The (Propaganda) Road We’ve Traveled

Unlike a lot of liberals, I don’t just tolerate President Obama. I don’t just like him better than the dismal alternatives. I admire him more than any other President in my lifetime. Not because he is black, a Democrat and articulate, as I my conservative friends charge. I admire him because he had a breathtakingly difficult economic, political and foreign policy assignment that he has done better than I imagined anyone could. Not perfectly by any stretch, but, given the difficulty of the tasks, very well.

So because of my man crush, I recognize I’m not an objective observer. But trying my best to judge it as a communications professional rather than an Obama admirer, I have to say the video the Obama campaign released yesterday tells the story of the Obama first term better than any communications tactic I’ve seen from Team Obama.

Love Obama or hate him, this is extremely good story telling, or propagandizing, depending on your point-of-view. It sets a context that makes an objective swing voter feel better about only having 8.5% unemployment and one sunsetting war.

Seeing this took me down another road I’ve traveled. I vividly remember despising every second of President Reagan’s masterful Morning in America ad, because it was so effective. Twenty-eight years later, I still hate watching the propaganda film that cemented President Reagan’s reelection, and his version of history.

President Obama’s film isn’t nearly as good as Reagan’s, mostly because it is 16-minutes longer, which severely limits the audience that will see it. But if I were a conservative, I would hate watching this film as much I hated watching “Morning in America” back in the day.

Maybe this isn’t saying much, but Obama’s film is the best political storytelling I’ve seen a Democrat do in a very long time. Base, if this won’t rally you, I don’t know what will.

– Loveland

The Kids Aren’t All Right

There was just about a half an hour of red-carpet time left before the start of last night’s Oscar telecast when ABC cut to an interview featuring  Reese Witherspoon with the “west coast editor of Vanity Fair,” a title that really does say a lot. What followed was dim-witted enough–Ms. Witherspoon was pleasant but utterly without anything to say–that I was all but tuned out when the west coast editor asked this: “So, tell us…does Oscar night ever get old?”

Now the odds of the answer to that question being either a surprise or even slightly interesting were, of course, zero.

Too bad there isn’t some way the viewers of the program could have responded instead, as I’m pretty sure the answer would have been a resounding yes.

As a matter of fact, last night’s show wore out its welcome fast…pretty much the instant a vaguely wasted-looking James Franco and the stunning but vapid Anne Hathaway came onstage for the first ever slacker hosting of the Academy Awards. Dudes, it was awful.

In what now seems to me almost another life, I used to write about the movies and even imagined myself something of a student of the Oscars. What I could never figure out back then was why an event celebrating the pinnacle of show business was invariably such a rotten bit of show business. Well, the beat goes on.

Part of the problem is that the Oscar telecast never takes advantage of its biggest asset: Access to miles and miles of film footage from this year’s movies and from those of years past. I mean, what would you rather watch: Francis Ford Coppola standing mute on stage for a round of applause…or five minutes of The Godfather? Jeff Bridges telling Jennifer Lawrence how cute she is…or a longer scene from her brilliant performance in Winter’s Bone?

I thought the low point was the presentation of the bloated list of Best Picture nominees…ten of them no less. In the interest of time but not actual interest, this was compressed into a montage of outtakes shown with the  big speech from The King’s Speech as a kind of weirdly appropriate soundtrack. Colin Firth’s disembodied words were, after all, a warning to the public that it should brace itself for something terrible.

I say, spot on sir!

In’venting Na’vi

You’re making a movie about “people” from some fantastical, far-off land, you have a $300 million budget, and you want your made-up characters to be convincing. These blue creatures who star in the movie Avatar are computer-generated, so there’s not much of a need for acting classes. Instead, why don’t you pay a linguistics professor to invent a language?

That’s what director James Cameron did.

“He wanted a complete language, with a totally consistent sound system, morphology, syntax,” Frommer says. And “he wanted it to sound good — he wanted it to be pleasant, he wanted it to be appealing to the audience.”

So now, the Na’vi language exists. And if this movie is as successful as it promises to be, we should soon see the proof that Na’vi has transitioned from fictional word gimmick to legitimate language: a Hamlet of its own.