Divide and Conquer (2018) & Bombshell (2019)

After the year 2000 there were a spate of documentaries exposing the neo-Conservative media that had dominated Republican ‘White House pathway’ public relations strategy from Nixon to Bush II, among them ‘Outfoxed’, ‘Boogie Man’ and ‘Get Me Roger Stone’. Then 2016 happened, with Roger Ailes resigning in July and Donald Trump elected in November. Then Ailes died in 2017. Then Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo happened, and the onscreen forays into this phenomenon proliferated even more.

Ailes, founder of Fox News and perhaps the most colourful character of the oevre, has ultimately come in for the lion’s share of the attention because a) he has now passed away so he can’t sue and b) his story contains all the elements of glamour, money, controversy and success that make a great story. This is highlighted in Alex Bloom’s excellent and comprehensive ‘Divide and Conquer’ documentary, produced the moment that Ailes was gone (compare it with the much more circumspect ‘Outfoxed’). Its tale of big business corporate sexual harassment featuring feisty and none-more photogenic heroines like Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson was too much for Hollywood producers to pass over, so the following year Jay Roach who is making a speciality of politics movies brought us ‘Bombshell’. It stars a roll-call of every conceivable blonde A-list actress in Hollywood, in particular Charlize Theron sporting a method take on Megyn’s distinctive, husky accent, in what is something of a Hollywood feminist love-in with scarcely a single sympathetic male character, but is essential viewing nonetheless.

The real interest in the movie is arguably not even Ailes but his boss, the shadowy ‘Darth Vader’ of conservative news, Australian tycoon Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. The opening of ‘Bombshell’ with its intro into the functions of the different floors of News Corp’s tower in New York, including the NY Post, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal is as pure a distillation of political news media in the pre-Facebook era as you can get.

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