Monday, January 11, 2016
Chris Cillizza and Chuck Todd...
On MTP Friday afternoon they both agreed that Donald Trump's campaign for president was no accident; instead the real estate tycoon knows exactly what he's doing.
Before I get into why I disagree, let's talk about movies for just a minute. Huh? Indulge me.
In 1976, when I was a senior in high school, United Artists released a movie about a down-and-out boxer who got a chance to fight the heavyweight champion of the world. Written in only three and a half days by an unknown actor named Sylvester Stallone, Rocky was shot in less than a month and was a sleeper hit, becoming the highest grossing film of the year and winning three Oscars, including Best Picture.
Rocky cost less than a million dollars to make and grossed over $200 million. That's when Hollywood studios knew what they were doing, right? Not exactly.
The next year, the same studio released a film called New York, New York, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli, three of the biggest names in the business back then. Sounds like a "can't miss," doesn't it? Well, turns out the movie grossed less than its $14 million budget. But don't feel too bad for the studio. United Artists ultimately recouped its loss on the film as a result of an agreement wherein they would share the profits with Rocky, which was expected to be a flop.
Now where the heck am I going with all of this? Good question.
Back to Messrs. Cillizza and Todd. Both men seemed to imply that Trump's candidacy was a well-thought out, well-executed plan to take advantage of the current Zeitgeist of anger, distrust of institutions, white resentment, etc. And, while I'll concede that Trump has been a genius at using the media, I still think his entire campaign has been a seat-of-the-pants affair.
And that brings me back to movies. Unlike some shrewdly-conceived, well-researched, focus-grouped, big-budget studio production (John Carter, Heaven's Gate, Ishtar and Gigli are just a few others) that turned out to be a box office dud (think Jeb Bush), Trump's candidacy is more like Rocky, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite or American Graffiti (which was turned down by every studio for distribution).
In other words, Trump didn't sit back, carefully survey the political landscape and take advantage of what he saw. He just reflects the current sentiment in America; he's of it. Take away all of Trump's billions and his gaudy, gilded properties, and he's just a kid from Queens. Even though he's fabulously wealthy, he's not at all like other Republican plutocrats, such as Mitt Romney or Jeb. He really is your Fox News-watching uncle at the Thanksgiving table, or that drunk at the end of any bar in America. Trump is just spewing what he really thinks -- off the top of his head -- and it happens to be resonating with a large segment of the Republican Party. Do you think George Lucas made American Graffiti with the intention it would be a blockbuster? Or was it just a labor of love that happened to connect with what Americans wanted back in 1973? I know it did with me.
So is Trump some modern-day Rasputin, manipulating the media and his followers? No. He's more like a modern-day Archie Bunker, albeit with a microphone.