Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bad Ideas for March

George Clooney has done and said some interesting things politically. For one, he has seemed to be quite serious about making a difference in Darfur.

As far as Barack Obama is concerned: “I’m a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people you’ve elected,” he told ABC News.

That means he doesn’t thinks Obama is perfect, but he’s the man Clooney voted for - and punted - and he’s standing by him, which is admirable.

Furthermore, he has made it quite clear that he’s aware of the fact that the US media are polarized in terms of which paper or TV channel supports which party, so in The Ides of March “we wanted to talk about how we elect people and the deals we make along the way.”

That certainly happens. Clooney seems almost obsessed with the mechanisms of (American) power, and he knows how to portray them effectively. Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman and their opponent, played by Paul Giamatti, deliver flawless performances as campaign managers of one ethical stripe or another. Note that it’s mainly a boys’ affair.

Seymour Hoffman’s speech on political loyalty is something to savour, as is Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack, but here lies the rub. Clooney: “I knew that the only way I was going to be allowed to [make the film] - because I’m a Democrat and I’ve been sort of loud about it at times - was that I’d make [my presidential candidate] a Democrat so that the flaws are [those] of a Democrat.”

And boy, his Mike Morris sounds almost too good to be true, even as a Democrat. He’s into the kind of technology that wouldn’t require oil; he isn’t a Christian or a Muslim; the only thing he believes in is upholding the US Constitution. In fact, he seems to believe in everything someone else believes in: George Clooney.

Then, after a real homey scene with his screen wife (Jennifer Ehle as the lovely power-background wife), we discover that he’s as big a shithead as John Edwards, who was getting an intern pregnant and trying to cover it up while his wife was dying of cancer. Good luck, and good night Mr Edwards.

But this is not clever politics, let alone controversial. In fact, it’s effectively an admission of failure on Clooney’s behalf. If he, with all his star power, couldn’t make a film that goes beyond what Noam Chomsky calls “manufactured consent”, then where does that leave him? Or us? Do we care about the American electoral system? Do Americans? Will the majority of them, just because he’s in it? Perhaps.

But then they might just take him literally when he praises the Republicans’ effective (but appalling) strategies and shows us that atheist Democrats are not to be trusted. And again, does the rest of the world really care for this kind of exceptionalist drama, one way or the other?

Neil Sonnekus

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