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Running Time:
1 hour 26 minutes

Rating: R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.

Rating Explanation:
for sexual content/nudity and language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This documentary not only brings to light a story that may have slipped away from our memories, but it's also a fascinating tale that's both exhilarating and engaging, an entirely fitting and vital showcase for the film's iconoclastic subjects.

Additional Info:
Kelsey Grammer
John Lithgow
Dick Cavett
Gore Vidal
William F. Buckley
Noam Chomsky
Christopher Hitchens
Matt Tyrnauer
Ginia Bellafante
Brooke Gladstone
Sam Tanenhaus

Best of Enemies
Focusing on the coverage of the 1968 Presidential conventions. ABC was the underdog network, and rather than going "wall-to-wall" they provided 90 minutes of prime-time programming to talk about the leader that would follow after President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to run for a second term. In order to enliven the debate, they hired two exceptional commentators and intellectuals from opposite sides of the spectrum to have a brief debate every night.

The political differences between William F. Buckley, spiritual founder of the modern Conservative movement, and playwright/author/advocate Gore Vidal mirror the divide between Red State and Blue State America that has defined the last five decades. To watch these confrontations playing out decades later is, at times, stunning and startling, seeing a level of discourse that is lacking in a landscape where people shout over one another from competing on-screen boxes, yet the same general (and perhaps irreconcilable) divide remains about the very concept of what it means to be the United States.

Co-directed by Robert Gordon ("Johnny Cash's America") and the Oscar-winning Morgan Neville ("Twenty Feet From Stardom") the film beautifully interweave media clips, debate highlights, and contemporary talking-head interviews to produce a nuanced, complex look at the tête-à-tête. The words of Buckley and Vidal are read by Kelsey Grammer and John Lithgow, and the venom shared between the nemeses is palpable. Yet it's their inextricability that really comes across, their almost symbiotic relationship as media players who provide thesis and antithesis to each other's argumentation.

Tellingly, the biographers of each man present their respective subjects as complex, conflicted individuals, and the us-versus-them divide is articulated with many levels of greatness. It's as if the filmmakers are retroactively providing the kind of sober contextualising that this form of "debate" helped endanger on television. The participants themselves would spend considerable time (and thousands of words) revisiting those moments, and the film simply adds to that continuing conversation, bringing it beautifully into relief against the current landscape.

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