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John Murphy | 10.24.08

Movies

Don’t Call Me Junior

Don’t Call Me Junior

No one could accuse Oliver Stone of ducking controversy. But I don’t think anyone expected his new movie about the George Bush presidency, W., to be predictable and toothless, if intermittently amusing. In the era of the internet and insider confessionals, most of what appears on screen has already been widely circulated. What, Bush was an alcoholic? He has daddy issues? His “Mission Accomplished” speech was premature? He talks not so real good? In the immortal words of Casablanca’s Louis, I’m shocked, shocked!

Stone, perhaps anticipating criticism (a liberal screed! character assassination!), tempers his baroque tendencies and delivers a fairly straightforward biopic. These types of movies, whether Ali or Gandhi, follow a comfortable formula: ordinary man overcomes obstacles to achieve greatness and change the world. Maybe Stone’s meta-joke is to invert the formula: ordinary man overcomes obstacles to achieve mediocrity and damage the world.

Stone rushes through familiar anecdotes: Dubya’s frat hazing, hard-drinking early days, his redemptive love for librarian Laura, his abiding love for dogs and baseball, his on-the-wagon conversion to evangelical Christianity, his family tensions, and his fateful decision to invade Iraq. In trying to fit this scattered cast and chronology into a two-hour running time, Stone hammers the father-son drama a little hard, explaining away Bush Junior’s political ambitions as Freudian impulses. To reduce Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, for example, to one Strangelovian cabinet meeting and a repressed desire to prove something to his perennially disappointed father is too pat, even contrived. More unsettling is Bush’s insistence that running for office was part of a ‘divine plan,’ an idea that discomfortingly recalls the ‘divine right of kings’: God ordains kings, and thus whatever kings do is justified as God’s will working in the world. (An Onion headline comes to mind: “Voice of God Revealed to be Cheney on Intercom.”)

Unlike Stone’s other polemics, W. doesn’t feel like the product of anger or scorn. Oddly enough, Stone seems to share the opinion of Bush Senior, as portrayed in the film: Dubya is a well-meaning man of doubtful ability but good intentions who was promoted beyond his capacity. It’s the Peter Principle, basically: every employee (or privileged son) rises to his level of incompetence. If only Dubya really did have God on his side.

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TOPICS:    george w. bush | presidency
(5) COMMENTS

By zorozero AT 10.28.08 12:15PM Not Rated

zorozero

I find it interesting this movie is being released so close to the election.  I don’t suppose it will support the efforts of the McCain campaign.


By chassup AT 10.28.08 02:46PM Not Rated

chassup

It’s not interesting, it’s not even a surprise.  It’s completely expected from the liberal left who can’t win at the polls and resort to propaganda to out shout their opposition.  Americans are fair minded, they know what this is, and they are not rewarding it at the box office.


By John Murphy AT 10.29.08 01:06AM Not Rated

John Murphy

Nor did fair-minded Americans reward ‘An American Carol,’ a conservative comedy lambasting the liberal left (also released during election season). Did audiences stay away because it was conservative propaganda, and they recognized it as such?

My guess is they stayed away because it was terrible. I was one of the unfortunate few who saw it. I wanted to like the movie, but it was simply bad, and it’s made less than what ‘W’ took in its first weekend, and both movies cost roughly the same amount to make.

‘W’ is a so-so movie. It’s done so-so box-office. ‘An American Carol’ is a bad movie. It’s done bad box-office. Americans are fair-minded in that respect.


By chassup AT 10.29.08 10:09AM Not Rated

chassup

You are right… customers of the film industry don’t want to pay money to see political propaganda, of any kind.  Audiences want to see a good story, well written, beautifully filmed and an entertainment experience worth the high price.

If you look at Hollywood’s track record in recent years, you’d find it hard to understand what they are thinking much of the time, it seems to me that they are willing to lose money on propaganda.  Look at the list of Iraq war (anti-war) movies, none of them made a dime, but they kept making them.  I am waiting for an honest, non-political portrayal of the battle for Falusia… that will be a box office smash.  If the same old libs make it, it will bomb.


By RickCross AT 11.05.08 08:35AM Not Rated

RickCross

For a more substantial review of W. go here.


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