2016 Reviews: Critic Man’s Cinema
2016: Obama’s America
A documentary about President Obama by Dinesh D’Souza (the author of a number of books critical of the President, including The Roots of Obama’s Rage and Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream)
Phil M. Goer — a filmgoer who has followed the seemingly inexplicable columns, criticisms, and reviews of Critic Man, writer for the August publication The Colorado Statesman — recently saw the documentary called 2016: Obama’s America. Mr. Goer was struck by how that film, a purported documentary about Obama’s life so as to develop an “explanatory frame” that could be used to explain Obama’s actions and beliefs and political philosophy and thereby predict what President Obama would do if reelected come November, in fact could be used to explain the mysteries of Critic Man’s cineaste.
Who is Critic Man and how did he become who he is, if we can even know who he is? All we have are his writings — the many columns in The Colorado Statesman. But since these are so disparate (he likes one film, doesn’t like another, and yet he doesn’t seem to tell us anything about many films or what he thought of them, etc.) it’s hard to discern a pattern — a theory that could spool all these together to help us predict whether he will like a new film or even where cinema may be trending.
As in 2016: Obama’s America, Mr. Goer began to put together the disjointed pieces of Critic Man’s life starting with his birth and upbringing. And yet, we never get a full picture as many of Critic Man’s credentials have been sealed so we must rely upon snippets of information from the sparse, shady sources that were accessible. Making it even more challenging, unlike Obama, we do not have an autobiography or even family and friends to consult. Nevertheless, through this sleuthing, it became clear — to Mr. Goer’s amazement — that Critic Man’s life seems to track that of President Obama!
Like the President, Critic Man was born the same year on a tropical island surrounded by surfer dudes and hula skirts. Not much is known about his father, but from many accounts, his name was Jor-El and he came from a distant land. In other words, like President Obama (according to 2016), Critic Man grew up without really knowing his father. All he had to go on were recordings his father made to help him acclimate to the films of humans, just as President Obama had to rely on what his mother and others told him about his own father.
Critic Man, like Obama (again according to 2016), had to “fill in the blanks” — to interpret what his father would have instructed him about the universe and his place within it. In the case of Critic Man, Mr. Goer theorized that Critic Man constructed a hyper-critical view of cinema. He believed that his father would have been rigidly skeptical of human capacities to produce great art. That’s because his home world of Krypton, which was highly advanced and sophisticated in all things especially visual entertainment, was stark with blank white surfaces and ice-like features that cried out for mental stimulation that visual entertainment could provide. It also had a radical, insurrectionist element (that was unhappy with the headlong rush to promote popular entertainment) that had to be dealt with harshly, which also produced a similar harshness in the young, fatherless Critic Man. In short, Jor-El extricated Critic Man from oppressive surroundings so that he could escape its troubles, and yet he instilled in the young reviewer a respect for where he came from and the values of high artistic ideals, even from a distant, absent reality.
That experience was not dissimilar with President Obama. As 2016 shows, Obama’s father was subjected to the oppressive effects of colonialism and he instilled in Obama (without ever being present in his life) a desire to help people cast off the shackles of resource extractive and distant overlords. Even in the midst of acute poverty and despair, Obama would come to possess the values of his father — even if they were all in his mind.
When Critic man was young, just like Obama, he moved around. He found himself landing in Kansas where he was raised by surrogate parents who were of meager means. His stepfather was steeped in the traditions of American films and, because of the cognitive dissonance with his image of his real father’s values of highbrow cinema, Critic Man grew distant from his stepfather and felt that they did not have much in common. So, when he came of age, he moved up north to an ice palace in the Arctic. Similarly, Obama, according to 2016, moved around a lot and had a falling out with his stepfather, whose values of corporate wealth conflicted with his own (again which were inculcated by his absent father) about the impoverished peoples of the world.
Then there were Critic Man’s circle of mentors/advisors. Like what is suggested in 2016 related to Obama, Critic Man gravitated to teachers who would nurture his critical tendencies. These were the snooty neo-film critics (Kael, Sarris, Ebert, Siskel, etc.) who established a sophisticated standard for film analysis. They nurtured Critic Man’s inherent tendencies to lacerate bad films and to hold all films to a high standard that few could meet (except maybe some foreign films shown at film festivals that people rarely saw). Many of these teachers are no longer with us and so could not be reached to explain how they might have influenced Critic Man in his formative years.
Obama’s mentors and educators similarly reinforced his worldview of the scourge of neocolonialism by developed nations, especially America (the main theme of 2016). Instead of getting a well-rounded education at prestigious universities, he sought out and was befriended by radical leftist elements. These added to his other “founding fathers” who believe that America’s capitalistic might needs to be regulated, constrained, and controlled — not only in this country, but throughout the world. And, given this, we can predict more of the same (or even more so) in a second Obama term.
What does all this mean? In the final analysis, what does the focus on bits and pieces of one’s life say about the person he has become? And what can it tell us about what he will say and do in the future? Phil M. Goer came to these conclusions:
It could mean that Critic Man will very likely hate the next movie he sees.
It could mean that Critic Man hates all movies, to one degree or another.
It could mean that Critic Man will write something snarky and satirical for his next column, instead of telling something — anything! — about the movie.
It could mean that Critic Man can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
It could mean that Obama is actually Superman!
Or, it could mean very little since we were only able to analyze snippets of Critic Man’s and Obama’s lives.
Up, up and away!
Doug Young — and Critic Man — have been studying the film electorate for The Statesman since the 1990s.