(1979)4Michael BetzoldPerhaps the most potent film satire of the television age and postmodern politics, Being There, released in 1979, foreshadowed a generation of films that critiqued the shallowness of mass culture. But none did so with as much economy as this profoundly simple fable. No one could have played the lead role of the moronic gardener with more nuanced efficacy than Peter Sellers. When his plain-speaking character, who has done nothing all his life except watch TV, is thrust into political notoriety, Sellers displays an uncanny adeptness for mimicking the rote movements and empty phrases of a latter-day political leader. Directed expertly by the politically astute Hal Ashby, the story was adapted by screenwriter Jerzy Kosinski from his own novel. It won an Oscar nomination for Sellers and a best supporting Oscar for Melvyn Douglas; and it marked the last great part for Sellers and the end of a run of major 1970s efforts from Ashby.