Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cincinnati Shines in The Ides of March

It’s not every day that Hollywood comes a calling. Back in February and March George Clooney brought his production company to Cincinnati to shoot his new movie, The Ides of March, which will open nationally on October 7, 2011. There is already a considerable Oscar buzz about this film. The Ides of March has already won the prestigious Brian prize at the 68th Annual Venice International Film Festival.

The last time a major Hollywood movie was shot in Cincinnati was in 1987. You might remember the movie, Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. The film went on to receive several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman. Wouldn’t it be funny that more than 20 years later George Clooney’s newest movie, also shot in Cincinnati, would win an Oscar for Best Picture?

Perhaps, shooting in Cincinnati could be your road to the Oscars. One thing for sure Cincinnati shines in the Ides of March. Practically every iconic location in the city was featured in the film, including Riverside Drive, Memorial Hall, the Suspension Bridge, and Fountain Square to name a few. Most of the outdoor locations were shot here while interiors were shot in Detroit. Both Ohio and Michigan are offering generous tax credits which helped convince the producers to shoot here in the Midwest.

George Clooney is a hometown boy, who grew up here in the 1970s. For several years, he has been looking for an opportunity to shoot a movie in Cincinnati. This one might just pay off big time.

Clooney has always been interested in classic films. Stories with substance and weight have always intrigued him. I have to confess I am a big fan of his work. He is one of very few filmmakers today who will make intelligent movies. But he also knows how to make them both fun and entertaining. For example, his work shines in films such as Michael Clayton, Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana, for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

He was attracted to the Ides of March, which is essentially a political drama, because, in some ways, it was a personal story. The issue of politics always comes up when talking about George Clooney. He is heavily involved in social activism. You may remember Clooney’s work to stop the atrocities in Darfur, Sudan. And, of course, he’s gone on the record to label himself as a liberal. So there’s no question that Clooney is extremely political. But talking about political issues wasn’t his main motivation in making this film. Clooney has been quoted, “Some people will think this is some long civics lesson, but it has very little to do with actual politics and much more to do with what happens to any person who gets involved in the back rooms.”

The Ides of March is basically a morality play. At what point are we willing to sell our soul? Does the end justify the means? How far are we willing to go to get what we want? These are some of the issues this film explores. The Ides of March could have taken place on Wall Street, a law office, or any other workplace.

George Clooney plays Mike Morris, the fictional Governor of Pennsylvania. Morris believes he can make a difference and is running in the hotly contested Democratic Ohio primary for president. Steven Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is Morris’aid and press secretary who is both idealistic and ambitious. Days before the primary, Meyers considers switching to the rival campaign which could end Morris’s run for the White House. The film plays out in the backdrop of double-dealing, dirty campaign tricks, misinformation and backroom deals. Candidate Morris has to decide how far he is willing to go in order to win the primary. What kind of deals does he have to make?

It would seem that the driving motivation for most of the characters in this film is the unquenching thirst for influence and power. Complicating matters are the tactics of the campaign managers played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. Clooney based the script on his own father’s experiences. Well-known Cincinnati anchorman and AMC movie host, Nick Clooney, ran against Republican Jeff Davis for Kentucky’s 4th District for congress, and was solidly defeated due in part to some of the same tactics suggested in The Ides of March.

His father was pretty devastated when TV ads were aired that demonized him as a Hollywood elitist. The elderly Clooney was shown wearing an army jacket, round John Lennon style glasses, and holding a joint. He was also embarrassed and demoralized by the entire process of seeking campaign funds and the type of people you had to hang around with. Personally having grown up here in Cincinnati, I can tell you for a fact that the ad definitely misrepresented Nick Clooney. He is anything but a Hollywood elitist.

George Clooney is quoted as saying, “I saw my father really fight it and lose pretty terribly. No matter how pure you try to keep it, you’re always going to have to take meetings with people you don’t like. I got a real sense of how ugly it is—and that was just for a congressional seat.” It seems that Clooney is suggesting that the entire process of electing candidates is corrupt and flawed, whether that’s conservative, liberal, Democrat or Republican.

I have a feeling that the Ides of March is going to be a powerful film. I think all of us here in Cincinnati are proud that George Clooney decided to shoot his movie here. It makes perfect sense considering the upcoming election and the role Ohio plays as a swing state in determining the outcomes in national presidential elections.

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