Davis Guggenheim: Need to Be Quicker on Your Feet, Bro

by Sonny Bunch on March 9, 2012

There is an awkward—painfully awkward—video from CNN in which Piers Morgan openly mocks Davis Guggenheim, the auteur behind a 17 minute Obama commercial documentary, for being unable to mount a single criticism of the president other than “He’s done too much awesome shit for me to condense into a 17 minute hagiography.” Seriously. Read the transcript. Watch the video. It’s brutal.

Now, I’m not going to concern-troll the left; I’ll just point out that there are valid critiques a person coming from that perspective could levy. (Gitmo, drone strikes, etc.) I’m much more concerned with Davis Guggenheim, a talented director who is remarkably slow on his feet. The guy’s no slouch behind the camera: He directed a couple of my favorite episodes of Deadwood, including “Reconnoitering the Rim,” and produced the first season. He directed a great episode of The Shield (“Coyotes”). He filmed the unaired pilot of The Unit, which I still contend is one of only two or three cultural products to really get the war on terror. And he directed the school reform documentary Waiting for Superman, which takes apart corrupt teachers unions that are failing our kids and puts a human face on the education reform movement. Not a bad body of work.

These successes make it all the more unfortunate when he dons his leftist hat. He’s a cut-rate Michael Moore—too mushy, less visual verve—and the role just doesn’t suit him. An Inconvenient Truth is nothing if not blah…and I hope he got paid good money for this Obama campaign ad documentary.

I get the sense that he’s just not very good at this sort of thing; he’s a liberal, sure, but he doesn’t really have an instinct for politics and doesn’t know how to go in for the kill. He doesn’t breathe politics like a Moore. Instead of doing what’s easy or comfortable—and nothing in Hollywood is more easy or comfortable than boilerplate liberal claptrap—it’d be nice to see him doing stuff that’s, well, good. We’ve seen he has it in him.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Klug March 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm

“He filmed the unaired pilot of The Unit, which I still contend is one of only two or three cultural products to really get the war on terror. ”

I’d love to hear more about this. I really liked the show, for all of its strange tics.


Sonny Bunch March 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I reviewed the pilot six years ago:


The show went sharply downhill when the ditched the militarist opening theme for the poppier number. (I mean, that didn’t have anything to do with it; that’s just when I remember it hitting the skids.)


Klug March 9, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Oh, yes. Very true. My wife comments on that, every time we watch reruns.


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