Monday, November 05, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Poliwood (2009) ***

NR, 90 min.
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Rachel Leigh Cook, Alan Cumming, Tim Daly, Charlie Daniels, Robert Davi, Giancarlo Esposito, Anne Hathaway, Spike Lee, Josh Lucas, Matthew Modine, Susan Sarandon, Richard Schiff,

During the last Presidential Election filmmaker Barry Levinson made this documentary about the Creative Coalition to better understand how politics work in our modern age. Celebrities involving themselves in politics have long been a controversial topic. Many think that celebrities are abusing their raised position in the public spotlight when they back political causes and candidates. There is one scene in here where a woman attacks a group of celebrities who have invited her to a conversation on the topic with such vitriol you’d think she was talking about a group of 9/11 terrorists.

The film is quite revealing about the façade of our political process today. He has Republican delegates admitting that the conventions are merely huge television shows put on for nothing but appearances. Nothing you see in them is real. Everything is scripted and rehearsed including the crowd participation. They say everyone in that room are professional politicians. Every single person cheering is performing a professional role to get his or her party in the White House. I don’t think this is really news to anyone, however.

Levinson’s primary focus is the journey of several celebrities to understand their roles in the political process. He shows them struggling to figure out exactly how they should approach their political output. Young actors like Anne Hathaway have to separate their political rhetoric from their film promotion. Older hands like Ellen Burstyn and Susan Sarandon don’t concern themselves so much with how they express their opinions, but they are still very involved in trying to figure out what their differences are with other people and why.

Levinson’s conclusion is a little depressing. He feels that since television has completely changed how we promote politics in this country, it will never be about the actual issues again. He feels that the politicians, the media, and the celebrities have all become intertwined in a theatrical endeavor that will continue to make politics more about appearances than substance, and although the people involved still have opinions and passions, in the end it will always come down to the better showman. 

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