A Night at the Movies with George W. Bush
If you look over a list of films by Oliver Stone, you begin to see a pattern: all of them are controversial, topical, relevant and brilliant (except for Alexander and World Trade Center; those were pieces of shit). Oliver Stone’s latest film, W., is no exception to the brilliance of his earlier career. He has fully redeemed himself for the terrible transgressions of Alexander and World Trade Center (god, the hours I lost watching those…). I’m just going to come out and say it: In W. Oliver Stone has made the most important film of his career and will probably never top it.
If Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July were critiques on the terrible machine of modern warfare, if Wall Street was a critique on the greed and corruption of the financial machine in this nation, if Natural Born Killers and Any Given Sunday are critiques on the twisted bent or utter irrelevancy of modern media, if Nixon is a critique of corruption in modern politics, then W. is an utter fucking slap in the face to George W. Bush and everything that has allowed his administration to happen. Wow, that was quite an “if, then” statement.
The most terrible tragedy of George W. Bush’s life and of our generation is that George W. Bush is actually a fairly likable guy when you meet him and just shoot the shit about football. Pretty much everyone who meets him in real life thinks so. That’s why the motherfucker got elected. How else do you think it happened? It’s not because he has good policies or is very smart, now is it? Anyway, enough of that tangent. Even Elizabeth Banks (playing Laura Bush), who met the Bushes once at a White House screening of Seabiscuit, said that while she utterly loathes Bush’s politics, she found him to be a very charming and funny.
I ate another special rice crispy treat before going into the theater on the opening night of W. and boy was I happy I did… The special treat allowed me to relax a bit, and thus relax my raging hatred of George W. Bush for a time. While my defenses were down, I was struck by Josh Brolin‘s rendering of George W. Bush as a confused young man who wants only to do right by his father (played gloriously by James Cromwell) but is constantly overshadowed by him and his brother Jeb. I’m just going to come out and say it: I felt sad and sorry for George W. Bush, the evil dictator himself.
That is to say, the film served as a reminder to me that I should passionately hate Bush the Politician and leave Bush the Man alone. Bush was not a villain in the film; he was a likable and charming young man who was turned into a likeable and hatable pawn in his autumn years by puppet masters like Dick Cheney (played hauntingly by Richard Dreyfuss) and Karl Rove (played by Toby Jones). No, this movie does not excuse Bush. His tragic flaw in this film is his total inability to finish what he starts or to think a course of action through before it ruins him. The movie merely reminds us that there are far more people to blame than just Bush alone for what has happened under this administration; this is where the villains like Rove and Cheney enter the story of W. and muck things up for our hero (?) by exploiting his tragic flaw.
Dreyfuss plays Cheney with a perfect level of private malevolence. In one of my favorite scenes, Cheney explains in a secret war strategy meeting how Iraq is just the first step in a leapfrog tactic to eventually capture Iran and its oil reserves, thus establishing a U.S. empire. Bush in that scene appears skeptical of Cheney’s ideas but eventually goes along with the plan after careful moral nudging from Cheney and others.
It’s in this way that the film begins as a biopic drama and then transforms into a tragedy of epic (Greek, even) proportions. By the end of the film, things are getting a little eerie as you are occaisionally reminded of Oedipus Rex.
What I’m trying to say is that this film is fucking powerful and you should see it. It is the only movie of its kind ever released during the term of the world leader it is about, making it probably the most topical biopic ever made. And on top of that, it will be talked about for decades to come, whether or not it does favorably at the box office. I give it five out of five Flaming Cocks of Justice or whatever (I should probably work on the rating system, huh?).
Anyway, check out the trailer and then go see the son of a bitch. Enjoy, dear Constant Readers.