On Reagan on HBO

Ronald Reagan is getting the HBO treatment for his 100th birthday.  Eugene Jarecki‘s new documentary “Reagan” debuts on HBO Monday night (7 Feb 2011).

The Wall Street Journal is hopeful, asking “Can HBO Get ‘Reagan’ Right?”  Fox News suggests that many of us will be surprised to learn more about the man behind the myth:

“On all sides of the political spectrum, Americans are greatly misled on who exactly Ronald Reagan was. He is one of the most used and abused figures in American history because many people find it politically convenient to wrap whatever their own privately held agenda is in his wonderful glow and his great personality,” Jarecki said. “We are led to believe that Reagan stood for many things that, in many cases, are not the case at all. The real surprise in the film is just that the real Reagan so defies the stereotypes that are cast around him today.”

Jarecki screened the film at Sundance and got a glowing review from a National Public Radio affiliate:

Vermont documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s new film, “Reagan,”played Sundance and will premiere February 7th on HBO.  Jarecki skillfully separates Reagan the myth from the actual man. He charts the former actor’s small town beginnings as the son of an alcoholic father who was driven to make his mark – first in Hollywood and then as a rising political star.  The film shows Reagan as a sportscaster and pitchman for General Electric, where his visits to GE workers across the country provided a political platform – but ultimately got him fired.

Scenes of Reagan as California governor, chiding peace demonstrators, reminded me how he skillfully blended his charismatic optimism with righteous anger, like when he later seized the microphone during a New Hampshire primary debate and ordered Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” dividing Germany.  The film also recalls how Reagan gave amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants, presided over a peaceful end to the Cold War, and energized a nation that became dispirited under Jimmy Carter.

I won’t see it myself, I’m too cheap to do HBO.  I had Showtime as a free trial when we switched to cable triple-pack (television/phone/broadband) last year, but I didn’t have time to watch it much.  So if you see the show let me know what you think.

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