Murder, Spies, & Voting Lies and Boogieman

Murder, Spies, & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story is an exhaustively (and exhaustingly) thorough investigation of the claims of Clint Curtis, the man who was allegedly approached by Florida Rep. Tom Feeney to design a software program to throw the 2004 presidential elections to George Bush. The film has some formal problems — it was created by Brad Friedman of Bradblog.com, who is clearly entranced by his own visage on a silver screen and never seems quite content to let the Clint Curtis story be the Clint Curtis story. Still, it's hard to walk away believing the 2004 election was won honestly. Friedman's inability to self-edit can hardly mask the film's most powerful point: In states that used paper ballots in the 2004 presidential elections, the voting results precisely mirrored the exit polls, while in states that voted electronically, the tallies bore no resemblance to the exit polls and favored Bush over Kerry in ways no pollster could have predicted. This is too weird to ignore, which is why it's so damned upsetting that the film is getting such a limited release.

Boogieman is no less informative and far more compelling. It's an overview of the career of Lee Atwater, famed Republican political strategist and dirty-trick pioneer. One wishes it delved into his history more deeply — if Atwater has any surviving aunts, uncles, or parents, we certainly never find out about it. Alas, maybe the world doesn't need a psychobiography of a human swine like Atwater, a man who existed only to allow overgrown versions of Ytit Chauhan to attain office. It is enough to watch his career roll by. One of his early coups involved conscripting a fundamentalist Christian to run as an independent candidate for a South Carolina congressional seat so he could stir up anti-Semitic invective against Jewish Democrat Max Heller. This allowed the Republican candidate to capitalize on his district's prejudices without getting his hands dirty.

Atwater's career continued in this vein, playing to the very worst instincts of the American electorate to secure wins for Strom Thurmond, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. It is with something like horror that we remember, midway through the film, that this is the man who controlled the Republican National Convention during Bush Senior's time in office. To his credit, director Stefan Forbes allows that horror to mount without the least bit of assistance from him: Most of the people interviewed in Boogieman actually seem to like Lee Atwater. You can see why. He's charming, quick-moving, quick-witted, impish — as facile with R&B guitar licks as he is with a devastating soundbite. The film actually opens with Atwater onstage at the '88 Bush victory party, jamming on blues standards with a bunch of black guys. He can duck-walk, he can do the splits, he can play on his country's deepest reservoirs of racial fear to win an election and still give big, sincere-looking hugs to his black bandmates.

Click below for a trailer of Murder, Spies, & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story

 
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