W. – A Movie Review By Kush

The following is a movie review of W. by my friend Kush. He wrote it a while ago, recently reviewed it and told me that I was welcome to share it with you. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments at the bottom. And, of course, thanks to Kush!

The prospect of a film that would illustrate the inner workings of the Bush Administration, presidency, and perhaps even mind of George Walker Bush, seemed compelling. Furthermore, Oliver Stone’s illustration of all of the above in the context of JFK (199X) and Nixon (199X), with a Josh Brolin performance to boot, made W look like a required trip to the box office.

What the moviegoer got was not, however, the colorful, biting account of Bush or his presidency, that was expected. Instead, we got Josh Brolin impersonating Bush, rather than playing him, a story that focused more on Bush’s life between Yale and the White House than his presidency, and a slew of bad performances doing little more than paying lip service to some of the most critical members and events of the Bush Administration.

On the bright side, Stone’s account of Bush gave us something that more liberal viewers did not have going in:  a picture of Bush as a man, a son, and a Christian. The appropriately named W. features George W. Bush less as a protagonist than as the focal point through which the world is viewed. In this manner, we see Bush come to terms with the meaning of his family name, defiantly enter politics both because of and despite his father’s influence, defeat alcohol addiction, and be born-again into the Christian faith.

The only thing missing is a struggle.

Often times, it felt as though whenever W. decided to do something, it happened, less through sheer will than through the selfish maneuvering of the people around him – that and his father’s ability to pull strings whenever possible. This sense of “happening” may be due in part to the fact that the story itself is uncompelling, or perhaps because we all know the ending, but even at times when the story was new to most viewers, the plot came out flat.

Another problem with the movie is that almost the entire cast c0mes across as either lousy versions of the people they were cast to play, or below-the-belt charicatures of the real members of the Bush Administration. The actors cast to play Karl Rove and Condoleeza Rice, for example, seem built as assaults on the true versions of these people. They look and talk oddly, and don’t seem to resemble the already distinctly rich characters that we know from the news. On the other hand, Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) played such terrible versions of the true characters that I spent more time focusing on how incredibly bad their characterizations were rather than the content of their delivery. George Bush Senior also came off as whiney, weak, and tired: a seemingly inaccurate characterization of a president that waged America’s last successful war.

Not only where the character portrayals poorly done, the movie focused so infrequently on the events leading up to the Iraq war that almost all scenes involving discussion of this pivotal issue took place in a windowless war room. Surely there was more to the decision to invade Iraq than three afternoon meetings in the White House Situation Room. This is the only view of “America” we see outside of the myopic Bush lens through which the movie is shot – save a short sequence of out-of-place anti-war footage, shots of the UN meeting where Colin Powell presented the case against Iraq against his will, and Bush’s address to Congress to invade Iraq.

Overall, the movie disappoints not because of the poor character renderings but because the story itself ultimately lacked conflict and drama. Stone portrays a man too preoccupied by his father’s opinion of him to really appreciate the fact that he was elected to the highest office in the most powerful country on earth. Because he never wanted to be president for the sake of being the president, he ultimately judged the decisions he made through a different lens than those who respect the office for what it really is.

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What Are We Really Voting for This Election Season, Asks “Douche and Turd,” episode 808 of South Park

As we arrive at day 72 on our countdown to vote for the next president of the United States of America, we have to ask ourselves, What are we really voting for?

Some will say “CHANGE!” and some will say, “NOT BLACK PEOPLE!” but no matter what they say we’re presented with two choices that are likely to provide us, the American people, with very comparable outcomes. And this is what “Douche and Turd” is saying.

When South Park Elementary has to vote for a new school mascot, the boys think it will be funny to write in two ridiculous things: a giant douche and a turd sandwich. When there’s a run-off between these idiotic candidates, Stan just can’t figure out what the point of voting is and why he would even bother when the choice is going to be stupid, pointless, unable to be differentiated and nothing you’d want between two pieces of bread.

Now, of course, it must be noted that this episode was written and aired before the Bush v. Kerry election, when the two candidates had a lot more in common and America appeared a lot less in trouble. This election, admittedly, looks a little different.

To pose the more obvious observation of how the two candidates are different, one of them is white – much like John Kerry. Similar to John Kerry as well, one of them has actually served in the United States armed forces. But let’s take a quick peak at the bigger picture and remember that the two aren’t actually so different after all.

They are both members of one of America’s two big parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. Though one would like to convince you that the other spends more money or that they’re more “less-hand-in-government” as a political approach to governing, that’s crap. They’ll both spend a crapload of money; they’ll both interfere in your life in a way previously unprecedented in American history, and they’ll both provide us with rhetoric that is full of shit and excuses on a pretty regular basis. And then you can turn to The Daily Show to laugh at either of them as our country and its glory spin down the drain, only to be documented in 45 years when historians can finally be far enough away to recognize some identifiable patterns.

Gloomy, no? Do I really think it’s going to be that bad? I certainly hope not – but I will say that neither candidate has actually outlined in detail or demonstrated the executable-ness of any programs that will solve any of America’s many major problems. Though I hope this isn’t the downward sloping side of the America-on-top mountain (because I think we have a lot to offer the world by way of collective equality before no one is listening to us again), I do think that when historians look back in time and have to assess, neither candidate so far has differentiated himself enough in his actual planned execution (not just policy rhetoric) so as to make him any different from the other or cause this to be the presidency of change. That’s not to say it won’t be, but just that if we went forward with what’s been outlined so far, we wouldn’t see any tangible results because nothing is really being said.

I hope that come election day we’re voting for something other than a giant douche or a turd sandwich.

What do you think? Who will you be voting for? What did you think of this episode? Do you think it’s applicable to every presidential election or just every one before a black man got in there?

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Robert Mugabe is a Worthless Asshole

As some of you may know, Robert Mugabe, former and unfortunately-now president of Zimbabwe, has been reelected (although using this word here is the equivalent of shitting all over the concept of elections) by a landslide after a run-off in which he ran unopposed. Why unopposed? Because his opponent who won the original election (Mugabe refused to stand down), a proponent of democratic change and running on that principle, stepped out of the election after 90 of his supporters were murdered by Mugabe’s forces and boycotted it generally because it was wrong and unfair.

Mugabe will be president of Zimbabwe for nearly three decades, and he is a giant piece of undemocratic shit. Look, democracy may not be the greatest or most viable system out there – some of the greatest Greek philosophers insisted that it was an enlightened monarch (that is to say, a Philosopher King) – but in a country that has elections, you should abide by the results, not be a giant piece of crap and a big baby when you lose and then use the military to force decent voter turnout in a sham rerun against no one because you murdered his supporters.

The world is shaking its puny, polio-ridden, malformed wrists in a less than menacing fashion. The African Union opposes this. Ooooo. Ban Kee Moon is not happy. Ahhhh. President George W. Bush has threatened sanctions and UN action. Yikes. Desmond Tutu, archbishop of Cape Town, wants international forces to restore order and the new rightful leader of Zimbabwe, officially ending Mugabe’s 28 year reign. I doubt that will happen, but it raises fascinating questions.

On the one hand, I think that the world should intervene because if a just and democratic world (though you could hardly call it that) doesn’t stick up for the oppressed everywhere then what good is it pretending like we do. On the other hand, should we respect states’ rights and not interfere in internal matters that aren’t bordering on genicide or genicidal (not that we even do that when we should). Frankly, I don’t think there’s any consistency to the action based on principle. Only on interest. That is to say that we would only be interfering physically in Zimbabwe if we had some serious reason to oust a government that didn’t support our endeavors. But this isn’t Cold War geopolitics anymore so even those interest-principles are harder to come by. In short, it’s a complicated series of events and interests that would lead to interference in Zimbabwe and though the world may shake its fists at Mugabe’s unjust and undemocratic treatment of the populace, it probably won’t do anything.

Do you think the world should interfere? How should it do so? If not, why? Are principles reason enough to invade or just kick Mugabe out? What if the U.S. had to act unilaterally? Is this the U.N.’s job?

Status Update: We’re no longer moving in where we thought we were – realized it wasn’t such a good decision. We’re now staying in a Kimpton hotel in downtown San Fran while we continue searching. Cyrus is here and we will search about, having left Sunnyvale because our friend came back home. Any suggestions on where to look or live? We’d love some help.

In the News: Protestants and Catholics Still Over Centuries-Long War

U.S. President George W. Bush has just gone to the Vatican where he was welcomed warmly by Pope Benedict XVI. That is, an evangelical leader of the free/WASP/non-Catholic world (perhaps that’s giving a lot of credit to Bush, but allow it for the sake of comparison, please) has met with the Pope, the spiritual leader of the world’s billion or so Catholics.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to not the sixteenth century.

Now, of course, pope’s and U.S. presidents have been meeting for years now, and the Catholic Church and the Protestant world (though it isn’t so easily grouped in a unified way as Catholicism) have long since made amends…effectively. I for one, would like to state quite clearly how awesome that is.

We really take for granted in our day how wonderful it is that there is a relative amount of unity, a high degree of peace and a general disregard for the differences between Catholics and Protestants. The Christian world is pretty much A-ok on an inter-denominational basis. Sure, the Christian and Muslim worlds are effectively at war (though I neither believe that it is as ubiquitous as I have made it sound nor as dichotomized as Christian v. Muslim), but it’s great that Catholic-Protestant relations are at the height of their strength. Why am I harping on this issue, you ask?

Well, it really wasn’t like that for a very long time. The Puritan roots of this country can be traced back to a need to escape the Anglican Church because it was too close to and corrupted with popery – or Catholicism – Puritans claimed. People in the colonies hated, persecuted and banned Catholics in various places for a very long time. Life as a Catholic in America wasn’t easy for a while. Now, can I blame Protestants (back-in-the-day Protestants, that is), for being terrified of and hating Catholics? Considering the Church’s history and the way it treated dissenters, no, I really can’t, but let me be frank: relations never had to normalize.

Wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe were on an unimaginable scale, comparable to parts of the crusades, in certain areas of Europe killing up to a third of the population (sometimes more deadly than the Black Plague), and many people believed that Catholic and Protestant countries would never be at peace with one another. Slowly but surely, however, countries realized that interests other than religion set them at odds with one another and unified them with each other, and today, in our post-industrial, post-Cold War, newly hyper-globalized world, issues like whether you are a Protestant or Catholic country are really not the issues at hand. And that’s spectacular.

But then again, we’re not talking about countries, per se. The Holy See may be a country, but at the end of the day, it’s the Roman Catholic Church through and through, and I still think it’s awesome that an evangelical Protestant leader and the pope can greet each other warmly and genuinely, get along, discuss their common goals and interests (even if, unfortunately, some of those happen to be banning abortion and stem-cell research and continuing to promote abstinence – issues we will get to in due time, I’m sure), and be so friendly. It’s important, and not what one would expect after a few centuries of animosity and wars. If in the seventeenth century you’d asked who a Christian’s biggest enemy was, he’d say, a Catholic – never a Muslim, a Democrat or Oprah Winfrey or anything like that (don’t you love topical humor!).

So, that’s my thouhgt: we shouldn’t take for granted that the Protestant and Catholic worlds are effectively at peace (save a few small pockets of course), and when U.S. Presidents and Popes are hanging out together, we should appreciate that we’ve come a long way since the Thirty-Years War.

Note about tomorrow’s post: I will be posting in the afternoon because tomorrow is Movie/Book review day and I am going to see a matinée of The Happening. I have pretty low expectations but a close friend is a screenwriter of horror movies so we’re going – let’s see if it can break the low bar I’ve set. Check back tomorrow afternoon for the review of The Happening.