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Straight from the Shoulder: Go See "Man of the Year"

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Straight From the Shoulder of Michael Shelby

The movie Man of the Year is a requisite viewing experience for anyone fed up with our political system; for anyone involved in or even has a passing interest in election integrity; for anyone interested in our democracy, and anyone who wants a movie experience that will give you hope (and lots of great laughs).

As I watched the story unfold, as I laughed with, was concerned and wondered at, and cared for the characters in this comedy with dramatic undertones; as one who has dedicated his waking hours and invested way too much of his emotional reserve for the better part of two years in sounding the clarion bell warning of the pitfalls and problems of electronic voting; when the question was asked in the movie, "Why would you vote on something that is less secure than a Las Vegas slot machine?" causing the audience to erupt into spontaneous applause . . . I wept tears of relief. Man of the Year engagingly and entertainingly vindicates the thousands of hours and years of work all of us who have tried to protect our democracy have done presenting testimony, writing articles, posting on blogs, demonstrating, negotiating and passing legislation, and sacrificing for a cause we knew to be bigger than ourselves. With its carom shot on reality and an odd timing of fate, Man of the Year will do as much in the affirmative to shed the sanitizing light of truth on the issues of electronic voting as all the production of the preponderance of the evidence previously presented.

As timing and fate would have it in contrast to the negative spotlight on the disgraced Republican congressman Mark Foley to form a picture of the hypocrisy, incompetence, and power-mongering of the Republican leadership that now resonates within even the most ardent Republican loyalists; Man of the Year positively unlocks the truth of electronic voting and removes the blinders from the "denialists" and everyone else who hasn't really paid attention before. Doubts will be replaced by plausibility and questioning in even the most ardent skeptic. Those who haven't paid much attention will say, "Is this true, can this really happen?" Their eyes will be opened and the truth will set them free!

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Producer and Director Barry Levinson weaves a brilliant, poignant, truth-filled, and funny story that mirrors pervasive attitudes toward the political process today. Levinson accurately predicts some very real possibilities we could see in November. Of course Robin Williams is beyond brilliant, exquisite even, in his timing as he portrays Tom Dobbs, television political talk show comedian ala John Stewart, transformed to presidential candidate. Williams, as in his Oscar winning performance in Good Will Hunting, proves again he can govern his usual maniacal shtick to deliver a performance that is real, imaginative, and, when he lets loose, laugh-out-loud hilarious!

The attacks on the foibles and weaknesses of our current two party system are spot on! Levinson/Williams' portrayal of the current political system flooded with its pasty faced, platitude ridden, pontificating, propaganda propelling, empty suits reflects a near universal sentiment of the electorate. We are a people weary of having to choose between the lesser of who cares! We want the meat and substance, the reality and connection, the humanity and humor that fictional candidate Dobbs offers us. We are hungry for leaders who give a damn about us, about the poor, about peace, about healthcare and housing and not about corporations worshiping profit and power or the special interests or "the base". Is it so hard, is it so impossible to find leaders who are not corrupted by money, power, and fear? Can't we find decent, honest, people of integrity who value and desire public service? If Hollywood can exploit this pervasive sentiment creating celluloid heroes dating back to the 1930's (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington comes to mind) and make money on it, then surely someone from the ranks of living, breathing people can be found to accurately and honestly represent us.

Finally, there is hope. I watched Man of the Year over the audience head of a white haired lady who laughed out loud at the jokes and clearly understood the ironies and insults on our current state of polls and politicians. I couldn't help but overhear her comment that she will never vote on one of "those machines!" If a 76 year old retired school teacher can get it, well, I think there is hope that lots and lots of audience members going for a Robin Williams giggle will come away with some thoughts about politics, what kind of people we want to run this country, and questions about just how safe are their votes? And why won't Robin Williams run for president or Oprah Winfrey . . . it could happen!

 

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Michael Shelby is a voting activist in Arizona and a member of Arizona Citizens for Election Reform.

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