Friday, October 17, 2008

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It's Here! It's Finally Here!

It happened. After about nine months or so of anticipation, worry, second thoughts -- it's here. Oliver Stone's W. has arrived at the cinema.

And what a movie it is. Much like Nixon, it confuses the word "fair-minded" with "crying, pitiable protagonist." But fuck me, Nixon was great. And I have to say, I loved W. Not the same way I love the Nicolas Cage version of The Wicker Man, either. This is love Speed Racer style.

Yeah, the first quarter is a little shaky. Like Nixon. The cutting back-and-forth chronologically does not always work. But once Laura (a perfect Elizabeth Banks) steps into the ring, the movie finally finds its footing runs with it. We get a fascinating study of a cool guy who was put in a position he was not ready for. And it works. It's just absolutely incredible the way Oliver Stone and Stanley Weiser have crafted this thing. For a story told too soon, it feels just right.

Josh Brolin is incredible. He does Bush just enough to avoid caricature, or a mere imitation. He gives us a Man, not a Character. We want to shoot the shit with him. We sympathize with his daddy issues. We like the guy, we care about him. Yet at the same time, we shake our heads at his arrogance, his ignorance, his -- dare I say it? -- stupidity. It's pretty powerful, I must say.

Okay, so maybe it was fair-minded. But if so, only to the few. Brolin's Bush is awesome, Banks' Laura is sweet, James Cromwell's Poppy is well-defined (if not always engagingly portrayed), Ellen Burstyn's Barbara is lovable (for me, at least), and Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell is, well, the tits -- the only voice of reason, the sole soul. The rest of the gang -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove -- are either hand-wringing Bond villains or just plain "out-of-touch with reality." In these respective roles, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, and Toby Jones are, respectively, kick-ass, decent, and thumbs-up.

I'll tell you who isn't, though: Thandie Newton. Why does she get cast in movies? Why do people want to throw praise and awards on her? There must be something about her on-set manner that fools directors into thinking she's giving good performances. Her hammy Condi Rice impression is barely worthy of a MadTV sketch, much less a political drama. Sure, it's satire, and there are a few winks thrown here and there, but holy shit, did no one think to reign her in? Does Thandie Newton have a wrangler? Were Tracie Thoms, Anika Noni Rose, Sophie Okonedo, even Halle Berry -- were they all too busy? Good God, Stone, don't give me a great movie then force me to watch Miss Community Theatre almost single-handedly disembowel all the quality in the room.

Whew. Anyway. Newton notwithstanding, W. is great. Weiser's screenplay is spot-on, Stone's direction is superb, the score is beautiful, the actors fantastic. It's not for everyone. Mom, Grandparents, some aunts and uncles, and at least one of my sisters would not like it. Even some democrats I know probably wouldn't like it. For me, this is one of the best movies of the year. ***3/4

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