Posts Tagged ‘Brad Pitt’

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by David Swanson

The new movie, War Machine, on Netflix starring Brad Pitt begins as a hilarious and satisfying mockery of General Stanley McChrystal, circa 2009, as well as of militarism in general. Hilarious because of the deadpan sincere idiocy. Satisfying at least to those of us who have been screaming “What are you idiots doing?” for the past fifteen-and-a-half years.

Should we be glad that a Hollywood movie can still be made mocking the murderous malevolence of true believers in militarism, or should we be disturbed that theaters won’t show such movies and they have to end up on Netflix? Should we be glad that a war satire set in Afghanistan didn’t have to wait decades for a different war, in the manner of Mash, or should we be disturbed that most viewers will not know a current war is being mocked because they either believe the war on Afghanistan has ended or they simply can’t keep up with the proliferation of wars?

Regardless, I recommend making sure every movie-lover, Brad Pitt fan, young person, and old person watch this movie. Watch a sincere true-believing military commander and his sycophants consciously choose to win an unwinnable war, proposing straight-faced to work on protecting people while not killing them — or killing them less, or something.

The basic truth that people don’t want armed foreigners in their towns and would rather not be bombed is presented here in straightforward dialogue as well as comedic exchange. And Brad Pitt’s character, based on Stanley McChrystal, and on Michael Hastings’ account of McChrystal, is depicted as having turned himself into a human hammer, unable to see any problem as anything other than a nail — his ambition to “win” a war driving his blindness to the absolute unwinnability of foreign occupations or “counter-insurgency” or “counter-terrorism,” also known as terrorism.

The whole thing stops being funny three-quarters of the way into the movie, when the protests of troops that they cannot distinguish civilians from enemies becomes an actual demonstration of that inability. When we get to watch the General in charge articulate all of his usual platitudes and nonsensical pep-rally lies (even if lies to himself, still lies) to a man whose child has just been murdered by U.S. troops, the laughter is gone.

Even when we see a village leader ask the General to “please leave now,” there’s little satisfaction in this plea of the Afghan people for the past decade and a half finally making it into U.S. ears, because we know that the U.S. military will not ever listen.

We also know that this movie constitutes the extent of the punishment that the real Stanley McChrystal will ever receive for his crimes. There will be no trial, no legal judgment.

Speculation as to the cause of death of Michael Hastings continues, but speculation as to whether the individuals crashing the U.S. war machine into Afghanistan year after year have committed murder in a futile and criminal attempt to advance their personal interests should end. There is no doubt that they have done and are doing just that on a massive scale. They are, as this movie points out, and as no U.S. newspaper or television station dares to state, endangering the United States under the banner of slogans claiming they are defending and protecting it.

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Despised by critics, Anne Rice’s tale of vampire mainstreaming has its flaws.  It also works significantly better than its first installment, Interview With the Vampire, where Brad Pitt was horribly miscast.  Even Tom Cruise felt wrong at a gut level, although both of them can act.  It just wasn’t going to work from inception.  The best part of the Interview film was the amazing Kirsten Dunst, who stole the show at 12 years old.

The Rice universe is so un-Hollywood.  It doesn’t jibe with red carpets and hype.  There’s a subtlety and complexity that is on the page, and perhaps film isn’t the right place to try and recreate it.  The two mediums are just so different, and the characters can seem a bit of a letdown when cast with actors.  Much of the magic doesn’t translate at all.  At least in Queen everyone involved looked dead on appropriate.

Queen of the Damned is more of a filmable story than some of her other books.  Tension ramps up toward the end, but there was a cold distancing from the characters that plagued the movie.  Empathy for the characters was in short supply.  None are particularly likable, although Akasha, the Egyptian Queen, is stunning to look at and brought a powerful presence that was unexpected.  She gives the film hope, once awakened, which is actually rather ironic.

I don’t think I’m totally off base seeing Lestat as a harbinger of a new age of nihilism.  Lestat is a product of the imperial age, while Akasha is the ancient absolutist.  But Lestat bridges the ages, uniquely touching the ancient lust for ultimate power, and yet he has adapted to modern mass market consumerism and our sense of individualism.

With society lost in this age of confusion, the death of the old way and struggling to forge a new response to global awareness and raw, arbitrary exercise of power, Lestat becomes a symbol for our time.  He’s a rock star, mass murderer, rabid individualist who would give the finger to the entire vampire race.  He doesn’t care about the consequences.  Suicidal?  Or inspired to progress?  The same questions can be asked of our society.  We’d give the finger to future generations and to the ecosystems of the earth for the glory of our own whimsical chaos.

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The big question in vampire tales is always how they relate to the still living, seeing them as worthless food or retaining human compassion.  Here Lestat is a bit muddled, wishy-washy over the course of the story.  Lestat is disillusioned with vampirism, the old ways, and yet flirts with Godlike power as he has throughout the books.  Here, the point is not so clear, and the story’s ending seems truncated and perhaps a bit unsatisfying.

The critics had a shit tossing fest at the film, but what are the alternatives?  It’s damned hard to make a vampire film that works on every level, which does something new and yet doesn’t go off the rails.  Case in point, Twilight, an abysmal juvenile take on vampires, at least the first film.  I avoided the others.  Even Coppola royally fucked up the granddaddy of them all – Dracula: terrible casting, terrible creative license with the source material, one of the biggest mistakes in all of recorded vampire history.

What Queen of the Damned did was stick to the spirit of the original, the coldness, the animalism, the nihilistic desperation of it all.  This was quite a bit closer to Rice than Interview.  Not a great movie, but definitely better than most vampire films.