You may have heard a thing or two about a documentary that’s suddenly making box office waves. The film is doing so surprisingly well that the film, which had little marketing support raked, managed a weekend gross of only a few million bucks less than the modest debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s bike adventure Premium Rush and it's already the number two documentary of 2012. I’m talking about 2016: Obama’s America, the film that purports to uncover the truth behind President Barack Obama’s policies and project his real plan for the U.S.’s future.
Of course, the movie is bolstered by its timing. For those living under a rock, we’re in the thick of a heated presidential campaign. Something this pointed and incendiary is sure to rile audiences up. Especially when the man behind the film, conservative author and political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, is well-known for sustaining accusations of factual inaccuracies after the publication of his buzzworthy Forbes article “How Obama Thinks.” The backlash was so loud, we even witnessed Vice President Joe Biden calling D’Souza’s article, the precursor to his book Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream and this film, “Science Fiction” in an MSNBC interview.
Now that the film is making waves, Hollywood.com took to a New York City movie theater to see the film and gauge the audience's reaction. What is it about this particular movie that's bringing flocks and flocks of movie-goers to the theater?
As you might expect, the reaction from the audience — comprised largely of elderly viewers and younger, student-aged viewers — was polarized. While some voices literally rang out with support of the film’s ideas, just as many vocalized their outrage and disagreement. And with such heavy claims throughout the film, it’s no wonder audience members from both sides of the debate responded so vocally. To help you get an idea of what all the buzz is about, we’ve catalogued the moments that elicited the loudest, most boisterous reactions from audience members. Claim: Obama’s Mother “Denied” White Culture D’Souza cites an instance in which Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, hears of her then-husband's wealthy co-workers, which was a predominantly white population in Indonesia. Dunham responds to her then-husband’s idea that “they’re her people” with the notion that they “aren’t her people.” Audience reactions: Oohs, ahhs, gasps, and “Oh, really?” Claim: Obama “Mentor” Frank Marshall Davis Listed as a Communist by FBI
D’Souza and his sources go on to say that the “Obama media” is refusing to cover this fact. Audience reactions: “Bulls**t!” Moment: D’Souza Interviews Obama’s Half Brother The documentarian interviews Obama’s half-brother, George Obama, and asks him numerous questions in an attempt to get the subject to condemn his brother for leaving him to live in the Nairobi “slums.” The man won’t speak ill of the President, but he does eventually cry when he speaks about not being able to finish his education. Audience reactions: “Bulls**t” and on the reverse, “Oohs” and “ahhs.” Claim: People Only Voted For Obama "So They Didn’t Appear Racist" One expert in the film claims that Obama’s victory is simply an “expression of Civil Rights” and that people simply voted for Obama because they didn’t want to be racist and didn’t know “when the chance would come again” to prove that they aren't racist. Audience reaction: “Bulls**t!” Moment: Illustrated Representation of Obama’s Former Social Circle An artistic rendering of Obama’s friends and mentors, including Bill Ayers and Robert Unger, includes such highlights as a cartoon Capital Building and a cartoon Pentagon Building being blown to smithereens when the narrator discusses Ayers’ past in protest culture and Unger “fitting right in” at Harvard. Audience reaction: Guffaws, laughter. Moment: Rare Clip of Obama Stumbling Over His Words The clip shows Obama speaking at a Town Hall meeting, in which an audience member is inaudibly heckling him, causing him to lose his train of thought while explaining the proposals and plans for universal healthcare. It’s certainly not one of his shining moments, however rare.
Audience reaction: “Bulls**t!” amid “Ha!” and heavy laughter. Moment: Graph Projecting U.S. Debt in 2016 Shows Infinite Debt With a Question Mark Above Obama’s head and the year 2016 is a bar that depicts the “projected” debt we’ll see if Obama is reelected. That projection happens to be a bar shooting to infinity with a flashing question mark as the number value. Audience reaction: Laughter Moment: Imagined History Book Lists 2016 as the End of the U.S. “Empire” and Narrator Wonders if Obama Will Provide “Solutions or Slogans” After making the case that Obama’s supposedly anti-colonialist beliefs (as established by the film) will drive him to “strip” America of its wealth and make its citizens as poor as the rest of the world, the film makes the case that the American “Empire” will be over by the time Obama is done with his presidency. Audience reaction: Mix of gasps and commentary in agreement and laughter. Will you see the film to see where you fall in the spectrum of viewers? Why do you think the film elicits such a variance of reactions? Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Pictures] More: Anti-Obama Movie is Already The Number Two Documentary of 2012 Which Presidential Candidate is Clint Eastwood Backing? The Dark Knight Rises: Is Batman For the One Percent or the 99?
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
The Soloist is based on the experiences of Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez whose career and marriage are floundering when one day he stumbles into a life-changing encounter with a homeless musician named Nathaniel Ayers. At first sensing a great story Lopez soon realizes there is much more at stake. Ayers was once a brilliant student of music at Juilliard until a crippling case of schizophrenia forced him to drop out. Though currently homeless it’s clear he still possesses the soul and talent of a true artist. Determined to help this potential genius regain the life he lost Lopez strikes up an intensely complicated relationship with Ayers that will take them both in new and surprising directions.
WHO’S IN IT?
One of the chief attributes of The Soloist is its pitch-perfect casting of the two leads who drive this highly personal story. Robert Downey Jr. is very fine as Lopez a man searching for some meaning as his marriage to wife and fellow reporter (Catherine Keener) is falling apart and the newspaper business is failing. As Nathaniel the homeless mentally ill man Lopez befriends on L.A.’s skid row Jamie Foxx is superb going deep to find the lost soul of this once supremely promising talent. It’s his best work since his Oscar-winning turn as Ray Charles and the musical connection should not be lost on anyone. The two stars movingly recreate this unique and frustrating friendship and alone make this otherwise uneven film worth seeing. Keener does well in a sketchy supporting role and Lisa Gay Hamilton ( TV’s The Practice) handles her two or three scenes as Ayers’ concerned sister with understated grace.
Director Joe Wright (Atonement Pride & Prejudice) allows his actors room to grow their characters into challenging portrayals that avoid sticky sentimentality. He and screenwriter Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) let their tale play out very slowly. Admirably The Soloist is a studio film with a real social conscience (a rarity these days) shining a light on the increasing plight of the homeless community. Also a plus are the classical musical sequences which are well-staged and beautiful to hear.
For all its attributes there’s something oddly cold and uninvolving here. You should leave uplifted and inspired but what’s on screen is much darker if not deeper. It’s as if Wright a British director making his first American film was tone-deaf in trying to establish exactly which story he wanted to tell here. Is it about the debilitating effects of schizophrenia? A talented musician trying to find his inner song again? A lost reporter throwing himself into a new friendship only to forget his own dire predicament? Hard to say — and that’s the problem. You leave this film with more questions than answers.
Lopez practically has to force Ayers to accompany him to watch a concert rehearsal at Disney Hall and the resulting scene in which a jittery Ayers insists on taking all his worldly belongings with him is funny and well-orchestrated.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Challenging adult dramas like this are becoming an endangered species in 2009 so it would be wise to hurry if you want to watch The Soloist play in theaters.
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston can relax; they are now surpassed in the couples rumor mill by the betrothed Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. So we're here to quash some buzzings and entertain you with others.
The latest rumor is that Zeta-Jones wants to take Douglas' name after they wed, according to the New York Daily News. Does this make her Catherine Douglas or Catherine Zeta-Douglas? We're not sure. But while we find out, we can tell you that she's not converting to Judaism, according to Douglas.
"I have had no formal religious training myself, and there has never been any debate with Catherine about it. Religion has not entered into the equation. Our child will be raised the same way I was," Douglas, 55, told London's Mirror.
He also admits that he misplaced her engagement ring before he proposed New Year's Eve. When Douglas couldn't find the sparkler in his luggage, he was "sure someone had stolen it," but Zeta-Jones, 30, remembered seeing him fumbling with a box at their hotel room in Wales over Christmas. Douglas called the hotel and asked housekeeping if they'd found a box, and lo and behold, it was there. It was shipped to Aspen, Colo., where he proposed at his resort. Kudos to the FedEx people for going above and beyond the call of duty.
A SHAGADELIC LAUGH: "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me's" Mike Myers and "American Beauty's" Annette Bening took funniest film actor and actress honors at the American Comedy Awards on Sunday night at Los Angeles' Shrine Exposition Center. The awards will be telecast March 23 on Fox.
Funniest motion picture went to "Analyze This," a mob comedy starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, topping more offbeat nominees such as "American Beauty" and "Being John Malkovich."
Steve Martin was honored with a career achievement award. Said Myers, "I like Steve Martin because he's silly and smart, smart and silly."
MAKING PEACE: Before "Red Planet" opens Nov. 10 -- pushed back from June 16 -- Tom Sizemore would like to clear the air concerning reported rifts he had with co-star Val Kilmer.
"Val and I are friends," the 36-year-old actor told USA Today. "A lot of people say nasty things about him. ... We did 'Heat,' and he was sweet to me. We're together (in 'Red Planet') from Page 6 to the end, every day, for 16 hours. And we've had a really good time. "
Earlier reports said the two considered taking out restraining orders on the set. Kilmer says, "The idea that Tom and I have taken out restraining orders ... is completely untrue. I have known Tom for many years and have the utmost respect for him as a person and actor."
MAKING PEACE, PART II: Madonna, after giving some 65 interviews promoting her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing," finished her interview with Rosie O'Donnell and decided she had more good-doing to do. So the Material Girl popped on over to "Saturday Night Live" studios, where fellow diva Jennifer Lopez was rehearsing her musical number for this week's show. The two reportedly greeted each other warmly and laughed off rumors that Madonna snubbed Lopez at Donatella Versace's New Year's Eve bash over Lopez's criticism of her acting abilities in a Movieline.
OBITS: French director Claude Autant-Lara, known for his right-wing political stances and jabs at bourgeois society, died Saturday at age 98. Autant-Lara directed more than 30 films, many of them classics of 1940s and 1950s French cinema ...
John Vincent Imbragulio, a music executive who produced the rock 'n' roll single "Sea Cruise" among others, died Friday at age 74. Imbragulio owned Ace Records, Ace Music Publishers and Avanti Records ...
Todd Karns, who played James Stewart's younger brother in died Saturday of cancer at age 79. Karns' character, Harry Bailey, made the memorable toast in the film's final scene, saying "To my big brother, George. The richest man in town!" ...
Doris Kenner-Jackson, member of the Shirelles, died Friday of breast cancer. She was 58. The Shirelles, which also included Shirley Alston Reeves, Beverly Lee and the late Addie "Micki" Harris, had many hits in the early 1960s, including "Soldier Boy" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."
QUICK TAKES: Add Clint Eastwood to the roster of presenters at this year's Academy Awards on March 26 in Los Angeles. Eastwood picked up Best Picture and Best Director awards for 1992's "Unforgiven." ...
... Phylicia Rashad (CBS' "Cosby") has made plans to renovate the Brainerd Institute, a historic black school where her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, graduated ...
Paul Newman ran into a little car trouble at the 24 Hours of Daytona race Saturday. His Porsche blew an engine and was retired only eight hours into the race. Luckily, the 75-year-old Newman was not in the car when it blew; likely he was off hand-gliding or preparing for the running of the bulls.