Thursday, January 10, 2008

(Covert) War Is Hell (-arious)

Last week I saw 'Charlie Wilson's War' in Arizona, with my entire family, and we all greatly enjoyed the film. This true story is the concise, witty tale of how a partyboy congressman and some unlikely allies worked behind the scenes to fund the Afghan resistance that eventually defeated the Soviets and helped precipitate the USSR's collapse.

Behold, the 5 Parameters of Criticism:

1. Four Words That Encapsule: Libertine Organizes Soviet Debacle

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
Drunk, randy Texan
fights good fight behind the scenes;
Lenin’s heirs humbled.

3. Oblique Comment(s): Tom Hanks shines playing a ‘decent guy gone to seed,’ echoing the mischief and charm of his earliest work, ‘Bachelor Party’ and especially ‘Volunteers.’ Since most of the public knows Hanks only in hero persona, this will feel like ‘casting against type.’ Julia Roberts is satirically wicked as a Christian crusader whose fervor to save Afghanistan from Godless Communists is only matched by her quick wit and libido. At left, the real-life protagonists and their actor counterparts...

4. Insight: In ‘Charlie Wilson,’ veteran director Mike Nichols serves that most elusive of soufflés: an irreverant comedy about a dead-serious topic that is both mirthful and thought-provoking. How does Nichols pull this off in 87 minutes? First, the characters take things seriously, but their behavior, heterodox style, and reactions to each other are very amusing. Second, much humor – and sadness – comes from our hindsight. We now know that Afghan freedom fighters we trained and funded morphed into Taliban and Al Qaeda operators, partly due to our lack of follow-up and vision. (My own 14-year old nephew was heretofore unaware that the US once funded both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein – I wonder what percentage of our population is aware of this) We meet a ‘friend’, the Pakistani dictator who overthrew and hung Benazir Bhutto’s father. We also grin when Wilson finds out he’s being investigated by some obscure New York prosecutor nobody’s heard of – Rudy Giuliani.

5. Link: Metacritic review compendium. It only got a 69 average of 39 major critics - that's the equivalent of a 'B' or 'B-'.... Of course, that's an average - the NYT praised it with a 90, while the LA Times panned it with a 40. I'd rate it about 75...

And here’s a film clip/trailer:

Cartoon du Jour:

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