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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > TV on DVD Reviews > 60 Minutes Presents Obama: All Access - Barack Obama's Road to the White House

 

60 Minutes Presents Obama: All Access

Barack Obama's Road to the White House (CBS/Paramount Home Video-2009)

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Copyright 2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 7, 2009.

It seems so long ago now, even though it has only been three months since Barack Obama won the Presidency of the United States and less than three weeks since he was sworn in to take over the job.

Like most of the nation, I kind of overdosed on political news viewing during the months leading up to the election.  It was fascinating soap opera with the issues often taking a back seat to circus-aspects: like "lipstick on a pig," Barack vs. Hillary,  musical copyright infringement, "he's a Muslim!," B Girl, Reverend Wright, seeing Russia from my house, palling around with terrorists and the political wit & wisdom of Joe the unlicensed plumber. 

Suddenly I knew all sorts of obscure political pundits and wonks by name and had a relatively strong knowledge of their backgrounds, political leanings and prejudices, as well.  For a month or so before election day, my prime time viewing was mostly limited to political news hours.  Chris Matthews, Tom Brokaw, Rachel Maddow, Brian Williams, Andrea Mitchell, Jon Stewart, George Stephanopoulos and Keith Olberman spent more time with me on a daily basis than members of my own family did.

Honestly, once the election was over, I needed a break.  MSNBC and CNN suddenly became less vital choices on my cable box.  I'm not going to lie, even during the heat of the election I would have rather had surgery without anesthesia than sit through even a minute of the Fox News Channel.  I already had MSNBC's Morning Joe for rote regurgitation of the Republican talking points, thank you very much.

However, if you were looking for straight-forward, unbiased treatment of the campaigns, 60 Minutes - the grande old dame of TV news magazines - was one of the better destinations.  As befits a news magazine that has been on the air since before the great majority of us were born, the show took a calm, impartial look at both sides of the ticket - both the positives and the warts.

Now, just a few months later, the Obama honeymoon is still on, but already the cracks in the facade are forming.  For all the change we hope and pray for with the world in a dire situation, more and more it seems that politics as usual is returning to the forefront.  The Republican members of the House of Representatives decided en mass to slap bipartisanship in the face by rejecting the (imperfect, granted) stimulus package meant to try to stem the tide of an economy which has been allowed to calcify under eight years of George W. Bush's watch.  When pressed to explain their concerns - beyond straightforward partisan peevishness - the GOP leaders kept trotting out the same failed economic policies that got us into this mess in the first place. 

In the meantime, de facto Republican spokesperson Rush Limbaugh has come out and acknowledged that he would prefer to see Obama fail than have the United States recover from its current economic crisis under a Democratic leadership.  Of course, Limbaugh is a lying windbag who only cares about his ratings and often makes outrageous statements purely to get attention, so I'm sure that statement was more to rile up the base than because of any real feeling of civic duty.

On the other side, way too many of the people who were needed to make a swift and painless transition - Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner, et al - seemed to stumble right into the type of scandals (mostly tax-based) which Obama was elected to eliminate.  And let's not even get started on Rod Blagojevich.  No big surprise, I suppose, that corruption comes on both sides.

Therefore, before the post-inaugural glow wears off, it is a good time to watch this newly released video news album culled from Obama's interviews with 60 Minutes - if only to remind us of the limitless hope for change which the country had a mere weeks ago (and still mostly does).

Granted, this mostly isn't the hard-hitting 60 Minutes stuff of legend.  This is not a muckraking expose on the man and his policies.  Those will come - in great numbers and from all sides, undoubtedly - soon enough.  This is more a remembrance of the promise that the world sees at the beginning of the Obama adventure.  It's a bit more of a home video equivalent of those special collector's edition magazines which have a tendency to pop up for particularly juicy (or just popular) news stories - harmless, slightly puffy recaps of an event, tailor-made for fans. 

Besides, no one, no matter what their political affiliation, can deny that the election of Barack Obama - a half-black man with an Arab-sounding name - is a historic and significant moment in this country's annals.  The Presidency is one of the last old boys' clubs allowed to thrive, and for someone to break the mold of middle-aged, white, Anglo-Saxon leadership - that is a serious accomplishment.  This is living history, ladies and gentlemen.

Obama: All Access is essentially broken up into four sections.  Two are slightly extended versions of two recent 60 Minutes episodes - one featuring Obama and wife Michelle's first interview as the President elect and first lady - filmed two weeks after the election.  The second episode was a year-end look back at "The Road to the White House" - using past interviews with Obama and his inner circle and existing footage of his and his opponents' campaigns to give a nice, concise (probably a bit too concise) rundown on his life and career leading into and the going through the 2008 race.  The third section is "What You Haven't Seen" - which is additional interview footage culled from the 60 Minutes interviews which did not make the final cut.

Much of it was fascinating.  Some of it was fluff - both interviews asked about the search for a new White House dog.  Some of it was unexpected and human - specifics of his life as a family man and quirky little details like how his first car was rusted through so that the passenger could see the asphalt underneath the running car.

The most notable thing about this package is remembering what a thoughtful and nuanced speaker that Obama is.  After eight years of "misunderestimating" George W. Bush's regular speaking gaffes, it is kind of thrilling to see a man who can actually complete a full sentence and complete a rational thought.  Even Obama's periodic slip-ups - and let's face it, anyone speaking in public will have them on a regular basis - seem less embarrassing and cringe-worthy than we have grown accustomed to.  Late night comedians are going to have to work a lot harder to find something to mock with this President.  I'm sure they'll keep trying, though.

The final section of this DVD is a generous cross section of some of Obama's most important speeches, including when he announced his candidacy, the famous Philadelphia race speech, his acceptance of the Democratic nomination and eventually the Presidency and his Inaugural Address.  These are the full speeches - uncut and uncommented on (well there is a brief intro to each, but they are not cut into for any kind of commentary).  The speeches were mostly stirring, and gathering them here is a treasure trove in terms of their historical importance, particularly for watching years in the future - though I hardly think many people will regularly watch the speeches now, just for the sheer enjoyment.  This section (and to a lesser extent the entire DVD) places educational importance over entertainment - which frankly is something that should be much more common on TV journalism.  And yet, much of this is, indeed, very entertaining.  Leave it to 60 Minutes to show us how it's done, again.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2009 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: February 7, 2009.