Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ides of March

The Ides of March
seen @ Cobble Hill Cinemas, Brooklyn NY

I'll never forget the time I saw Barack Obama give a speech. This was when I lived in Columbus, which was during the height of his presidential campaign. This was one of several visits he made to Ohio during my time there. In addition to the state being a pivotal election battleground, it had a Democrat governor, and Columbus had a black Democrat mayor (he's still there; the governor isn't). The speech was held in a plaza on the western side of a bridge leading to the downtown area. The city skyline framed Obama as he spoke to a huge crowd in mid-October. By this point I had already cast my vote for him; I had never voted early in a presidential election before, but when I discovered I could do so, I figured why not.

I remember thinking how important it was to stay focused on the content of his message and to not get swept up in the fervor of the enthusiastic crowd. I've been to political rallies before, but this was different. There was a palpable sense that the audience not just wanted, but needed this man to be the one to fix the many problems created by George W. Bush. It was not unlike being at a sporting event or a concert, but it also felt more urgent.

On the night of the election, Ohio was declared to be for Obama relatively early in the race. Obama had already built an early lead, but if I recall correctly, the belief still existed that John McCain could come back. I remember thinking that he may have clinched the victory by taking the "swing state," a state that could've easily gone either way, and as it turned out, he did. And we all remember the overwhelming sense of joy and euphoria from most of the nation that accompanied Obama's victory for weeks afterward. Seems so far away now, doesn't it?

There are a whole lot of betrayals, compromises, lies and secrets over the course of the movie The Ides of March, which follows the campaign of an Obama-like Democratic presidential candidate through the primaries stage in Ohio. I was a bit disappointed that it's mostly set in Cincinnati. The only mention of Columbus is by a minor character late in the film, who proclaims that that's where she's from. (Still, between this, Take Shelter and Super 8, it's been a pretty good year for Ohio-based films!) It's gotten some criticism over the belief that it doesn't say anything new, and maybe it doesn't, but I still found it engrossing, and obviously it made me think of my first-hand experience with following a presidential race from the Buckeye State. 

Someone says in the film that Democrats aren't willing to do the things Republicans do in order to get ahead, a notion that has been expressed elsewhere. Without getting into a big laundry list of the faults of both parties, let me just say that maybe if there was less bitterness and vitriol on both sides and more reasoned, rational and level-headed discussion, there might be less need for dirty tricks and sabotage and betrayal in politics. Crazy thought, I know.

The Cobble Hill is a small neighborhood theater near downtown Brooklyn, the sister theater of the Kew Gardens, which I've talked about plenty of times. Ides is actually the second George Clooney film I've seen there; the first being Up in the Air. I also saw Avatar there. I went there to take advantage of the Tuesday discount, but for some reason, it wasn't in effect for Ides. I rushed to the box office just as the film was starting and handed the box office clerk my money, only to see a sign at the window specifically saying that the usual Tuesday and Thursday discount would not apply for the first two weeks of Ides' screening. I've encountered similar restrictions for SONY/Columbia films before, at the Sunnyside theater, and I'm wondering how rampant this practice is? Anybody else ever encounter this? I'd really like to know.

I like the Cobble Hill fine, but the seats are a little too small for me. No stadium seating here, but the seats feel a bit tight and there's not enough legroom (keep in mind that I'm a bit larger than the average moviegoer). Fortunately, the seats have high backs, unlike the Sunnyside, so I still had a modicum of comfort.


  1. I was pulled in by that moment too ("They never win because they never want to get down in the mud with The Elephants"). Like you, I thought - maybe politics might not seem so desolate if both sides tried to stay above the fray.

    But that's the sad thing - it's never about one person's leadership or's about the blame and dirt they can lob across the way.

    The tarnish that even the most iconic candidate can be hiding was what drew me into this film. That, and the ruthlessness it takes to get them within even a hope of a win.

    Going into this blind, I was quite taken by the film...looks like it isn't playing quite as well as it goes wide.

  2. Not sure how it is up there in Canada, but we've had the Dems and Reps dominating the political landscape for soooooooo long that I think that may be part of the reason for such entrenchment on both sides. My theory anyway.

  3. This is entertaining even if suspense barely builds and pay-off revelations come with little surprise. Clooney, as a director, is also able to draw-out amazing performances from this whole ensemble cast. Great review.

  4. It's true that there's not a great deal of suspense, but the actors do make it all watchable.

  5. This is the kind of film that I'd wait to rent later, but the trailer looks pretty good. Btw, I always love reading your personal viewing experience, Rich, boy that's gotta be uncomfortable sitting in a seat too small for you! Good thing I'm petite so the seats are always roomy for me :D

  6. It's the legroom that's the real problem. I suppose I could've just moved to an aisle seat, but I arrived just before the opening credits and the house lights were dark and I didn't wanna move around too much.

  7. I'm not how much after the fact this will color your vision of the film or understanding some of why it was what it was, but it had absolutely nothing to do with Barak Obama.

    It was a play which was very marginally inspired by Howard Dean's primary campaign.

  8. I know that, but one can't deny the parallels - especially with the use of the Shepherd Fairey-like poster.


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