GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
Waterbearer Films, 2006
Unrated, 80 minutes
Out director Todd Verow's Bulldog in the Whitehouse is a no-holds-barred political satire that also falls into a sub-genre of queer film that I like to affectionately refer to as "porn with a plot." This is not meant negatively, as Bulldog may be one of the most subversive films I've seen in a long time. I should preface this review by saying that I can be a sucker for crude political humor (the ruder the better) when I am in the right mood. And I was primed for this movie, the night I watched it, because my head was ready to explode from having just read that President Bush made the supreme sacrifice of giving up golf while our loved ones are getting killed in Iraq.
|Part South Park, and part Chi-Chi laRue, Bulldog in the Whitehouse depicts Bush and his gang of idiots on Pennsylvania Avenue as an assembly of deceitful and sex-crazed homos who are busy shagging each other while Rome burns. The plot is inspired by the Jeff Gannon/Washington press corps scandal, and is loosely based on Choderlos de Laclos' classic Dangerous Liaisons.|
|For those who need their memory jogged, Jeff Gannon was the pseudonym of James Dale Guckert, a conservative website columnist who, inexplicably, received unprecedented White House press clearance from 2003-2005. He was a clear favorite of then-Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who allowed Gannon to repeatedly ask "softball" questions at news conferences. When other reporters grew suspicious, they discovered that Gannon had no background in journalism other than his association with the GOPUSA-owned Talon News (which did not even exist when he first received his security clearance) and that, under the name of Bulldog, he also ran several gay escort service websites, with names like hotmilitarystud.com, and worked as a $200 an hour gay prostitute. Secret Service records showed that Gannon visited the White House on several days when no press events were held, and that he signed in but sometimes didn't sign out.|
|This scandal was just too delicious. On cable, Jon Stewart dubbed Gannon "Chip Rightwingenstein of the Bush Agenda Gazette" on The Daily Show and Bill Maher gleefully quipped, "The White House has ties to gay prostitution!" Yet, the scandal never received the press that it deserved, despite the obvious security breakdown that allowed Gannon to receive daily press passes while using an assumed name. Such special treatment could only be authorized by the highest circles of power. There was rabid speculation on blog-sites that Gannon was Karl Rove's boytoy.|
|And that is the premise of Bulldog in the Whitehouse. Karl Rove, known in the film to everyone only as The Presidential Advisor (and sometimes as "Turdblossom" to his friends) is cast in the Marquise de Merteuil role that Glenn Close played in the film of Dangerous Liaisons and Gannon, AKA Bulldog, fills the casanova Valmont part. Bulldog bets the Advisor (Rove) that he can seduce and bed the pious New Press Secretary - who would give up every one of his principles in the process - and that it would be the crowning moment of his career. But, like Valmont, he falls in love in the process. Meanwhile, the President is trysting with Bobby (the CEO of GOPUSA), the First Lady is scheming with the Press Secretary, the Advisor holds everyone's strings, and Bulldog is shagging everyone in the White House, including the President.|
|The Advisor, in Verow's alternate universe, looks like a cross between Jabba the Hut and The Baron Harkonnen from Dune. The President is played as if he was Crispin Glover in the first Back To the Future movie; in other words, like a blithering idiot. When he confesses his love for Bobby to the Advisor, he is told that such desires are normal but that coming out is a sin. Some of the most astute satire is delivered when the President is fed everything he says through a wire by the Advisor. When told that "people aren't buying the whole WMD thing," that Iraq is getting worse and his approval ratings are way down, the President parrots after the Advisor: "Raise the terror alert again." At a press conference, Bulldog is picked so he can offer the President this vacuous question: "I just want to say that you look great, considering what a hard job you have. Do you sleep well?"|
|But, before I go any further, I have to warn my readers that Bulldog is NOT going to be the next Dr. Strangelove or Thank You For Smoking. It is a very poorly made movie; most of it looks like one of those live soap operas on television in the 1960s, and some of the acting is terrible. As a gay man, I should be insulted by the Bush administration being depicted as queer but Verow's satire has a point and that is why I am not going to harp on the film's micro-budget. Part of the reason that Bush was re-elected was because his spin doctors exploited homophobia in America (thank you Karl Rove). We've seen one hypocrisy after another these past eight years, and what an irony, worthy of Kubrick, it would be if the White House was filled with a gang of Roy Cohns holding the reins of power.|
|Verow (who also directed the controversial Frisk back in 1995) has done his homework, and this is truly a subversive, perhaps even dangerous, film for the way that the director chooses to connect the dots. The actual facts are all there, and many odd ones too that prove, again, that truth can be stranger than fiction. Take, for example, the scenes where the President affectionately rubs Bulldog's buzzed head - there are actual news photos of Bush rubbing Gannon's shaved head. Or the Advisor's alias of "turdblossom" - a script excerpt from the upcoming Oliver Stone biopic, W, has surfaced online featuring dialogue where Bush calls Rove "turdblossom." Bulldog, like Gannon, is also implicated in blowing Valerie Plame's CIA cover.|
|It's all here, along with speculation of the rudest order. But it's amateur agitprop. If he only had a writer like Terry Southern as dramaturge to hone the script, not to mention some decent camera work. This is not to say there isn't some radical imagery in the film. I point to the shots of Verow as Bulldog, nude and straddling a wall painted like an American flag, and also to the Kabuki-masked drag performer who raps on the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the filming of most of the dialogue scenes is SO flat but, when things get dull, there's always some gratuitous frontal nudity or a sex scene (and there's a lot of them) to liven things up.|
Bulldog has many faults; I couldn't review this film honestly without saying so. Even some of the Dangerous Liaisons parallels are lost because a long expository scene (think the initial dialogue between Glenn Close and John Malkovich in the Stephen Frears film) was cut. It can be seen in the Deleted Scenes section and the film makes more sense with this scene than without. But, despite these flaws, I still admire the maverick filmmaker's audacity. Apparently I am not alone, as Bulldog won Best Feature Film at the 2006 Chicago Underground Film Festival. Yes, it's totally tasteless, but the political satire is often quite brilliant. One just wishes that its execution didn't diminish the punch that it could have had. Check this film out, and then go online and read all the actual facts (and the rumors too). Do the math yourself and this film might not be as "out there" as it first seemed.