Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Who Is Sarah Finn?

She is the casting director for Oliver Stone's new movie W., and she's gotta be the front runner for whatever Oscars they hand out for excellence in casting.

Josh Brolin, who played a much lower-class cowboy (Llewelyn Moss) in last year's "Best Picture" winner, the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, does a bang-up job as Dubya. Despite the best effects of Hollywood make-up wizards, he doesn't really bear much facial resemblance to the Resident, but he's got the mannerisms and inflections down cold.

And the rest of the cast is just stellar, particularly James Cromwell as Bush 41 (who comes off pretty well), Thandie Newton as Condi Rice, and Toby Jones as Karl Rove.

Laura Bush is portrayed by Elizabeth Banks as a real sweetie who truly loves the man she stands by. (We see the twins mainly in quickly flashed family photos.)

Jeffrey Wright is perfect as Colin Powell, and Richard Dreyfuss is every bit his match as Cabinet-meeting opponent Dick Cheney.

Nobody will ever top the casting of Christopher Reeve as Superman or Madonna as Evita, but for an ensemble performance, this will be the gold standard for decades to come.

Oh, yeah, about the movie.

Knowing that this is an Oliver Stone film that was billed as being merely BASED on a true story, you could be excused for expecting a political hatchet job. It's not. In many cases, it simply has the actors repeating the actual dialog that emerged from the mouths of actual people (tho with Hollywood's customary license about "composite characters" and time compression).

It's more of a psychodrama, as Stone tries to get into the head of Dubya and paints him as a ne'er-do-well who finally became an overachiever because he was always being compared unfavorably to his brother Jeb and could never make his daddy happy. (The old man communicates even approval distantly, by writing the little notes he was so famous for as Reagan's VP.)

Stone uses soft background music ironically and, I thot, unnecessarily. Silence would have been preferable. I was also annoyed at all the jumping around in the timeline, to no apparent purpose (tho at least labelled properly with the year in the lower-left corner of the screen), and I would have preferred a straight chronological narrative.

We don't get to see any detail of Dubya's 2 big conversions — the one off the bottle or the one to Jesus — even tho we do get a disturbing look at the extent to which these power brokers resorted to prayer when making critical decisions. Real or fiction? Hard to say.

The biggest surprise is that Stone cuts The Decider a lot of slack when it comes to Saddam Hussein's supposed WMDs. According to the movie, everybody (possibly including Saddam himself) was convinced that Iraq had them. (As the joke used to go: "We know he's got them. My dad's still got the receipts.") They just didn't have absolutely irrefutable evidence, but they were all convinced it would turn up eventually. And, of course, Dubya didn't have the intellectual firepower to insist on a reality check.

The few fantasy sequences, in which Stone tries to portray the inner workings of Bush's mind, show both the carrot and the stick. The former is a dream of baseball glory, the latter the fear of Poppy's disapproval.

We never really get any insight into how this moron managed to hornswoggle the country into voting for him twice.

The dominant impression I carried away from the movie was how much more I knew about this guy than ever made it to the screen, and what a waste of my brain it was having to store all that info about one of history's biggest losers.


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