The president as popcorn muncher

Ah, the privileges of being a lame-duck president! While the candidates are trudging through the ice and snow of New Hampshire this weekend, the nation's chief executive can lounge comfortably enjoying what he calls the White House's best perk: its private movie theater.

President Clinton is a movie buff, says critic Roger Ebert, who will broadcast an interview with "The First Filmgoer" on his syndicated TV show, "Roger Ebert & The Movies," this weekend (check local listings for times).

"I was surprised by how familiar the president was with the film scene, and impressed by his taste," Ebert says. "He's seen not only the high-profile films, but other good recent films. I've just come back from nine days at the Sundance Film Festival [in Park City, Utah], and I only wish more of the people sitting around me at screenings knew as much about the movies as he does."

Clinton told Ebert that he felt movies were "the defining element of American culture.... I saw every movie that came my way when I was a child ... they fired my imagination, they inspired me."

Current popular films the president has seen include "The Hurricane," "American Beauty," and "Three Kings." But he's also familiar with more obscure recent movies like "The Harmonists," a German film about a wildly popular 1930s singing group that was forced to break up as the Nazis purged Jews from the arts.

I saw "The Harmonists" last weekend on my 27-inch TV. Not quite like a White House screening ... but entertaining anyway.

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