Mr President, as you settle down for an extended seasonal vacation at the little seaside cottage you and your retainers call the ‘Winter White House’, may I, as your sommelier of visual entertainments, recommend a few seasonally suitable amusements for the Mar-a-Lago screening room?
You being you, the sort of movie you might find admirable may not exactly square with popular feeling regarding the season of good-will to all men — and, as you recently said, ‘women too, to be politically correct’. If goodwill isn’t to your taste, perhaps the presidential palate will enjoy some ill will, with a side order of bile?
Submitted for your approval, Jon Landis’s classic comedy Trading Places (1983). You, as a POTUS of a certain age, will enjoy seeing doddering screen veterans Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche as they play greedy commodity brokers Randolph and Mortimer Duke. The Duke brothers benefit from inherited wealth, if you can imagine that. They share a distinctly Trumpian belief in the value of what your doctor, the entirely trustworthy Ronny Jackson, calls ‘incredible genes’. Hard as it may be for you to imagine such perfidy, the Duke brothers almost manage to scam their way into further millions by manipulating the yearly orange crop report.
Unfortunately, at least for the brothers, they are outwitted by a blue-blooded former employee, Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) and Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), who is — and there’s no need to take out a full-page ad in the Times about this — both black and a petty criminal. The brothers have ruined Winthorpe for a dollar bet and put Valentine in his place. But Winthorpe and Valentine rumble their plans and exact a fitting revenge:
Billy Ray Valentine: ‘Yeah. You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.’
Coleman (Winthorpe’s butler, played by Denholm Elliott): ‘You have to admit sir, you didn’t like it yourself a bit’.
And as you’re friends with Kanye West, you’ll surely agree with Randolph Duke when he hears Billy Ray Valentine singing: ‘They’re very musical people, aren’t they?’
Remember, Mr President, that if you don’t like the ending in which the Duke brothers are thrown into the gutter, you can always change. it, or even reverse it entirely, so that the Dukes triumph and Aykroyd and Murphy are thrown into back in the gutter where they belong. Just a stroke of the presidential Sharpie, and the first Executive Order to Hollywood will be on its way.
If you’re looking for a movie to share with young Barron, I recommend Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992). You may recall this one, as you appear in it. You give young Macaulay Culkin directions to the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, which you owned then, and which still resembles a 19th-century New Orleans brothel, just without the decorative restraint. And let’s not forget 1985’s insufferably treaclesome Santa Claus: The Movie. Though Christmas is a time for family, not for dwelling on your legal problems or talking about them on Twitter, you’ll be fascinated by John Lithgow’s unscrupulous and embattled toy manufacturer B.Z., who’s under a totally fictional and malicious Congressional investigation for his unsafe products.
‘B.Z, this stuff can kill people!’ an adviser warns.
‘Are you going soft on me?’ B.Z. replies.
Should the First Lady deign to grace the screening room with her presence, I suggest that you do not — repeat: not — screen Batman Returns (1992), starring Danny Devito as aspirant politician Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin. The Penguin’s greeting to Catwoman could lead you to look up ‘cold shoulder’ in your Slovenian dictionary: ‘Just the pussy I’ve been lookin’ for!’
You of course already know that you are a man of destiny. You may be surprised, though, to discover that your destiny is predicted in Batman Returns. ‘I could really get into the mayor stuff,’ The Penguin says. ‘It’s not about power, it’s about reaching out to people – touching people — groping people!’
As a contractor who knows how hard it is to pay everyone off once the job is done, or even before it’s started, you could take a note from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). The stingy boss Frank Shirley (Brian Doyle-Murray) gives employees Jelly of the Month vouchers, rather than the expected bonus. As some of your former contractors have learnt, being paid at all is a bonus.
A President’s work is never done, even at Christmas. If you find yourself obliged to fire anyone over the holidays — Robert Mueller, perhaps? — you should pass the job to your outgoing chief of staff John Kelly. He has clearly been prepping by watching Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men (1992) and Burt Lancaster’s General Mattoon Scott from Seven Days In May (1964). Unfortunately, when it comes to Jared Kushner, you can’t copy James Caan’s initially hard-hearted publisher Walter Hobbs from Elf (2003), and pretend you’ve never met him.
Lastly, and perhaps closest to your heart, is Bill Murray as the ruthless TV executive Frank Cross in Scrooged (1988). You’re a lot like him, except that in the end he gets scared witless into being good. Cross attempts to pep up his network’s lame Christmas Carol special (starring Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, Mary-Lou Retton, Robert Goulet and John Houseman — the latter referred to as ‘America’s favorite old fart’) with some flesh-baring from the Solid Gold Dancers:
Cross: ‘I want to see her nipples.’
Censor: ‘But this is a CHRISTMAS show.’
Cross: ‘Well, I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples.’