Barack Obama: Ready for Close-Up

Barack Obama | 'Dreamgirls' | Stocking Stuffers

Barack Obama: Ready for Close-Up

Barack Obama is a senator, a bestselling author and a possible candidate for the presidency of the United States.

So it only makes sense that movie star is the next career he has to conquer.

Sources tell me that Obama has been filmed for months and will continue to be, all part of a project to make him the star of a documentary about himself.

The filmmaker, I’m told, is Amy Rice, a freelance cinematographer who’s been following Obama around for some time.

Rice, from Oklahoma City, lost her brother David, an investment banker, in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Her brother Andrew Rice worked for the BBC out of Canada at the time.

But after Sept. 11, according to published reports, Andrew Rice became politicized. This year he ran as a Democratic candidate for the Oklahoma State Senate District 46 seat vacated by Sen. Bernest Cain — and won. His campaign was helped because the Rices’ father, Hugh, is a prominent Oklahoma City attorney.

What kind of makes Amy Rice’s story even more interesting is that apparently the knockout blonde’s backer on the project is said to be actor Edward Norton, the Oscar nominee and current star of "The Painted Veil."

Norton isn’t her only actor friend. Last year, Rice was photographed at a red carpet premiere as the date of Ron Eldard, former boyfriend of Julianna Margulies.

Amy’s New York friends have also kicked in for her brother. Last March, Norton and a bunch of New York-based “next generation” actors including Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo and Fred Weller held a fundraiser for Andrew Rice at a Manhattan watering hole.

It’s good to have friends in the right places, since few would-be Oklahoma state senators get such treatment in either party. Or, make that none.

So stay tuned, because Barack Obama may yet get his own “Inconvenient Truth.” And thanks to his filmmaker, he may pick up a whole cadre of Hollywood types at the same time.

Why 'Dreamgirls' Is the Hit of the Year

There are plenty of good movies playing this weekend. "The Departed," "Volver," "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "The Queen" are four of my top five picks for 2006.

But "Dreamgirls," which goes from its triumphant limited run to wide release on Christmas Day, is too important to simply characterize as "the best." It’s much more than that.

For one thing, "Dreamgirls" boasts an almost all-black cast. With the exception of a quick take of a faux Pat Boone with backup singers, and later a couple of sleazy Hollywood producers, "Dreamgirls" is black from top to bottom.

This, my friends, is a breakthrough. There would be no reason for white actors to play these parts. Smartly, director-writer Bill Condon stuck to the original Michael Bennett musical. There was no pandering to Hollywood tastes. It’s not like in “For Your Consideration,” when Ricky Gervais tells the producers of “Home for Purim” to play down their movie’s “Jewishness.”

And, most significantly, this works. Maybe it’s because most people know the Motown story on which “Dreamgirls” is based. Motown produced soul music, but they made it so palatable that it crossed all lines of race and class.

Don’t think for a minute this was easy for Berry Gordy to do. But Condon does it, too. "Dreamgirls" transcends all those barriers. That’s what makes it so remarkable.

A recent review in The New York Times called the music in "Dreamgirls" “pedestrian” or some such thing. This was utterly ridiculous. Far from it: The songs in "Dreamgirls," and their performances, are full of soul.

I don’t mean just Jennifer Hudson, who’s getting all the press. Jamie Foxx is absolutely brilliant with his solo piece, called “When I First Saw You,” and Eddie Murphy teams up with the nearly overlooked but excellent Keith Robinson and Anika Noni Rose on “Patience,” a song already getting radio play. It deserves to be a single.

The songs in "Dreamgirls" are not uniform, as in other Broadway shows. There’s a reason. They follow the progress of soul music from around 1963, when the Dreams are getting their start, to the late '80s. Many genres are unfolding at once, from Murphy’s James Brown-like yelping to his introspective Marvin Gaye artistic breakthrough.

At the same time, the Dreams are changing. In real life, if the Supremes had stayed together, they would have evolved into Labelle (circa 1975), The Pointer Sisters, En Vogue, TLC and Destiny’s Child. Condon’s script, not to mention the songs, costumes and makeup reflect that perfectly. It’s like watching the history of R&B without missing a beat.

I’ll be in London on Christmas Day, but thanks to Sony Ericsson finding me some kind of PC card for my laptop, I’ll be able to follow the box office.

The real joy of "Dreamgirls" will be in seeing audiences of all kinds lining up at the box office to hear “I Am Changing” or “Listen” and then jumping to their feet in a movie house.

Everyone will be asking who sings “I Miss You Old Friend”? The answer is: It’s Loretta Devine, who appeared on stage in the original production. She is lovely and perfectly cast.

If you’re an Oscar voter, there are no screeners for "Dreamgirls." You’ve got to go see it in a theater. This makes sense. It’s a communal experience. You can’t just watch it at home with interruptions.

"Dreamgirls" is a spectacular, and it deserves to be appreciated as one, with the sounds of waves of applause, whistling and chants of “You go, girl.” Just wait and see, and hear and enjoy.

Stocking Stuffers

DVD pick: "The Latin Legends," directed by Ray Ellin, co-produced by Jamie McDonald. Stars J.J. Ramirez, Angel Salazar and Joe Vega. These guys were the comics who preceded George Lopez and Paul Rodriguez, and you can see why in this very funny concert film.

Good stuff, perfect to take the edge off of Christmas when eggnog isn’t enough. …

Michael Musto doesn’t get enough respect, but he’s one of the very few reasons to read the Village Voice now that it’s been corporatized. His book, "La Dolce Musto," named for his famous column, published by Carroll & Graf, compiles his greatest hits.

It’s like a box of candy, only funny. Musto says everything out loud that we’re thinking. Yes, he calls “Three Days of Rain” -- Julia Roberts’ Broadway debut -- “Three Hours of Pain.” …

Our very own Mike Straka is publishing a volume of his own columns called “Grrrr: Celebrities Are Ruining Our Country ... and Other Reasons Why We're All in Trouble” on Feb. 6. You can pre-order it now on, and promise it to a loved one.

Every day thousands of readers enjoy Mike’s rants and roars. He’s one of a minority of Americans who didn’t like "Borat." Go figure. …