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Wag the Dog

Wag the dog.jpg

Director: Barry Levinson
Writers: Larry Beinhart (book), Hilary Henkin (screenplay)
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche

After being caught in a scandalous situation days before the election, the president does not seem to have much of a chance of being re-elected. One of his advisers contacts a top Hollywood producer in order to manufacture a war in Albania that the president can heroically end, all through mass media.

Conrad: A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
Stanley: The President will be a hero. He brought peace.
Conrad: But there was never a war.
Stanley: All the greater accomplishment.
Conrad: What difference does it make if it's true? If it's a story and it breaks, they're gonna run with it.
Stanley: I'm in show business, why come to me?
Conrad: War is show business, that's why we're here.
Stanley: This is politics at its finest.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What could you tell about Stanley Motss’s personality? Would you like to meet such a person?
  2. Conrad Brean said ‘It is real, I saw it on TV’ a few times during the film meaning that a news report offers doubtless proof of what really happened. Do you think it’s still true considering that the film came out 16 years ago? Or has anything changed with the growing role of the Internet?
  3. Do you think that the politics is fabricated in real life like it was shown in the movie?
  4. What kind of job do you think Conrad Brean did for the President?
  5. Do you think that Stanley Motts is right saying that the Academy Awards for producers should be justified? What kind of a role does a producer play for creating a movie? Do you think that producer is more important that other people involved (directors, script writers, actors, make-up artists, etc.)?
  6. Was the end of the film expected for you? Why do you think that happened to Stanley?
  7. Stanley Motts thought that ‘the war campaign’ was the best work of his life because it was honest. But at the same time it was all fake. What do you think about honest reality versus cynical fake in politics? Can fabricated news be accepted when the real events are simply too shocking for people?


  • to wag – вилять хвостом
  • to wag the dog – намеренно отвлекать внимание от насущного вопроса на что-либо менее значимое
  • to live by something – жить по какому-либо принципу
  • to allege – утверждать (безосновательно), заявлять (голословно)
  • a bulletin – официальное сообщение
  • sexual misconduct – сексуальное домогательство
  • outcome – результат
  • a pageantry – театрализованное, поставленное представление
  • to be appropriate – быть уместным
  • footage – отснятый материал
  • futile – бесполезный, тщетный
  • to flee – убегать, спасаться бегством
  • doesn’t do anything for me – мне не нравится, меня не привлекает
  • to meddle with/in something – вмешиваться, влезать во что-то
  • to witness– увидеть, быть свидетелем чего-либо
  • to have nuclear capacity– не иметь ядерного потенциала
  • hinterland – удалённые районы вдалеке от крупных городов
  • alert – бдительный, настороже
  • pursuit of happiness – поиски счастья
  • to be in a tight spot – быть в трудной ситуации, тяжёлом положении
  • to weep – рыдать
  • corny – банальный, шаблонный
  • homecoming – возвращение на родину
  • to take the credit (for something) – получить признание (за что-либо)
  • to be substantial – быть значимым, вещественным

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