At least I didn’t have to see the trailer for The Changeling.

Don't let real life confuse reality.
Reported on 9th of November, 2008

I can’t really say anything about W., since I was 2 minutes late into the theater.  This is not such a bad thing when seeing a film at the Landmark 14, which frequently shows my arch-nemesis: art house trailers. 


9 November 2008 @ West LA Landmark

$3.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


Trailers are bad enough, since they give away all the good parts, up to and including the ending, but art house trailers are simply agonizing.  Forget the foreign language film trailers that pretend to be in English (with sudden bursts of single words like “Ha!” or “Oh”) – because there are fewer films, the trailers run for longer periods, sometimes as long as six months.  I saw the trailer for Snow Angels so many times, it was practically its own terrible movie.

So without the first two minutes, W. is a fine, if typical film.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to watch it without the main point being that it’s an Oliver Stone film about George Bush.  What people seem to comment on the most is that it wasn’t a total evisceration.  He seems like a nice guy, they say.  George Bush, not Oliver Stone.  Though maybe this makes Oliver Stone seem like a nice guy.

There’s no rationality behind politics; it’s just a bunch of people in a room, saying stuff.

Which is exactly the problem.  A total evisceration would have been preferable.  Not because I hate George Bush, who probably is a nice guy, but because I like good movies.  It’s not even the fault of Oliver Stone, or Josh Brolin, who embodies George Bush the way that Gary Cole embodied Greg Brady, and yes, that is highest compliment you can pay an actor.  The fault lies in making the movie in the first place.

I generally, and correctly, hate biopics, because they are not good stories.  Lives are, and should be, complex, open-ended and inexplicable.  Stories are everything we want our lives, and films, to be, which is a story unto itself.  In any case, when you tell the whole life, all you get are fragments, or even worse, recreations of what you already know.  This is about as pointless as as a film can strive to be.  Ideally, you’re paying to sit in a theater for something new.  Unless you’re seeing Bad Santa for the second time, which is just common sense.

The secret to making a good film about a real person is focusing on a single event or relationship, things which do fit a little more closely along the story guidelines.  When They Were Kings is ten times the movie Ali was (in fact the best bits of the latter were lifted from the former), but it didn’t have to be so.  Why not tell the story of Muhammed Ali and Howard Cosell, and nothing else?  A dawningly radicalizing black man and a cranky, verbose Jew trying to be less and less of a racist in the 1960s is an actual story, and as you glimpse it, you can keep yourself entertained by making that the movie, instead of the three hours of ‘what happened’.

Because I don’t care what happened.  I really don’t.  And even if I did (okay, now I do care), you don’t illuminate the real world by depicting it; you illuminate the real world by telling a story that reveals the truths behind what happens.  So tear W a new one.  Or make him a saint.  Don’t do both, because it tells us nothing.  If you want a tragedy, focus on his relationship with his father.  If you’re interested in the motivations behind the second Gulf War, put us in a room where the decision was made.  Conspiracy is twelve guys sitting in a room casually talking about mass murder, and it exposes the holocaust of World War II in a way the Schinder’s List fails to do.

If I biked there, the oilmen win!

If I biked there, the oilmen win!

Or, and this would be my preference, make it a real comedy.  The film I glimpsed in W. was the relationship between George Bush and Condoleezza Rice (and no, that’s not what I mean, various porn recreations to the contrary).  Thandie Newton was in a very different, and much better, movie than everyone else.  I’m still not sure if she was good, or just making fun, but I easily could have watched an entire film of those two in a room making fun of France, with Thandie Newton doing that creepy, and very accurate, held tilting thingie.

And there’s your movie.  Because as pointless as this movie seemed to be in conception (like the Impeach Bush bumper sticker that appeared on my neighbor’s car recently – really, you can’t wait six months?), it works a little bit because people were surprised that George Bush might not be the devil.  He’s just some guy.  There’s no rationality behind politics; it’s just a bunch of people in a room, saying stuff.  This is a pretty good story, so cut around it.  If that’s your story, tell that, and nothing else.  Why let real life confuse reality?


All the films I made in my head watching it.
The pleasure of giving Ms. Newton the The Elizabeth Berkley Award for bravest performance.
The pleasure of giving Mr. Brolin the The Gary Cole Award for most uncanny performance. Again, also in my imagination. Did I even watch this film?
Total Profits


Truthfully, can anyone make us feel sorrier for Pres. George Bush than Mr. Michael Moore?
Having the misfortune of doing my Masters on the Bush White House, and learning all the great lines they left out. W. 2: The Secret of the Booze? Anybody?
Total Losses


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