Sunday, November 25, 2012

War, Inc

So, nearly everyone hated this 2008 film, and I can see why. It's political and cultural satire for our ritalin obsessed  undereducated overstimulated  Cartoon Network-based Viacom simulated "lives". It's also partially written by Mark Leyner and Jeremy Pikser. Leyner is an author who specializes in overkill, and Pikser wrote Bulworth, the very definition of ham-fisted satire, even if it was correct.  See, it's easy to make it sound like I hate it, but I think that's by design. There's something very subtle underneath the bright neon satire. I actually liked Bulworth in that it showed a basic truth, despite itself- that we are ruled by deeply vain people- Warren Beatty or Bill Clinton, you're talking about a guy who's convinced he's friggin Awesome. Likewise, in the little asides, and in the wink-wink nudge nudge acting, there's an awareness that everyone in this film is part of the same machine they're satirizing. I think that comes from Mark Leyner, who targets his overkill, 9 times out of 10, at himself, but John Cusack also is a pretty self-aware movie star, so there's that angle. There's also a streak of nihilism you can read into it, and I think many critics did- it seems to offer no solution,only retreat. However, there's another premise that might account for how little praise the film got- this isn't a "democratic left" film. It's not "republican right", either. It offers up a far darker, but far more insightful view- so long as money is involved, we can't trust ANY of them. The baseline here is that we cannot trust storytellers, including supposedly "honest" ones- Anderson Cooper , amoungst others, is lambasted as being a part of the problem, as is Dick Cheney, as is just about everyone. There's a scene that's nearly a stock scene in a war movie, but the part that reveals what the satire is, I find truly telling: our protagonist is looking for a secret hideout, so he tries to bribe the information out of a little kid, who milks him for more money. Stock scene, and deeply cynical, right? Well, as our hero leaves with the girl he's trying to save, he finds the kid has torched his ride and the kid says "next time you should bring candy". The satire isn't about the convention in a movie of bribing the local- the audience is being satirized for expecting that some third world nation child would want American dollars. The film is saying that we have a pretty screwed up view of the world, and doesn't give us the "out" that we're only as smart as our cultural overlords allow us to be- We're smart enough to know that we're watching a movie , and smart enough to know a cliche, it's not about our intelligence, but rather about our lack of compassion, and our racism- so going back to why the Nihilism- it's because these characters, as people, not as characters in a movie- where would they go? What would they do? Under the best of circumstances, they're screwed up, badly. The only happiness they can know is to hide. It's therefore not espousing that we all retreat- it's espousing that we treat people as people, not characters, brands, or logos. I bet Naomi Klein didn't like the movie, but I can see how the makers of the movie felt they were being true to her message in "Shock Doctrine". Just like that book, the only real answer is to re-set our world view, not to follow this program or that, and I don't think many people are ready for that. I've got proof that I'm right in my reading of the film, and proof that I'm right that people didn't "get" it. That's a bit besides the point, however, in that I bring up the whole mess because it dovetails with my theme of the moment that rather than trusting reviews or trusting artists, we should trust our own experience of Art. Again, the solution I'm proposing against "mass culture" is individual, idiosyncratic culture. Even if no one else will understand. Re-watching this film reminds me that it can be a political solution, as well....

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