Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"W" A Movie Review (and a look into why I've been so busy)

The photo has nothing to do with the movie, but shows the beginning of what has consumed much of my life for the past couple of years!

I saw “W” this weekend. I’m still not quite sure what morbid curiosity within me caused me to go see this movie in a theater and not wait till it was out on video. After all, it seems a bit early to do a serious work on our lame duck president. In some ways, I was expecting a comedy, but I should have known better as this is an Oliver Stone film. It was serious and although there were some humorous moments, the movie definitely wasn’t a comedy. And some scenes that would have been funny in other movies, like the Animal House scene when “W” (played by Josh Brolin) was pledging to a fraternity at Yale, was more pathetic in this movie as we all knew we were looking at a future president. At best, that scene serves as a morality tale, reminding us that our past will often continue to haunt us.

The movie jumps back and forth, between events of “W’s” Presidency to that of his upbringing and earlier careers. Often these events or vignettes are separated by a dream of “W” being in centerfield in a baseball stadium and running back and catching at the fence a hit that would have been a homerun. The movie shows the tension within “W”, of him being both a privileged kid and a desire to be what I’d call a Texas Redneck. It also shows his battles with his father (played by James Cromwell). W wants to please his old man and to be free of his father’s reign. This battle is best seen in “W’s” desire to best his brother Jed. According to the movie, “W’s” decision to run for governor of Texas and eventually the Presidency comes from his father proudly telling him about Jed’s intention to run for the governor of Florida and how Jed might eventually make a run for President.

Religion also plays an important and complicated role in the movie. His faith is credited with helping W overcome his drinking problem. On a personal level, the movie displays “W’s” faith as genuine. He really believes God has called him to his role as President. Even his prayers at the White House are humbly depicted. However, there is a shady side of his faith, as seen in “W” becoming an advisor to his father in his 1998 campaign, helping his Dad win the support of the religious right. The older Bush bristles when “W”, surrounded by right-wing religious leaders, suggests he uses “code-words” such as “born-again” when discussing his faith in public.

Laura (played by Elizabeth Banks) also plays an important role in the movie. She’s seen as strong and supportive of her husband and also of bringing a certain amount of respectability to him (compared to a former woman he’d dated, who resulted in his father calling and telling “W” to act like a Bush). Several other characters stand out. There’s Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss is a dead ringer for the VP), who often stands next to the wall or next to the door, listening in the conversations with a devilish smirk. Colin Powell (played by Jeffrey Wright) stands up to “W” and others in Cabinet meetings, even pointing out to “W” the difference between him and his father in their approach to Iraq. Powell then goes before the UN, saying what he doesn’t believe about Iraq, which earns him the praise of Bush even though this action seems to diminish his role. I don’t think Powell appears in the movie after the UN scene. Karl Rove (played by Toby Jones) is depicted as a behind the scene operative (at one point, Powell wants to know what Rove is doing in a cabinet meeting) that helps create “W” into a politician (down to working with him on talking points that he can say and not screw up).

Over all, the main tension in the movie is between “W” and his dad. George complains that his father can never praise him to his face (the elder Bush does this through notes). W is infuriated when his dad, working through Brent Scowcroft, questions the wisdom of the Iraqi war. Near the end of the movie, “W” dreams that he’s in the Oval Office and his father comes in and berates his son for having destroyed the family name. In a scene reminiscence of a earlier fight between the two (one that Jed broke up while Barbara was yelling), the two go at it and then “W” wakes up screaming.

A few weeks ago I saw an interview with Oliver Stone. The director said something like “I came to admire “W” while abhorring his policies.” This comes through in the movie. Of course, there is so much not covered in the movie (We've had nearly 8 years of this man and the film is only 2 hours). Hopefully we will not be treated to a W2 or W3. Maybe there is a place for a Halloween Bush, for this administration has become somewhat of a horror tale.


  1. Oh! Well I *think* you love this country too much, and perhaps you were also looking for answers, for justifications, in turn redemption, a combination of that motivated you to watch the movie and write this (bloody) long review. That's what I *think* - but please don't believe in what I *think*.

    PS: why didn't you consult me this Fengshui Master before you "disturb the earth" with a bulldozer? I could have looked through the lunar calendar and found you an auspicious date! You really have no faith in me, don't you? :)

  2. A friend went to see that movie last weekend, but she didn't care for it much. I don't think she admires W for anything in his life....LOL

  3. I'd like to see more pics and hear more about what you've been doing for the past couple of years.

    The W movie doesn't sound like my cup 'o tea, but you reviewed it nicely.

  4. Sorry, I just reread what I wrote and made a few edits--I posted this hurriedly this afternoon and had some mistakes, extra words, etc.

    Mother Hen, what date would you have chosen?

    Kenju, I had two wonder why I was willing to endure an extra two hours of his presidency

    Scarlet, there won't be a lot to see till next year--this fall is primarily site preparation

  5. Thanks for sharing this review of "W". I probably won't go see it; but it leaves me a bit better informed.

  6. I want to see it but unlike you, I know I can wait. In fact, I will probably wait long enough that the horrible memories of his tenure in office will have begun to fade from the public consciousness. I doubt that I will ever forget.

  7. Interesting comment from the director there.

    Sounds like one of those situations where you'd feel sorry for the guy if he wasn't where he's at? Makes you wonder just how much his presidency really does have to do with petty jealousy and family dynamics as opposed to a true desire to lead.

  8. I'm not walking into your trap Sage. Nah, actually I can't find the lunar calender for this year, so I can't even BSing my way through, so much for showing off huh? :o

  9. Tim, Glad I could inform you. I couldn't bring myself to recommend this movie as a "must see!"

    Ed, since the movie only deals with Iraq and now we're in an economic mess, I wonder what he'll be remembered for

    TC, yes, there is a bit of that feeling sorry for him

    Mother Hen, last week I posted a lunar calcuator in my sidebar. I did it because am always in tune with the moon's phases, but living where it's often cloudly, it's harder to keep up with it. I suppose it also can help you pretend to be a shawoman (is that a word?)

  10. The treeline behind the lot, with its fall colors, is spectacular. I hope the site will be as eco-friendly as possible?

    I think an interesting study could be done on the roles fathers play in a son's development as shown by Bush, McCain and Obama. Two seem to be trying to outshine disapproving fathers, while the third is overachieiving to compensate for an absent father.

  11. I saw Stone's Nixon and enjoyed it. I have to respect a man who will profile through film people as diverse as Bush and Jim Morrison.

  12. This one I have to pass on Sage. I guess I'd rather be at a rock concert. I'm just not a fan of Washington. But Rock On! :)

  13. Diane, we're trying to put a lot of green into the project. I'm not sure if we are going for a LEED rating, but we do want to incorporate a lot of those ideas--the site itself includes a former gravel/sand pit--so there is some reclaiming of the land

    Fantasy, those are two polar opposites (although the movie shows W partying hard in his younger days, so maybe there are not as far apart as we'd think)

    Michael, you mean it won't make your Friday night movie offering? :)

  14. Thanks for the review, Sage. Clearly, Oliver Stone has mellowed which would draw me to go and see this movie. It sounds like...shocker of shockers, he showed several sides to Bush. We ALL have several sides. The difference is when you enter the political arena you always run the risk of being portrayed as a "one hit wonder". I see the good and the bad in Bush. Where people lose me is when they totally demonize people in leadership. No one is either black or white...regardless of what the media tells us to believe.I gained some respect for Oliver Stone with this review.
    And...I'm SO impressed with your work project. Still waters run deep,huh?

  15. Your next trip to the theatre should be to see 'Religulous'. I can't wait to hear that review. :-)

  16. Lunar Calculator? You mean the one that shows the "Current Moon" picture? That doesn't look like a calculator though (I clicked on it, it took me to a software site?).

    Actually I don't know the word shawoman at all. We use "shifu" or "sifu", a Chinese term for Master. What, you want to start calling me "shifu"? Don't do it unless you've got used to my shamelessness though, else you probably vomit blood.

  17. Susie, I probably need to be reminded of the good--maybe because I use to read Molly Ivins, I started to dislike him as governor (the executor governor) and I really grew to dislike him in the Republican primaries for the 2000 election... but that said, I think most people have some good in them

    Murf, that may have to wait till the video--if it comes out, let me know and I'll get it from Netflix

    MotherHen, yeah, be careful, those lunar folks bug you about buying their software when I just want to see where the moon is out when we're for several weeks of clouds... As for Shawoman--I was playing with the word Shaman and took out the "man" and put in "woman" Sorry to confuse you... I don't expect I'll be calling you shifu lately (and I'm too polite to call you with another word that beings shi.... :)

  18. Good review, but I live in the DC area... I'm tired of politics all the time. The thought of seeing a movie about a sitting prez during an election season is just too exhausting actually.

  19. Thanks for the review, as I've had that same morbid curiosity to see this. Though I plan to wait for the DVD.