Though the laws of restaurant physics state that a critic’s review can mean the life or death of a restaurant, sometimes those laws are broken. Sometimes a place remains open due to good service, rich clientele, or witch magic (we’re positive Bandolero exists because of Santería rituals). Sometimes sheer trendiness, celebrity love, and the perceived value that results can make a restaurant succeed. Hell, we’ll even admit to making a reservation now and then based on nothing but a restaurant’s recent buzz. Here, We’ve picked six restaurants that have notedly defied the odds, and the critics. What do they have that everyone else doesn’t? Probably money, a celebrity restaurateur, a former location that is beloved (or Santería).
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Primary Colors (1998) – 1998, you will find, was an awful year for political movies. Based on the novel by TIME Magazine columnist and former Democratic consultant , Joe Klein Primary Colors stars John Travolta as Bill Clinton... Right, I suppose it is intended to be a lose portrayal. But, from Travolta’s cropped grey mane to his awful Clinton accent, Travolta’s impression leaves the viewer with the distinct feeling that they are watching a bio pic. Travolta plays Jack Stanton, a personable but philandering Southern governor, who decides to mount a run for president. He wins. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 5.
Reds (1981) – This is tough one. Co-written/directed/produced by Warren Beatty, Reds is by far and away my most favorite film ever made. Ever. There is no close second. I have an affection for this period in history and I think Beatty’s portrayal of the journalist Jack Reed -- as well as Diane Keaton’s portrayal of Louise Bryant – was spectacular. If you have never seen it, you should. It’s great. All that having been said, I can see how conservatives would dislike this film. It makes an effort to romanticize Bolsheviks and demonizes many of the average Americans who, during the Red Scare of the 1910s-1920s, were rightfully weary of communism. That is particularly true of playwright and Bryant’s lover, Eugene O’Neill. In general, this is a wonderful movie, even if it glosses over some of the hotly contested social and political issues of the time that continue to resonate today. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 5.
Bulworth (1998) – The lesser of our two written/produced/directed by Warren Beatty selections, Bulworth chronicles the losing reelection bid of the eponymous lead character. Bulworth, depressed and suicidal, contracts a hired killer to have him assassinated so his daughter can collect on the insurance. His drunken reelection bid’s follies include conducting a (controversial?) affair with a young, African American campaigner ( Halle Berry) and rapping before C-SPAN cameras. Finally, Bulworth is shot by an insurance company representative who is fearful of the senator’s advocating for a single-payer health care system. Message: Republicans hate both interracial relationships and health insurance for all – in fact, they hate it so much that they are driven to murder. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 6.5.
Dave (1993) – Dave is the owner of a temp agency who takes over for the president when he falls into a coma because they look similar… Yep. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 7.
Good Night, and Good Luck
Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) – Co-written and directed by George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck is a love letter to the 1950s. As a mission statement, the film succeeds in its attempt to lionize the noble efforts by members of the entertainment and media establishments to resist the push by former Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy to find Communist Party members in every dimly lit corner of American life. As a movie, it is a snoozer. While McCarthyism is nothing to look back on fondly, this droning, monotonous, self-congratulatory portrait of those persecuted staffers that put Edward R. Murrow on the air every night displays all the nuance and balance one might associate with the bombing of Dresden. This film won six Academy Awards. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 8.
Nixon (1995) – Oliver Stone has made some awful movies as well as some good ones. This ranks among his most awful. While Anthony Hopkins turns in a pretty watchable performance as President Richard Nixon, the film indulges in every conspiracy theory that was never given enough credence to advance in polite company. The Bay of Pigs? Nixon was responsible. The Kennedy Assassination? Nixon was complicit. Watergate? Come on, you know. Even Patty Nixon is portrayed as a drunken, pill-popper with an addiction to power. Honestly, if this plot were the ramblings of a homeless lunatic on the street it would demand as much credibility as this movie. At least there is some history here, and alternate histories – while aggravating – can be entertaining. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 8.5.
Wag The Dog
Wag the Dog (1997) – Narrowly avoiding being included in the infamous year of horrible political movies, the hated 1998, Wag the Dog is Barry Levinson’s dark political comedy that stars Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro. The movie’s plot centers around an adulterous president who is caught in a sex scandal (you know who) hires political and entertainment consultants to fabricate a war and the subsequent American peacekeeping response in a little-known Balkan country. The war, which exists only on American televisions, is used to raise the embattled president's approval ratings. In the end, the ruse works and the president is reelected. But when one of the producers couldn’t keep quiet, it is implied that the government has him dispatched. The plot is a fantasy. It is the fever dream of conspiracy theorists that cheapens the art of governing as well as the stewarding of national security; in that way, it is a mirror of how American's viewed foreign affairs in the interregnum between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. Thankfully, the thing only runs about 90 minutes. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 9.
Recount (2008) – Recount is the Democratic point of view of what happened during the 2000 recount and subsequent Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore that called the election for George W. Bush. Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe film consultant and ABC News reporter . While the facts of what happened in that period are presented relatively clearly and in a watchable way (I find the movie entertaining and enjoyable, if not aggravating in parts), few would contend that Jake Tapper Recount is not a fictionalized version of events that led to the election of President Bush. What is most interesting is that there is a Democratic Annoyance Scale (DAS) rating for this film as well, as many criticized that it made Democrats – including Warren Christopher – annoyed at their portrayal and the way in which Al Gore was depicted. Unfortunately, I am not qualified to attribute a DAS to this film – but I can give you a GOP Annoyance Scale rating… it’s a 9.
Bob Roberts (1992) – written/directed/co-produced by Tim Robbins, Bob Roberts is a Republican senate candidate who is attempting to unseat a sitting Democrat. How does he do it? Well, he determines to cast himself as a folk singer who mocks 1960s protesters. Roberts is a wealthy candidate who finances his campaign through a charity that may have trafficked drugs with a mission from the Central Intelligence Agency. When an unfriendly reporter is implicated in the attempted assassination of Roberts, but later cleared of wrongdoing, Roberts defeats his opponent. The film ends with the reporter being assassinated by a right-wing radical. Is there a message somewhere in this mishmash? I’m sure there is, but I couldn’t be bothered to figure it out. In fact, I couldn’t be bothered to finish the film. Fortunately, there is Wikipedia; for the first time in twenty years, I just learned how this movie ends. GOP Annoyance Scale rating: 9.5.
The American President
The American President (1995) -- Michael Douglas plays a single man occupying the Oval Office who falls for a reporter and drags her into the scrutiny that characterizes the world of politics as they begin their public relationship. This was the height of the time when Americans determined that political and foreign affairs were less interesting than the sex lives of their elected officials. What’s worse is that the plot of the movie, insofar as there is anything political to discuss, revolves around a crime control measures that liberals love more than they love their super popular Democratic president. Douglas’ character takes to the White House briefing room on the morning before his State of the Union address and wows the press corps and later wows Congress with his rousing support for a watered down version of the bill. The president gets the girl and he gets high public approval ratings... Ick. This GOP Annoyance Scale rating goes up to 11.