Man of the Year

| October 14, 2006

It has been proven that there were some “unusual” things that happened in the 2004 Presidential balloting in Ohio and other states. In every case (a statistical impossible anomaly) the result was in the favor of the Republican Party. Was it on purpose? The president of Diebold company, the machine that recorded and counted the votes, promised President Bush would win. But what if it was not an “on purpose” kind of thing? What if there was a glitch in the program but the company didn’t care who won, simply that it looked like their machines were flawless. In other words, they didn’t want political influence, they just wanted corporate profits. After that, they could get the influence the old fashioned way, they would BUY it.
It is this glitch in the system that is what propels talk show host Tom Dobbs into the Presidency of the United States in the new Barry Levinson film Man of the Year.
Robin Williams plays Dobbs, a slightly left leaning television talk show host who, in a tip to his audience e-mails and his ego, decides to run for President as an independent. At the same time, Eleanor Green (Laura Linney from Kinsey and Love, Actually) begins to run tests on the vote counting program and finds a problem. When she twice brings the problem to the attention of the company president, she is told by in-house counsel Alan Stewart (Jeff Goldblum) that it isn’t so much important who wins, but that there is a winner and that the American people have confidence that the system works. That is one very chilling scene when you realize that it could come down to one person telling the truth to save our democratic way of living. I wish I would hear that one person come forward from the Ohio 2004 election, but once again, I digress.
When Green brings this glitch to the attention of Dobbs, we begin to see how a large corporation can function as a government unto itself and protect itself from harm. What will Dobbs do with the information that he is not president? What will happen to Green? Will the system be saved? This is what makes for a wonderful couple of hours of entertainment. Taken along with another Levinson political film, Wag the Dog, you are reminded that gallows humor is just reminding us that protection of our liberties is no laughing matter.
Of course, when you have Robin Williams on stage you always have the possibility he will just begin running off at the comedy mouth and Levinson, who worked with Williams on Good Morning Vietnam, seems to know when to let Robin go and when to reign him back in. If you are a Williams fan, you might watch the movie and think you would love to see the outtakes from the scenes where he is “warming up” his television show audience and when he is on stage at the political debate and making speeches. The warnings (trailers) for this film show him doing quite a bit of his ‘performing,’ which might have you thinking this is a straight on comedy. It is not. It is a tongue firmly planted in cheek serious look at what could happen to this country if we are not vigilant in what both political parties (OK, so only the Republicans have been accused of vote fraud) are doing.
Williams does his usual fantastic job. The only time I see him as less than perfect is when Levinson has him dial it back for the beginning of the campaign trail. The Daily Show’s Lewis Black (Accepted) is more than willing to take up the political and humorous slack during this period of the movie and he and Williams make a great pair, bouncing jabs back and forth.
After all the votes have been tallied in this political season, Man of the Year is a must see.

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