Variety Critic: Obama's 2018 Film Picks Much Like His Presidency, He Just Got With the Program

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When Barack Obama posted his list of the best films of 2018 I wrote this on Facebook: "Consider me impressed by most of his list. I don't know if his backers just used an algorithm to select these films, or if these are genuinely his top picks but, suffice to say, "film twitter" is going gaga today over this list. Job well done."

Obviously, my sarcasm was quite telling in the post, and I was frankly pessimistic that Obama had actually seen all these films. A backlash to Obama's list, surprisingly, did occur in the process, with people agreeing with my "algorithm theory." 

Of note is Owen Gleiberman'takedown essay titled “What Barack Obama’s Year-End Movie List Reveals About Him." Gleiberman's article was met with divisiveness; after all, he basically makes the case that Obama's picks (safe, conforming and un-risky) were very much aligned with his Presidency. Ouch.

"For those of us who found Obama, as president, to be a man of awesome decency and intelligence, yet one who nevertheless failed to deliver a speck of the “audacity” he promised during the 2008 campaign, his list, in its scrupulous avoidance of anything that’s not officially approved or that’s (God forbid) controversial, highlights that wary, other-directed, go-with-the-flow-of-the-establishment side of him. The side of him that, in 2009, went far too easy on the criminals and sleazebags of the financial world who had brought our country to the edge of the abyss. The side of him that — I’m sorry, but stray outside of the box with me here for a moment — could and should have done more to try and lock in the confirmation of Merrick Garland as Supreme Court Justice."

"In 2008, Obama came on like one of those people, but time and again (too often) he drifted along with the flow of the power of the system. The dutiful aesthetic correctness he displays in his movie list is, in a way, another version of that. Obama entitled his list “My favorite movies of 2018,” but did he choose the movies he loved or did he get with the program? The most telling thing about his list is that there may be no difference."

“I found it dispiriting — an example of caution masquerading as daring. The critically approved good taste that Obama displays in his list of favorite films is so impeccable that I kept combing through the list in search of a flaw in the diamond, a micro-glimmer of vulgarity or surprise, or just something a little offbeat, a dollop of idiosyncrasy that might tell us a bit more about who Barack Obama is, apart from someone with a platonically perfect record of movie fanship.”

“His taste in movies is so good that it’s too good for its own good.”

“It’s a bit strange to peruse Obama’s list for a glimpse of what’s inside his heart and mind, only to be confronted by the hive mind of the cinephile-industrial complex. Maybe that’s just who he is, but if you accept the list as Obama’s own, what it reveals about him is that he’s a man who instinctively focus groups his own taste to within an inch of its life.”

“Obama entitled his list ‘My favorite movies of 2018,’ but did he choose the movies he loved or did he get with the program? The most telling thing about his list is that there may be no difference.”