First date: Vous avez dit culte de la personnalité ? (Spot the error: Obama hasn’t even left office, but in supposedly racist America the hagiography has definitely begun)

soutsidewithyou
obamaplaquekisssugarshack

barryobamaindonesianfilmU.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the dedication of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

C’est ça, l’Ouest, monsieur le sénateur:  quand la légende devient réalité, c’est la légende qu’il faut publier. Maxwell Scott  (journaliste dans ‘L’Homme qui tua Liberty Valance’, John Ford, 1962)
We real cool. We Left school. We Lurk late. We Strike straight. We Sing sin. We Thin gin. We Jazz June. We Die soon. Gwendolyn Brooks (1959)
Murders in the U.S. jumped by 10.8% in 2015, according to figures released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation—a sharp increase that could fuel concerns that the nation’s two-decade trend of falling crime rates may be ending. The figures had been expected to show an increase, after preliminary data released earlier this year indicated violent crime and murders were rising. But the double-digit increase in murders dwarfed any in the past 20 years, eclipsing the 3.7% increase in 2005, the year in which the biggest increase occurred before now. In 2014, the FBI recorded violent crime narrowly falling, by 0.2%. In 2015, the number of violent crimes rose 3.9% though the number of property crimes dropped 2.6%, the FBI said. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St.Louis, said a key driver of the murder spike may be an increasing distrust of police in major cities where controversial officer shootings have led to protests. “This rise is concentrated in certain large cities where police-community tensions have been notable,’’ said Mr. Rosenfeld, citing Cleveland, Baltimore, and St. Louis as examples. The rise in killings is not spread evenly around America, he noted, but is rather centered on big cities with large African-American populations. (…) Mr. Rosenfeld said the FBI data suggests the increase in murder may be caused by some version of the “Ferguson effect’’—a term often used by law-enforcement officials to describe what they see as the negative effects of the recent anti-police protests. The killing by a police officer of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 led to protests there and around the country. Some law-enforcement officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have argued that since then, some officers may be more reluctant to get out of their patrol cars and engage in the kind of difficult work that reduces street crime, out of fear they may be videotaped and criticized publicly. Mr. Rosenfeld suggested a different dynamic may be at play, though stemming from the same tensions. Members of minority and poor communities may be more reluctant to talk to police and help them solve crimes in cities where officers are viewed as untrustworthy and threatening, he said, particularly where there have been recent controversial killings by police officers. (…) John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School, said the numbers are concerning but that it is too early to draw any definite conclusions from the data, noting that the murder rate in 2015 was still lower than in 2009. “It’s not a giant rollback of things. 2015 is the third-safest year for violent crime since 1970,’’ Mr. Pfaff said. “The last time we saw a jump like this was 1989 to 1990, and that was a much more broad increase in crime.’’ WSJ
Tout ce qu’on sait, c’est qu’on en sait  très peu sur Barack Obama et que ce qu’on sait est très différent de ce qui est allégué. Tous les présidents ont leurs mythographies, mais ils ont également un bilan et des experts  qui peuvent  distinguer les faits  de la fiction. Dans le cas d’Obama, on ne nous a nous jamais donné tous les faits et il y avait peu de gens dans la presse intéressés à les trouver. Comme le dit Maxwell Scott dans L’homme qui a tué Liberty Valance, ‘quand la légende devient fait, c’est la légende qu’il faut imprimer’.  Victor Davis Hanson
Apart from other unprecedented aspects of his rise, it is a geographical truth that no politician in American history has traveled farther than Barack Obama to be within reach of the White House. He was born and spent most of his formative years on Oahu, in distance the most removed population center on the planet, some 2,390 miles from California, farther from a major landmass than anywhere but Easter Island. In the westward impulse of American settlement, his birthplace was the last frontier, an outpost with its own time zone, the 50th of the United States, admitted to the union only two years before Obama came along. Those who come from islands are inevitably shaped by the experience. For Obama, the experience was all contradiction and contrast. As the son of a white woman and a black man, he grew up as a multiracial kid, a « hapa, » « half-and-half » in the local lexicon, in one of the most multiracial places in the world, with no majority group. There were native Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos, Samoans, Okinawans, Chinese and Portuguese, along with Anglos, commonly known as haole (pronounced howl-lee), and a smaller population of blacks, traditionally centered at the U.S. military installations. But diversity does not automatically translate into social comfort: Hawaii has its own difficult history of racial and cultural stratification, and young Obama struggled to find his place even in that many-hued milieu. He had to leave the island to find himself as a black man, eventually rooting in Chicago, the antipode of remote Honolulu, deep in the fold of the mainland, and there setting out on the path that led toward politics. Yet life circles back in strange ways, and in essence it is the promise of the place he left behind — the notion if not the reality of Hawaii, what some call the spirit of aloha, the transracial if not post-racial message — that has made his rise possible. Hawaii and Chicago are the two main threads weaving through the cloth of Barack Obama’s life. Each involves more than geography. Hawaii is about the forces that shaped him, and Chicago is about how he reshaped himself. Chicago is about the critical choices he made as an adult: how he learned to survive in the rough-and-tumble of law and politics, how he figured out the secrets of power in a world defined by it, and how he resolved his inner conflicts and refined the subtle, coolly ambitious persona now on view in the presidential election. Hawaii comes first. It is what lies beneath, what makes Chicago possible and understandable. (…) « Dreams From My Father » is as imprecise as it is insightful about Obama’s early life. Obama offers unusually perceptive and subtle observations of himself and the people around him. Yet, as he readily acknowledged, he rearranged the chronology for his literary purposes and presented a cast of characters made up of composites and pseudonyms. This was to protect people’s privacy, he said. Only a select few were not granted that protection, for the obvious reason that he could not blur their identities — his relatives. (…) Keith and Tony Peterson (…) wondered why Obama focused so much on a friend he called Ray, who in fact was Keith Kukagawa. Kukagawa was black and Japanese, and the Petersons did not even think of him as black. Yet in the book, Obama used him as the voice of black anger and angst, the provocateur of hip, vulgar, get-real dialogues. (…) Sixteen years later, Barry was no more, replaced by Barack, who had not only left the island but had gone to two Ivy League schools, Columbia undergrad and Harvard Law, and written a book about his life. He was into his Chicago phase, reshaping himself for his political future … David Maraniss
Nous ne sommes pas un fardeau pour l’Amérique, une tache sur l’Amérique, un objet de honte ou de pitié pour l’Amérique. Nous sommes l’Amérique ! Barack Hussein Obama
Ce n’est pas un musée du crime ou de la culpabilité, c’est un lieu qui raconte le voyage d’un peuple et l’histoire d’une nation. Il n’y a pas de réponses simples à des questions complexes». Lonnie Bunch
Abraham Lincoln was long dead when John Ford polished the presidential halo in the 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln.” Mr. Obama hasn’t even left office, but the cinematic hagiography has begun. The NYT
As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama. Now, obviously I disagree with a lot of Obama’s policy decisions. I’ve been disappointed by aspects of his presidency. I hope the next presidency is a philosophic departure. But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply. The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton. (…) Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans. He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. (…)  Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. (…) Take health care. (…) President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation. Fourth, grace under pressure. (…) I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. (…) Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth. People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions. No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage. Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him. David Brooks
Le rituel du soir de Barack Obama n’est un secret pour personne : le président des États-Unis est un couche-tard. Ces quelques heures de solitude, entre la fin du dîner et l’heure de dormir, vers 1 heure du matin, sont celles où il réfléchit et se retrouve seul avec lui-même. De menus détails sur sa vie qui sont connus du public depuis plusieurs années.  Alors pourquoi les raconter à nouveau ? pourrait-on demander au New York Times, et son enquête intitulée « Obama après la tombée de la nuit ». Parce que les lecteurs apprécient visiblement ces quelques images de l’intimité d’un président qui quittera bientôt la Maison Blanche. Deux jours après sa publication, l’article est toujours dans le top 10 des plus lus sur le site. Barack Obama a toujours été un pro du storytelling. Tout, dans l’image qu’il donne de lui-même, est précisément contrôlé, y compris les moments de décontraction. Pete Souza, le photographe officiel de la Maison Blanche, en est le meilleur témoin et le meilleur outil. Le professionnel met en avant l’image d’un président plus décontracté, en marge du protocole officiel, proche des enfants, jouant allongé par terre avec un bébé tenu à bout de bras ou autorisant un jeune garçon à lui toucher les cheveux « pour savoir s’ils sont comme les siens ». Dans cet article, c’est encore une fois l’image d’un homme décontracté, mais aussi plus sage et solitaire qu’à l’ordinaire, qui est travaillée. Et d’abord par l’introduction qui compare les habitudes nocturnes de Barack Obama à celle de ses prédécesseurs. « Le président George W. Bush, un lève-tôt, était au lit à dix heures. Le président Bill Clinton se couchait tard comme M. Obama, mais il consacrait du temps à de longues conversations à bâtons rompus avec ses amis et ses alliés politiques. » Là où Bill Clinton appréciait la compagnie jusqu’à tard dans la nuit, Barack Obama choisit la solitude réflexive. Pour enfoncer le clou, l’article cite alors l’historien Doris Kearns Goodwin : « C’est quelqu’un qui est bien seul avec lui-même. » (…) L’huile qui fait tourner les rouages d’un storytelling réussi, ce sont les anecdotes, inoffensives ou amusantes. Ici, on découvre celle des sept amandes que Barack Obama mange le soir. Les amandes montrent que le président a une hygiène de vie impeccable, qu’il n’a besoin de boissons excitantes ou sucrées pour tenir le coup. Et en même temps, le chiffre précis a quelque chose d’insolite, qui donne l’image de quelqu’un d’un peu crispé, qui veut tout contrôler. Mais pas trop. (…) Le portrait de Barack Obama, une fois la nuit tombée, soigne également l’image d’un bourreau de travail, perfectionniste et attaché aux détails. (…) Dans le même temps, il faut entretenir l’image de « Mister Cool » et continuer à travailler sur celle du père de famille. Barack Obama ne fait pas que travailler dans son bureau. Il se tient au courant des résultats sportifs sur ESPN et joue à Words With Friends, un dérivé du Scrabble sur iPad. Le « rituel du coucher » n’a plus vraiment de raison d’être maintenant que ses filles Malia et Sasha ont 18 et 15 ans, mais il reste la « movie night », la soirée cinéma de la famille, tous les vendredis soirs dans le « Family Theater », une salle de projection privée de 40 places. Avec le petit détail qui change tout : Barack et Michelle apprécient les séries ultra-populaires Breaking Bad ou Game of Thrones. Le procédé est efficace, et l’impression générale qui se dégage est celle d’un homme réfléchi, calme, solitaire. Le Monde
George W. Bush avait signé en 2003 la loi créant le Musée national de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaines, mais c’est au premier président noir du pays qu’est revenu le privilège de l’inaugurer ce samedi. Outre Barack et Michelle Obama, George W. et Laura Bush les élus du Congrès et les juges de la Cour suprême, quelque 20.000 personnes se sont rassemblées en milieu de journée sur le Mall de Washington, la grande esplanade faisant face au Capitole, au nombre desquelles tout ce que le pays compte de célébrités noires. Oprah Winfrey, qui a donné 20 millions de dollars, a eu droit à une place d’honneur. (…) Au-dessus de lui, le bâtiment de six étages, dessiné par l’architecte britannique d’origine tanzanienne David Adjaye, se dresse comme une couronne africaine de bronze face au Washington Monument (l’obélisque érigé en hommage au premier président des Etats-Unis), à l’endroit même où, il y a deux siècles, se tenait un marché aux esclaves. Son matériau, inspirée des textiles d’Afrique de l’Ouest, laisse passer la lumière et rougeoie au soleil couchant, créant une impression massive de l’extérieur et aérienne de l’intérieur. Il a fallu treize ans et 540 millions de dollars pour bâtir le dix-neuvième musée de la Smithsonian Institution et y rassembler plus de 35.000 témoignages de l’histoire des Afro-Américains, dont aucun aspect n’est occulté: ni la traite des esclaves, ni la ségrégation, ni la lutte pour les droits civiques, ni les réussites contemporaines, du sport au hip-hop et à la politique. La présidence de Barack Obama y est documentée dans l’un des 27 espaces d’exposition, non loin de la Cadillac de Chuck Berry ou des chaussures de piste de Jessie Owens. Mais le visiteur est d’abord invité à passer devant les chaînes, les fouets, les huttes misérables des esclaves, les photos de dos lacérés ou de lynchages (3437 Noirs pendus entre 1882 et 1851), ou encore le cercueil d’Emmett Till, tué à l’âge de 14 ans dans le Mississippi pour avoir sifflé une femme blanche en 1955. «Ce n’est pas un musée du crime ou de la culpabilité, insiste son directeur, Lonnie Bunch, c’est un lieu qui raconte le voyage d’un peuple et l’histoire d’une nation. Il n’y a pas de réponses simples à des questions complexes». Au moment où les marches de la communauté noire se répandent dans le pays pour protester contre les violences policières, Barack Obama a invité Donald Trump à visiter le Musée de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine. Le candidat républicain à sa succession a déclaré que les Noirs vivaient aujourd’hui «dans les pires conditions qu’ils aient jamais connues». Dans une interview vendredi à la chaîne ABC, le président a répliqué: «Je crois qu’un enfant de 8 ans est au courant que l’esclavage n’était pas très bon pour les Noirs et que l’ère Jim Crow (les lois ségrégationnistes, Ndlr) n’était pas très bonne pour les Noirs». Au moment où les marches de la communauté noire se répandent dans le pays pour protester contre les violences policières, Barack Obama a invité Donald Trump à visiter le Musée de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine. Le candidat républicain à sa succession a déclaré que les Noirs vivaient aujourd’hui «dans les pires conditions qu’ils aient jamais connues». Dans une interview vendredi à la chaîne ABC, le président a répliqué: «Je crois qu’un enfant de 8 ans est au courant que l’esclavage n’était pas très bon pour les Noirs et que l’ère Jim Crow (les lois ségrégationnistes, Ndlr) n’était pas très bonne pour les Noirs». Le Figaro
A young Jack Kennedy leads his shipwrecked crew to safety on a deserted island, dragging an injured sailor as he swims. A middle-aged FDR is struck down by polio, then fights to recover his ability to walk in order to step back onto the political stage. An up-and-coming Abraham Lincoln, new to the legal profession, stops a lynch mob from killing two young men suspected of murder, then successfully defends them in court. A young Barack Obama, interning at a corporate law firm, convinces his supervisor to go on a date. They kiss. One of these things is not like the others. The vast majority of presidential movies focus on presidents being presidents, sitting at the head of state, living arguably the most consequential moments of their lives. A man with the power and responsibility of the highest office in the country is instantly interesting, whether that’s JFK with the Cuban missile crisis, Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War, Nixon authorizing break-ins at the Watergate, or that famous speech President Bill Pullman gives toward the end of Independence Day. It’s easy for a president to get turned into a figure of high drama, a hero or villain of our national narrative.But when a film dips into a president’s pre-presidential years, there’s more than just a good story going on. In fact, only a handful of presidential films have ignored a president’s years in the Oval Office entirely: PT-109 (the JFK war movie), Sunrise at Campobello (FDR’s recovery drama), Young Mr. Lincoln (on Lincoln’s… yes, younger years), and now Southside With You, the new movie about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in Chicago in 1991.  Iwan Morgan, editor of Presidents in the Movies and professor of U.S. Studies and American History at University College London, explained over email that both JFK’s and FDR’s early biopics “deal with pre-presidential triumph over adversity to emphasize their suitability to lead in office, rather than celebrating their leadership in office.” Morgan added that John Ford, director of Young Mr. Lincoln, “focuses on the pre-heroic Lincoln to explore his formative influences and preparation for greatness.” The whole point of making a presidential prequel is to show the pattern of the POTUS-to-be. So what does Southside with You show us? The film follows the Obamas through a fictionalized version of their famous first date, whose end is already memorialized by a plaque in front of a Hyde Park Baskin-Robbins — inscribed with this quote from a 2007 O, The Oprah Magazine interview with Barack: “On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”However sweet the ending, the day didn’t begin as a date, at least in Southside’s telling. Barack is a broke summer associate at a corporate law firm; Michelle, his supervisor. He knows she thinks dating within the office is a bad look (and it is), so he asks her out to a community activist meeting at the Gardens — a housing project on Chicago’s South Side — and he fudges the timing a little so they’ll have an opportunity to hang beforehand. They take a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Barack recites the Gwendolyn Brooks poem “We Real Cool” from memory in front of an Ernie Barnes painting, then meander around a public park, trading political opinions and biographical details. (…) Within the context of the rom-com, this makes for sweet (if somewhat boring) viewing. A first date is all about potential, but we know how this particular love story ends. The Obamas are paragons of the modern married couple; Barack’s promise as a potential partner paid off. But (…) in spite of itself, this plays right to the most persistent criticisms of the Obama presidency, and to the greatest fears of his supporters: that Obama never moved beyond his perceived potential from the 2008 election, and was never able to deliver much more than a solid speech. Dargis called the film a “cinematic hagiography” in the Times, but to borrow another Christian term of art, it’s closer to a piece of apologetics. Instead of a miracle story of a hero’s precocious powers, it presents an argument against his critics, a character study by way of excuse. In Southside, the young Obama doesn’t demonstrate his future leadership ability as much as his ability to convince you of his future leadership ability. Which is, ironically, what many of his strongest critics say about his presidency. That it was — and remained, throughout his eight years in office — about possibility. Southside tells us that, if it wasn’t for the system, Obama could have accomplished more, and despite it all, did an admirable job of keeping his head up. It urges us to believe what we already know: that he’s a cool guy in private, even if he keeps calling for drone strikes and deporting more people  — that’s just playing to the white couple at the movie theater, the conservative crowd. It argues, ice cream cone in hand, that Obama would have made a truly great president, if he had just been given the chance. Sam Dean
The writer and director Richard Tanne’s first feature, “Southside with You,” which will be released next Friday, is an opening act of superb audacity, a self-imposed challenge so mighty that it might seem, on paper, to be a stunt. It’s a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date, in Chicago, in the summer of 1989. It stars Parker Sawyers as the twenty-eight-year-old Barack, a Harvard Law student and summer associate at a Chicago law firm, and Tika Sumpter (who also co-produced the film) as the twenty-five-year-old Michelle, a Harvard Law graduate and a second-year associate at the same firm. The results don’t resemble a stunt; far from it. “Southside with You,” running a brisk hour and twenty minutes, is a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic. Tanne tells the story of the First Couple’s first date with a tightly constrained time frame—one day’s and evening’s worth of action—that begins with the protagonists preparing for their rendezvous and ends with them back at their homes. In between, Tanne pulls off a near-miracle, conveying these historic figures’ depth and complexity of character without making them grandiose. The dialogue is freewheeling and intimate, ranging through subjects far from the matters at hand, suggesting enormous intellect and enormous promise without seeming cut-and-pasted from speeches or memoirs. The film exudes Tanne’s own sense of calm excitement, nearly a documentarian’s serendipitous thrill at being present to catch on-camera a secret miracle of mighty historical import. Movies about public figures—ones whose appearance, diction, and gestures are deeply ingrained in the minds of most likely viewers—must confront the Scylla of impersonation and the Charybdis of unfaithfulness. Tanne’s extraordinary actors thread that strait nimbly, delivering performances that exist on their own but feel true to the characters, that spin with dialectical delight and embody the ardors, ambitions, and uncertainties that even the most able and aware young adults must face. (…) Tanne achieves something that few other directors—whether of independent or Hollywood or art-house films—ever do: he creates characters with an ample sense of memory, who fully inhabit their life prior to their time onscreen, and who have a wide range of cultural references and surging ideas that leap spontaneously into their conversation. A scene in which Michelle and Barack visit an exhibit of Afrocentric art—he discusses the importance of the painter Ernie Barnes to the sitcom “Good Times,” and together they recall Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool”—has an effortless grace that reflects an unusual cinematic depth of lived experience. The centerpiece of the film is a splendid bit of romantic and principled performance art on the part of Barack. He plans the non-date date around a community meeting in a mainly black neighborhood that Michelle—who did pro-bono work at Harvard and who admits to frustration with her trademark-law work at the firm—is eager to attend. There, Barack, who had been active with the organization before heading to Harvard, is received like a prodigal son. The subject of the meeting is the legislature’s refusal to build a much-needed community center; frustration among the attendees mounts, until Barack addresses them and offers some brilliant practical suggestions to overcome the opposition. At the meeting, he displays, above all, his gifts for public speaking and, even more, for empathy. He reveals, to the community group but also to Michelle, a preternatural genius at grasping interests and motives, at seeking common cause, and at recognizing—and acting upon—the human factor. There, Barack also displays a personal philosophy of practical politics that’s tied to his larger reflections on American history and political theory. The intellectual passion that Tanne builds into the scene, and that Sawyers delivers with nuanced fervor, is all the more striking and exquisite for its subtle positioning as a device of romantic seduction. Michelle’s sense of principled responsibility and groundedness, her worldly maturity and practical insight, is matched by Barack’s ardent but callow, mighty but still-unfocussed energies. The movie’s ring of authenticity carried me through from start to finish without inviting my speculations as to the historical veracity of the events. Curiosity eventually kicked in, though; most accounts of the first date suggest that its general contours involved Michelle’s reluctance to date a colleague who was also a subordinate, the visit to the Art Institute, a walk, a drink, and a viewing of the recently released film “Do the Right Thing.” The community meeting is usually described as occurring at another occasion, yet it fits into the first date with a verisimilitude as well as an emotional impact that justify the dramatization. As for their viewing of Spike Lee’s movie, the scene that Tanne derives from it is a minor masterwork of ironic psychology and mother wit. It’s too good to spoil; suffice it to say that the scene is set against the backdrop of controversy that greeted Lee’s film at the time of its release, with some critics—white critics—fearing that the climactic act of violence (meaning not the police killing of Radio Raheem but Mookie’s throwing a garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria and leading his neighbors to ransack the venue) would incite riots. “Southside with You” is the sort of movie that, say, Richard Linklater’s three “Before” movies aren’t—an intimate story that has a reach far greater than its scale, that has stakes and substance extending beyond the couple’s immediate fortunes. There’s a noble historical precedent for Tanne’s film. If the modern cinema was inspired by Roberto Rossellini’s “Voyage to Italy,” from 1954—which taught a handful of ambitious young French critics that all they needed to make a movie was two actors and a car, that they could make a low-budget and small-scale production that would be rich in cinematic ideas and romantic passion alike—then “Southside with You” is an exemplary work of cinematic modernity. Rossellini, a cinematic philosopher, ranges far through history and politics to ground a couple’s intimate disasters in the deep currents of modern life. Tanne does this, too, and goes one step further; his inspiration is reminiscent of the advice that the nineteen-year-old critic Jean-Luc Godard gave to his cinematic elders, “unhappy filmmakers of France who lack scenarios.” Godard advised them to make films about “the tax system,” about the writer and Nazi collaborator Philippe Henriot, about the Resistance activist Danielle Casanova. Tanne picks a great subject of contemporary history and politics—indeed, one of the very greatest—and approaches it without the pomp and bombast of ostensibly important, message-mongering Oscarizables. He realizes Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson onscreen with the same meticulous, thoughtful, inventive imagination that other directors might bring to figures of legend, people they know, or their own lives. “Southside with You” is a virtuosic realization of history on the wing, of the lives of others incarnated as firsthand experience. To tell this story is a nearly impossible challenge, and Tanne meets it at its high level. The New Yorker
Like “Before Sunrise,” a film which invites comparison, “Southside with You” is a two-hander that’s top-heavy with dialogue, walking and a knowing sense of location. Unlike that film, however, we already know the ending before the lights go down in the theater. So, writer/director Richard Tanne replaces the suspenseful pull of “will they or won’t they?” with an equally compelling and understated character study that humanizes his larger-than-life public figures. Tanne reminds us that, before ascending to the most powerful office in the world, Barack and Michelle were just two regular people who started out somewhere much smaller. This down-to-earth approach works surprisingly well because “Southside with You” never loses sight of the primary tenet of a great romantic comedy: All you need is two people whom the audience wants to see get together—then you put them together. So many entries in this genre fail miserably because the filmmakers feel compelled to overcomplicate matters with useless subplots and extraneous characters; they mistake cacophony for complexity. “Southside with You” builds its emotional richness by coasting on the charisma of its two leads as they carefully navigate each other’s personality quirks and life stories. We may be ahead of them in terms of knowing the outcome, but we’re simultaneously learning the details. “Southside with You” is at once a love song to the city of Chicago and its denizens, an unmistakably Black romance and a gentle, universal comedy. It is unapologetic about all three of these elements, and interweaves them in such a subtle fashion that they become more pronounced only upon later reflection. The Chicago affection manifests itself not only in a scene where, in front of a small group of community activists welcoming back their favorite son, Barack demonstrates a rough version of the speechmaking ability that will later become his trademark, but also when Barack takes Michelle to an art gallery. He points out that the Ernie Barnes paintings they’re viewing were used on the Chicago-set sitcom “Good Times.” Then the duo recite Chicago native Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem about the pool players at the Golden Shovel, « We Real Cool. » Even the beloved founder of this site, Roger Ebert, gets a shout-out for championing “Do the Right Thing, » the movie Barack and Michelle attend in the closing hours of their date. Though its depiction of romance is recognizable to anyone who has ever gone on a successful first date, “Southside with You” also takes time to address the concerns Michelle has with dating her co-worker, especially since she’s his superior and the only Black woman in the office. The optics of this pairing worries her in ways that hint at the corporate sexism that existed back in 1989, and continues in some fashion today. Her concern is that her superiors might think she threw herself at the only other Black employee which, based on my own personal workplace experience, I found completely relatable. This plotline has traction, culminating in a fictional though very effective climactic scene between Barack, Michelle and their boss. It’s a bit overdramatic, but the payoff is a lovely ice cream-based reconciliation that may do for Baskin-Robbins what Beyoncé’s “Formation” did for Red Lobster. Odie Henderson
Such hagiography of our chief executives is not unheard of, but it’s also less common than you might think. The complicated portraits of presidents painted by Oliver Stone in Nixon (1995) and W. (2008)—sympathetic, to a point, but unsparing and occasionally unfair—are far more interesting than the offering to Obama’s cult of personality that Southside With You represents. John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012) are perhaps the two most impressive examples of pure homage to the presidency. Young Mr. Lincoln in particular is a deft piece of filmmaking—as the booklet that comes with the Criterion Collection’s edition of the film notes, the legendary Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein once wrote that if he could lay claim to any American film, it would have been this one—which culminates in as powerful a sequence as any in film history. Honest Abe (Henry Fonda) has defended two brothers from a wrongful murder charge—first saving them from a lynch mob and then proving their innocence in court—and seen the grateful family off. A friend asks if he wants to come back to town. “No, I think I might go on a piece. Maybe to the top of that hill,” Lincoln replies, striding off into the sunset. As he crests the ridge and as the Battle Hymn of the Republic plays, the sky cracks and rain pours forth. He pushes on, into the rain, the lightning, the thunder. It’s a storm Lincoln will have to face alone, a storm similar to the one the nation faced when the film was produced in 1939. It’s not a subtle image, particularly, but it does hold up through the decades, a simple and powerful picture of a man with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. In its own way, the closing moments of Southside With You are also affecting. Barack Obama sits in a chair, smoking a cigarette, a book on his lap. He smiles, thinking of himself and his date. The storm clouds gather again—mass murder in Syria; a destabilized Middle East; a resurgent China and Russia—but you wouldn’t know it from the placid look on the future chief executive’s face. He is detached, concerned with his own affairs, his own place in the world. If that’s the impression Tanne was going for, well, to quote another president: Mission Accomplished. Free Beacon
In a highly effective move, the will they/won’t they drama of Southside with You climaxes with an incident that very much did happen in real life—kinda. Hitting the movies to check out Spike Lee’s controversial new joint Do The Right Thing, the pair find themselves face to face with Michelle’s nightmare: a senior white partner from their law firm, who’s also come to check out the movie. Like Southside’s brief mention of Obama’s white girlfriend at Columbia, the name of the real partner is changed onscreen. “Avery” and his wife Laura were really lawyer Newton Minow and his wife Jo, who ran into the future Mr. and Mrs. Obama at the movies. (…) Unfortunately, the film uses him for its own dramatic purposes: to play up the racial and cultural frictions that theoretically gave Barack and Michelle common ground as two of the only African-Americans at the office, and to justify Movie Michelle’s fears that the older white men of Sidley Austin might lose respect for her as an attorney in her own right if she started dating Barack. Those racially-charged frustrations, portrayed purposefully onscreen by Sumpter, have not been expressed much by the real Michelle and Barack in interviews about their romance. Daily Beast
Pas un soupçon d’intérêt historique (ou autre), tant cette romance cui-cui/cucul baigne dans l’eau de rose. Voici
Après avoir longtemps hésité, Michelle Robinson, associée dans un cabinet juridique, accepte finalement une invitation à sortir de Barack Obama, le stagiaire prometteur engagé pour l’été. Comme la jeune femme ne souhaite pas que leur soirée ressemble à un rendez-vous amoureux traditionnel, il décide d’emmener sa supérieure se promener dans différents endroits du Chicago de la fin des années 1980. Il espère profiter de ces moments informels pour apprendre à mieux la connaître. Durant leur balade, ils visitent l’institut d’art de la ville, où ils évoquent ensemble leur amour pour la poésie de Gwendolyn Brooks ou pour la peinture d’Ernie Barnes. Télérama
Un jour de 1989, une avocate, Michelle, se fait inviter par un stagiaire prénommé Barack… On espère que le premier rendez-vous du futur président des Etats-Unis avec son épouse a été moins ennuyeux et moins pompeux que celui de leurs personnages sur l’écran. On en est même sûr. Sinon, ils se seraient quittés le soir même pour ne plus jamais se revoir…  Pierre Murat
La machine hagiographique hollywoodienne n’a pas attendu le terme du second mandat de Barack Obama pour embaumer le 44e président des Etats-Unis dans sa propre légende. Pour cela, First Date n’emprunte pas les voies traditionnelles du biopic (biographie filmée), mais d’une comédie romantique se déroulant sur une seule journée : celle de 1989 où la future « First Lady » Michelle, alors jeune avocate à Chicago, tombe amoureuse du stagiaire de sa firme, l’humble, pondéré, clairvoyant, attentionné, plébiscité et prometteur Barack. Constitué d’une longue conversation entre les deux personnages, au gré des endroits qu’ils visitent, le film insiste sur leur élégance simple, leur aisance naturelle et la perfection de leur pedigree. Comme dans beaucoup de fictions américaines, la séduction se passe un peu comme un entretien d’embauche, où il s’agit moins de décocher les flèches de Cupidon que de cocher les cases d’un CV imaginaire rempli de bienséance et de respectabilité. Les dialogues en profitent pour énumérer les états de service, éléments biographiques et souvenirs officiels des personnages, en somme tout ce qu’il faut savoir des locataires de la Maison Blanche, à la façon d’une notice Wikipédia. Le tout est enrobé par la mise en scène dans un environnement lisse, soyeux, confortable, soigneusement aseptisé par les lumières douces et les couleurs pastel d’un climat ensoleillé. Les scènes se suivent sans remous : l’une au musée pour nous montrer que Barack est cultivé, l’autre dans sa paroisse de quartier pour prouver sa dévotion à la communauté et ses talents d’orateur, une autre encore au cinéma, devant Do the Right Thing, de Spike Lee, pour marquer son acuité de conscience. (…) Les armes émollientes de la comédie romantique contribuent à déréaliser ces figures politiques, pour en faire de petites marionnettes telles qu’en rêverait une parfaite midinette. Ce qui en dit long sur la manière dont on considère l’électeur démocrate dans les officines du cinéma indépendant. Le Monde
Déjà ? Cinq mois avant leur départ de la Maison Blanche, Michelle et Barack Obama sont les héros d’un biopic qui retrace leur rencontre et leur histoire d’amour. (…) Un autre film, Barry, sur les années new-yorkaises du futur président, alors étudiant à l’université Columbia, sera présenté à la mi-septembre au Festival de Toronto (Ontario, Canada). Sans attendre que l’Amérique tourne la page avec l’élection présidentielle du 8 novembre, la légende cinématographique des Obama se construit déjà. L’histoire de la rencontre entre Barack et Michelle à Chicago (Illinois) est connue. Elle a été racontée par les intéressés eux-mêmes. C’était l’été 1989, en pleine canicule. Michelle Robinson, 25 ans, était avocate associée au cabinet juridique Sidley Austin, un début de carrière brillant pour cette fille d’employé municipal du « South Side », le quartier noir de la ville. Le stagiaire qui venait de lui être assigné pour l’été portait ce drôle de nom, Barack Obama. A 28 ans, il arrivait comme elle de la prestigieuse faculté de droit de Harvard. Michelle était assez sceptique – et caustique – sur les hommes. Dans un cabinet uniformément blanc, elle n’allait pas compromettre sa position en sortant avec le premier stagiaire venu. Barack a dû déployer tout son charme et quelques ruses pour la conquérir. (…) Dans le film, le récit est fidèle à la réalité, à quelques raccourcis près : c’est plus tard, et non le premier jour, que Barack a emmené sa « boss » à la réunion communautaire où il lui a fait la démonstration de ses talents politiques. Mais c’est effectivement devant le glacier Baskin-Robbins de Hyde Park qu’a été échangé ce jour-là le premier baiser (« Je l’ai embrassée et ça avait un goût de chocolat », a-t-il raconté à l’animatrice Oprah Winfrey). Depuis 2012, dans la cité de l’Illinois, une plaque commémore le « first kiss » au coin de Dorchester Avenue et de la 53e Rue. Du jamais vu dans la classe politique. (…) Pour les Noirs, qui ont peu de role models (« figures modèles ») dans les représentations cinématographiques, la vision d’un couple uni et d’une famille « ordinaire » est une bénédiction. Tika Sumpter arrive à peine à l’épaule de « Barack », alors que la First Lady mesure 1,80 m. Mais le film est un hommage à un couple qui a réussi à faire entrer toute la gamme du « cool » à la Maison Blanche. (…) Avec le Barry de Vikram Gandhi, ce sont les années pré-Michelle que les spectateurs vont pouvoir découvrir. 1981, une année torturée. Barack (Devon Terrell), qui se fait encore appeler Barry, est à la recherche d’une famille et d’une identité. Sa girlfriend de l’époque est une Blanche, Genevieve Cook (jouée par Anya Taylor-Joy), la fille d’un diplomate australien. Leur relation est compliquée par les incompréhensions raciales… Aujourd’hui, le président américain a encore cinq mois devant lui ; la date de passation de pouvoir est fixée au 20 janvier par la Constitution. Il y aura un dernier sommet du G20 en Asie, un dernier discours aux Nations unies (ONU), une dernière dinde graciée pour Thanksgiving. Mais la nostalgie a déjà envahi l’Amérique. Obama n’a jamais été aussi populaire. Depuis février, il dépasse les 50 % d’opinions favorables, ce qui ne lui était plus arrivé depuis l’hiver 2013. Le Monde magazine

Cherchez l’erreur !

Plaque commémorant le « first kiss » présidentiel,  sortie de pas moins – sans compter une comédie sur son enfance indonésienne – de deux films de Hollywood six mois avant la fin du deuxième mandat du président, articles du New York Times célébrant le coucher présidentiel ou se lamentant de son départ, sondages pour une fin de 2e mandat stratosphériques …

A l’heure où, si l’on en croit nos petits écrans et nos unes de journaux, certaines rues américaines, victimes du racisme policier sont à feu et à sang …

Et que comme pour l’élimination de Ben Laden, c’est au messie noir de la Maison Blanche que revient le mérite de l’ouverture du musée des horreurs du racisme américain dont le président Bush avait signé l’ordre de construction en 2003 …

Comment ne pas être émerveillé …

Entre les panégyriques de Hollywood et les dithyrambes du New Yort Times ou de Youtube …

Alors que suite à l’indécision ou aux décisions catastrophiques voire à l’aveuglement du soi-disant chef du Monde libre face à la menace islamiste …

Le Moyen-Orient comme certaines de nos rues à l’occasion sont elles réellement à feu et à sang …

De l’incroyable capacité de storytelling du premier président américain noir et plus rapide prix Nobel de l’histoire

Comme de la non moins incroyable capacité d‘aveuglement volontaire de ceux qui sont censés nous informer ?

« First Date » : quand Michelle rencontre Barack

Mathieu Macheret

Le Monde

30.08.2016

L’avis du « Monde » – on peut éviter

La machine hagiographique hollywoodienne n’a pas attendu le terme du second mandat de Barack Obama pour embaumer le 44e président des Etats-Unis dans sa propre légende. Pour cela, First Date n’emprunte pas les voies traditionnelles du biopic (biographie filmée), mais d’une comédie romantique se déroulant sur une seule journée : celle de 1989 où la future « First Lady » Michelle, alors jeune avocate à Chicago, tombe amoureuse du stagiaire de sa firme, l’humble, pondéré, clairvoyant, attentionné, plébiscité et prometteur Barack.

Comme dans beaucoup de fictions américaines, la séduction se passe un peu comme un entretien d’embauche

Constitué d’une longue conversation entre les deux personnages, au gré des endroits qu’ils visitent, le film insiste sur leur élégance simple, leur aisance naturelle et la perfection de leur pedigree. Comme dans beaucoup de fictions américaines, la séduction se passe un peu comme un entretien d’embauche, où il s’agit moins de décocher les flèches de Cupidon que de cocher les cases d’un CV imaginaire rempli de bienséance et de respectabilité. Les dialogues en profitent pour énumérer les états de service, éléments biographiques et souvenirs officiels des personnages, en somme tout ce qu’il faut savoir des locataires de la Maison Blanche, à la façon d’une notice Wikipédia.

Un environnement aseptisé

Le tout est enrobé par la mise en scène dans un environnement lisse, soyeux, confortable, soigneusement aseptisé par les lumières douces et les couleurs pastel d’un climat ensoleillé. Les scènes se suivent sans remous : l’une au musée pour nous montrer que Barack est cultivé, l’autre dans sa paroisse de quartier pour prouver sa dévotion à la communauté et ses talents d’orateur, une autre encore au cinéma, devant Do the Right Thing, de Spike Lee, pour marquer son acuité de conscience.

En fait, tout se passe comme si c’était moins Michelle qu’il devait séduire, que le spectateur. Les armes émollientes de la comédie romantique contribuent à déréaliser ces figures politiques, pour en faire de petites marionnettes telles qu’en rêverait une parfaite midinette. Ce qui en dit long sur la manière dont on considère l’électeur démocrate dans les officines du cinéma indépendant.

Film américain de Richard Tanne avec Parker Sawyers, Tika Sumpter, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phillip Edward Van Lear (1 h 21).

Voir également:

Les Obama, vrais héros de cinéma

Corine Lesnes (San Francisco, correspondante)

M le magazine du Monde

26.08.2016

« First Date » relate la rencontre, en 1989, entre Michelle Robinson, avocate à Chicago, et son stagiaire Barack Obama.

Déjà ? Cinq mois avant leur départ de la Maison Blanche, Michelle et Barack Obama sont les héros d’un biopic qui retrace leur rencontre et leur histoire d’amour. Sorti le 26 août aux Etats-Unis, Southside with You est attendu sur les écrans français le 31 août sous le titre de First Date (« premier rendez-vous »).

Un autre film, Barry, sur les années new-yorkaises du futur président, alors étudiant à l’université Columbia, sera présenté à la mi-septembre au Festival de Toronto (Ontario, Canada). Sans attendre que l’Amérique tourne la page avec l’élection présidentielle du 8 novembre, la légende cinématographique des Obama se construit déjà.

L’histoire de la rencontre entre Barack et Michelle à Chicago (Illinois) est connue. Elle a été racontée par les intéressés eux-mêmes. C’était l’été 1989, en pleine canicule. Michelle Robinson, 25 ans, était avocate associée au cabinet juridique Sidley Austin, un début de carrière brillant pour cette fille d’employé municipal du « South Side », le quartier noir de la ville. Le stagiaire qui venait de lui être assigné pour l’été portait ce drôle de nom, Barack Obama.

Comment séduire la sceptique Michelle

A 28 ans, il arrivait comme elle de la prestigieuse faculté de droit de Harvard. Michelle était assez sceptique – et caustique – sur les hommes. Dans un cabinet uniformément blanc, elle n’allait pas compromettre sa position en sortant avec le premier stagiaire venu. Barack a dû déployer tout son charme et quelques ruses pour la conquérir.

« Ce n’est pas un rendez-vous amoureux », ne cessait de répéter Michelle à propos de leur premier après-midi ensemble (visite à l’Art Institute de Chicago et film de Spike Lee). Dans le film, le récit est fidèle à la réalité, à quelques raccourcis près : c’est plus tard, et non le premier jour, que Barack a emmené sa « boss » à la réunion communautaire où il lui a fait la démonstration de ses talents politiques.

Mais c’est effectivement devant le glacier Baskin-Robbins de Hyde Park qu’a été échangé ce jour-là le premier baiser (« Je l’ai embrassée et ça avait un goût de chocolat », a-t-il raconté à l’animatrice Oprah Winfrey). Depuis 2012, dans la cité de l’Illinois, une plaque commémore le « first kiss » au coin de Dorchester Avenue et de la 53e Rue.

Une famille modèle pour la communauté noire

Du jamais vu dans la classe politique. Il est vrai que, dans l’univers très « House of Cards » de Washington, les Obama détonnent. Après sept ans d’exercice du pouvoir, ils ont réussi à échapper aux scandales et ils continuent à afficher une image de complicité. Pour les Noirs, qui ont peu de role models (« figures modèles ») dans les représentations cinématographiques, la vision d’un couple uni et d’une famille « ordinaire » est une bénédiction.

Réalisé par Richard Tanne en dix-sept jours, avec un budget modeste, et produit par le chanteur et compositeur John Legend, un ami des Obama, Southside with You a emballé le Festival de Sundance (Utah) au début de l’année. Pourtant, les deux acteurs – Parker Sawyers, un quasi-inconnu, dans le rôle du futur président et Tika Sumpter (ex- « Gossip Girl »), dans celui de la brillante avocate – n’ont pas le swag (la classe) de Barack et Michelle Obama.

Ni même l’allure. Tika Sumpter arrive à peine à l’épaule de « Barack », alors que la First Lady mesure 1,80 m. Mais le film est un hommage à un couple qui a réussi à faire entrer toute la gamme du « cool » à la Maison Blanche. « On sait où ils sont arrivés, commente John Legend. C’est génial de voir où ils ont commencé. »

Regain d’amour pour le président sortant

Avec le Barry de Vikram Gandhi, ce sont les années pré-Michelle que les spectateurs vont pouvoir découvrir. 1981, une année torturée. Barack (Devon Terrell), qui se fait encore appeler Barry, est à la recherche d’une famille et d’une identité. Sa girlfriend de l’époque est une Blanche, Genevieve Cook (jouée par Anya Taylor-Joy), la fille d’un diplomate australien. Leur relation est compliquée par les incompréhensions raciales…

Aujourd’hui, le président américain a encore cinq mois devant lui ; la date de passation de pouvoir est fixée au 20 janvier par la Constitution. Il y aura un dernier sommet du G20 en Asie, un dernier discours aux Nations unies (ONU), une dernière dinde graciée pour Thanksgiving. Mais la nostalgie a déjà envahi l’Amérique. Obama n’a jamais été aussi populaire.

Depuis février, il dépasse les 50 % d’opinions favorables, ce qui ne lui était plus arrivé depuis l’hiver 2013. « Obama me manque », écrivait au début des primaires le chroniqueur républicain David Brooks dans le New York Times.

L’intéressé en joue lui-même. Lors du dernier dîner des correspondants à la Maison Blanche, début mai, il a été introduit sur la chanson phare de la comédie musicale Pitch Perfect : « Je vous manquerai quand je serai parti. »

Voir encore:

Movies

Review: In an Obama Biopic, the Audacity of Hagiography?

Southside With You

  • Directed by Richard Tanne
  • Biography, Drama, Romance
  • PG-13
  • 1h 24m

“Something else is pulling at me,” the gangly young man with the jug ears says. “I wonder if I can write books or hold a position of influence in civil rights,” he adds. “Politics?” the pretty young woman asks. He shrugs. “Maybe.”

At that point in the romantic idyll “Southside With You,” these two conversationalists are well into one of those intimate walk-and-talks future lovers sometimes share, the kind in which day turns into night and night sometimes turns into the next day (and the day after that). As they amble through one Chicago neighborhood after another — pausing here, driving there — they also meander down their memory lanes. He’s from Hawaii and Indonesia. She’s from Chicago, the South Side. He’s going to Harvard Law. She’s been there, done that, and is now practicing law. You see where this is going.

Sweet, slight and thuddingly sincere, “Southside With You” is a fictional re-creation of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date. It’s a curious conceit for a movie less because as dates go this one is pretty low key but because the writer-director Richard Tanne mistakes faithfulness for truthfulness. He’s obviously interested in the Obamas, but he’s so cautious and worshipful that there’s nothing here to discover, only characters to admire. Every so often, you catch a glimpse of two people seeing each other as if for the first time; mostly, though, the movie just sets a course for the White House. “You definitely have a knack for making speeches,” Michelle says. Yes he does (can).

The story opens with Michelle (Tika Sumpter) talking about Barack (Parker Sawyers) to her parents (“Barack o-what-a?” says dad), while he tells his grandmother about Michelle. She’s his adviser at the firm where he’s a summer associate. Barack digs her; Michelle thinks their dating would be inappropriate. Still, he perseveres with gentle confidence, chipping away at her defenses with searching disquisitions, a park-bench lunch and a visit to an art show, where this stealth-seducer recites lines from Gwendolyn Brooks’s short poem “We Real Cool,” an ominous, disconcerting pre-mortem of some young men shooting pool that closes with the words “We die soon.”

Like Michelle and Barack’s journey through Chicago, the poem raises a cluster of ideas — literary, political, philosophical — about Barack, suggesting where he’s at and where he’s going. Mr. Tanne has clearly made a close study of his real-life inspirations, yet his movie is soon hostage to the couple’s history. His characters feel on loan and, despite his actors, eventually make for dull company because too many lines and details serve the great-man-to-be story rather than the romance. At the art show, when Barack explains that the painter Ernie Barnes did the canvases featured in the sitcom “Good Times,” it isn’t just a guy trying to impress a date; it’s a setup for another big moment.

Ms. Sumpter’s enunciation has a near-metonymic precision suggestive of Mrs. Obama’s, while Mr. Sawyers’s gestural looseness, playful smile and lanky saunter will be familiar. Mr. Sawyers has the better, more satisfying role, partly because of who he plays, though also because Barack is more complex and vulnerable. He is the one with the thorny father issues who is trying to win over the girl (the audience, the nation). He’s hard to resist even if, by the time he takes Michelle to a community meeting in a housing project — where the aspirations of the family in “Good Times” meet their real-world counterpart — his words sound like footnotes in a political biography.

Mr. Obama wrote one such book, “The Audacity of Hope,” in which he describes this first date in a scene that’s echoed in the movie. “I asked if I could kiss her,” Mr. Obama writes, before cutting loose his smooth operator: “It tasted of chocolate.” It’s no surprise that Mr. Obama is a better writer than Mr. Tanne and has a stronger sense of drama. But it’s too bad that while Mr. Obama’s story about his date has tension, a moral and politics, Mr. Tanne’s has plaster saints. Abraham Lincoln was long dead when John Ford polished the presidential halo in the 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln.” Mr. Obama hasn’t even left office, but the cinematic hagiography has begun.

“Southside With You” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) for cigarette smoking. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes.

Voir aussi:

‘Southside With You’ Review

Hagiographic retelling of Obama’s first date likely to disappoint those uninitiated into his cult of personality

Free Beacon
September 2, 2016

The pivotal moment in Southside With You amounts to a center-left cinematic version of John Galt’s Speech.

Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) strides to the pulpit of a rundown inner-city church and launches into a clunky but heartfelt riff on the nature of American society—that we can only make progress when we come together and work for the greater good. Though mercifully shorter than John Galt’s stem-winder near the end of Atlas Shrugged, Obama’s speech is also staged poorly: The camera lingers on our hero, static, shot slightly from below to give him a majestic visage. When we cut away, it’s often to Michelle (Tika Sumpter), who is seen smiling in the audience, overcome by the great man’s words, Dagny Taggart gazing at the man who would jumpstart the motor of the world.

“You definitely have a knack for making speeches,” she says, a cringe-inducing summation of Obama’s political talents.

Like Galt’s rambling ode to the Makers-Not-Takers Class, Obama’s vision of a world that works best when compromise is prized bears little relation to the world we’ve seen for the last few years.

The rest of the film is less annoyingly, but rarely more artfully, put together. It’s a lot of shot/reverse shot and slow walk-and-talks, with Barack and Michelle’s faces all-too-often draped in shadows. Oddly, the movie often works better when Michelle and Barack are not on screen together, as in the early going when the two of them discuss the evening’s events with their respective families.

There’s an interesting film to be made about Obama’s relation to his father, but director Richard Tanne doesn’t make much use of this fertile territory. He’s more interested in resurrecting the idea of hope and change, as embodied by the young couple in love, than he is in examining why the former has been lost and the latter has failed. As the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis—no indignant reactionary offended by this mediocre offering’s praise to the heavens, she—put it, “Mr. Obama hasn’t even left office, but the cinematic hagiography has begun.”

Such hagiography of our chief executives is not unheard of, but it’s also less common than you might think. The complicated portraits of presidents painted by Oliver Stone in Nixon (1995) and W. (2008)—sympathetic, to a point, but unsparing and occasionally unfair—are far more interesting than the offering to Obama’s cult of personality that Southside With You represents.

John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012) are perhaps the two most impressive examples of pure homage to the presidency. Young Mr. Lincoln in particular is a deft piece of filmmaking—as the booklet that comes with the Criterion Collection’s edition of the film notes, the legendary Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein once wrote that if he could lay claim to any American film, it would have been this one—which culminates in as powerful a sequence as any in film history.

Honest Abe (Henry Fonda) has defended two brothers from a wrongful murder charge—first saving them from a lynch mob and then proving their innocence in court—and seen the grateful family off. A friend asks if he wants to come back to town. “No, I think I might go on a piece. Maybe to the top of that hill,” Lincoln replies, striding off into the sunset. As he crests the ridge and as the Battle Hymn of the Republic plays, the sky cracks and rain pours forth. He pushes on, into the rain, the lightning, the thunder. It’s a storm Lincoln will have to face alone, a storm similar to the one the nation faced when the film was produced in 1939.

It’s not a subtle image, particularly, but it does hold up through the decades, a simple and powerful picture of a man with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. In its own way, the closing moments of Southside With You are also affecting. Barack Obama sits in a chair, smoking a cigarette, a book on his lap. He smiles, thinking of himself and his date. The storm clouds gather again—mass murder in Syria; a destabilized Middle East; a resurgent China and Russia—but you wouldn’t know it from the placid look on the future chief executive’s face. He is detached, concerned with his own affairs, his own place in the world.

If that’s the impression Tanne was going for, well, to quote another president: Mission Accomplished.

Voir encore:

Barack Obama: The Rom-Com President

What ‘Southside With You’ says about President Obama’s legacy

Sam Dean

MEL

Aug 31 2016

A young Jack Kennedy leads his shipwrecked crew to safety on a deserted island, dragging an injured sailor as he swims. A middle-aged FDR is struck down by polio, then fights to recover his ability to walk in order to step back onto the political stage. An up-and-coming Abraham Lincoln, new to the legal profession, stops a lynch mob from killing two young men suspected of murder, then successfully defends them in court. A young Barack Obama, interning at a corporate law firm, convinces his supervisor to go on a date. They kiss.

One of these things is not like the others.

The vast majority of presidential movies focus on presidents being presidents, sitting at the head of state, living arguably the most consequential moments of their lives. A man with the power and responsibility of the highest office in the country is instantly interesting, whether that’s JFK with the Cuban missile crisis, Lincoln on the eve of the Civil War, Nixon authorizing break-ins at the Watergate, or that famous speech President Bill Pullman gives toward the end of Independence Day. It’s easy for a president to get turned into a figure of high drama, a hero or villain of our national narrative.

But when a film dips into a president’s pre-presidential years, there’s more than just a good story going on. In fact, only a handful of presidential films have ignored a president’s years in the Oval Office entirely: PT-109 (the JFK war movie), Sunrise at Campobello (FDR’s recovery drama), Young Mr. Lincoln (on Lincoln’s… yes, younger years), and now Southside With You, the new movie about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in Chicago in 1991.

Iwan Morgan, editor of Presidents in the Movies and professor of U.S. Studies and American History at University College London, explained over email that both JFK’s and FDR’s early biopics “deal with pre-presidential triumph over adversity to emphasize their suitability to lead in office, rather than celebrating their leadership in office.” Morgan added that John Ford, director of Young Mr. Lincoln, “focuses on the pre-heroic Lincoln to explore his formative influences and preparation for greatness.” The whole point of making a presidential prequel is to show the pattern of the POTUS-to-be.

So what does Southside with You show us? The film follows the Obamas through a fictionalized version of their famous first date, whose end is already memorialized by a plaque in front of a Hyde Park Baskin-Robbins — inscribed with this quote from a 2007 O, The Oprah Magazine interview with Barack: “On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”

However sweet the ending, the day didn’t begin as a date, at least in Southside’s telling. Barack is a broke summer associate at a corporate law firm; Michelle, his supervisor. He knows she thinks dating within the office is a bad look (and it is), so he asks her out to a community activist meeting at the Gardens — a housing project on Chicago’s South Side — and he fudges the timing a little so they’ll have an opportunity to hang beforehand. They take a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Barack recites the Gwendolyn Brooks poem “We Real Cool” from memory in front of an Ernie Barnes painting, then meander around a public park, trading political opinions and biographical details.

Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle (Tika Sumpter) mostly speak in expository monologues; their back-and-forth has all the zip and timing of an exchange between animatronics in the Hall of Presidents. It’s less like Before Sunset, the movie’s obvious walk-and-talk precedent, and more like an extended video-game cut scene — even something about the cinematography feels expectant, like something is always about to happen, but never does.

The future POTUS and FLOTUS head to a bar, where Michelle finally agrees to call their day together a “date,” and then they go see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (another movie that takes place in one day, though the similarities end right about there). Walking out, the couple runs into a higher-up from the law firm and his wife.

This presents a double danger: First, Michelle’s main reason for not wanting to date within the office (and especially not wanting to date the only other black person in the office) was to avoid office gossip, and the undermining that comes with being anything less than professional; second, they ask the young black couple if they could explain the famous final scene of Do The Right Thing, in which the main character, Mookie (played by Spike Lee), throws a trash can through the window of the pizzeria where he works.

Mookie threw the trash can to save the life of the pizzeria owner and divert the crowd’s anger toward the restaurant itself, Barack explains, clearly catering to the older white couple. But once they walk away, he assures Michelle that he was just playing to his audience—Mookie threw the trash can because he was angry. Then: the ice cream, and the kiss.

Within the context of the rom-com, this makes for sweet (if somewhat boring) viewing. A first date is all about potential, but we know how this particular love story ends. The Obamas are paragons of the modern married couple; Barack’s promise as a potential partner paid off. But, as Manohla Dargis pointed out in her review in The New York Times, it’s clear throughout Southside that Michelle is meant to be a stand-in for the audience, for the Obama voter, for the nation at large — Barack didn’t just want Michelle, he wanted you.

So what about his promise as a president? Besides getting Michelle to go on a date with him in the first place, two moments where young Barack seemingly takes action are at the meeting in the Gardens and, belatedly, after Do the Right Thing. In the first, he gives a speech about not being discouraged by a fractious and adversarial political system, counseling patience. In the second, he gives a palatable answer to an older, conservative white audience, saving his real charm (and real insight) for Michelle. Now that’s politics.

Perhaps this would all be more touching if we knew that these tactics had made for a rip-roaring two terms as president. Instead, and in spite of itself, this plays right to the most persistent criticisms of the Obama presidency, and to the greatest fears of his supporters: that Obama never moved beyond his perceived potential from the 2008 election, and was never able to deliver much more than a solid speech.

Dargis called the film a “cinematic hagiography” in the Times, but to borrow another Christian term of art, it’s closer to a piece of apologetics. Instead of a miracle story of a hero’s precocious powers, it presents an argument against his critics, a character study by way of excuse. In Southside, the young Obama doesn’t demonstrate his future leadership ability as much as his ability to convince you of his future leadership ability. Which is, ironically, what many of his strongest critics say about his presidency. That it was — and remained, throughout his eight years in office — about possibility.

Southside tells us that, if it wasn’t for the system, Obama could have accomplished more, and despite it all, did an admirable job of keeping his head up. It urges us to believe what we already know: that he’s a cool guy in private, even if he keeps calling for drone strikes and deporting more people  — that’s just playing to the white couple at the movie theater, the conservative crowd. It argues, ice cream cone in hand, that Obama would have made a truly great president, if he had just been given the chance.

Voir de même:

Roger Ebert
August 26, 2016 

As Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) gets dressed in her home on the South Side of Chicago, her mother (Vanessa Bell Calloway) playfully teases her about the amount of effort Michelle is putting into her appearance. “I thought this wasn’t a date,” she chides. Michelle insists it isn’t. “You know I like to look nice when I go out,” she says. When her father joins his wife in ribbing their daughter, Michelle digs in her heels about this being a “non-date”. But it’s clear the lady doth protest too much. In her mind, there’s no way she’s falling for the smooth-talking co-worker who invited her to a community event. She’s seen this type of brother before, and she thinks she’s immune to his brand of charm.

Soon, the brother in question, Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), picks up Miss Robinson. Our first glimpse of him, backed by Janet Jackson’s deliriously catchy 1989 hit “Miss You Much, » is a master class of not allowing one’s meager means to interfere with one’s confidence level. Barack smokes with the preternaturally efficient coolness of Bette Davis, yet drives a car built for Fred Flintstone. The large hole in the passenger side floor of his raggedy vehicle will not diminish his swagger nor derail his plan. Using the community event as a jumping-off point, he intends to gently push this non-date into the date category.

So begins the romantic comedy « Southside with You, » a mostly-true account of the first date between our current President and the First Lady.Southside with you

Like “Before Sunrise,” a film which invites comparison, “Southside with You” is a two-hander that’s top-heavy with dialogue, walking and a knowing sense of location. Unlike that film, however, we already know the ending before the lights go down in the theater. So, writer/director Richard Tanne replaces the suspenseful pull of “will they or won’t they?” with an equally compelling and understated character study that humanizes his larger-than-life public figures. Tanne reminds us that, before ascending to the most powerful office in the world, Barack and Michelle were just two regular people who started out somewhere much smaller.

This down-to-earth approach works surprisingly well because “Southside with You” never loses sight of the primary tenet of a great romantic comedy: All you need is two people whom the audience wants to see get together—then you put them together. So many entries in this genre fail miserably because the filmmakers feel compelled to overcomplicate matters with useless subplots and extraneous characters; they mistake cacophony for complexity. “Southside with You” builds its emotional richness by coasting on the charisma of its two leads as they carefully navigate each other’s personality quirks and life stories. We may be ahead of them in terms of knowing the outcome, but we’re simultaneously learning the details.

“Southside with You” is at once a love song to the city of Chicago and its denizens, an unmistakably Black romance and a gentle, universal comedy. It is unapologetic about all three of these elements, and interweaves them in such a subtle fashion that they become more pronounced only upon later reflection. The Chicago affection manifests itself not only in a scene where, in front of a small group of community activists welcoming back their favorite son, Barack demonstrates a rough version of the speechmaking ability that will later become his trademark, but also when Barack takes Michelle to an art gallery. He points out that the Ernie Barnes paintings they’re viewing were used on the Chicago-set sitcom “Good Times.” Then the duo recite Chicago native Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem about the pool players at the Golden Shovel, « We Real Cool. » Even the beloved founder of this site, Roger Ebert, gets a shout-out for championing “Do the Right Thing, » the movie Barack and Michelle attend in the closing hours of their date.

Though its depiction of romance is recognizable to anyone who has ever gone on a successful first date, “Southside with You” also takes time to address the concerns Michelle has with dating her co-worker, especially since she’s his superior and the only Black woman in the office. The optics of this pairing worries her in ways that hint at the corporate sexism that existed back in 1989, and continues in some fashion today. Her concern is that her superiors might think she threw herself at the only other Black employee which, based on my own personal workplace experience, I found completely relatable. This plotline has traction, culminating in a fictional though very effective climactic scene between Barack, Michelle and their boss. It’s a bit overdramatic, but the payoff is a lovely ice cream-based reconciliation that may do for Baskin-Robbins what Beyoncé’s “Formation” did for Red Lobster.

Heady topics aside, “Southside with You” is often hilarious and never loses its old-fashioned sweetness. Sumpter’s take on Michelle is a tad more on-point than Sawyers’ Barack, but he compensates by exuding the same bemused self-assurance as his real-life counterpart. The two leads are both excellent, but this is really Michelle’s show. Sumpter relishes throwing those “you think you’re cute” looks that poke sharp, though loving holes in all forms of braggadocio, and Sawyers fills them with surprising vulnerability. The two manage to create a beautiful tribute to enduring love in just under 90 minutes, making “Southside with You” an irresistibly romantic and rousing success.

Voir aussi:

Movies
Tika Sumpter on Playing the Future First Lady, Michelle Obama

Robert Ito

The New York Times

Aug. 18, 2016

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Tika Sumpter knew the screenplay was something special. It was, at its core, a romance, with two charming leads slowly falling for each other over the course of a single Chicago day. They speak passionately — at some points, angrily — about moral courage and racial politics and the struggles of staying true to oneself. They take sides on “Good Times” versus “The Brady Bunch,” ice cream versus pie. They quote the poet Gwendolyn Brooks (“We Real Cool”) from memory, while sizing up Ernie Barnes’s painting “Sugar Shack.” They watch “Do the Right Thing.”

It didn’t hurt that the two characters were Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson, in a fictionalized account of their first date, in 1989, when Spike Lee’s film was in theaters and Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much” was in the air.

“I loved that it was an origin story about the two most famous people in the world right now, and about how they fell in love,” Ms. Sumpter said. “You don’t see a lot of black leads in love stories, and you definitely don’t see a lot of walk and talks with black people.”

In “Southside With You,” which opens Aug. 26, Ms. Sumpter plays the first lady-to-be at 25, a corporate lawyer who is also an adviser to a young man named Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), an up-and-coming, Harvard-educated summer associate. The film received rave reviews when it had its premiere at Sundance, where it was one of the festival’s breakouts, in large part because of Ms. Sumpter’s performance. But “Southside With You” may not have been made if Ms. Sumpter hadn’t also pitched in as one of three producers.

As much as Ms. Sumpter coveted the meaty role of Michelle Robinson, once she secured the part, reality set in. “At first it was overwhelming,” she admitted. “I’ve never been to Harvard, I’ve never been to Princeton. I didn’t even finish school because I couldn’t afford it. But once I stripped away that ‘Michelle Obama,’ I was able to take it back to that girl from the South Side.”

The actress was here at the London Hotel on a recent morning, holding forth on the challenges of playing the young Ms. Robinson. Dressed in a black sundress and high heels, Ms. Sumpter, 36, would occasionally and animatedly slip into Mrs. Obama’s distinctive speech patterns to describe a scene or illustrate a point. “You feel like she’s talking just to you,” she said. “And she enunciates everything, to show that she really means what she says.”

Born Euphemia LatiQue Sumpter in Queens, the actress was the fourth child of six. Her mother was a corrections officer at Rikers Island; her father died when she was 13. “My mom said I was quiet and observant,” she said. “I always wanted to impress her, so I’d always clean the house.” In school, she was on the cheerleading squad, ran for student council, befriended skinheads and “the preppy girls,” spoke up for the bullied. “I was that girl in high school,” she said.

Ms. Sumpter caught the acting bug in grade school while watching episodes of “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World.” “I was like, I want to be in that box,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to get in there, but I want to do that.” At 16, after her family moved to Long Island, she would take the train into Manhattan, paying for acting classes with money she earned working the concession stand at a local movie theater. “I’d go to open calls and be totally wrong for everything,” she remembered. “My hair would not be right.”
Continue reading the main story

At 20, she booked a commercial for Curve perfume. “They probably still sell it at Rite Aid,” she said with a laugh. It was her first gig, and it was filmed in Times Square, and she couldn’t have been happier.

In 2005, Ms. Sumpter secured a regular role on “One Life to Live.” She’s been working steadily ever since, on television (“Gossip Girl,” “The Haves and the Have Nots”) and films (“Get On Up,” “Ride Along 2”).

In 2015, she saw an early synopsis of “Southside With You” by Richard Tanne. “I was like, please write this script,” she said. “I would call him every few weeks, ‘Are you writing it, are you writing it?’”

Even if she didn’t get the part, she told him, she wanted to be a producer on the film, to ensure that it got made. Before long, the first-time producer was doing everything from finding financing and locating extras to pitching studios and helping cast Barack.

“I don’t think she necessarily expected to be the lead producer alongside me,” said Mr. Tanne, who also directed the film. “But I was a first-time filmmaker, and people wanted to maybe impose their own vision on the film. She kind of naturally sprung into action to safeguard what the movie needed to be.”

The details of that storied first date — the stop at the art museum, their first kiss over a cone of Baskin-Robbins — have been recounted in biographies and articles about the first family. Mrs. Obama told David Mendell, author of “Obama: From Promise to Power,” that “I had dated a lot of brothers who had this kind of reputation coming in, so I figured he was one of those smooth brothers who could talk straight and impress people.”

In the film, Ms. Sumpter goes from wary to icy to “maybe this guy isn’t so bad” and back again, as Michelle is initially repelled by some of Barack’s moves (his insistence that this “not a date” actually is) before warming to others (his deep knowledge of African-American art, his gift for lighting up a crowd). “We talked about the levels of guard she might have up at any given time,” Mr. Tanne remembered. “We had three levels, almost like a DEFCON system.”

To prepare the actress worked with a vocal coach to master Mrs. Obama’s speech patterns, and watched videos to see how she walked and carried herself. “Once we started rehearsing,” said Mr. Sawyers, “I was like, oh, that’s it! She nailed it.”

In one scene, Michelle talks about the racism she encountered at Princeton and Harvard — some subtle, some less so — and how, even at her current firm, she has to navigate between “Planet Black and Planet White.” Ms. Sumpter admitted that there were parallels in her own field. “You see the differences in the way certain movies are treated,” she said. “But once you come to terms with that, you have to go, O.K., I’m not going to allow that to hold me back. Which is what I love about Michelle. She never allowed the color of her skin and all the things she was up against to keep her from breaking through.”

A lot of that confidence came from Mrs. Obama’s family, just as it did for Ms. Sumpter, who is expecting her own daughter this fall. “Because of my mom, I never felt less than,” she said, looking back on her early days trying to make it in the business. “I never came into this world thinking, I’m a brown-skinned girl going to Hollywood. I was always like, I’m talented and I’m beautiful and I’m smart. Why wouldn’t you want me?”

Voir de plus:

Roger Ebert
August 26, 2016 

As Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) gets dressed in her home on the South Side of Chicago, her mother (Vanessa Bell Calloway) playfully teases her about the amount of effort Michelle is putting into her appearance. “I thought this wasn’t a date,” she chides. Michelle insists it isn’t. “You know I like to look nice when I go out,” she says. When her father joins his wife in ribbing their daughter, Michelle digs in her heels about this being a “non-date”. But it’s clear the lady doth protest too much. In her mind, there’s no way she’s falling for the smooth-talking co-worker who invited her to a community event. She’s seen this type of brother before, and she thinks she’s immune to his brand of charm.

Soon, the brother in question, Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), picks up Miss Robinson. Our first glimpse of him, backed by Janet Jackson’s deliriously catchy 1989 hit “Miss You Much, » is a master class of not allowing one’s meager means to interfere with one’s confidence level. Barack smokes with the preternaturally efficient coolness of Bette Davis, yet drives a car built for Fred Flintstone. The large hole in the passenger side floor of his raggedy vehicle will not diminish his swagger nor derail his plan. Using the community event as a jumping-off point, he intends to gently push this non-date into the date category.

So begins the romantic comedy « Southside with You, » a mostly-true account of the first date between our current President and the First Lady. Like “Before Sunrise,” a film which invites comparison, “Southside with You” is a two-hander that’s top-heavy with dialogue, walking and a knowing sense of location. Unlike that film, however, we already know the ending before the lights go down in the theater. So, writer/director Richard Tanne replaces the suspenseful pull of “will they or won’t they?” with an equally compelling and understated character study that humanizes his larger-than-life public figures. Tanne reminds us that, before ascending to the most powerful office in the world, Barack and Michelle were just two regular people who started out somewhere much smaller.

This down-to-earth approach works surprisingly well because “Southside with You” never loses sight of the primary tenet of a great romantic comedy: All you need is two people whom the audience wants to see get together—then you put them together. So many entries in this genre fail miserably because the filmmakers feel compelled to overcomplicate matters with useless subplots and extraneous characters; they mistake cacophony for complexity. “Southside with You” builds its emotional richness by coasting on the charisma of its two leads as they carefully navigate each other’s personality quirks and life stories. We may be ahead of them in terms of knowing the outcome, but we’re simultaneously learning the details.

“Southside with You” is at once a love song to the city of Chicago and its denizens, an unmistakably Black romance and a gentle, universal comedy. It is unapologetic about all three of these elements, and interweaves them in such a subtle fashion that they become more pronounced only upon later reflection. The Chicago affection manifests itself not only in a scene where, in front of a small group of community activists welcoming back their favorite son, Barack demonstrates a rough version of the speechmaking ability that will later become his trademark, but also when Barack takes Michelle to an art gallery. He points out that the Ernie Barnes paintings they’re viewing were used on the Chicago-set sitcom “Good Times.” Then the duo recite Chicago native Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem about the pool players at the Golden Shovel, « We Real Cool. » Even the beloved founder of this site, Roger Ebert, gets a shout-out for championing “Do the Right Thing, » the movie Barack and Michelle attend in the closing hours of their date.

Though its depiction of romance is recognizable to anyone who has ever gone on a successful first date, “Southside with You” also takes time to address the concerns Michelle has with dating her co-worker, especially since she’s his superior and the only Black woman in the office. The optics of this pairing worries her in ways that hint at the corporate sexism that existed back in 1989, and continues in some fashion today. Her concern is that her superiors might think she threw herself at the only other Black employee which, based on my own personal workplace experience, I found completely relatable. This plotline has traction, culminating in a fictional though very effective climactic scene between Barack, Michelle and their boss. It’s a bit overdramatic, but the payoff is a lovely ice cream-based reconciliation that may do for Baskin-Robbins what Beyoncé’s “Formation” did for Red Lobster.

Heady topics aside, “Southside with You” is often hilarious and never loses its old-fashioned sweetness. Sumpter’s take on Michelle is a tad more on-point than Sawyers’ Barack, but he compensates by exuding the same bemused self-assurance as his real-life counterpart. The two leads are both excellent, but this is really Michelle’s show. Sumpter relishes throwing those “you think you’re cute” looks that poke sharp, though loving holes in all forms of braggadocio, and Sawyers fills them with surprising vulnerability. The two manage to create a beautiful tribute to enduring love in just under 90 minutes, making “Southside with You” an irresistibly romantic and rousing success.

Voir par ailleurs:

Barack Obama, le « storytelling » jusqu’au bout de la nuit

Le Monde

05.07.2016

Le rituel du soir de Barack Obama n’est un secret pour personne : le président des États-Unis est un couche-tard. Ces quelques heures de solitude, entre la fin du dîner et l’heure de dormir, vers 1 heure du matin, sont celles où il réfléchit et se retrouve seul avec lui-même. De menus détails sur sa vie qui sont connus du public depuis plusieurs années.

Alors pourquoi les raconter à nouveau ? pourrait-on demander au New York Times, et son enquête intitulée « Obama après la tombée de la nuit ». Parce que les lecteurs apprécient visiblement ces quelques images de l’intimité d’un président qui quittera bientôt la Maison Blanche. Deux jours après sa publication, l’article est toujours dans le top 10 des plus lus sur le site.

Barack Obama a toujours été un pro du storytelling. Tout, dans l’image qu’il donne de lui-même, est précisément contrôlé, y compris les moments de décontraction. Pete Souza, le photographe officiel de la Maison Blanche, en est le meilleur témoin et le meilleur outil. Le professionnel met en avant l’image d’un président plus décontracté, en marge du protocole officiel, proche des enfants, jouant allongé par terre avec un bébé tenu à bout de bras ou autorisant un jeune garçon à lui toucher les cheveux « pour savoir s’ils sont comme les siens ».

Dans cet article, c’est encore une fois l’image d’un homme décontracté, mais aussi plus sage et solitaire qu’à l’ordinaire, qui est travaillée. Et d’abord par l’introduction qui compare les habitudes nocturnes de Barack Obama à celle de ses prédécesseurs.

« Le président George W. Bush, un lève-tôt, était au lit à dix heures. Le président Bill Clinton se couchait tard comme M. Obama, mais il consacrait du temps à de longues conversations à bâtons rompus avec ses amis et ses alliés politiques. »

Là où Bill Clinton appréciait la compagnie jusqu’à tard dans la nuit, Barack Obama choisit la solitude réflexive. Pour enfoncer le clou, l’article cite alors l’historien Doris Kearns Goodwin : « C’est quelqu’un qui est bien seul avec lui-même. »

« Il y a quelque chose de spécial, la nuit. C’est plus étroit, la nuit. Cela lui laisse le temps de penser. »

« C’est plus étroit, la nuit »

L’huile qui fait tourner les rouages d’un storytelling réussi, ce sont les anecdotes, inoffensives ou amusantes. Ici, on découvre celle des sept amandes que Barack Obama mange le soir. Les amandes montrent que le président a une hygiène de vie impeccable, qu’il n’a besoin de boissons excitantes ou sucrées pour tenir le coup. Et en même temps, le chiffre précis a quelque chose d’insolite, qui donne l’image de quelqu’un d’un peu crispé, qui veut tout contrôler. Mais pas trop. « C’était devenu une blague entre Michelle et moi », raconte Sam Kass, le chef cuisinier personnel de la famille entre 2009 et 2014. « Ni six, ni huit, toujours sept amandes. »

Le portrait de Barack Obama, une fois la nuit tombée, soigne également l’image d’un bourreau de travail, perfectionniste et attaché aux détails. Cody Keenan, qui supervise l’écriture des discours à la Maison Blanche, raconte qu’il est parfois rappelé le soir pour revenir travailler. Les nuits les plus longues sont celles où Obama a décidé de retravailler ses discours. Cody Keenan comprend :

Une image de « Mister Cool »

Dans le même temps, il faut entretenir l’image de « Mister Cool » et continuer à travailler sur celle du père de famille. Barack Obama ne fait pas que travailler dans son bureau. Il se tient au courant des résultats sportifs sur ESPN et joue à Words With Friends, un dérivé du Scrabble sur iPad.

Le « rituel du coucher » n’a plus vraiment de raison d’être maintenant que ses filles Malia et Sasha ont 18 et 15 ans, mais il reste la « movie night », la soirée cinéma de la famille, tous les vendredis soirs dans le « Family Theater », une salle de projection privée de 40 places. Avec le petit détail qui change tout : Barack et Michelle apprécient les séries ultra-populaires Breaking Bad ou Game of Thrones.

Le procédé est efficace, et l’impression générale qui se dégage est celle d’un homme réfléchi, calme, solitaire. Dans les commentaires qui accompagnent l’article, les lecteurs se livrent à leurs propres analyses : seul un grand solitaire comme Barack peut incarner la fonction présidentielle, car « sa motivation dans la vie va au-delà du besoin narcissique d’obtenir des confirmations de sa grandeur ».

« J’ai bien plus confiance en quelqu’un qui a cette discipline et cette concentration que pour les extravertis qui candidatent habituellement à ces postes », dit un autre, sans donner de noms.

Voir enfin:

I Miss Barack Obama

As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama. Now, obviously I disagree with a lot of Obama’s policy decisions. I’ve been disappointed by aspects of his presidency. I hope the next presidency is a philosophic departure.

But over the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.

We’ve had very little of that from Obama. He and his staff have generally behaved with basic rectitude. Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.

He and his wife have not only displayed superior integrity themselves, they have mostly attracted and hired people with high personal standards. There are all sorts of unsightly characters floating around politics, including in the Clinton camp and in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. This sort has been blocked from team Obama.

Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people’s eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.

He’s exuded this basic care and respect for the dignity of others time and time again. Let’s put it this way: Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community. Could you say that comfortably about Ted Cruz? The quality of a president’s humanity flows out in the unexpected but important moments.

Third, a soundness in his decision-making process. Over the years I have spoken to many members of this administration who were disappointed that the president didn’t take their advice. But those disappointed staffers almost always felt that their views had been considered in depth.

Obama’s basic approach is to promote his values as much as he can within the limits of the situation. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.

Take health care. Passing Obamacare was a mighty lift that led to two gigantic midterm election defeats. As Megan McArdle pointed out in her Bloomberg View column, Obamacare took coverage away from only a small minority of Americans. Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes. This is epic social disruption.

To think you could pass Sanderscare through a polarized Washington and in a country deeply suspicious of government is to live in intellectual fairyland. President Obama may have been too cautious, especially in the Middle East, but at least he’s able to grasp the reality of the situation.

Fourth, grace under pressure. I happen to find it charming that Marco Rubio gets nervous on the big occasions — that he grabs for the bottle of water, breaks out in a sweat and went robotic in the last debate. It shows Rubio is a normal person. And I happen to think overconfidence is one of Obama’s great flaws. But a president has to maintain equipoise under enormous pressure. Obama has done that, especially amid the financial crisis. After Saturday night, this is now an open question about Rubio.

Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.

People are motivated to make wise choices more by hope and opportunity than by fear, cynicism, hatred and despair. Unlike many current candidates, Obama has not appealed to those passions.

No, Obama has not been temperamentally perfect. Too often he’s been disdainful, aloof, resentful and insular. But there is a tone of ugliness creeping across the world, as democracies retreat, as tribalism mounts, as suspiciousness and authoritarianism take center stage.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

Voir aussi:

The Authentic Joy of “Southside with You”

The writer and director Richard Tanne’s first feature, “Southside with You,” which will be released next Friday, is an opening act of superb audacity, a self-imposed challenge so mighty that it might seem, on paper, to be a stunt. It’s a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date, in Chicago, in the summer of 1989. It stars Parker Sawyers as the twenty-eight-year-old Barack, a Harvard Law student and summer associate at a Chicago law firm, and Tika Sumpter (who also co-produced the film) as the twenty-five-year-old Michelle, a Harvard Law graduate and a second-year associate at the same firm. The results don’t resemble a stunt; far from it. “Southside with You,” running a brisk hour and twenty minutes, is a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic.

Tanne tells the story of the First Couple’s first date with a tightly constrained time frame—one day’s and evening’s worth of action—that begins with the protagonists preparing for their rendezvous and ends with them back at their homes. In between, Tanne pulls off a near-miracle, conveying these historic figures’ depth and complexity of character without making them grandiose. The dialogue is freewheeling and intimate, ranging through subjects far from the matters at hand, suggesting enormous intellect and enormous promise without seeming cut-and-pasted from speeches or memoirs. The film exudes Tanne’s own sense of calm excitement, nearly a documentarian’s serendipitous thrill at being present to catch on-camera a secret miracle of mighty historical import.

Movies about public figures—ones whose appearance, diction, and gestures are deeply ingrained in the minds of most likely viewers—must confront the Scylla of impersonation and the Charybdis of unfaithfulness. Tanne’s extraordinary actors thread that strait nimbly, delivering performances that exist on their own but feel true to the characters, that spin with dialectical delight and embody the ardors, ambitions, and uncertainties that even the most able and aware young adults must face.

The movie’s first dramatic uncertainty is whether Michelle and Barack’s meeting is even a date. Talking to her parents before his arrival, she denies that it is; talking with him on the street soon after he picks her up in his beat-up car, she not only denies that it is but also demands that it not be one. Michelle explains that, as a black woman with mainly white male co-workers, the perception arising from her dating a black summer associate—especially one whose nominal adviser she is—would be perceived negatively by higher-ups at the firm. But Barack, smooth-talking, brashly funny, and calmly determined, makes no bones about his intentions, even as he apparently defers to her insistence.

The easygoing yet rapid-fire dialogue—and the actors’ controlled yet passionate delivery of it, as they get to know each other, size each other up, and make each other aware of their motives and doubts—evokes the pregnant power of the occasion. Yet the couple’s depth of character emerges all the more vividly through Tanne’s alert directorial impressionism, a sensitivity to the actors’ probing glances that provides a sort of visual matrix for the actors’ inner life. It comes through in small but memorable touches, as when young Barack, smoking a cigarette in his rattling car, sprays some air freshener before pulling up to Michelle’s house. When she gets in, she sniffs the chemical blend; as the car pulls away, she glances down at a hole in the floor of the car, through which she sees the asphalt below. That flickering subjectivity suffuses and sustains the action, lends images to the characters, states of mind and moods to their ideas.

Tanne achieves something that few other directors—whether of independent or Hollywood or art-house films—ever do: he creates characters with an ample sense of memory, who fully inhabit their life prior to their time onscreen, and who have a wide range of cultural references and surging ideas that leap spontaneously into their conversation. A scene in which Michelle and Barack visit an exhibit of Afrocentric art—he discusses the importance of the painter Ernie Barnes to the sitcom “Good Times,” and together they recall Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool”—has an effortless grace that reflects an unusual cinematic depth of lived experience.

The centerpiece of the film is a splendid bit of romantic and principled performance art on the part of Barack. He plans the non-date date around a community meeting in a mainly black neighborhood that Michelle—who did pro-bono work at Harvard and who admits to frustration with her trademark-law work at the firm—is eager to attend. There, Barack, who had been active with the organization before heading to Harvard, is received like a prodigal son. The subject of the meeting is the legislature’s refusal to build a much-needed community center; frustration among the attendees mounts, until Barack addresses them and offers some brilliant practical suggestions to overcome the opposition. At the meeting, he displays, above all, his gifts for public speaking and, even more, for empathy. He reveals, to the community group but also to Michelle, a preternatural genius at grasping interests and motives, at seeking common cause, and at recognizing—and acting upon—the human factor. There, Barack also displays a personal philosophy of practical politics that’s tied to his larger reflections on American history and political theory. The intellectual passion that Tanne builds into the scene, and that Sawyers delivers with nuanced fervor, is all the more striking and exquisite for its subtle positioning as a device of romantic seduction.

 

Michelle’s sense of principled responsibility and groundedness, her worldly maturity and practical insight, is matched by Barack’s ardent but callow, mighty but still-unfocussed energies. The movie’s ring of authenticity carried me through from start to finish without inviting my speculations as to the historical veracity of the events. Curiosity eventually kicked in, though; most accounts of the first date suggest that its general contours involved Michelle’s reluctance to date a colleague who was also a subordinate, the visit to the Art Institute, a walk, a drink, and a viewing of the recently released film “Do the Right Thing.” The community meeting is usually described as occurring at another occasion, yet it fits into the first date with a verisimilitude as well as an emotional impact that justify the dramatization.

As for their viewing of Spike Lee’s movie, the scene that Tanne derives from it is a minor masterwork of ironic psychology and mother wit. It’s too good to spoil; suffice it to say that the scene is set against the backdrop of controversy that greeted Lee’s film at the time of its release, with some critics—white critics—fearing that the climactic act of violence (meaning not the police killing of Radio Raheem but Mookie’s throwing a garbage can through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria and leading his neighbors to ransack the venue) would incite riots.

“Southside with You” is the sort of movie that, say, Richard Linklater’s three “Before” movies aren’t—an intimate story that has a reach far greater than its scale, that has stakes and substance extending beyond the couple’s immediate fortunes. There’s a noble historical precedent for Tanne’s film. If the modern cinema was inspired by Roberto Rossellini’s “Voyage to Italy,” from 1954—which taught a handful of ambitious young French critics that all they needed to make a movie was two actors and a car, that they could make a low-budget and small-scale production that would be rich in cinematic ideas and romantic passion alike—then “Southside with You” is an exemplary work of cinematic modernity. Rossellini, a cinematic philosopher, ranges far through history and politics to ground a couple’s intimate disasters in the deep currents of modern life.

Tanne does this, too, and goes one step further; his inspiration is reminiscent of the advice that the nineteen-year-old critic Jean-Luc Godard gave to his cinematic elders, “unhappy filmmakers of France who lack scenarios.” Godard advised them to make films about “the tax system,” about the writer and Nazi collaborator Philippe Henriot, about the Resistance activist Danielle Casanova. Tanne picks a great subject of contemporary history and politics—indeed, one of the very greatest—and approaches it without the pomp and bombast of ostensibly important, message-mongering Oscarizables. He realizes Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson onscreen with the same meticulous, thoughtful, inventive imagination that other directors might bring to figures of legend, people they know, or their own lives. “Southside with You” is a virtuosic realization of history on the wing, of the lives of others incarnated as firsthand experience. To tell this story is a nearly impossible challenge, and Tanne meets it at its high level.

Voir enfin:

Politics
Obama After Dark: The Precious Hours Alone

Michael D. Shear

The New York Times

July 2, 2016

WASHINGTON — “Are you up?”

The emails arrive late, often after 1 a.m., tapped out on a secure BlackBerry from an email address known only to a few. The weary recipients know that once again, the boss has not yet gone to bed.

The late-night interruptions from President Obama might be sharply worded questions about memos he has read. Sometimes they are taunts because the recipient’s sports team just lost.

Last month it was a 12:30 a.m. email to Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, and Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, telling them he had finished reworking a speechwriter’s draft of presidential remarks for later that morning. Mr. Obama had spent three hours scrawling in longhand on a yellow legal pad an angry condemnation of Donald J. Trump’s response to the attack in Orlando, Fla., and told his aides they could pick up his rewrite at the White House usher’s office when they came in for work.

Mr. Obama calls himself a “night guy,” and as president, he has come to consider the long, solitary hours after dark as essential as his time in the Oval Office. Almost every night that he is in the White House, Mr. Obama has dinner at 6:30 with his wife and daughters and then withdraws to the Treaty Room, his private office down the hall from his bedroom on the second floor of the White House residence.

There, his closest aides say, he spends four or five hours largely by himself.

He works on speeches. He reads the stack of briefing papers delivered at 8 p.m. by the staff secretary. He reads 10 letters from Americans chosen each day by his staff. “How can we allow private citizens to buy automatic weapons? They are weapons of war,” Liz O’Connor, a Connecticut middle school teacher, wrote in a letter Mr. Obama read on the night of June 13.

The president also watches ESPN, reads novels or plays Words With Friends on his iPad.

Michelle Obama occasionally pops in, but she goes to bed before the president, who is up so late he barely gets five hours of sleep a night. For Mr. Obama, the time alone has become more important.

“Everybody carves out their time to get their thoughts together. There is no doubt that window is his window,” said Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s first chief of staff. “You can’t block out a half-hour and try to do it during the day. It’s too much incoming. That’s the place where it can all be put aside and you can focus.”

President George W. Bush, an early riser, was in bed by 10. President Bill Clinton was up late like Mr. Obama, but he spent the time in lengthy, freewheeling phone conversations with friends and political allies, forcing aides to scan the White House phone logs in the mornings to keep track of whom the president might have called the night before.

“A lot of times, for some of our presidential leaders, the energy they need comes from contact with other people,” said the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has had dinner with Mr. Obama several times in the past seven and a half years. “He seems to be somebody who is at home with himself.”
‘Insane Amount of Paper’

When Mr. Obama first arrived at the White House, his after-dinner routine started around 7:15 p.m. in the game room, on the third floor of the residence. There, on an old Brunswick pool table, Mr. Obama and Sam Kass, then the Obama family’s personal chef, would spend 45 minutes playing eight-ball.

Mr. Kass saw pool as a chance for Mr. Obama to decompress after intense days in the Oval Office, and the two kept a running score. “He’s a bit ahead,” said Mr. Kass, who left the White House at the end of 2014.

In those days, the president followed the billiards game with bedtime routines with his daughters. These days, now that both are teenagers, Mr. Obama heads directly to the Treaty Room, named for the many historical documents that have been signed in it, including the peace protocol that ended the Spanish-American War in 1898.

“The sports channel is on,” Mr. Emanuel said, recalling the ubiquitous images on the room’s large flat-screen television. “Sports in the background, with the volume down.”

By 8 p.m., the usher’s office delivers the president’s leather-bound daily briefing book — a large binder accompanied by a tall stack of folders with memos and documents from across the government, all demanding the president’s attention. “An insane amount of paper,” Mr. Kass said.

Mr. Obama often reads through it in a leather swivel chair at his tablelike desk, under a portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant. Windows on each side of Grant look out on the brightly lit Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial.

Other nights, the president settles in on the sofa under the 1976 “Butterfly” by Susan Rothenberg, a 6-foot-by-7-foot canvas of burnt sienna and black slashes that evokes a galloping horse.

“He is thoroughly predictable in having gone through every piece of paper that he gets,” said Tom Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser from 2010 to 2013. “You’ll come in in the morning, it will be there: questions, notes, decisions.”
Photo
Mr. Obama often works on speeches late into the night, like the one he gave in Selma, Ala., on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Here, people listened to his speech last year. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times
Seven Almonds

To stay awake, the president does not turn to caffeine. He rarely drinks coffee or tea, and more often has a bottle of water next to him than a soda. His friends say his only snack at night is seven lightly salted almonds.

“Michelle and I would always joke: Not six. Not eight,” Mr. Kass said. “Always seven almonds.”

The demands of the president’s day job sometimes intrude. A photo taken in 2011 shows Mr. Obama in the Treaty Room with Mr. McDonough, at that time the deputy national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, then Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism chief and now the director of the C.I.A., after placing a call to Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan shortly after Japan was hit by a devastating magnitude 9.0 earthquake. “The call was made near midnight,” the photo caption says.

But most often, Mr. Obama’s time in the Treaty Room is his own.

“I’ll probably read briefing papers or do paperwork or write stuff until about 11:30 p.m., and then I usually have about a half-hour to read before I go to bed, about midnight, 12:30 a.m., sometimes a little later,” Mr. Obama told Jon Meacham, the editor in chief of Newsweek, in 2009.

In 2014, Mr. Obama told Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan of ABC’s “Live With Kelly and Michael” that he stayed up even later — “until like 2 o’clock at night, reading briefings and doing work” — and added that he woke up “at a pretty reasonable hour, usually around 7.”
‘Can You Come Back?’

Mr. Obama’s longest nights — the ones that stretch well into the early morning — usually involve speeches.

One night last June, Cody Keenan, the president’s chief speechwriter, had just returned home from work at 9 p.m. and ordered pizza when he heard from the president: “Can you come back tonight?”

Mr. Keenan met the president in the usher’s office on the first floor of the residence, where the two worked until nearly 11 p.m. on the president’s eulogy for nine African-Americans fatally shot during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Three months earlier, Mr. Keenan had had to return to the White House when the president summoned him — at midnight — to go over changes to a speech Mr. Obama was to deliver in Selma, Ala., on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when protesters were brutally beaten by the police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

“There’s something about the night,” Mr. Keenan said, reflecting on his boss’s use of the time. “It’s smaller. It lets you think.”

In 2009, Jon Favreau, Mr. Keenan’s predecessor, gave the president a draft of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech the night before they were scheduled to leave for the ceremony in Oslo. Mr. Obama stayed up until 4 a.m. revising the speech, and handed Mr. Favreau 11 handwritten pages later that morning.

On the plane to Norway, Mr. Obama, Mr. Favreau and two other aides pulled another near-all-nighter as they continued to work on the speech. Once Mr. Obama had delivered it, he called the exhausted Mr. Favreau at his hotel.

“He said, ‘Hey, I think that turned out O.K.,’” Mr. Favreau recalled. “I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Let’s never do that again.’”
Some Time for Play

Not everything that goes on in the Treaty Room is work.

In addition to playing Words With Friends, a Scrabble-like online game, on his iPad, Mr. Obama turns up the sound on the television for big sports games.

“If he’s watching a game, he will send a message. ‘Duke should have won that game,’ or whatever,” said Reggie Love, a former Duke basketball player who was Mr. Obama’s personal aide for the first three years of his presidency.

The president also uses the time to catch up on the news, skimming The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on his iPad or watching cable. Mr. Love recalls getting an email after 1 a.m. after Mr. Obama saw a television report about students whose “bucket list” included meeting the president. Why had he not met them, the president asked Mr. Love.

“‘Someone decided it wasn’t a good idea,’ I said,” Mr. Love recalled. “He said, ‘Well, I’m the president and I think it’s a good idea.’”

Mr. Obama and his wife are also fans of cable dramas like “Boardwalk Empire,” “Game of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad.” On Friday nights — movie night at the White House — Mr. Obama and his family are often in the Family Theater, a 40-seat screening room on the first floor of the East Wing, watching first-run films they have chosen and had delivered from the Motion Picture Association of America.

There is time, too, for fantasy about what life would be like outside the White House. Mr. Emanuel, who is now the mayor of Chicago but remains close to the president, said he and Mr. Obama once imagined moving to Hawaii to open a T-shirt shack that sold only one size (medium) and one color (white). Their dream was that they would no longer have to make decisions.

During difficult White House meetings when no good decision seemed possible, Mr. Emanuel would sometimes turn to Mr. Obama and say, “White.” Mr. Obama would in turn say, “Medium.”

Now Mr. Obama, who has six months left of solitary late nights in the Treaty Room, seems to be looking toward the end. Once he is out of the White House, he said in March at an Easter prayer breakfast in the State Dining Room, “I am going to take three, four months where I just sleep.”

Barack Obama inaugure le Musée afro-américain de Washington
Philippe Gélie
Le Figaro
24/09/2016

VIDÉO – Le président conseille à Donald Trump de « visiter » le nouvel édifice, qui raconte l’esclavage et la discrimination mais aussi les succès des Noirs américains.

De notre correspondant à Washington

George W. Bush avait signé en 2003 la loi créant le Musée national de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaines, mais c’est au premier président noir du pays qu’est revenu le privilège de l’inaugurer ce samedi.

Outre Barack et Michelle Obama, George W. et Laura Bush les élus du Congrès et les juges de la Cour suprême, quelque 20.000 personnes se sont rassemblées en milieu de journée sur le Mall de Washington, la grande esplanade faisant face au Capitole, au nombre desquelles tout ce que le pays compte de célébrités noires. Oprah Winfrey, qui a donné 20 millions de dollars, a eu droit à une place d’honneur.

Dans un discours où son émotion a affleuré, le président Obama a célébré «une part essentielle de l’histoire américaine, parfois laissée de côté. Une grande nation ne se cache pas la vérité. La vérité nous renforce, nous fortifie. Comprendre d’où nous venons est un acte de patriotisme.» Parlant au nom des Afro-Américains, il a ajouté: «Nous ne sommes pas un fardeau pour l’Amérique, une tache sur l’Amérique, un objet de honte ou de pitié pour l’Amérique. Nous sommes l’Amérique!»

Au-dessus de lui, le bâtiment de six étages, dessiné par l’architecte britannique d’origine tanzanienne David Adjaye, se dresse comme une couronne africaine de bronze face au Washington Monument (l’obélisque érigé en hommage au premier président des Etats-Unis), à l’endroit même où, il y a deux siècles, se tenait un marché aux esclaves. Son matériau, inspirée des textiles d’Afrique de l’Ouest, laisse passer la lumière et rougeoie au soleil couchant, créant une impression massive de l’extérieur et aérienne de l’intérieur.

Obama a invité Trump

Il a fallu treize ans et 540 millions de dollars pour bâtir le dix-neuvième musée de la Smithsonian Institution et y rassembler plus de 35.000 témoignages de l’histoire des Afro-Américains, dont aucun aspect n’est occulté: ni la traite des esclaves, ni la ségrégation, ni la lutte pour les droits civiques, ni les réussites contemporaines, du sport au hip-hop et à la politique. La présidence de Barack Obama y est documentée dans l’un des 27 espaces d’exposition, non loin de la Cadillac de Chuck Berry ou des chaussures de piste de Jessie Owens.

Mais le visiteur est d’abord invité à passer devant les chaînes, les fouets, les huttes misérables des esclaves, les photos de dos lacérés ou de lynchages (3437 Noirs pendus entre 1882 et 1851), ou encore le cercueil d’Emmett Till, tué à l’âge de 14 ans dans le Mississippi pour avoir sifflé une femme blanche en 1955. «Ce n’est pas un musée du crime ou de la culpabilité, insiste son directeur, Lonnie Bunch, c’est un lieu qui raconte le voyage d’un peuple et l’histoire d’une nation. Il n’y a pas de réponses simples à des questions complexes».

Au moment où les marches de la communauté noire se répandent dans le pays pour protester contre les violences policières, Barack Obama a invité Donald Trump à visiter le Musée de l’Histoire et de la Culture Afro-Américaine. Le candidat républicain à sa succession a déclaré que les Noirs vivaient aujourd’hui «dans les pires conditions qu’ils aient jamais connues». Dans une interview vendredi à la chaîne ABC, le président a répliqué: «Je crois qu’un enfant de 8 ans est au courant que l’esclavage n’était pas très bon pour les Noirs et que l’ère Jim Crow (les lois ségrégationnistes, Ndlr) n’était pas très bonne pour les Noirs».

Voir enfin:

U.S. Murders Increased 10.8% in 2015
The figures, released by the FBI, could stoke worries that the trend of falling crime rates may be ending
Devlin Barrett
The Wall Street Journal

Sept. 26, 2016

WASHINGTON—Murders in the U.S. jumped by 10.8% in 2015, according to figures released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation—a sharp increase that could fuel concerns that the nation’s two-decade trend of falling crime rates may be ending.

The figures had been expected to show an increase, after preliminary data released earlier this year indicated violent crime and murders were rising. But the double-digit increase in murders dwarfed any in the past 20 years, eclipsing the 3.7% increase in 2005, the year in which the biggest increase occurred before now.

In 2014, the FBI recorded violent crime narrowly falling, by 0.2%. In 2015, the number of violent crimes rose 3.9% though the number of property crimes dropped 2.6%, the FBI said.

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St.Louis, said a key driver of the murder spike may be an increasing distrust of police in major cities where controversial officer shootings have led to protests.

“This rise is concentrated in certain large cities where police-community tensions have been notable,’’ said Mr. Rosenfeld, citing Cleveland, Baltimore, and St. Louis as examples. The rise in killings is not spread evenly around America, he noted, but is rather centered on big cities with large African-American populations.

In all, there were 15,696 instances of murder and non-negligence manslaughter in the U.S. last year, the FBI said.

Early figures for 2016 indicate murders may still be rising. While Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are seeing their murder numbers fall back down so far this year, Chicago has seen a tremendous spike, to 316 homicides in the first half of 2016 compared with 211 in the first half of 2015. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered an emotional speech on crime last Thursday, and Chicago police officials have announced an increase of nearly 1,000 officers over two years.

A report by the Major Cities Chiefs Association found that for the first half of this year, murders rose in 29 of the nation’s biggest cities while they fell in 22 others.

Mr. Rosenfeld said the FBI data suggests the increase in murder may be caused by some version of the “Ferguson effect’’—a term often used by law-enforcement officials to describe what they see as the negative effects of the recent anti-police protests.

The killing by a police officer of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 led to protests there and around the country. Some law-enforcement officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have argued that since then, some officers may be more reluctant to get out of their patrol cars and engage in the kind of difficult work that reduces street crime, out of fear they may be videotaped and criticized publicly.

Mr. Rosenfeld suggested a different dynamic may be at play, though stemming from the same tensions. Members of minority and poor communities may be more reluctant to talk to police and help them solve crimes in cities where officers are viewed as untrustworthy and threatening, he said, particularly where there have been recent controversial killings by police officers.

The crime rise in such a short period of time eliminates possible causes like economic struggles or changing demographics, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

“What has happened in the course of the last year or two is attention to police-community relations and controversies over police use of deadly force, especially involving unarmed African-Americans,” he said.

Beyond that, the new figures show a growing racial disparity in who gets killed in America.

Nationally, the murder of black Americans outpaces that of whites—7,039 African-Americans were killed last year, compared with 5,854 whites, according to the data. The races of the remaining victims is unknown because not all police departments report it. That is in a nation where 13% of Americans identify solely as African-American and 77% identify solely as white.

In 2014, 698 more blacks were killed than whites, according to the FBI. In 2015, 1,185 more blacks were killed than whites, according to the data.

The number and percentage of killings involving guns also increased. In 2014, 67.9% of murders were committed with guns, compared to 71.5% in 2015, the FBI said. Guns have long been used in about two-thirds of the killings in America, data show.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in a speech Monday, said the report shows “we still have so much work to do. But the report also reminds us of the progress that we are making. It shows that in many communities, crime has remained stable or even decreased from historic lows reported in 2014.”

The new figures are certain to fuel the ongoing debate about what causes crime to rise and what should be done to reverse that.

John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School, said the numbers are concerning but that it is too early to draw any definite conclusions from the data, noting that the murder rate in 2015 was still lower than in 2009.

“It’s not a giant rollback of things. 2015 is the third-safest year for violent crime since 1970,’’ Mr. Pfaff said. “The last time we saw a jump like this was 1989 to 1990, and that was a much more broad increase in crime.’’

Still, the new figures could further dampen efforts in Congress to pass laws cutting prison sentences for nonviolent offenders or others. Mr. Pfaff cautioned that the political impact of the data could be disproportionate to their actual significance.

“The politics of crime are very asymmetric,” he said. “We overreact to bad news and underreact to good news.’’

FBI Director James Comey, in releasing the figures, called for “more transparency and accountability in law enforcement.”

Mr. Comey said the FBI has been working to get better crime statistics, and to get them quicker, because the agency has been criticized for the length of time it has taken to process crime figures it receives from states.

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