Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bush's Ego, Bush's Id

Anthony Hopkins' Nixon was such an insect that the actual President looked like an ok guy when you saw his beaming face in the credits. If W. bothered to end with a shot of our current COC, we'd be reminded why the man is compared to Alfred E. Neuman and not Josh "Anthony's Top Ten Mancrushes" Brolin. Even Dick Cheney has reason to be flattered by Oliver Stone's softest political cartoon; sure the film has him delivering neocon slobber, but Richard Dreyfuss bothers to give the scumbucket some gravitas.

So why does the sap who stole two terms get more sympathy than the sap who resigned? Because, hawk or not, Dubya's a boomer. Bush ain't the only 62-year-old with daddy and drug dependency issues who achieved his ambitions despite tendencies for excess and simplification - I bet Stone has a hard time acknowledging his mistakes too.

Not only has age made Stone kind (like a successful av clubber bonding with the fat former quarterback at a high school reunion), but stylewise he's toned down his overstatement. Leila - a Stone neophyte - finds this hard to believe, but it's a sign of restraint that he saved the dream sequences for the end. An ironic fan of his flamboyancy, I was almost disappointed that the constant foreshadowing in the script isn't signaled by string stabs or conjoined with frenzied montage. But if you're not offended by the idea of quality actors making an oedipal play of the man we hope capsized the neocon dream but don't quite yet know for sure that he did - W. is easy to enjoy.

Those hungry for batshit political cinema are advised to check out An American Carol instead. You'll have to wait for DVD - me and my friend Harlan were the only people at a Sunday night screening two weeks ago - but it's worth it. Michael Moore is a great target for a cheap-shot pro like director David Zucker, and there are about seven minutes of jokes about him that would have been welcome in Scary Movie 5 (I especially enjoyed watching him bat away "fans" with an oar as he left Cuba). But even if you don't laugh at a twinkie stuck to a TV screen, you get the fascinating sight of Dennis Hopper shooting zombie ACLU lawyers and THE Bill O'Reilly standing in a urinal with an actor playing JFK and Kelsey Grammer's remarkably prissy General Patton.

Patton - the first ghost in this Dickens rewrite - takes up so much of the film's 80 minutes that "George Washington" only gets to read 30 seconds worth of one of Jon Voight's op-eds, and Trace Adkins' "Death" just growls before sending Moore to save a rally full of "real Americans" and history-spanning military ghosts from the evil Robert Davi.

That Zucker throws in a couple gay jokes at the expense of the military and Adkins shows his real cause (roffles for rabble), and the pandering behind the politics makes it even more disgusting. I doubt Zucker feels strongly about the glory of pop country, and I'm sure he knows "Christian extremists" would hijack planes if they didn't already have fighter jets. He's just carrying out the idea of a "right-wing comedy" to its tragic extreme. Comforted by his commercial chastisement, I can (knock on wood) enjoy it as a historical curio and wait patiently for Scary Movie 5.

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