Man of the Year
Man of the Year
In "Man of the Year," Robin Williams plays Tom Dobbs, the host of a popular political talk show whose job is to criticize the political establishment with a generous dose of wit and humor. Not long after an audience member suggests that he himself run for president, dark horse candidate Dobbs somehow manages to get elected to the Oval Office. In the meantime, Eleanor Green (Laura Linney), an employee at the technology firm behind the electronic voting system identifies a computer bug. After the election, she determines that Dobbs is not, in fact, the real election winner, and she sets off to inform him. "Man of the Year" is a schizophrenic film: part comedy about an unconventional candidate who wants to shake up the system, and part suspense film about an honest employee who puts herself in harm's way by attempting to expose the enormous mistake. Unfortunately, it is neither funny nor suspenseful, and in the end has very little of interest to say about the system, other than highlighting the blurring of distinctions between politics and entertainment for many voters today. Williams' usually manic comedy seems bottled up somehow, but Christoper Walken is particularly memorable as Dobbs straight-talking no-nonsense manager
( Sherwin Das )
Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) is a TV talk show host who unexpectedly gets thrust into a presidential campaign thanks to his immense popularity and widespread disillusionment with the political status quo. The elections are carried out using a new computerized voting system but a serious glitch in the software means that Dobbs is falsely elected as president. "Man of the Year" is a heartfelt but ultimately insipid satire on the dire state of U.S. politics. It begins well enough with some scathing remarks on party funding and campaign advertising but it's simply not scathing enough or radical enough to be anything more than a faintly amusing comedy. In the end the status quo is safely restored and the sacred idea of democracy is upheld by the impotent political satire of TV shows like Saturday Night Live. It's a shame really because at times "Man of the Year" really succeeds in ripping the veil from media-orchestrated politics, such as during the brilliant presidential candidate debate in which Dobbs lashes out at both the Republican and Democrat candidates. But in the end the whole thing does little more than provoke a bit of indignant head-nodding. This is a movie best served with popcorn and soda.
( Tim Ochser )
Adapted from a British historian's sympathetic biography, "Marie Antoinette" is an attempt to humanize a much-maligned historical figure. Director Sofia Coppola ambitiously attempts to inject some vitality into the stuffy period-piece costume drama. Instead of Vivaldi, a moody 80s soundtrack serves as the film's score. And instead of a complex actress, she casts all-American girl Kirsten Dunst and intentionally under-directs her. Unfortunately, the result feels like the Queen of France is being played by a suburban American teenager. (My favorite, I hope improvised, line of Marie Antoinette's: "Ooh. I love those shoes. Wow.") Much of the film, in fact, feels like the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 is on holiday in Versailles circa 1789. Coppola goes to great lengths to ensure that the costumes, hairstyles and sets of the period look authentic, but spends little time ensuring consistency or believability in her actors' speech or behavior. The mixing of American-, British- and French- accented English sounds downright awful, and scenes of Marie Antoinette hugging stiff members of the royal French court give the future Queen of France a distinctly California hippie-chick vibe. It all just feels strange, out of place and not at all credible. Watching the movie, I couldn't wait for history to run its course and for this particular Marie Antoinette to meet her maker.
1/2 ( Sherwin Das )
Although brilliant to watch, much like Sofia Coppola's entrancing "Lost in Translation," the young director's latest film, "Marie Antoinette," is a disconcertingly empty and pointless exercise. The film is a self-consciously post-modern retelling of the legendary queen's life and a serious case of style over substance. In fact, besides a few lines such as when the young Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) says "Protect us Lord for we are too young to reign" before ascending the throne and Marie Antoinette's (Kirsten Dunst) mythical utterance "Let them eat cake," the film is almost thoroughly devoid of any historical basis. Which makes me wonder if Coppola even bothered researching her fascinating subject matter apart from Antoinette's bizarre taste in fashion and her well-known fetish for sweets. Or maybe that wasn't the point. Perhaps Coppola simply wanted to create a frivolous and decadent portrait of one of France's most frivolous and decadent queens. Either way, "Marie Antoinette" is a visually stunning film with some patricular scenes that approach the ethereal. Even so, it left me wanting to watch a documentary on the French queen, as I had the distinct feeling of having missed something, or more acurately, everything, about her life. Unfortunately, style is no substitute for substance.
( Tim Ochser )