J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Sundance ’17: Trumped—Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time

On the first Saturday of this year’s Sundance, they held a protest parade, because Main Street just isn’t congested enough during the festival. You can scoff all you like, but it was probably necessary, or else people would have logically assumed Amy Schumer was totally down with Trump. Instead of crying wolf on Saturday, they could have waited for something to actually complain about on Sunday. Just what were the action items for the so-called “Women’s Marches?” Suspension of the Constitution? Imposition of martial law? Whether you like him or feel ever so slightly ambivalent, Donald Trump is now president of the United States. His unlikely electoral triumph is chronicled in Ted Bourne, Mary Robertson, and Banks Tarver’s Trumped: Inside the Greatest Political Upset of All Time (trailer here), which screened at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, before its Showtime premiere this Friday.

Sure, we know the broad strokes of what’s going to happen, but at least it is a happy ending, right Sundancers? Of course, we kid. Actually, this cut-and-paste job from the archives of the Showtime series The Circus makes it clear media pundits Mark Helperin and John Heilemann never saw it coming until it was too late, at which point they look like a comet is about to crash into Earth ending all life as we know it. Frankly, the large battery of editors make them look utterly ridiculous as they constantly pronounce the death of Trump’s campaign, only to see him pop back up the next day, like Freddy or Jason. Former Bush aide and “No Labels” guy Mark McKinnon comes across somewhat better, simply because he is less inclined to make sweeping pronouncement or snap assumptions.

Arguably, the misery Helperin and Heilemann are unable to conceal is one of the reasons Trump won. There is no question he benefited from a reaction against the media and its darling, Barack Obama that was deeper and more broadly-based than anyone working on The Circus realized. Many people just took all the dirt and weirdness reported in the press with a massive grain of salt.

Trumped hits most of the campaigns greatest hits and low lights, but it overlooks Clinton’s collapse at the 9/11 anniversary ceremony and her campaign’s instinctive response to obscure and misrepresent the actual facts. Frustratingly, it also ignores my candidate, independent Evan McMullen, which seems rather bizarre, since they were premiering the film in Utah—seriously he lives half-hour an away, at most. He also gave Trump a real scare in the Beehive State and remains one of his most dogged critics on Twitter.

Let’s be honest, we never should have reached this point. We all know we should have elected Romney in 2012, which would have meant we would have re-elected him to a second boring Steady Eddie term in 2016. Instead, we let the media intimidate us with “binders full of women” and claims that if we like our plan, we could keep our plan. As a result, we’re looking at four (and more likely eight) years of Trump chaos.  So, happy now?

It is truly absurdly comical to watch Helperin and Heilemann constantly underestimate and belittle Trump and to see him reciprocate the contempt right back at the media. As cobbled together by Bourne and company, it all looks so inevitable, which perhaps it was. Revealing in ways the filmmakers probably never realized, Trumped starts to explain how we got to where we are. Sort of recommended mainly as a time capsule portrait of media cluelessness, Trumped airs this Friday (2/3) on Showtime, after screening at this year’s Sundance.

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