Monday, October 20, 2008

W. redux

As promised, albeit few days late, here are some of my thoughts on W. in no particular order.

1. Josh Brolin is hot.

2. Stone uses food and drink as a stylistic device throughout the film. The chewing, the ice in the glasses, the sloshing bottles of liquor were all highlighted in weird cinematic ways, lighting, slo-mo, enhanced sound. Don't miss: the pecan pie service during the meeting wherein Chiefs of Staff acknowledge there are no WMD in Iraq.

2.5 . All the Chief of Staff meetings were delicious to watch. Total fiction? Probably, but who cares?

3. Richard Dreyfuss is a perfect Darth Cheney--down to (quite literally) the teeth.

4. The filmmakers have posted their own fact-checking site.

5. Bush is depicted with more sympathy than I expected.

6. The movie was about 20 minutes too long. The back story could have been tightened.

7. Bush senior (James Cromwell) did not recall George H. accurately for me.

7.5. Rove (Toby Jones) also only got about 50 percent for me.

8. The film needed better timing and a few more sweeping "big screen" moments such as the war protest montage.

9. It's not a deep film. This is about entertainment.

10. I didn't even remember CIA head man George Tenet (Bruce McGill). Stuff like that came flooding back to me during the film.

11. Stone projects contrast via caricature again and again. He does it within W most notably. Brolin is dead-on as W with mannerisms and appearance, but his interaction with food is almost cartoonish. Then there is Condi Rice (Thandie Newton) who is a complete caricature.

12. Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) was a major character that fell flat. Why? I couldn't understand it. There was so much about him to play upon--the impish evil grin, the flirting with the camera. Stone left all of that on the table.

13. Michael Gaston's Gen. Tommy Franks is a minor character that is a very satisfying caricature. Who didn't want to see this guy portrayed like an asshole?

14. I liked the ending.

15. Did I mention that Josh Brolin is hot?


swine said...

Sounds like the flat-fart of a movie I thought Stone would put out. Your point by point review seems spot-on with what I've read. I am not a fan of biographical movies in which ALL characters look like their real counterparts--so for example, I was much distracted in The Queen by how uncanny actors' resemblance was to the real royals (Cromwell was in that one too, and he had a horrible English accent...back to "Babe" with him!). When I watch a biopic I'm not interested in walking into Madame Touseeau's. And so there's my gripe. W will have to be a Netflix choice for me.

deangc said...

I don't understand the motivation behind getting the movie out before Bush has even officially left office. That, I think, is why some of the characterizations fall flat. These people are still on the nightly news.

I don't plan to see it.

Lord Basil said...

Oliver Stone is a leftist propagandist who slimed Vietnam Vets in Platoon.

He's a filthy pot smoking treasonous traitor, as are you Miss OBrien for patronizing him.

You need churching...

Erin O'Brien said...

Lordy? Baby? I'm on my knees.

stef said...

I enjoyed W. My husband and I saw it yesterday and we both thought it was great.

Brolin was awesome and I thought the other actors were pretty convincing too, sans Laura and Daddy Bush. Did you notice also that Laura never aged? Not even a little.

I was entertained. Lots of laughs, but I did leave the theater feeling a teeny tiny bit sorry for W. and all of his Papa-pleasing ways.

spants said...

Basil, yet again you've proven yourself an ass.

Oliver Stone IS a Vietnam vet.

The phrase "you need churching," is hilarious. Methinks you are playing a game.

Anthony Cartouche said...

Good review, Erin, but there's one thing I'm still a little unsure of. In your considerable experience as a filmgoer and as a heterosexual woman, could you please tell us: Josh Brolin--hot or not?

Zen Wizard said...

I've only seen the trailers but I wondered about Cromwell as Bush 41.

I think they wanted to get away from a Dana Carvey "wouldn't be prudent!"-type har-dee-har impersonation, so they cast somebody you would not expect.

I am not sure who is somebody you WOULD expect, but it would not be him.

There was a PBS special on the trial of Saddam Hussein last night.

Captivating stuff.

I thought the Roman general Pompey said that the guys with the swords were supposed to be in charge. We let a bunch of idiots railroad a guy and hang him without due process. Why not just let him die in jail? Who cares? Like everything else in this war, despicable and poorly executed.

Erin O'Brien said...

Zen, thanks for bringing that up and I'm sorry I missed the PBS program. Maybe it will air again.

I thought the (basically) public hanging of Hussein was one of the most barbaric horrible moments in American history. I don't care how awful he was, that was just despicable. The ruse that it was done under Iraqi law seemed so transparent to me. The grand ol' USA had plenty to do with that moment--and then to have it splattered all over the Internet.

I'm disgusted all over again thinking of it.

And before anyone comes online talking up all Hussein's crimes against humanity, don't bother. I know about it and there is no excuse for it. But then we stand by while they string him up? Aren't we supposed to be the civilized ones?

We looked a lot like the bloodthirsty animals standing right next to us.

Anonymous said...


A couple of things, having been there ...

Saddam's hanging was, in fact an Iraqi affair. The only thing we did was hand him over to the Iraqis (he was held by mutual agreement at one of our facilities in Iraq) once he had been found guilty and sentenced to death.
The manner of execution as well as subsequent "phonecam" imagery was strictly an Iraqi affair. We didn't have anything to do with that, nor should we have as he was tried in an Iraqi court by Iraqis, found guilty by Iraqis (there wasn't a single American on the court, serving as a lawyer, judge, etc. I know, I was there when the trial took place, and I watched it on Iraqi TV everyday), and under Iraqi law, sentenced to death. That he was strung up as you say was something that was deliberately decided upon by the Iraqis. In the Muslim world, hanging is much more shameful and humiliating than, say, a firing squad. By doing so, the Iraqis showed Saddam to be nothing more than a common criminal in their eyes, and again, this was done for a reason.

Finally, it would have been incredibly stupid of us to be involved in such things. The Iraqis very badly wanted to bring Saddam to justice, and we rightfully recognized this and stood aside as the Iraqis themselves tried Saddam. Indeed, the fact that he was tried, given legal representation, given a fair trial (and yes, I realize that that's arguable, but the evidence was overwhelmingly against him by any measure) is remarkable given that he denied ordinary Iraqis these things under his rule. Had we tried him a la Nuremburg our standing, however low it may have been among Iraqis at the time would only have sunk lower. Again, I was there when this happened, and talked to ordinary Iraqis on an almost daily basis about the trial. All of them told me that they saw this as an Iraqi affair, and they were proud of it. I must say that based on what I know to be true they were absolutely correct in their observations.

As for Tommy R. Franks, it's a little known fact that one of the less enjoyable periods of my somewhat checkered military career was to serve as Tommy Franks' aide de camp for about six weeks in the initial stages of Operation Desert Shield. He was a one star, or Brigadier General at the time, and my impressions were less than favorable. If you want to know more, email me and I'll provide the details.


Anonymous said...

As far as Lord Basil's comments, I'd offer the following ....

Oliver Stone served as an infantryman in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam (if you saw Platoon, you may have noticed the taro root leaf with a lightning bolt inside shoulder patch - that's the patch of the 25th ID). By all accounts, he served honorably, was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained as the result of contact with the enemy, and was honorably discharged. For these and other reasons, I think we should give Mr. Stone props for his service in a difficult time in our history and in a very difficult place.

This being said, his portrayal of soldiers serving in the Vietnam war is, according to Vietnam vets I personally know, not entirely accurate. Sure, some of the things are true (there was an increased use of marijuana and other drugs later in our involvement, for example), and of course, we did burn down villages. But the vast majority of our soldiers conducted themselves honorably and correctly - read B.D.G. Burkett's book Stolen Valor for more info on certain Vietnam Vets impersonating themselves as vets and making totally bogus claims on what went on there. Most came home and became productive citizens, not the homeless, shiftless folks Hollywood movies and selected media would have us believe. Don't believe me?

Pat Sajak from Wheel of Fortune is a Vietnam Vet, as is ...

General Barry McCaffrey - Drug Czar under Bush the Elder, and Vietnam Veteran
James Webb - Democratic Senator from Virginia and Marine Vietnam Veteran (and thanks for that post 9-11 GI Bill, Jim - it will pay for cooking school next year for me!)
John McCain (I don't need to go into specifics here)
Max Cleland, former Democratic congressman of Georgia
Bob Kerrey, former Democratic Senator from Nebraska and Congressional Medal of Honor Winner
Al Gore, former Army Journalist and former U.S. Vice President
Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Fred Smith, founder and chairman of Federal Express
Bob Woodward (U.S. Navy)
Rick Rescorla, Security head at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter at Ground Zero on 9/11 (Rick died that day, and was at the Battle of the Ia Drang in 1965, featured in the movie "We Were Soldiers)

Stone is held by some Vietnam Vets I know as a traitor (and I can understand why as a veteran myself) due to his portrayal of soldiers in Platoon. Is he a "traitor?" My guess is history will be the ultimate judge. Personally, I don't care for his politics, but his films do spark debate, which I think is a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Is this thread still alive? Anybody besides me ever wonder why Saddam didn't leave Iraq. It was widely reported that he had been skimming billions from Iraqi oil monies. I woulda thought he'd tried to find sanctuary somewhere in exchange for a large sum of money. Or would that have been seen as cowardly...was he destined to go down with the ship?


Anonymous said...


Saddam was nothing if not a survivor. He was fond of telling the story of how, in 1958, when he participated in an assassination attempt against the Iraqi President that he swam accross the Tigris to escape capture (every year he reenacted this event once he came to power).

He never really believed that he'd be captured, removed from power, etc., nor did he really believe we'd go in. He was a survivor, after all - he survived the Gulf War, he survived our "no fly zones" and by Allah, he'd survive anything we threw at him. He, of course, discovered otherwise. Our operations in Iraq caught him way off guard, and the subsequent actions of his regime reflect the utter confusion that ensued within it.

Had he fled, yes, in the eyes of the Muslim world, that would have indeed been cowardly. He really didn't have much of a choice given his track record of setting himself up as the next Saladin.



Erin O'Brien said...

Al? you leave 1500 words in comments and end it with V/R?

Are you trying to drive me crazy? I'm assuming that's an acronym for "Very respectfully" and not, say, "vagina ready," but I'm sure you'll clear that up.

I KNEW you were going to show up on this thread and talk about how the hanging was an Iraqi affair and I totally agree that officially, it was. But the nuanced feeling stateside was that American fibers ran through the rope around Saddam's neck. It was, after all, our preemptive war on the disappearing WMD that wove that rope.

So yes, I agree with everything you say, but none of it makes me feel better or changes what I wrote above.

Incidentally, I posted my last comment at 10:05 last night, snapped my laptop closed, set my head on the couch cushion and promptly fell asleep, which is why no comments from me until now.

And one last note: the figurine I sent you was not a girl on a motorscooter, but an important artist's depiction of a retired military man after spending several months in a mostly liberal state, FYI.

Anonymous said...

Thx Al.


Anonymous said...


Yes, V/R means "very respectfully." It's something I picked up while working with the Navy and Marines - they use it a lot.

Girl on motorscooter: if that's what I'm going to look like in a few months, maybe I should leave now ... ;-)

It's a cool figurine, and thanks again.

V/R (this time, Very Republican),