Best of Enemies Screen 12 articles

Best of Enemies


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  • A very prototypically Sundance-y doc (destined for TV and classrooms, “audience-friendly”), this is a consideration of an Important Topic fleshed out with contextual talking heads and zipped up into a brief, digestible package.

  • Buckley and Vidal are portrayed too specifically as opposing iterations of identity politics, with talking heads ranging from biographers to media scholars supporting the film's weakly chiseled assertions.

  • ...Even this potent moment in network news is diluted by the excess of commenters dissecting the fracas, which Best of Enemies then rushes to proclaim as a harbinger of today’s nonstop bloviating.

  • I am sorry to see Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’sBest of Enemies being hailed for remembering a golden age when intellectuals fought out profound issues in public. There is more intellectual insight and incisive commentary on a single night of Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report or John Stewart’s The Daily Show than in all of the mean broadcasts of Buckley and Vidal.

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    Sight & Sound: Philip Kemp
    July 24, 2015 | August 2015 Issue (p. 66)

    Visually the film is staid, consisting as it does mostly of vintage TV footage interspersed with talking heads. The content, though, more than makes up for any lack of visual pizzazz.

  • Everyone involved in this documentary realises that Vidal and Buckley are their loaded weapon. Their wits cut away the years and their communicative skills are so nuanced and far-reaching and that both appear as humans rather than hollow political automatons.

  • It's fascinating. It's horrible. It's fascinatingly horrible. It's also, as Gladstone points out, a sterling example of the power that television, when it was still a "public square," could have.

  • Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon’s brisk, thorough documentary Best of Enemies recounts the ten “rounds” (the “debates” were really more of an intellectual boxing match), the backstories of both men, and the fallout from the confrontation, which colored the lives of the participants for many years afterward.

  • Best of Enemies does a good job playing up the magnitude of the Vidal/Buckley rowing... [The film] plays not only as a lively document of an engaging – and insanely entertaining – intellectual rivalry, but as a lament for the very idea of the public intellectual in contemporary life.

  • The merit of “Best of Enemies,” as well as its commercial success, depends upon a crucial ambivalence. Although Gordon and Neville don’t spare ABC, or, for that matter, Buckley and Vidal, for transforming political discussion into blood sport, they regard the unusual sophistication of such televised fare with admiration and nostalgia.

  • The Best of Enemies” provides a rich, extraordinarily fascinating account that’s sure to have many viewers’ minds constantly shuttling between then and now, noting how different certain things about politics and media were in that distant era, yet marveling at how directly those archaic realities led to many of our own.

  • You might enjoy the spectacle of two of the foremost intellectuals of their time coming very close to physically beating the crap out of each other. You might _not_ expect, however, to find yourself weeping – for the state of the Republic and the poisoned media landscape, for the decay of the American social contract. Yet here we are. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s masterful Best of Enemies leaves you with an overwhelming sense of despair. It’s not just a great documentary, it’s a vital one.

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