No matter what you think of him, Judge Bill Gibron believes Obama deserves better than this recycle A+E overview.
From his childhood to his Presidency…and nothing more.
As one of the most argued over and criticized/championed Presidents in recent history, Barack Obama doesn't need a 45 minute A+E overview of his life. His story demands a Ken Burns like multi-part expose. Not because he's a great leader or a terrific executive-in-chief. Not because his policies have changed the face of a nation. No, Barack Obama deserves better than this brief biographical summary because, a scant five decades ago, his color would have mandated he maintain his distance from "decent folk" and use the "Black Only" facilities each community carved out for such ostracized "non-citizens" (think The Help without all the turd pie jokes). We are a nation just recently removed from such overt bias (and still wallowing in same), so to have a man grow up to become the leader of such a still discordant society is stunning. Who cares what he stands for ideologically. Just like the concept of having successful female CEOs or credited cultural diversity, what he achieved personally stands as a slap to everyone who stood on the side of those scarred '60s Selma streets, laughing as police used firehouses on peaceful protestors as "riot" control.
Of course, such cable television temerity doesn't translate to picking sides, so Barack Obama: From His Childhood to The Presidency is really nothing more than a weak whitewashing (all apologies) of our current Commander in Chief. It's all here, repeated for those not currently clued in. We learn about his birth in Hawaii, his American mother and his Kenyan father. We see his parents separation, his early days in Indonesia, and his life with his maternal grandparents. As he grows, he is popular and excels. He attends college and becomes a community organizer. He goes to Harvard Law School and then the University of Chicago. In 1996, he is elected to the Illinois Senate. In 2004, he runs for a similar seat in Washington. Eventually, he becomes the Democratic nominee for President, and in 2008 defeats John McCain to become America's historic 44th leader. Along the way, he meets his wife Michelle, has two even-tempered kids, and combines a claim to the American Dream with the deference that comes from being a member of a marginalized minority.
Without any additional insight, without the hint of scandal or subtextual import to add flavor, Barack Obama: From His Childhood to The Presidency becomes boring. It's a regurgitated set of anecdotes that anyone who has studied politics (or spent any time watching cable news in the last five years) will know by rote. No discussion of his citizenship. No arguments over his stance as a "socialist" (for you nutty neo-cons out there). Just a basic, by the book breakdown of the events in his life followed by even more trivial truths. Perspective is kept to a minimum, while broad sweeping over-generalizations abound. Do we learn how a man of color feels about being elected to the Presidency? Not really. Do we dive into the strategies that helped him win higher office? Nope. Instead, we get the sketchbook classroom version of Obama's significance, one never weighted for or against the man. Not that said speechifying is really necessary. There's enough of it already in the social media marketplace. Biography is just doing its label's job. Unless you've lived under a Republican rock, however, you'll already understand the vast majority of this story.
From a technical standpoint, this stander definition 1.33:1 full frame transfer is a disappointment. The colors are soft and the archival footage can frequently look antiquated. The interview sequences are decent, but the rest is rather hit or miss. On the audio side, there's nothing really special here. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track keeps everything front and center, meaning the Q&As are clear and the ambient noises kept to a minimum. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is the lack of legitimate bonus material. Sure, the original overview of Obama has been "beefed up" with new information, but there's nothing revelatory about these changes. Instead, it's mostly clarification and compliance in 45 short minutes.
If you want the real story about who and what Barack Obama represents, this is definitely not it. If you want an elementary school introduction to one of the most important figures in post-modern history, here you go.
Guilty of doing neither the man or his meaning any justice.
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