Vice-Presidential Debate as Theatre, or: reason number 5,983,746,510 why I love the movie answer man

I love Roger Ebert for many reasons. His most recent blog entry is one of them. He talks of the vice-presidential debate last night and analyzes it based as theater and not as a political event.

He opens with this:
I have some observations about what we observed Thursday night. They are not political. They involve such matters as body language, facial expression and vocal tone. These are legitimate subjects for a film critic. As Patrick Goldstein wrote recently in the Los Angeles Times: "In some ways film critics are probably better equipped to assess the political theater of today's presidential campaigns, since our campaigns are -- as has surely been obvious for some time -- far more about theater and image creation than politics." I would like to discuss the vice presidential debate as theater.
He goes on to mention how Palin was, based on a theatrical point of view again, "understandably nervous," citing her rapid rate of speech and quite eloquently stating,
Listening to her voice, you could also sense when she felt she'd survived the deep waters of improvisation and was climbing onto the shore of talking points. When she was on familiar ground, she perked up, winked at the audience two of three times, and settled with relief into the folksiness that reminds me strangely of the characters in Fargo.

Palin is best in that persona. You want to smile with her and wink back[...]Palin was persuasive. But I felt a brightness that was not always convincing.
Ebert claims that "she wins high marks for emerging from the debate still standing and still smiling."

He continues with observations on unanticipated moments and improvisation:
One thing a critic of a live performance is sensitive to is any unanticipated moment. There was a famous moment at the National Theater in London when an actor pulled out an automatic pencil to make some notes. It contained no lead. He should have pretended it did. Instead, he said, "There is no lead in my pencil." Then, fatally, he paused to listen to what he had said, and the audience roared with laughter when they were certainly not intended to.

A very different sort of unanticipated moment took place during the debate. Biden said, "I know what it's like to be a single parent raising two children." He did not know if his sons would survive the auto accident that took his wife and daughter. For a moment, he lost his composure. Looking at the moment again I believe, as I did at the time, that it was genuine emotion, and not stagecraft.
Watch the clip and decide for yourself:

Ebert mentions:
It could not have been anticipated by Palin. The next camera angle was above and behind her. She paused. The silence seemed to anticipate words of sympathy and identification from her. But Biden had ended in a sentence using the word "change," and her response, reflecting no emotion at all, cued off that word and became a talking point about McCain. This felt to me, at worst, insensitive and callous. At best, that she had not fully heard Biden. In either event, her response troubled me. If a man had responded in that way to such a statement from a women, he would be called a heartless brute.
Interesting observations. And, like always, very eloquent in his writing. Read his whole post here.



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