The Big Potato

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As he pounds the podium over Iraq, Bill Clinton must know he's a doughy, pot-smoking (if not inhaling) child-of-the-sixties version of George Bush -- but he may not be aware that the Coen brothers had him down a year ago with The Big Lebowski (1998). Easily the best (and possibly only) Gulf War period piece since the real thing went down in 1990, this movie got shunned by theatergoers but has developed a well-deserved cult following after its video release, possibly because it sports the best dialogue overlaps since Touch of Evil.

"This agression will not stand . . . man," says The Dude (a deep-in-the-role Jeff Bridges), gamely quoting Bush's sound bite -- and serving notice that politics, patriotism, and holding down a job may not, after all, be the best ways of spending your life -- it's all been done before. And The Dude inhales. Deeply.

Newt Gingrich knows that too. And a week after his ouster-turned retirement made the Contractor for America just another aging suburbanite, we thinks we knows how Newt and Marianne are keeping their wits sharp: acting out scenes from The Lion in Winter (1968). This has to be the wittiest, fastest-paced costume drama that we can think of. Starring Peter O'Toole as Henry II, Kate Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitane, and Anthony Hopkins as Prince Richard, it's historical cinema with none of the textbook dreariness.

Yes, history is our guide through these pale, imitative times, where John Glenn and even the Yankees are just poring over the old scripts. But some of those scripts are awful damn good. And most of those fit right in your VCR.