SECRETS PERTAINING TO BEN AFFLECK AND BARACK OBAMA
“Let me tell you about these people. All they want in the world is to be classy
and have good taste. They’re just a bunch of circus clowns who
made some money.”
“They’re millionaires! I’m a wop from Brooklyn. I mean,
the houses they got and their f*#@—in’ diets and the dames –
Jesus! All the time, it’s goor-may this and goor-may that
and what kind of food to eat. I mean,
what the hell’s going on out here?” Tommy blinked, surprised at his own
“It’s Hollywood,” Jay said. “Enjoy it.”
“What about getting me in a series? Or a feature? What happened to the
“Not yet. Don’t mess with your edge. That’s real. The rest is fantasyland. Trust
me on this one.” Tommy wasn’t so sure, but lunch arrived and Jay got up to talk
to a producer at the other end of the patio. Tommy cut into his steak, glad to skip
the sideshow around him.
David Freeman, “A Hollywood Education,” New York, 1986
It’s far easier to deal with Obama’s game than Ben Affleck’s circumstances, at this juncture. As usual, the pundits have got Obama’s position on raising the debt limit all wrong. The diversion proffered by a reporter at Obama’s Last-First-Term-Press Conference related to Obama’s fabled refusal to mingle socially with Republicans in Congress. Never mind Obama, for a minute, the historical truth is that no President was ever as stand-offish as George Washington. The story is told that during a lull in the proceedings at the Constitutional Convention, where George Washington served (portentously) as President, a colleague approached General Washington, who was standing amidst a group of delegates. The colleague sought to place his arm around Washington’s shoulder, whereupon Washington, visibly discomfited, shook him off.
The key to the present dynamic is to be found in Obama’s apparently casual reference to feeling lonely and wanting company at the White House. Thereupon he seemed off-handedly to invite Members of Congress to join him, informally, in the odd card game. There’s your clue! Obama was telling you Fourth Estate dolts that he is calling the Republicans’ bluff on using their refusal to raise the debt limit – to pay the bills Congress has already run up – in order to ravage social programs dating from the New Deal. “I am calling their bluff,” he meant, “and raising them the precise same loophole cuts their 2012 Presidential Pigeon, Mitt Romney, already agreed to so we can balance increased revenues against cuts in the budget that would do the least harm to the most vulnerable of the American People!” Free the slaves? Obama is having his hands full freeing the Republicans!
Ben Affleck’s problem in having been snubbed by the Motion Picture Academy by reason of his not being nominated as Best Director for “Argo,” is far more complex. I watched a program on C-Span before the movie was released that outlined the events of those days and even revealed the ending. Nevertheless, I went to see the movie and found myself thoroughly engrossed and, for me, surprisingly entertained.
Based on true events, “Argo” chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis—the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reached its boiling point, militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans managed to slip away and find refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist named Tony Mendez came up with a risky plan to get them safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen by way of the movies. The screen writers were Chris Terrio and Joshua Bearman.
So what I have to explain to Mr. Affleck is how Hollywood really works. I realize that this is taking a liberty, especially in light of Ben’s lifelong attachment to the show business and his having won an Academy Award (with Matt Damon) for the screenplay of “Good Will Hunting,” 1997. Nevertheless, someone can be so close to the process that they may not be able to see the real blighted trees for the truly benighted animated forest.
Where a movie tells an interesting story; where the movie is well-paced and the timing of events depicted creates and enlarges upon suspense; where the plot reflects a composite of a scenario suggested from outside the given predicament, but hinges critically upon the reactions and decisions of the characters; where the comic touches arise intrinsically from the subject matter and balance the suspense and the very real danger portrayed, and where the entire film flows smoothly and seamlessly, from start to finish, the idiots who run the Motion Picture Academy are bound to conclude THAT THE MOVIE DIRECTED ITSELF!
There are two reasons for the Motion Picture Academy coming to that conclusion. The first is that their familiarity with lesser efforts leads them to believe that no one person could possibly have been responsible for such a result. Their brains are so macerated by the liquor of collectivism, they would recede into a corner and become eremites rather than credit such a successful work to one man or woman.
Second, they need the reassurance of being directly appealed to within the context of the work. They like directors who will go so far as to stop the movement of a film for the express purpose of calling the audience’s attention to the fact that this movie is being Directed by [you know whom]! The same set of values often governs the determination of best screen performances. Academy Board Members like being cozened by actors who, with a nod or a wink, tip the viewer to the realization that they are watching an A-C-T-I-N-G performance. Those stars who excel at this practice may amass as many as seventeen nominations and three Oscars!
One of the oddest movies up for this year’s consideration is “Lincoln,” where Seven Spielberg was rightly denied a Golden Globe for best direction. His direction of “Lincoln” is self-conscious to the point of awkwardness. Instead of choosing to shoot his picture either in black-and-white or in color, he uses color to approximate black-and-white, which I found just too precious for words. The screenplay by Tony Kushner is magnificent; on the other hand, in keeping with the secular sainthood image of Lincoln, he omits the facts that: (a) Lincoln was not resolved upon freeing the slaves as a moral basis for the war until two years into it (1863), and (b) it is doubtful that Lincoln would have freed the slaves but for wanting to prove the United States was at least not as backward and poor as Russia, where Czar Aleksandr II [“the Liberator”] had already freed the serfs in 1861.
Saddest of all, in this strange, eventful history is the entirely superficial performance of Daniel Day Lewis in the title role. Lincoln was an unusually homely man. His sensitivity about this was always front and center. When informed by an aide that a Senator had called him “two-faced,” Lincoln replied, “If I had two faces, do you think this is the one I would be wearing?” Whether or not Lincoln was homosexual or depressive, his sensitivity outpaced that of any other world leader in history – and his dramatic physical appearance added to that sensitivity. It is not uncommon for such sensitive people to be creative. What singles out Lincoln was his capacity to meld that sensitivity with decisiveness and statesmanship the like of which we may never see again.
Daniel Day Lewis provides a professional, studied performance, but it is a characterization dead at its core.
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appellate lawyer in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.