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October 21, 2008 4:22 AM   Subscribe

The Choice 2008 is the newest report from PBS's Frontline. It examines the backgrounds, both personal and political, of John McCain and Barack Obama. You can also watch the entire two-hour show on YouTube.
posted by aheckler (34 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
interesting the dems tried to turn mccain to the darkside their side after 2000.
posted by kliuless at 4:37 AM on October 21, 2008


Saw it the other night on local PBS station. Very well done.
posted by bjgeiger at 4:46 AM on October 21, 2008


Very disappointing doco. It was undone by its decision to be evenhanded, emphasizing the "careers" and not political beliefs (and not even much insider stuff, or much personality). The result is a film in which unwittingly has McCain's coming out on top, because his story is easily fifty times more interesting than Obama's.
posted by dydecker at 4:54 AM on October 21, 2008


It was fascinating to watch this right after reading the Rolling Stone article. Same set of facts (well Frontline left off 2 airplane crashes and the blatant favoritism), completely different set of conclusions. But all in all, hagiography on both of them.
posted by nax at 4:55 AM on October 21, 2008


It's the newest for another 13 hours or so-- Heat, a look at global warming, premieres tonight at 9.

The best thing about working on The Choice site to me was the letters after it aired. Partisans from both sides wrote in to say the show was biased towards the candidate that they didn't support, which suggests that the show was pretty balanced. I think there were only two letters calling us "communists," which is pretty low.

I hope we never put another show on YouTube. The time margins are too thin between when I get access to the show and when YouTube needs to have it in-- because of the other digital versions I have to make.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:01 AM on October 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Great documentary. I heard about it from a relatively apolitical friend who caught it on tv and loved it.

Frontline's site is really great. Did you work on that, Mayor Curley, or did you only do the site for The Choice? Good job, in any case.
posted by joedan at 6:10 AM on October 21, 2008


About 1:20 into this. Fascinating stuff and another great piece from Frontline, as usual.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:11 AM on October 21, 2008


Heat, a look at global warming, premieres tonight at 9.

Does it have a wordless, 25-minute gunfight full of loooooooong takes?
posted by rokusan at 6:23 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does it explain anywhere in there how McCain keeps scoring all these hot wives and mistresses? The only clue I've found is that his BFF is Gary Hart.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:39 AM on October 21, 2008


Did you work on that, Mayor Curley, or did you only do the site for The Choice?

I'm a developer for the FRONTLINE site.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:42 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I caught the premiere running of this episode and I definitely enjoyed it, because I like Frontline. But as dydecker said, it was a little disappointing that the reporting didn't touch more upon the issues and stuff people should actually be voting about (instead of, "Oh, Obama was on the Harvard Law Review -- I will vote for him!").

I would be upset about the whole thing, except I think people who watch PBS are not the type to make up their minds about a candidate based on a 2 hour television show. Other than the debates, I mean.

I think it was very even-handed and pretty much unbiased. I hate that it reminded me that McCain was at one point a decent politician and not a robot, but I think it only serves to highlight how much he's changed and backpedaled to appeal to voters. I remember seeing that footage of him asking Donald Rumsfeld to actually answer a question instead of dodging it in one of the previous episodes about the Iraq war, and I'm glad it got airtime again. Sure, he comes off as the more interesting and influential candidate (living 70 years kinda does that), but I don't think he comes off as "better" in the big picture. This is a guy who used to stand up to his party and the religious right, but now he's so desperate to be elected that he'll pull out the "OMG BABYKILLERS" card.

Admittedly, I didn't know much about Obama's past, and what I learned was pretty inspiring (I say this as a 23-year-old burnout). I liked seeing where he came from and how he does indeed have a past of taking charge and working to make a difference. I never really worried about his lack of experience before, but now I feel even more confident in giving him my vote.

Mayor Curley, I'm just happy episodes don't go up .wmv anymore. Even grainy youtube videos are better than 20 minutes of buffering to watch Merchants of Cool.
posted by giraffe at 6:43 AM on October 21, 2008


dydecker: Very disappointing doco. It was undone by its decision to be evenhanded, emphasizing the "careers" and not political beliefs (and not even much insider stuff, or much personality). The result is a film in which unwittingly has McCain's coming out on top, because his story is easily fifty times more interesting than Obama's.

Why does it have to promote one candidate over another? I saw this the other night and it was very well done, very interesting, in part because both McCain and Obama are interesting men with fascinating backgrounds. I highly recommend this show, not to further your preconceived notions of either man, but to find out something about how each of them got here.
posted by caddis at 6:57 AM on October 21, 2008


Mayor Curley, I'm just happy episodes don't go up .wmv anymore. Even grainy youtube videos are better than 20 minutes of buffering to watch Merchants of Cool.

Are you watching it in high-def on YouTube? The high-def version of The Choice isn't grainy at all. Which is a miracle because I had to compress two hours into a sub-1 gig .mov file and then YouTube had to encode from that for their site.

And you're probably aware, but the videos from last season (and this one) on FRONTLINE's site are FLV now, and I encoded some popular ones from the past into that format as well. When you're watching a recent show in the pop-up player, you can click on the "more reports" button in the lower right to scroll through all of the shows available in high-quality FLV format.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2008


Wow - kudos to Mayor Curley. The Frontline site is one of the nicest sites on the net. Love the redesign!
posted by dydecker at 7:03 AM on October 21, 2008


Also, by and large I now export a high-def Avid feed and encode the flash video directly from that. It's made a big difference in the quality. The bandwidth threshold for the streaming isn't very high, but I think we've done a lot with it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:08 AM on October 21, 2008


Never actually thought to check youtube for episodes. I just always go to the website because I'm happy with the flash player available there.

I actually noticed the switch for older episodes a couple days ago when I watched American Porn. It was quite the happy discovery.
posted by giraffe at 7:14 AM on October 21, 2008


Aw jeez. I just revealed that I am so boring that I watch documentaries about pornography.

Uh... um..

Hooray Mayor Curley!
posted by giraffe at 7:15 AM on October 21, 2008


Why does it have to promote one candidate over another?

I'd argue that it is impossible not to. Objectivity in documentary filmmaking is an illusion. Even something like Fred Wiseman's direct cinema, which eliminates narration, classical storytelling, and even sometimes editing from the form, the filmmaker still has to make judgements about what to include, who to focus on, what to point the camera at, etc.

These choices are inherently subjective, and therefore are filled with things like a point of view, a set of beliefs, in short a politics.

There is no such thing as "we report, you decide".

So I'd say the aesthetic choice of "let's be objective" was a mistake in this case, because after you take away the politics and the psychology of McCain and Obama, or why this election is important, all you're left with a set of "objective" biographical facts. And that's not a compelling story.

(BTW I'd also argue that focusing on biography was a political choice in of itself because in this case it's a criteria that the Republican can trump the Democrat. This of course is not the conscious intent of the filmmakers, but when you empty out your movie of meaning, the audience will fill in the blanks.)
posted by dydecker at 7:35 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


BTW I'd also argue that focusing on biography was a political choice in of itself because in this case it's a criteria that the Republican can trump the Democrat.

Except It is entirely possible that there are people who think Obama's biography "trumps" McCains.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2008


It's the newest for another 13 hours or so-- Heat premieres tonight at 9.

I saw that one years ago - it's the one where Al Pacino plays Barack Obama and Robert de Niro plays John McCain planning a heist on the economy. Pretty good.
posted by mannequito at 9:53 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


McCain and Obama, huh.


Some choice.
posted by Zambrano at 10:04 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


dydecker: Isn't is possible for a news organization to make the choice that their reporting will simply be focused on seeking the turth, without promoting either agenda? You say that there is no such thing as objectivity, but this excellent documentary and Frontline's work in general gives the lie to such dismissals.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:20 AM on October 21, 2008


I love that it's free for ipod download too. My tivo was supposed to have taped it but got only a blank screen due to some cable nonsense. Thanks for the post.
posted by poxuppit at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2008


If you're sick of the seemingly never-ending campaign by now, this is what you should watch. It's entertaining, thorough, calm and almost a reset button for the election-weary brain, good to get back to the big picture.

Kudos, Mayor Curley!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:02 AM on October 21, 2008


just to balance it out :P

-bob barr
-ralph nader

no word yet on the green/socialist candidates' newshour appearances!
posted by kliuless at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2008


The turth being an apocryphal triangle-headed woodpecker that feeds on Bigfoot droppings.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:47 AM on October 21, 2008


viva el Mayor.

Partisans from both sides wrote in to say the show was biased towards the candidate that they didn't support, which suggests that the show was pretty balanced.

speaking of which: I've been watching Fox News for about 5 minutes now. first they mention Obama's granny is sick and he's going to visit her, and they show a photo of Obama with an elderly black lady in an African costume. of course, the sick granny is the maternal (ie, white) one.

then a segment about how Rep. Murtha thinks people in his district are racist. and they interview... Murtha's opponent about it.

next, a horrible still of Barney Frank with a five o'clock shadow. "Barney Frank wants to tax everyone". then, mercifully, the ads came.

5 minutes, seriously. greatest TV channel ever.
posted by matteo at 2:23 PM on October 21, 2008


I'm not kidding, it's better than Colbert. way better.
posted by matteo at 2:23 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this! I had missed it and was actually wondering how I could watch it.
posted by dhammond at 3:21 PM on October 21, 2008


StickyCarpet: Does it explain anywhere in there how McCain keeps scoring all these hot wives and mistresses?

Totally crushin' on young McCain
posted by swell at 8:52 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama obtains an endorsement from General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.



McCain obtains an endorsement from Al Qaeda, enemy of the United States.



Of course, Obama did also obtain the endorsement of Bat Boy.
posted by caddis at 9:06 AM on October 22, 2008


Of course, Obama did also obtain the endorsement of Bat Boy.
posted by caddis at 12:06 PM on October 22 [+] [!]


Weekly World News just gets better and better, even if they have apparently decided to stop even pretending they are true, and just to become the Mutant's Onion.
posted by jb at 8:06 PM on October 25, 2008


I forgot to mention the conservative pique with the Alien endorsement, or nude Obama.
posted by caddis at 8:34 PM on October 25, 2008


Actually, The Weekly World News Alien Endorsement was always the one to watch for.

Selected headlines include: "Space Alien Meets With President Bush!" (1991), "Space Alien Meets With Ross Perot!" (1992), "Alien Backs Clinton!" (1992), "Alien Dumps Clinton and Goes Back to Perot!" (1993) and "Space Alien Meets With Newt Gingrich!" (1995).

So far he has not made his '96 endorsement. Hillary Rodham Clinton's reported adoption of an alien baby may play in Bill's favor. Rush Limbaugh has already been endorsed by rival aliens. But Phil Gramm may have an inside track. According to World News, Gramm is 1 of 12 Senators who are themselves space aliens.


I really miss the old WWN. It was frequently amazing and subversive and spot-on hilarious.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:38 PM on October 25, 2008


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