A behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God, and sex.
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Timely documentary that looks at the infamous debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. during the incendiary conventions of 1968. The 'unconventional' coverage changed the face of TV news and opened the age of punditry that mars the face of reportage today. Both men gained fame but were haunted by their encounters. Impeccably researched and edited this thought provoking document is also entertaining.
A wonderful, captivating look at the origins of TV punditry, and how news turning into entertainment and American discourse dying by autoerotic asphyxiation were not corporate conspiracy but rather (even more frightening) a natural progression of public tastes. Horrifying, then, that it's still immensely entertaining, and that what was once a shocking failure of decorum on TV is now par for the course.
The bit-playing hired hands (talking heads, all) are almost as delightful as the film’s principles. My personal favorites are Reid Buckley, Bill’s baby brother, and Christopher Hitchens, whose reputation for scathing wit and intimidating erudition rivaled that of his elder blowhards -- “Hitchens identified himself for many years as the heir to me … unfortunately, for him, I didn't die,” said Vidal before he did.
Buckley had the unfortunate habit of not being prepared, which sprung from his arrogance. You can see it in his debate with James Baldwin. His whole life was being on the wrong side of issues, acting as a stop sign against social progress. Vidal knew exactly what buttons to push, but could not enjoy his victory. He could never be happy with the way the world was and that's what fueled his criticism.
A superb account one of the most distinctive ideological impasses in TV history. 1968 was a fraught political time between the centre-left and the right. Sociologically convoluted implications of theatrical debate abound. Whilst Vidal is far more preferable to Buckley, partisan conflict did not lead to breakthrough.
Best of Enemies illuminates the birth of televised debate as political theater. The documentary contains a number of laugh-out-loud moments courtesy of the two heavyweights' immeasurable wit and genuine distaste for one another. While the intellect of Gore Vidal is dazzling, you can't help but occasionally sympathize with his conservative prey.
How did we get here? We used to listen to both sides. To be able to endure a debate where an enemy would argue and defend his case. Now we live in information bubbles and subscribe to feeds of people and news sources to validate how we already think. We purposefully do not expose ourselves to anything that could endanger our world view. And when we do publish ourselves it's to make sure we get validation and likes.