Thursday, October 30, 2008

Should W see W?

The White House spokeswoman Dana Perrino said George W Bush had better things to do than see a ridiculous film like "W" but it might have been a great piece of insight lost that no one in the administration saw the film.

Oliver Stone, who felt a special connection to W. being that they were at Yale at the same time, among other commonalities, surprised many people who had him pegged as someone making a propaganda film by restraining himself from taking a couple cheap shots at the president and offering a very sympathetic portrayal of Bush. Stone essentially basic premise is Bush wasn't a man who wasn't particularly sinister or idiotic but a man who simply made a crucial error in judgement in 2003 that undermined his presidency. Stone's mission is to probe the man and his past, daddy issues and all, to understand why he would make such a mistake.

There are concerns that we've seen so much of these characters in the news, why would we want to watch them for two more hours, but I saw it differently. Because these characters are already so familiar to us, it is enjoyable to watch fine actors test their mettle in the difficult challenge of playing their interpretations against very public images. These include Richard Dreyffus playing Cheney in a very unanimated manner, which sort of makes sense because Cheney never has much stage presence, even if the the supposed depths of his misuses of power could allow for someone to play him as a classic villain. Tobey Jones is also particularly appealing as Karl Rove, who seems little conniving underneath the surface. Jeffery Wright feels a little stiff but seems more or less spot-on. Scott Glenn is very interesting as Rumsfled but he's not in the film much.

The film is also a great narrative: The issues of a man trying to make hard decisions, a man trying to turn his life around, and most prominently, a son trying to please his father. Even though you've seen this guy on the news for several hours of your life at this point, Stone recreates the character in a different light: He is not an authority figure who you want to look up to in need of leadership only to be disappointed. Instead, he shows him as a man you look down on with empathy as you see him trying to make good on his strengths and cope with flaws.

With all this in mind, it is a shame that the administration reacts so negatively upon this, and that is indicative of a bigger problem. It seems to me that the Conservative party does not like to come upon information that they might not like. This is what got them in this bad of a war in the first place, after all. Although there are exceptions to every rule, it strikes me that members of the conservative party have their own news channel that tells them what they want to hear and serves to invalidate all other sources of information. As what often happens with movies that are being protested by the right, they won't even bother to watch the movie before denouncing it.

One item that comes to mind is how annoying it is when commentators of Fox news and the conservative radio are dedicated to suppressing the discourse of ideas that aren't conducive to their agenda. Once respected sources instantly become invalid once they stop saying things that conservatives like hearing. Recently, and this is one of many examples, Campbell Brown at CNN came under fire for being soft on Obama and hard on McCain. Campbell was right on the money, however, responding that she calls things as she sees them and its ridiculous to think that she's obligated to produce exactly the same number of hard-hitting criticisms of the democrats that she's unleashed upon the Republicans. The McCain campaign said "We once liked Campbell Brown but lately she's gone insane" or something along those lines. Don't launch some kind of smear campaign on her because she's stopped playing for your team, all of a sudden. It shows a lack of integrity.

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