Wag the Dog

Year: 1997
Studio: New Line Cinema
Director: Barry Levinson
Producer: Barry Levinson/Robert De Niro
Writer: David Mamet/Hilary Henkin/Larry Beinhart
Cast: Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Anne Heche, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Kirsten Dunst, William H Macy, Woody Harrelson, Craig T Nelson, David Koechner
One of the best films of the year. A satire of both Washington and Hollywood and how crucial image is to both that slices as sharp as a diamond cutter (more so than was intended, being released at the onset of the Clinton scandal). A high school cheerleader has accused the president of indecent assault in the oval office months before an election. The solution is to bring in legendary political spin doctor Conrad Brean (De Niro) to make him look like a hero again.

Together with larger than life Hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Hoffman) and long suffering assistant (Heche), a non-existent war in Albania is devised for TV audiences to take the heat off the sex scandal. Overcoming obstacles like a jittery CIA, their selected war hero (due to be paraded on camera) turning out to be a slavering sex criminal, a plane crash and finally Motts wanting the recognition for his secret work, they pull off the trick.

Some of the best satire is found in the movers and shakers the group surround themselves with - country and western songwriter (Nelson) pens a song for filing in the state archives to be 'discovered' by journalists, free-market dealmaker (Leary) organises to get corporate heavyweights like Nike involved. Some great devices like the President never being actually visible on camera (symbolic of his part in political wheeler-dealing). The ultimate barb, however, is thrown at the American people for swallowing without question whatever they see on TV.

Sharp, biting, bitchy, and priceless every minute. Hoffman's character was reputedly based on legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans.

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