A Terrible Blogger is Born!

May 12, 2009

Dubya, the Movie

George.W.BushI just watched Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic W. I think it’s a fine movie, certainly the best thing Stone has produced in years. Josh Brolin’s performance is really amazing, and the voice is spot on. (This guy is really on a roll. He was also very good as Dan White in Milk, though I did not much care for the movie as a whole.) Most of the other performances are solid, the exception being Thandie Newton’s Condoleeza Rice, who seems like she’s doing an SNL parody. There is some comedy in the film, especially in the opening scene where Bush is discussing the “Axis of Evil” phrase with his cabinet. But I was surprised at what a serious tone most of the movie takes. It could have veered off into Dr. Strangelove absurdity, and I found myself hoping it would, though the movie is probably better for not doing that. Stone is genuinely interested in what makes Bush run, and that is the story he tells. Much of the dialogue is verbatim, and so will be familiar to those following the President and American politics over the last decade (which is practically everyone). But those who took issue with Stone’s speculative approach and use of controversial claims by Jim Garrison and Fletcher Prouty in JFK (Walter Cronkite and Arthur Schlesinger, for instance) might have problems with one scene where Dick Cheney takes over a meeting, laying out his case for the invasion of Iraq as a specifically Imperial strategy. They have oil, which we need. We also need to increase our military presence in the Middle East, to put the pressure on Iran by surrounding it with U.S. bases. Others are debating the right way to defend their country. Cheney’s mind is focused on the global endgame. But those who supported the Bush/Cheney Junta (to steal Gore Vidal’s phrase) will hate this film anyway, and as for the rest of us- well, haven’t we all been playing this scene in our heads these last several years? So I will refer to Roger Ebert’s defense of JFK, where he asserts that films are about emotions, not facts, even if they are based on real events, and that Stone’s film “is a brilliant reflection of our unease and paranoia, our restess dissatisfation.” But W. is also about Bush’s personal restlessness and dissatisfaction, a private drama that became a national one. How will it all end? We don’t know. Stone, not known for his subtlety, ends on an overtly metaphorical scene which I think works well. Throughout the movie there are scenes of Bush alone in a baseball stadium, a reference to his fantasy of being a baseball player as well as his ownership of the Texas Rangers. In the last scene a ball is hit, and Bush goes back into the outfield to catch it, but the ball doesn’t come down. It’s still up in the air.

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