Is This the Dawning of the Cinematic Age of Obama?
Some film critics couldn't wait to declare the dawn of the Age of Obama even before the new president got to know the Oval Office. Too bad audiences had something else in mind.
The new action film Taken, which seems stripped right out of the Reagan era, is the surprise smash of the new year. It's already hauled in $95 million in four weeks, and last weekend it pushed its way back up to the number two position on the list of top 10 grossing films. Not bad for a film built around an older actor, Liam Neeson, who's never been confused for box office catnip.
And let's not forget Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood's old-school drama about a Korean War veteran who sets aside his racist views to defend a group of immigrants on his block. The film showcases the kind of rugged individualism and refusal to bend to popular will that would have made President Reagan -- or President George W. Bush, for that matter -- proud. Gran Torino stands as the biggest box office smash of Eastwood's illustrious career, even if some critics cringed over the movie's politically incorrect hero.
But let's get back to the so-called cinematic Age of Obama. That's what Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman declared in his loving tribute to the Oscar-nominated Rachel Getting Married. Gleiberman writes: "The fact that it's an interracial marriage, and that no one makes even a tiny deal of it, is part of the texture: This may be the first Age of Obama movie, a spectacle of 'difference' melted away by the rich, teeming jumble of a family trying to make peace with itself."
Needless to say, Rachel Getting Married's box office bounty currently stands at $12 million.
Not to be outdone, the British newspaper, the Guardian, chimed in with this report on the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire: "But the influence of Slumdog Millionaire could be felt well beyond this year's Oscar ceremony. Indeed, I wonder whether, in coming years, we shall not regard it as the first emblematic film of the Barack Obama era."
Slumdog Millionaire's box office bounty -- after a whirlwind of Oscar buzz, film festival accolades, critical raves, and countless media articles -- stands at $98 million so far. Imagine what Taken might haul in with that kind of support system.
Taken stars Neeson as former government operator whose job was to prevent bad things from happening. Now retired, Neeson focuses his energy on his estranged daughter who travels to France and almost immediately gets kidnapped by Albanian thugs. Neeson pummels, shoots, and does a whole lot worse to anyone who gets in his way. He makes no apologies for his actions. He just gets results. And audiences are cheering him every step of the way, even though the film's connection to reality becomes gossamer thin at times.