Oprah's Got Your Mantra; Clooney Dreams Presidentially

Tuesday, 13 Sep 2011 06:42 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Alec Baldwin Shores Up NYC Mayoral Credentials
2. Oprah Mandates Meditation
3. Michele Bachmann Sets Late-Night Debut
4. Hollywood's Oscar Baiting Begins
5. Is George Clooney Eyeing a Run for President?
 

1. Alec Baldwin Shores Up NYC Mayoral Credentials

Alec Baldwin has expressed a desire to seek political office, and with the apparent departure of Anthony Weiner from the playing field, the "30 Rock" star is reportedly being courted to make a run for New York mayor in 2013.

Possibly as an initial attempt to increase his stature, Baldwin will speak at an event sponsored by the highly respected U.K. magazine The Economist.

"The World in 2012 Festival" will include Baldwin in December 2011 among its "notable figures in politics, business, academia and the arts" to expound on the most significant issues coming up next year.

What better way to exhibit municipal mettle than to appear as an expert forecasting 2012 trends?

Former Clinton senior adviser and "Good Morning America" co-host George Stephanopoulos will also be on hand to prognosticate about the upcoming elections.


2. Oprah Mandates Meditation

If you work for Oprah Winfrey, you are obligated to meditate twice a day.

That revelation figured in a recent Facebook live chat with the daytime TV icon turned budding cable mogul, conducted by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Why would businesswoman Oprah impose such a requirement? She explained that it stemmed from "a specific moment" in her life when she managed to get in touch with her "greater" self.

The epiphany came as her grandmother, hanging laundry on a clothesline, told the young Oprah, "You are going to have to learn to do this."

The experience resulted in "being in that space of awareness and knowing that my life would not be the same as my grandmother's life," Oprah said.

"All of us have that space where we are willing to get still because the world will try to tell you everything about yourself and we have so many voices in our heads and in our Facebook pages telling us everything, but to know really what to do and how to be guided in your life you have to go to that space where the bigger you, the greater you, resides," she added.

That moment and others like it prompted the policy of mandatory twice-a-day meditation for her employees.

Note to those contemplating employment at Harpo Productions: You might try listing on your resume the practice of frequent meditation "to go to that space where the bigger you resides."


3. Michele Bachmann Sets Late-Night Debut

These days presidential candidates have to grab all the free PR they can get.

Maybe that's why Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has accepted a guest spot on "The Tonight Show."

Bachmann will be sitting next to Jay Leno's desk on Sept. 16. The TV appearance coincides with a speaking engagement at the state convention of the California GOP.

Though the public has become conditioned to seeing presidential aspirants make the rounds on late-night shows, there are risks for the Bachmann campaign. Leno's monologues have included jokes about her historical misstatements, e.g., that the battles of Lexington and Concord took place in New Hampshire rather than Massachusetts, and Bachmann's signing of a pledge concerning gay marriage that she allegedly did not read.

Leno is not necessarily going to be as friendly as a Fox News host but will likely not be as strident as MSNBC hosts have been either. Jay is part of the Hollywood community and breathes that rarified liberal air, so it is possible that he could put the GOP candidate in an embarrassing situation.

More importantly, at a time when Bachmann's poll numbers are declining, she can't afford to give viewers an impression that her pursuit of the highest political office is less than serious.

Unfortunately, even though late-night comedy appearances have become part of the political campaign routine, they generally do little to bolster a candidate's gravitas. Incidentally, our current president has appeared on a record number of such programs while in office.


4. Hollywood's Oscar Baiting Begins

You may as well put your 3D glasses in storage. Summer has come to a close, ending the parade of comic book superhero flicks.

As the kids head off to school and temperatures begin to drop, it's time for movie screens to start filling up with Oscar hopefuls.

Serious subjects fit the Oscar formula, and biopics also tend to garner lots of award nominations.

Accordingly, Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood is directing "J. Edgar," which stars Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio as the FBI director.

Another biopic, "The Iron Lady," is a portrait of Britain's Margaret Thatcher. It appears to have a huge advantage over the competition since it stars Oscar magnet Meryl Streep.

Films based on true stories and best-sellers are favorites in the awards season. Both elements intersect as Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin writes the adaptation of "Moneyball," directed by Oscar nominee Bennett Miller and starring Oscar nominee Brad Pitt.

Oscar winner George Clooney directs and stars in "The Ides of March," an adaptation of the well-received play "Farragut North," which chronicles a Democratic primary campaign. Anyone want to take a guess as to who can best relate to a film about a liberal politician's campaign for prez?

Critics and award voting participants tend to like films that deal with intellectual academic subjects. Such folks will love Roland Emmerich's "Anonymous," a cinematic exploration that answers the question: Did the Earl of Oxford (Edward de Vere) write the plays attributed to William Shakespeare? They'll also be quite fond of David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method," which stars Oscar nominees Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley. The movie is based on the relationship between Carl Jung and his mentor Sigmund Freud. Knightley plays a troubled young beauty who comes between the two.

War movies with an underlying peace message also tend to appeal to the sensibilities of critics and award voters. Steven Spielberg no doubt wouldn't mind another statue on his mantel. He will release "War Horse," about a horse that serves in both the British and German armies during World War I.

"Carnage," an adaptation of a Tony Award-winning play, is directed by Academy Award winner and international fugitive Roman Polanski. It stars Oscar winners Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster.


5. Is George Clooney Eyeing a Run for President?

George Clooney recently debuted his latest film, "The Ides of March," at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Clooney, who directs and stars, also did a bit of pre-Oscar conditioning.

Because the movie deals with a fictitious presidential primary campaign, Clooney had to field press questions on the film's political overtones.

Clooney himself had previously indicated that he did not harbor any political ambitions. However, his co-star, Ryan Gosling, was asked by the press at the festival if he would ever want to run for office. Gosling didn't mince words. He responded with a single syllable: "No."

The other politically tinged question had to do with whether Clooney had woven a political agenda into "The Ides of March." He adamantly denied any kind of political implications or commentary, explaining that the movie represents a study in ethics.

"I don't think that this was really a political film," Clooney said. "I think this is a film about moral choice."

However, the main character, played by Clooney, is a Democrat with an extensive list of left-wing proposals including promotion of pro-abortion policies, support of the welfare state, and phasing out of the internal-combustion engine.

Clooney's charismatic "progressive" politician is emblematic of the type of president that Hollywood liberals consider to be ideal.

The character also personifies a Hollywood liberal's vision of a centrist a la Martin Sheen's portrayal of the commander in chief in Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing."

The Los Angeles Times characterized Clooney's Gov. Mike Morris as "a hardcore liberal's dream candidate."

Other film critics compared the character to a Democratic governor who ran a fiery campaign in the past, Howard Dean — minus, of course, the meltdown speech.

Clooney suggested that if the film reflects "some of the cynicism we feel today about politics, that's probably good," adding that "we should be looking at [political] things. But [the film] wasn't designed to do that."

"Everybody makes moral choices that better themselves and hurt others along the way," Clooney said. "That's universal, not just to politics."

When asked to identify role models on which his character was based, he chose not to name names.

"There's just so many ways to get in trouble with this answer," Clooney explained. "There were enough examples that we just picked little pieces of whatever we wanted."

Judging by the dramatic speeches that Clooney's character delivers in the film, Clooney appears to have amalgamated a number of real-life candidates and additionally used wishful imaginings to produce a liberal answer to the "Great Communicator."

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