The documentary takes a close look at the Republican National Convention from Miami Beach and the Democratic National Convention from Chicago. It delves into the ten televised debates between William F. Buckley Jr. (Kelsey Grammer, voice) and Gore Vidal (John Lithgow, voice) from August 1968, moderated by anchorman Howard K. Smith. The vitriolic exchange between the two great public intellectuals is put up to analysis and viewed from the current media landscape, but also on a personal level that displays what led each candidate to perform as they did during the debate.
The film does not only focus on the steamy debate, but also on how each participant felt about their conduct and position long afterwards. Vidal’s clear domination had forced Buckley to eventually come out of character and demolish his calm and collected persona. Although the two intellectual titans truly seem to hate each other, it becomes apparent that television and the media’s interference ultimately painted a very different picture than what was actually going on. There is also emphasis placed on the far-reaching effects of the debate – not only the regrets of both Vidal and Buckley, but also the years-long litigation that came about as a result and the media’s coverage of the whole scandal.
“Outstanding footage and interviews make for a juicy look back at the 1968 post-convention TV debates between ‘sort of crypto-Nazi’ William F Buckley and Gore Vidal, who quotes Pericles without notes.”
— The Guardian
“Gordon & Neville’s film is a shining testament to two of the sharpest intellectuals at either side of the political spectrum.”
— Culture Fix
“Best of Enemies embraces the obvious but fitting metaphor of the debates as a boxing match. Its first act builds toward the initial night the way Rocky builds to the showdown with Apollo Creed.”
— Battleship Pretension
Did You Know?
Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal initially contained an exclusive interview with Gore Vidal. However, the directors eventually decided not to include it and only used archive footage of the intellectual during debate. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was immediately interested in buying the rights to Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s documentary.
The documentary features appearances from John Lithgow, Noam Chomsky, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Hitchens and Dick Cavett. Review our Gay Themed Films Here