Sunday, February 05, 2006

Some quickie reviews

Short takes on movies & books mentioned below:
  • Munich — Ugh. The last five minutes not only made me dislike a movie that I was mostly enjoying, they have made me go on another multi-year Spielberg boycott. I cannot diagnose what is wrong with that man.

    However, the bleak, unsentimental nature of the assassinations reminded me of a much better movie, A Short Film about Killing (Krótki film o zabijaniu) by the extraordinarily talented Krzysztof Kieslowski. It is an excellent movie, although quite painful and graphic. At the time I saw it, I was working regularly in hospital emergency rooms. I occasionally wished that people could spend time with me, and see the end results of violence — not the cartoonish, problem-solving way it is usually depicted in film.

  • Syriana — Excellent movie, with terrific, compelling acting in all areas. Jeffrey Wright is especially outstanding. It's a shame the Oscar categories are so limited, since both he and Clooney deserve a nomination for their role in that film. Christopher Plummer plays a villain superbly once again.

    The movie does indeed have a complicated plot, with many foreign names. However, the reviewers who complain that it doesn't make sense simply didn't understand it. True, confusion like that is mostly the movie-maker's fault, but it should be embarrassing to write a review like that. Why did Ilsa leave Rick at the airport, gosh darn it?

  • I wrote the above lines, before I found this column by noted imbecile, Richard Cohen. What that man doesn't understand could fill solar systems. As the column describes, he's too damn sophisticated to believe that oil affects our policy towards the Middle East.

    As it happens, I am in agreement with him that you should not point to conspiracies to explain basic events. The movie is a pastiche of Middle Eastern archetypes: big oil controlling policy, corrupt governments here and there. It can be criticized on that basis. However, while trying to be sophisticated, you shouldn't let your brain roll out one ear like a bb, as apparently has happened to Mr. Cohen. Controlling access to oil is a cornerstone of American foreign policy towards the Middle East, as any history would show.

    Apparently he believes that, because a complaint about Big Oil is a old-left standby, it should be discredited. Well, that's stupid: policy prescriptions or even simple complaints aren't good or bad when some superannuated columnist at the Washington Post has heard of them before.

  • See No Evil — A good book, although it is entirely with the author's journey through the Middle East, and only barely related to the fictional plot of Syriana. Very similar in tone to other recent books about CIA, with complaints about the bureaucracy, ineptitude, and a relentless cover-your-ass mentality. This book is more a "cracking yarns" type of memoir, and there is little of the 30,000 foot overview.

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