which Michele Bachmann says is one of her favorite films
Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" (1995), which Michele Bachmann… (Paramount Pictures )

If you had one guess at Herman Cain’s favorite movie, what would it be?

It’s not a trick question (and no, it’s not "Disclosure," that 1994 film with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore about reverse sexual harassment.).

Cain’s favorite film, at least according to the Washington Times, is “The Godfather.” Always with an eye toward marketing, Cain, the former chief executive officer of Godfather’s Pizza, cited the widely beloved mob flick and winked as he gave the answer.

The newspaper asked some other Republican candidates about their favorite films—and the responses give some insight into their worldview. Is it fair to judge a potential president’s fitness for office based on his or her taste in films? Of course it is.

So, let’s rate the responses:

Herman Cain: The Godfather (1972)

Is this really Cain’s favorite movie or has this been a stock answer for 20 years? We may never know, but unlike the 9-9-9 plan, it’s not a very bold or original choice. This is an all-things-to-all people film, a critical favorite and a commercial blockbuster. No risk.

ORIGINALITY: Two stars

QUALITY: Four stars

A BETTER CHOICE: "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" (1988) A lesser-known film by Francis Ford Coppola, Tucker traces the true story of businessman Preston Tucker, a maverick who tries to take on the powerful auto industry from the outside.

Mitt Romney: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

You might not link the straitlaced Romney with the genre-subverting Coen brothers, but the former Massachusetts governor told the New York Times that this lesser known Depression-era comedy was a favorite. The film’s title is a take on Preston Sturges’ 1941 film "Sullivan’s Travels," about a director trying to make a movie that celebrates the working class.  Is it possible that the wealthy Romney has a soft spot for the common man?

ORIGINALITY: Four stars

QUALITY: Three stars

A BETTER CHOICE: It’s hard to fault Romney on his taste. The Coens usually bring the quality. But what about "Memento" (2000), the story of a man who seems to have completely forgotten his past?

Newt Gingrich: Casablanca (1942)

And you thought Herman Cain wasn’t original? This is a perennial top 10 movie of all time. And Newt, the historian that he is, obviously identifies with this tale of love, loss and adventure of freedom fighters trapped in Nazi Africa. And while no doubt Gingrich sees himself in the Bogart role, it’s not hard to envision him as the wily local police chief played by Claude Rains, who always seems to have an angle.

ORIGINALITY: One star

QUALITY: Four stars

A BETTER CHOICE:  "A Beautiful Mind" (2001), the story of a great intellect who, after a series of ups and downs, finally gets the recognition he deserves.

Michele Bachmann: Braveheart (1995) and Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The candidate with the titanium spine appears to have a taste for crowed-pleasing violent movies involving high stakes. These are two movies about FREEDOM, as William Wallace would say. The choices make sense, as Bachmann frequently speaks in alarmist, even apocalyptic terms while on the trail. But does she really want to associate herself with Mel Gibson?

ORIGINALITY: Two stars

QUALITY: Three stars

A BETTER CHOICE: Given Bachmann’s well documented proclivity for sometimes stretching the truth, what about "Rashomon" (1950), a film by the Japanese master Akira Kurosawa that documents events from multiple and differing perspectives?

Rick Santorum: Field of Dreams (1989)

What man over the age of 40 doesn’t love this tender story of a farmer who, for the hell of it, decides to plow over his crops to recreate a baseball field? But we’re a little suspicions of the fact that the film celebrates its Iowa locale, since Santorum has placed all of his electoral chips in the state. Plus: does the deeply conservative ex-senator realize that Kevin Costner’s character idolizes a liberal writer from the 60s?

ORIGINALITY: One star

QUALITY: Three stars

A BETTER CHOICE: "The Sixth Sense" (1999)--the story of a character whom audience sees, but the other characters in the story do not.

Rick Perry: Immortal Beloved (1994)

If you’re talking about stunning, out-of-nowhere pick, it doesn’t come any stranger than a Texas governor choosing a romantic biopic about Beethoven starring Gary Oldman that most moviegoers couldn’t describe under oath. And perhaps this has been the missing clue to Perry’s erratic debate behavior all along: He’s a tortured, misunderstood genius living his life to a piece of music that only he can hear. (Wait, are we sure this isn’t Gingrich’s favorite movie?)

ORIGINALITY: Four stars

QUALITY: Three stars

A BETTER CHOICE:  "12 Monkeys" (1995)  A man travels back in time to prevent a terrible event from occurring. Don’t you think, given his recent struggles, that Perry would love a do-over?

Here's a clip from "Immortal Beloved." It just screams cowboy boot-wearing Texan, doesn't it?  

james.oliphant@latimes.com

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