Pure Fun with Great Visuals–a Fantasy Film to be Sure
March 29, 2010
Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin
Guatemala seems to be the place where Academy Award pre-release DVDs find a home and are replicated in the thousands, then sold for a few dollars if not less–I have never bought one, just borrowed from those who have. I am reminded of the VHS underground marketplace in Panama in the 1980’s.
Alec Baldwin really surprised me–he rose to the occasion and turns in one of his best performances as a supporting actor to Meryl Streep, with Steve Allen coming in as third fiddle but the ultimate victor.
I take quite seriously the severe critic that complains this is a white super-suburban fantasy film, and this is absolute true. Having said that, I never-the-less recommend this film very strongly as engaging, with very strong visuals, and a total pleasure across the board.
Spectacular. Professional. Visually Powerful. Life Changing., April 12, 2008
This is a spectacular piece of professional work and so compelling as to be inspirational.
I watched this with my wife with no lights, and decided to take no notes. Here are the highlights from my memory.
1) Brilliant, utterly brilliant, history, photography, personalities (such as the Indian guru that has photographed the source of the Ganges for 50 years) and sequencing. I don’t want to overdo it, but this may well be the single most important DVD of the century, and so worthy of both buying, showing to groups, and giving as a gift to others.
2) We are well on our way to 2-3 degrees rise, and if we do not begin to act sensibly now, toward six degrees. I absolutely loved the way this film developed, showing the changes one degree at a time. My wife had to point out the computer simulations, the producers and editors of this film are world class–they should share the Nobel with Herman Daly, Lester Brown, Paul Hawkin, and Anthony Lovin, Gore’s Nobel was an ill-advised politicized award, he is in the fourth grade compared to this film and the serious people it focused upon.
3) Oceans as the critical carbon absorbing element, and coral as the “canary in the coal mine” really grabbed me The overall screenplay, photography, voice overs, everything about this is spectacularly professional and rivieting.
4) Amazon as the next most critical element, with riveting views of the Amazon river drying up in 2005, and the potential scenarios of drought, fires, more drought.
5) Increasing destructiveness of weather. Katrina as the first of what could become every month storms, instead of 100 year storms. In passing, the film shows the world-class levies built by the Europeans, and they do not show the downright retarded cement levees of the US Army Corps of Engineers, levees that are the laughing stock of the rest of the (sophisticated) world.
A highlight of the film was its focus on the one man that has figured out the total carbon footprint of the cheeseburger, to include the methane farts of the cows. I am not making this up. This film is AMAZING, it is spectacular, it is professional, it is precisely the kind of well-crafted material that We the People need to begin self-governing rather than entrusting war criminals and and cronies (both parties) who sell us out.
Here are ten links that augment the deep insight and value that this DVD provides to anyone able to see it.
Top names cannot overcome this kludge of a movie, which loses one star for kludge and one star for not remotely honoring what the original OSS and the CIA clandestine service really do. In fact, as a former spy who spent three touirs overseas including one chasing terrorists, this movie, while artsy and compelling in its mash-up of 50 years of mis-adventure, is very disappointing. They would have been better off sticking to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which I enjoyed very much as a parody.
Until the 1980’s, the chief characteristics of the Directorate of Operations of which I was a part, were alcoholism, adultery, divorce, and suicide. I count 18 suicides in my professional career, beginning with the instructor at the Farm that blew his brains out with a shot-gun, and more recently the Staff Director of the House Permanent Select Committee of Intelligence, and a much admired SES (flag) officer who tried to drum the “Langley Strangler” out of the agency. Now that’s a movie I would be glad to help make. Today we simply have too many puppies and dilitantes.
There is one good aspect: the whole concept of not trusting anyone. There is another good aspect: enemy opposites can be friends. Indeed, I have found over the years that I like and trust my KGB and GRU counterparts more than I trust the drones in our own FBI (Agents IC Smith and Crowley excepted).
A sideline highlight was the depiction of the Yale fraternity Skull and Bones, to which both George Bush Junior and John Kerry belong. The overtones of homosexuality, men mud-wrestling naked, men in drag, is consistent with the public information undertones about some of its members.
The bad aspect is that this movie tries to represent 50 years of history including all the apects of James Angleton, Kim Philby, and so on, but it is a fantasy, a poor parody. You would be much better off reading my lists of intelligence and counterintelligence books. Recruiting people to be traitors, stealing diplomatic pouches, installing audio devices, managing covert action operations are all more interesting.
The entire theme of trying to interpret a video to identify the fan, the sounds, the voices, etc is over-hyped garbage, even with the revelation that the witness knows the video is of himself not so long ago. CIA throws money in the air, and whoever reaches for it is recruited as an agent. Let me be very specific: CIA is a global laughingstock, and does nothing for the Nation that is worth its cost. It consists of too many young white males, and no amount of diversity hiring is going to change the basic fact that working out of official installations, and unilaterally (or worse, relying on foreign liaison headquarters for second-hand lies) is going to turn CIA into a mature clandestine and analytic service.
The coldness of the business, and the distance between father and son, between husband and wife, is dated. That is how it was up to the 1970’s. After that, wives were a part of the team and not only fully briefed, but used operationally on occasikon. Children generally are briefed when they reach their low teens.
Bottom line: this is a melange that melanges a bit too much. Great stars, interesting script, for a real look at the old CIA, see Allen Dulles, “The Craft of Intelligence”, and Miles Copeland, “Without Cloak or Dagger”. For the lies and politicization, see George Allen, “None So Blind” or Hiam’s “Who the Hell are we Fighting.” For CIA at the top of its game, see “JAWBREAKER” and “First In.”
This is one instance where books are much better than any DVD. See my lists for many other recommendations, and also my list of “Serious DVDs.” This is not a serious DVD, not even close.