Mission Creep

Vice suffers from exactly the same problem as the war it tries so pedantically to explain:  sprawl.
Reported on 23rd of February, 2019

In a sense, what I’m trying to do when I see a movie I don’t like is solve its puzzle. I’ve got my rules – how wit works (The Timecop Effect), the importance of having characters decide (The Anti-Choice Movement), how stupid characters lose our sympathy (I(S)Q) and writing to the end (Writing to the End).


15 February 2019 @ The Redwood City Century 20

-$13.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆


As I watched Vice, which did virtually nothing for me, I was trying to understand a very particular problem that it shares with so many other Biopics (the When We Were Kings Rule).

Good films are about one thing, which is not yet a rule. There. I made it one. Mission Creep is such a great title that it made me finish this post, but I’m going to call it ‘Pick One’, mostly so I’ll remember it. Which I probably won’t. Sorry future me.

Simplicity of theme is becoming more and more evident to me, as film stories tangentalize and auto-asphyxiate in their own tendrils. But take it from the far more successful Mr. Tony Gilroy, who did extensive, and NDA protected, reshoots on Rogue One.

Things require a purity. (Rogue One is) a movie about sacrifice…and (you) need to motivate (the characters) with a purity throughout the way…every scene in the movie has to be about the movie (emphasis mine).

This echoes what Mr. Tom Stoppard has said previous: ‘I can’t do plots and have no interest in plots….I get interested by a notion of some kind and see that it has dramatic possibilities’. They may be better writers than I (not right this minute, but still); they had a lot to teach Mr. Adam McKay, but didn’t. So instead, I’ll have a lot to teach him.

The most instructive scene of Vice comes at the end, wherein we are shown fishing line flies in the shapes of various sins of the rich and powerful: missiles, money, torture, etc. Should have put this scene at the beginning, so’s how I’d know what we were getting into.

Vice suffers from exactly the same problem as the war it tries so pedantically to explain. It suffers from sprawl. Dick Cheney, like all living creatures, is a big subject. He protected his gay daughter, which is the inevitable Hitler-Wasn’t-Really-Such-A-Bad-Guy-Because-He-Liked-Dogs crap (and I’m not comparing Cheney to Hitler; besides being trite, given the inflated way we see history, I’m not even sure Hitler is still Hitler anymore).

His wife is The Power Behind The Throne, another story. 9/11 and its footage, included for cheap effect, which cheapens the event and the effect. It feels what it is: manipulative and trite, and is not aided by the inclusion of school shooting, Abu Ghraib, global warming, etc. Peaceniks with dishonor.

There also the big reveal that the narrator is Cheney’s heart donor. Which would have story significance if the transplant had occurred during Cheney’s actual reign. But it’s clever! Let’s keep it in!

It’s a decent enough gag but I would have preferred to give the character an actual voice, instead of no discernible politics or outrage, other than the illdarkening insight that Cheney is a dick (my only note, unelegant, but better than what was on display before me: ‘The narrator is stupid.’).

Normally notes about snacks. This time, a picture of a snack!

It took me about 90 minutes to solve Vice. I knew that Vice needed was what its filmmaker’s previous film (The Big Short) – had: a central theme. I’ve said that. But finally seeing the Iraq war inevitably fall apart (the way it always was going to), the theme is a simple one: hubris.

This is a classic story, with many templates (The Fall, Pride Goeth After Getting Too Much Attention, or even The Rise). Many of the films best scenes get to stay in, including Powell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of ISIS, even Nixon’s fall and Cheney’s rise through Ford. Unitary executive theory and power for its own sake. You could even have a celebrity explain it!

Don’t do that.

A bit of a story here: found at a moderately sketch food mart. Seasonal candy? Disgusting flavor combination? Wildly out of date? Had to have them. Best part for me was that they cost $2.99; evidently the shopkeeper didn’t bother to discount old stock. Totally worth it for the picture; NOT worth it for the taste. They were disgusting enough that I couldn’t finish them. Of course, I had to leave during the trailers to toss the remaining bag, or I would have eaten them all. I am me, as it happens.

You get to put in some other interesting elements, jettisoned for no reason, only to be explained by our unpolitical omniscient, just not bright or opinionated narrator. The story of the supreme court, glossed over, is the story of a power grab. It counts and it holds us.

Hubris works thematically because it’s the clearest way to frame a familiar story with real elements. We can feel it, instead of feeling like something we’re watching is clever. Let me tell you how much I like this idea. I like it so much that I would be willing to jettison another idea of mine.

See, decision making in the White House during the Second Iraq war was actually the subject of my masters (not the doctorate that I failed, and got a pity masters, for those of you keeping track. I got an Distinction for the first one. It’s like…an Oscar nod!). As it happens, I know a great deal about what happened in the moronic decision to go to that war.

My thesis was about Cheney’s famous declaration that ‘was “a one percent chance (that a threat was real) we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” And I was disinheartened not to see the famed speech included.

But it doesn’t fit. It’s about the inability to perceive risk properly, that emotion takes over in instances of uncertainty. In these instances, it was the moral decision, the feeling that they were preventing the next holocaust, which the filmmakers left out, and was very much part of the New Right’s ethos at the time. The idea that you could foresee and control that kind of outcome require an epic kind of…


Looks like it goes back in. What a great film.

The Take

The fakeout film ending in the middle was clever, and would have worked in a story about fate versus individual choice. Which is another movie. Pick one. See told you. That works as a rule name.
There was a nice doggie!
Cheney as a disinterested power grabber, there’s some meat there. ‘I’m a republican’ perfectly captures this. And Mr. Bale does a good job…
Total Profits
….it’s just not a story.
For example, if you have a line as good as ‘If the president does anything it must be legal.’…
…you don’t have to explain it.
In an almost dictionary example of show don’t tell, we are treated to The Butterfly Knife scene, where we are told that Donald Rumsfeld (Mr. Steve Carrell) is a hidden danger…like a butterfly knife…the universal symbol of hidden danger, I guess? Too bad the film depicts him as a fucking buffoon. The voiceover serves only to remind us of the story the writer forgot to earn.
Oh my good Lord Christ, are you really doing Shakespeare? Stop being clever. Start entertaining.
The unpenetrable metaphor of seeing stock footage of a lion attacking the antelope. When this scene came on, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t watching an SNL sketch about The Sad Clown Of Life. Shocking, and not in the way you wanted.
I’ve talked about every element of the film that didn’t fit. @2.50 per element.
Total Losses


Thoughts on Vice

  1. Madame X says:

    Wow, American film propaganda, fun. To paraphrase Hitler: ‘keep telling the lie long enough and they will eventually believe it.’ 911 was just another false flag event designed to use trauma based mind control over everyone in USA and anyone else watching tv, to gladly usher in the new world order. Yes dick cheney is a dick.

    Rogue One is one of my favorite films. I see it as a basically perfect story where lame plot twists posing as entertainment are not needed, since anyone succeeding in life through their truth and convictions is all we really want to see.
    I saw a new movie recently, in the theatre, despite severe hesitation (made my dirty disney…)…Mary Poppins Returns. What a pathetic load of loveless bollocks.
    I hope you are well.

    1. Scott Scott says:

      Yeah, 9/11, whatever it became, was not sponsored or even known about by the US admin (see Masters, above). That was just garden variety agency in-fighting and incompetence. But I’ll go with hating Disney and Cheney and loving Rogue One!

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