Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weally Good

It's strange that a lot of what I expected to happen in W. didn't happen since I know exactly what has happened in the last 8 years. What I mean I expected to see certain events that weren't shown. For instance, did you know that there was a major terrorist attack on September 11, 2001? You wouldn't if your only source of information was this movie. Ok, I'm being too harsh. The events after 9/11 are the movie's focus but the day itself, the most momentous day in Bush's presidency, what he did and how he reacted are not in the film. If I had to guess, I'd say that director Oliver Stone figured he'd already made a movie about 9/11 and thought that any sort of 9/11 recreation would serve as a distraction from the kind of film he was trying to create. He's probably right though I can always call his judgment into question by bringing up Natural Born Killers, a cinematic acid trip he made about 10 years ago that took a perfectly good story by Quentin Tarantino and turned it into a perfectly shitty movie by Oliver Stone. Anyway...

I'm assuming we've all been paying attention and know that W. is the life story of George W. Bush, a man who was lucky enough to hit the genetic lottery and be born into a family of wealth and prominence but unlucky enough to have that same family expect its sons to be extraordinary, not good news for a man of average intelligence and abilities like W. The movie moves back and forth from the period between 2002 and 2004 to Bush's early years. We see him as a drunken party boy at Yale, a school he got into because Dad pulled a few strings, undergoing fraternity hazing and impressing his frat brothers by his ability to remember the name of every member of the fraternity. People skills like that are George W's only real skills and what eventually brought him success in politics. The drunken frat boy grows up to be a drunken executive, a drunken sporting goods salesman and a drunken oil rigger who gets more and more frustrated and angry as he grows older. All this paints a portrait of man suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder who blames others for the fact that he keeps failing at everything he tries to do. The Christian Evangelism he eventually embraces that helps him to quit drinking fits in well with that as they always talk about having a personal relationship with God, the perfect religion for a narcissist.

It's interesting to see the way in which he lost his first bid for Congress. His opponent was a good ol' boy Texan who dressed like a cowboy and talked about Jesus who derided Bush as an elitist Ivy League educated Yankee carpetbagger. Thus begins a morphing of Bush's personality into the faux Man of the People you see today. This leads him to successfully run for Governor of Texas, a race he began partly as revenge against then Governor Ann Richards for the way in which she derided Bush's father at the 1988 Democratic convention. He thought running for governor would please his parents but, again, he disappoints them since they feel his running in Texas would overshadow his older, more promising brother Jeb's bid for the governorship of Florida.

Stone uses all these events as turns in a road that eventually led us to war in Iraq. Bush's inner circle mostly consists of people from his father's administration like Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright). It's amazing how effortlessly they shift their focus after 9/11 from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to Iraq and Saddam. They have different reasons. Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn) thinks establishing a successful democracy in Iraq will create a reverse-domino effect that will also bring down the regimes surrounding Iraq. Dick Cheney sees this as a first step toward American control of Arabian oil and an American Empire all through the Middle East and Asia. Karl Rove (Toby Jones) sees it as a winning issue for Bush and other Republicans. Bush sees this as a way to finally step out of his father's shadow. George W. apparently counseled George H.W. to keep on going into Baghdad and not be satisfied with just driving the Iraqis from Kuwait during the Gulf War. To justify all this, they focus on Saddam's supposed WMDs and create amongst themselves an echo chamber that reinforces their own wishes and desires and shuts out skepticism ultimately expressed by the reasoned advice of Colin Powell who tries to counsel against preemptive war based on such doubtful evidence but ultimately is swept up by the current and sits before the United Nations to present the case for Iraqi WMDs.

We see the rush of jubilation over victory in Iraq as Bush the narcissist comes out and figures this will show everyone who said his presidency wasn't legitimate and questioned his judgment and intelligence. We then get to see his reaction to the confirmation that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs and our justification for war was nonexistent. He furiously demands to know why no one ever told him this. In his mind, none of this is his fault.

You know, as I look back over what's become a long review, I see that I have failed to say whether I liked the movie or not. I did. It's not a great movie but it's definitely worth seeing. I suppose I find the reality more interesting than the fantasy, unlike Bush who, in what I think was a 2004 press conference (recreated in the movie), was asked what mistakes he thought he had made. After a minute or two, he was unable to come up with any. He struggled with that question because he knew he'd look stupid if he couldn't come up with one yet that's what happened and he couldn't see his own mistakes because he's a narcissist bordering on being a psychopath and that's what narcissists bordering on being psychopaths do. It's really as simple as that.

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