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This documentary was phenomenal. from start to finish, Barry Levinson
shows a comprehensive look at what the political process has become,
how it got that way, and how the "well known" status has influenced it,
for better, and for worse.
this movie is not independently about the liberal media, it is not independently about the conservative right, it is not independently about celebrities, politicians, appeal, communication, dialog, it is not about telling you what to think. In a day and age where Michael Moore seems to have ruined the playing field for politically themed documentaries, this film returns credit to the scene. it is bipartisan, it is representative of both sides of the spectrum, and it almost seems to attempt to unite the two sides in healthy dialog.
i don't like people that come on IMDb.com and generalize and project, people that say "if you don't like this movie then you're an idiot" or something to that effect, but with that said, i feel like not liking or at least appreciating what this film is trying to accomplish means you're politics and thought process have fallen victim to the games MSNBC and FoxNews are playing with you.
there are equal minutes for both sides and some of the most accomplishing moments come from "hollywood elitist" types engaging in a gut-wrenchingly powerful conversation with people at the RNC. At the conclusion of the RNC portion, my jaw was dropped and i almost felt like standing up and applauding.
the aforementioned prerequisites for watching this film are that you go into without bias. i don't care if you've voted straight ticket democrat, or want Obama out of office, or don't like war, or are for the end of abortion, whatever your politics may be, THROW THEM OUT before you watch this. Poliwood will not "Michael Moore" you with skewed facts, it will not fox news you with slanted opinion or fact. it will present a case for getting this country back in the right direction, it will challenge you to do your own research before you open your mouth, it will show you humility and understanding from the common man to the A-list celebrity.
but most importantly it will show you that this government is now, always has been, and always will be the best option for our country, the democratic process and way of life is a luxury, and the freedom to speak and do as we please comes with great responsibility. i think this film is trying to hold us accountable to our obligation as Americans to BE INFORMED, to BE EDUCATED, to BE UNDERSTANDING, and to BE FAIR.
what is right for me here in Texas, may not be what's right for you in North Carolina, but we can have an open dialog to better understand each other, as opposed to letting what conservative and liberal talking heads say speak for us.
so cast your political bias aside, this movie is not aiming to change what your politics are, it's aiming to change the kind of person you are. it promotes tolerance and the responsibility to educate yourself. and it's got some entertaining and funny moments to boot. a truly great film, and i'm glad i had the pleasure of watching it, and hope you get the chance too.
Poliwood is an interesting documentary by renown filmmaker Barry
Levinson (Rain Man, Wag The Dog, Sleepers). In this film he has set out
with a number of celebrities, interviewing them about their political
affiliations and activities, with hopes of scratching the surface to
reveal the ever-blurring boundaries between Celebrity (Hollywood) and
Politics. It is essentially looking at how Celebrity influences
Politics in a number of ways: from Actors becoming Politicians (Reagan)
and vice versa (Gore); to how PR Firms/Mainstream Media Outlets promote
and cover Politicians the same way they do celebrities ("they don't
sell you the product, they sell you the lifestyle you will
inherit"-Sarandon); to how politicians align themselves with
Celebrities in order to gain an advantage over their competitors
(Obama); and, of course, how all of this affects the decisions of
The film particularly focuses on a group of Hollywood "Elites" that have aligned themselves with a "non-partisan" (clearly liberal leaning) organization called the Creative Coalition, where they work together in order to influence politicians on a variety of issues and promote social programs in the realm of the arts, music, and physical education. The group was founded by Ron Silver in 1989. Some members highlighted in this film include Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Burstyn, Rachael Leigh Cook...and don't worry, there are some Conservatives in there too... like crazy Christian Stephen Baldwin.
The first important revelation comes when Levinson is talking to Susan Sarandon and Ellen Burstyn about an interesting article written by JFK, published in TV Guide in 1959, prior to his running for the Presidency. Now Narrating, Levinson discusses how JFK used this article to outline how the growing influence of Television- and the Hollywood style PR that came with it- was starting to drastically affect America's political culture. Sometimes for good, sometimes for greed.
He compliments this by noting how it was a television speech that Reagan made as an actor in support of Goldwater's presidential bid that led him to politics ; and how TV News, which had been previously operated as a social service, became watered down when it started to require ratings and sell advertising...He even gets an MSNBC anchor to admit that he and everyone but Jim Lehrer are pandering for ratings.
After putting forth his argument and interviewing a bunch of CC members from both ends of the spectrum, Levinson follows the group to both the Democratic and Republican Conventions, where they seek to garner support for their causes while educating themselves about what their opponents are thinking, and why. They are particularly surprised by the Republican Convention where everything is like it is on TV: the politicians fake; the speeches scripted; and the audience there as props to cheer when required. Though, keep in mind, the majority of the group's members allowed themselves to be used as promotional props for Obama's campaign. To be fair, Levinson and the members of the group do acknowledge that, "everything is orchestrated on both sides", as one person states.
I personally found the segments near the end, where the CC sat down with the talking group of Republicans for a "dialogue", and the interview with that bow-tie wearing douche from CNN, to be particularly interesting. The accusations and assumptions made by the group toward the CC members: that because they were actors they had no political knowledge and thus had no right to promote a political agenda, were not only hypocritical (in that they felt that way only because the CC members didn't agree with them), but were actually more applicable to the Conservative minded celebrities, as opposed to the more liberal-minded ones they were degrading in the meeting. You've got to respect the CC members' attempt to dialogue with their ideological enemies, at the very least.
Shot and edited like a homemade documentary, the film offers us a glimpse into what it's like to be a liberal leaning celebrity with a political opinion, as seen through the eyes of Barry Levinson, a liberal leaning celebrity with a political opinion. It must be noted that the film was edited in a way as to ensure that the film's focus would not be on the actual opinions of the Celebrities, but rather on their role as a mechanism of influence. Unlike the organization's non-partisanship, the film does take a partisan stance...but that does not detract from it's value. I quite like the argument that Levinson develops in regards to the technological introduction of Television and how it got us into this mess; in fact, i think it's rather un-debatable. But at the same time, I left feeling that this film was an attempt to vindicate the Celebrities for promoting Obama as the lesser of two evils...despite the fact that they realized both sides are just as fake as Hollywood.
In conclusion, I'll leave you with this quote from Levinson, which pretty much sums everything up: "If they are not Telegenic then they cannot become President of the United States. We are about this far (*shows an inch between his fingers*) from the political version of Miss America." Interesting watch, worth checking out. 6.5 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Barry Levinson's documentary is not really about politics but about the
relationship between politics, celebrity, and the media, which Levinson
calls "an unholy alliance." If Levinson has a political opinion in the
standard sense of the term, it's not readily apparent.
The director evokes a Frank Capra movie from the early 40s as an example: "Meet John Doe." The movie stars Gary Cooper as an ordinary guy who is picked to represent a fictional character by a newspaper. He's picked to be made into a public hero because he looks photogenic and he acts in an innocent and ordinary way. And John Doe DOES become a populist hero. The newspaper takes him on tour. He reads rousing speeches about the nation being made up of "little guys like us," written for him by Barbara Stanwyck, a reporter. John Doe Clubs spring up all around the nation. He's adored, lauded wherever he goes.
Then, back to reality, there is Joe the Plumber, if anyone remembers him. He was an ordinary guy who asked Barack Obama a simple, challenging question during the campaign. The media loved Joe the Plumber, a husky, plain-looking Midwesterner with a shaved head. He looked right. He could speak in complete sentences. He was taken on tour and lauded. But he was swept up by the losing side and today, a man of no journalistic experience and no background in politics, the media has lost interest and Joe has faded from public consciousness after writing a book and becoming a motivational speaker.
This isn't to denigrate Joe the Plumber or his political philosophy but to emphasize the nature of celebrity. There was unquestionably a similar element of "celebrity" in Barack Obama and his campaign. Expensive inflatable sneakers decorated with Obama's face are now advertised on television. You can buy an authentic Barack Obama chia doll. (Obama's head is filled with dirt and, when it's watered, tiny leaves sprout from it.) I've taken up a lot of space with John Doe and Joe the Plumber, one fictional and one real, because it summarizes the main points I think Levinson is trying to make. The television camera, he tells us in a few black-and-white editorial inserts, is "entertaining" but "a disaster" for the news because it confuses make-believe with the truth. "Reality TV" is not "reality," he reminds us.
Some of the Hollywood celebrities we see have pointed political views. We're probably familiar with most of them. But, on the whole, they're not the ego-ridden airheads we might have expected. And some have frankly come to learn something about the issues and how the system works, and they find themselves embarrassed when reporters ask them to make comments on complex issues. I mean, what the hell does Anne Hathaway know about the role of structured derivative instruments in an economic collapse?
More engaging points that Levinson makes. What can a celebrity or politician "sell" on TV? Not funding for the arts or education. The channel gets switched. But they can sell conflict and outrage which, like natural disasters, receive ready attention.
Sometimes, if you want to make your pitch for a cause, "celebrity" provides a more powerful platform than "politics." For many years, global climate has been one of Al Gore's chief concerns. Yet, as Vice President, he could not engage the media. But once out of office, a private citizen and public figure, he could organize a persuasive presentation, film it, and win an Academy Award -- not because he was a former Vice President but because he had become a celebrity.
Anyone who wants to, can find weaknesses and bias in "Poliwood." Who knows what wound up on the cutting room floor? But they'd have to work at it because Levinson, who treats all his guests politely and with sweet reason, seems GENUINELY gripped by the ethical problem of politics/celebrity/media, and not by any particular social issues. He doesn't ask anyone about political issues and his subjects' comments are mostly limited to the subject at hand, the confluence of politics, celebrity, and the media.
Sixty years ago it was mandated that the networks devote at least some part of their air time to news, as a public service. The news departments of all networks consistently lost money, but they were willingly done by professionals as pro bono publico. Now it's not about public service but ratings.
Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general for that matter,
has more than its share of vacuous people...BUT, there are many
intelligent and thoughtful people there. I'd like to think the latter
vastly outnumbers the former.
Barry Levinson does a nice job in "Poliwood" by showcasing some very popular 'celebrities' who also happen to be very passionate and credible in their concerns about political issues. When did actors cease to be 'real Americans' as asserted by Rudy Giuliani?
Thanks, Barry. The rest of us who call ourselves actors appreciate seeing our profession represented as more than just a bunch of overindulged airheads.
"Make Believe" is what our world has come to, according to the
intelligent voice of Barry Levinson.
One criticism of an external review was that POLIWOOD is meandering; indeed, there is no neat beginning, middle and end. But that's all right, as we are partaking in what Levinson has cleverly termed a "film essay," and strict organization is not essential, as long as the bits and pieces offer substantive value, adding up to a thought-provoking whole. Another complained that there is nothing, really, that we haven't heard before. Yet what is more important is whether the points being made are substantial, and whether they deserve to be made again, to a complacent and largely unaware public.
In other words, we basically are all aware that we are living in a relatively phony world, where extremist fringe groups dominate politics, with the money/zeal to effectively manipulate the public. The movie helps us to infer that perhaps we are living at a time when these forces have become more powerful than ever before. Of course, life is going to go on, we are all too weak or busy to do anything about the way we're led on a leash, but it is of extreme importance to be reminded of this truth.
Levinson tells us of a 1959 TV Guide article written by John F. Kennedy that spoke of the truths we know so well today, regarding, basically, the powerful hold of the televised media. We are reminded, for example, that the photogenic Kennedy won his TV debate with Nixon, while Nixon won with the non-visual radio medium. The GOP recognized the attractive telegenic qualities of Ronald Reagan, when Reagan gave a speech during Goldwater's 1964 presidential bid, and soon after, it was probably no coincidence that Reagan was elected as governor of California, paving the way to a political journey destined to reach the top. The message: the competence and talent of the candidate began to take second place to the person's superficial qualities. We are told that physically and sometimes personality-challenged past leaders, such as Presidents John Adams, Taft and FDR, very likely could not have survived in today's political climate, where (my example) an Arnold Schwarzenegger can get elected for all the wrong reasons.
One of the more thought-provoking facts pointed out was that television stations were once required by the FCC to provide public service programming, in exchange for the privilege of controlling valuable public airwaves and the opportunity to turn great profit. This was back in the days when the news meant something, a "public service," and a credible fourth wall that kept the corruption of government in check. With the help of deregulation, where giant conglomerates have gobbled up diverse news sources (resulting in mainstream media colluding with the controlling corporate world), we know we live in far different times now, very detrimental to our democratic process, where the bottom line has taken on critical importance, and the necessity to profit has taken precedence over the fact-supplying duty of journalism. Thus, the line between news and entertainment has blurred, irrelevant celebrities appear regularly on news shows, and in order to generate greater profit, news shows focus on conflict (e.g., liberal vs. conservative spokespeople in debates), thus adding to the impossibly polarized and often uncivilized status we are seeing today.
The role of celebrities in news-making is also explored, something I found of interest, because we all share, to some extent, a general contempt for, say, a not-necessarily-very-intellectual actor, who pretends to carry political influence largely on the basis of fame. In fact, we see the anger of the average citizen, when paired off with celebrities in the film's finale. POLIWOOD does not openly endorse the role of the celebrity, but recognizes the inevitable role that celebrity now carries in the political process. I enjoyed seeing celebrities in a behind-the-scenes sort of way, acting like everyday people, sometimes making sense, sometimes not.
What I liked about the film was that even though the participants largely represented the Hollywood left (which is my assumption, given the presence of obvious candidates such as Susan Sarandon; yet there were other famous faces, such as Robert Davi, whose political orientation isn't familiar. They belong to a group called the Creative Coalition, which stresses that they are a "non-partisan" organization), the point of the film is not to take sides, but to reinforce what has become the disturbing and unreal "reality show" aspect of our political times. This is a concept that everyone should be concerned about, regardless of political leanings. In fact, what the film is warning against is how the media has become so much more effective in manipulating minds -- that is, the kind of mentality expressed by a fellow POLIWOOD commentator, "Styopa," in his lash-out essay entitled "Self-justification hits the big screen" (offering the first comment here; I am the fourth), where Styopa gives the impression of being so conditioned by the media of the right, he immediately sees POLIWOOD as liberal propaganda. It's rather ironic, because the entire point of the film is the sad and harmful state that we have evolved into as a society, and not an endorsement for any political view.
In fact, a profound moment of the film was one exposing liberal hypocrisy. The late actor, Ron Silver, identified as the founder of the Creative Coalition, opined that too many liberals have become alarmingly intolerant, with some closing the book on further discussion, announcing that their minds have been made up, and that nothing can dissuade them. Therein lies the damaging societal gridlock, and only by examining what irresponsible forces have shaped us to such extremes can we hope to return to constructiveness and normalcy. This may be an unrealistic hope, as the controlling forces have become too powerful, but if we are not aware of these forces, choosing instead to mindlessly surrender to whatever we are being spoon-fed, then the situation will become truly impossible.
The basic premise of this film is that the media has blurred the lines
and polarized the country in a way that has created conflict over truth
The sub text is celebrity and it's role in making or breaking a candidate.
I went into this movie wanting to really like it.
The celebrities are all idiots who could care less about anything except getting their names in the paper. What an insular jaded bunch of jerks.
It's not an even handed take, as some reviewers say. The film is roughly 90 minutes long and 2/3's is devoted to the DNC convention with Obama butt licking.
Then we shift to the RNC convention and a bunch of liberals are interviewed saying they are going to learn what the Republicans believe in. They arrive and we are told the mood is somber and there is "nobody" there. Five minutes into what you think will be the right's say, we cut back to the libbie and some idiotic concert with Woody Guthrie music and the SEICU commies. Then Sting with some strange hair.
Where's the balance?
To be fair, Levinson's commentary is really good and on target. But those are few and far between. The vast majority of the movie is left- biased and presents the liberal point of view.
The Republicans are shown as sand buffoons, unlike the Democrats.
As i said, I really wanted to like this film more than I did. I wanted to smack Ellen Bursten. SHe's such a self centered jerk.
Too bad...this really could have been a great film. Given the slant, it's just OK
While I enjoyed Poliwood and everything it taught me about some of the
actual views of celebrities, I couldn't help but feel that I was being
manipulated. Everyone of the liberal celebrities is shown to be
open-minded, intelligent, kind, compassionate, and empathetic.
Meanwhile all of the Republicans--in one way or another--are subtly
discredited. Example: The interview of Stephen Baldwin centers on
religion and not politics. The entire film seemed to be about how rough
the celebrities have it with their opinions not being respected.
There was a clear bias in that there was rarely any mentioning of liberal media bias. The only media bias widely spoken of was, of course, Fox News. For crying out loud, Keith Olbermann, who many times out-Foxes Fox, is used to prove one of Levinson's points about conservatives.
Levinson's bias is finally and ultimately revealed when he arrives at the RNC. Upon arrival, he immediately begins to crack jokes (Which might have been funny if he didn't have his sidekick ruining them). This is in stark contrast to his reverential approach to the DNC and President Obama. (Of course once the holy liberal celebrities arrive, they begin to hold meetings with conservatives about open-mindedness.)
Final Verdict: 6/10 It was extremely interesting to me, however; it is a very manipulative, biased piece of film.
"A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in
the political world as storms in the physical." Thomas Jefferson,
letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787 One documentary film serves
to highlight Tinsel town's liberal artists and celebrities as they
exercise their political voice and power. Poliwood, directed by Barry
Levinson and co-produced by actor Tim Daly, of the progressive Creative
Coalition, criss-crosses America during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Interviewing Hollywood liberals and mainstream media moguls, Daly hopes
the production will underscore the main goal of the Coalition,
"bringing issues to the table for national discussion".
Levinson's Poliwood ambitiously interweaves several issues that that he sees as important in Hollywood: How television has changed the nature of politics, the development of politicians as "actors" in shaping public opinion, and the increasing political polarization of America.
Instead, Poliwood serves to expose the hypersensitivity of today's liberal Hollywood creative community which is understandable - given their experiences at the hands of conservative Hollywood during the Communist Inquistion of the 1950s. If the shift sometimes appears unfair, it may depend on who's looking through the lens of history.
It probably comes as no shock that most artists are a pretty unconventional crew. This is due in part to their creative nature and because the very act of creating art itself needs a rather imaginative soil to grow and thrive. So, it's a safe bet that most Hollywood artists are liberal in their thinking and hence, in their politics.
Levinson chose the 1959 Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign to make his point that: "Television is a medium that lends itself to manipulation, exploitation, and gimmicks. Political campaigns can actually be taken over by the public relation experts who tell the candidate not only how to use television, but what to say, what to stand for, and what kind of person to be." The movie focuses on some of the Creative Coalition's more visible members Tim Daly, Susan Sarandon, Anne Hathaway as they attend both the Democratic and Republican Conventions during the summer of 2008. Levinison's camera catches their roller-coaster emotions, from breathless and teary-eyed enthusiasm during the DNC's homage to candidate Barrack Obama, to their petulant "do-we-have-to-go?" resignation at the RNC.
One revealing scene occurs during an "open dialog session", facilitated by conservative pollster and communications consultant, Frank Luntz, during the Republican National Convention. He was asked (presumably by the CC) to moderate a discussion between Creative Coalition members and RNC campaigners. Levinson's camera pans the CC membership, all well-known actors, as the conservative campaigners voiced their concerns on the negative stereotyping that liberal Hollywood practices. Many in the CC entourage became visibly angry, defensive, and hostile. It was left to the more seasoned veteran liberals Susan Sarandon, Tim Daly, and Ellyn Burstyn to paint a pretty picture and sooth the hurt feelings all around.
Even the founder of the Coalition, the late Ron Silver, laments before the camera about the current polarization of the country, which is now coming from the left-wing faction. He saw a real danger in the "intolerance on the left", because they "are unwilling to hear arguments they don't agree with." Along the way, Poliwood is successful in interweaving television's complicity as a propaganda tool with the political processes of Washington. However, the scenes of Hollywood activists displaying their different shades of bias however humanitarian - make a stronger statement about history repeating itself.
This appears to be only the second commentary on this film, and I am
fairly certain that the first critic and I would not be golfing
I want to refrain from tossing epithets at the loyal opposition... screw it... Republicans are ignorant racist morons, and Democrats are spineless overly sensitive idiots! If you erase the opinions of the Ditto-heads that were dragged by their wives, kicking and screaming, to see this obviously biased 'documentary' this movie is GREAT! Just don't expect to hold a civil discussion on the topic if you insist that your favorite Glenn Dreck fan accompany you.
Hollywood is chock full of vacuous dilettantes who are all-too-anxious to proffer political/cultural/religious gibberish as if they are psychically connected to the Wizard Himself... Hollywood is also filled with highly intelligent, superbly talented people, who are allowed by the grace of their celebrity to encourage their fans to become informed and participate in our Grand Democratic Experiment.
In our time, as 'Hybrid' technology is growing, I am a Political Hybrid. I am liberal on most social issues, but I am also conservative on the Second Amendment, violent criminals, and government spending.
Nearly all of the stars in this film acquit themselves well of the charges that right-wing nut-jobs are constantly hurling from their fortified Fox Studio-Bunkers. It is gratifying to watch beautiful, intelligent people, with the gifts of talent and charisma, speak eloquently and passionately about causes and policies that they deeply believe.
So, if you believe what you hear on Fox Noise Network, do everybody a favor and do NOT see this movie... I am tired of trying to hold a dialog while the shouting morons jump up and down at the center of the room.
"PoliWood" is one of the worst documentaries I have seen.
With a director like Barry Levinson, I certainly wasn't expecting such poor quality. At the beginning I was questioning if he forgot how to direct because he had shaky hand-held interviews that looked bad and didn't add anything to the film.
It's supposed to be about how celebrities have influenced and changed politics. But it went frequently off-course with topics like the history of television and public relations. Which all would have been fine if anything of interest was added. Most of the interviews and footage didn't actually say anything of note, and when they did, they didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.
Documentaries should be able to educate while providing interesting footage and interviews which actually relate to the subject matter at hand. But "PoliWood" didn't have any of that: it didn't teach me anything new and I don't think it could enlighten anybody. Most of the footage didn't directly relate to celebrities influencing politics. And while he did have interviews with celebrities about politics, they were mostly with well-respected individuals like Ellen Burstyn and Susan Sarandon, and most people don't question their involvement in politics.
But what about the (negative) impact when talent-less celebrities like Paris Hilton or Megan Fox try to get involved? And more importantly what can we, as more educated and informed citizens, do to stop their influence on the political process if it is in fact detrimental?
I'm extremely disappointed that "PoliWood" didn't even try to answer those questions, and more disappointed that it didn't even show me anything interesting or educational.
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