Documentary Review- Best Of Enemies

Do you know why cable news is the way it is? Two people of opposing ideologies screaming at one another? Best Of Enemies takes on the ten debates between a hero of the Conservative movement and a hero of the Progressive movement.

Best Of Enemies was a documentary made in 2015 about National Review founder and editor William F. Buckley of the Right debating playwright and cultural agitator Gore Vidal of the Left. They came together in 1968 to commentate on both the Republican Convention which saw Richard Nixon become the GOP candidate and the Democrat Convention which saw Hubert Humphrey become the Democrats candidate.

The documentary presents the thesis that this was start of what the mainstream media has become. Two talking heads arguing over a point instead of bringing us the news.

The film shows that the ten debates were not about substance, but soon devolved into name calling and personal attacks which ended in Bill Buckley threatening to assault Vidal. Later, each would sue the other, an event that spanned on for many years. Even as Buckley became a successful television personality and Vidal would write successful films and books, they would hang onto their grudge forever.  It told of their lives afterwards and how the two of them continued to carry their mutual hate. Their feud would not end until Buckley’s death in 2008. Vidal still held on to the bitterness that the two would feel for each other until his death in 2012.

It takes personal readings from each one’s writings with Kelsey Grammer (of Cheers, Frasier) voicing Buckley and John Lithgow (of 3rd Rock From The Sun) voicing Vidal when they could not footage of the two icons themselves. Grammer perfectly captures the elegance and intelligence of Buckley. Lithgow, likewise, captured the brooding passion of Vidal.

The documentary was a sad testament to the state of our modern press. I agree with the documentary’s conclusion about how news has changed for the worse. Though Buckley and Gore would never know it, they changed the face of news from straight reporting to argument after argument.

Best Of Enemies is a great documentary. It lacks a narrator, rare, but effective for this film. It was directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville and they did a great job of presenting the histories of the two icons, set up the debates, and had great interviews. My only problem with it was Bill Buckley was not given the same representation that Gore Vidal was in terms of experts.

PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong Language and brief sexual content with archived scenes from the film Myra Breckinridge.

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