One of the reasons I blog is because, while I shifted Left Right after 9/11, Mr. Bookworm didn’t. He still gets his news only from the old media — the New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR — while I, as you know, continue to read the old, but added a lot of new, all of which caused me to shift my views. The blogging, therefore, is an outlet for an intellectual energy that doesn’t have anywhere to go right now at home.
Mr. Bookworm, however, took two positions this weekend that I found most heartening. First, he watched Syriania, George Clooney’s 2005 movie. I found the first half hour so incomprehensible that I, being a very plot-driven movie watcher, walked out. I gathered that evil oil companies were trying to create or worsen war, but that was only a best guess given the incredible incoherence before me. Mr. Bookworm stuck with the whole movie. When it was over, I asked him how it was. “It was awful,” he said. “It was the most anti-American thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how they could make something like that. It was all about the Chinese being the good guys and coming to the rescue. And it was really stupid. I’m going to do something I’ve never done before on Netflix. I’m giving it one star.” Bravo, Mr. Bookworm, for both recognizing the movie’s central message and for hating it.
Sadly, a significant number of Netflix viewers, if their reviews are anything to go by, think it’s a good movie at a factual level (although most concede that it’s incoherent and, therefore, boring). (I don’t know if you can see those reviews if you don’t have a Netflix account, but they’re here.) I didn’t read all 1,600 reviews, but I did page through several pages of them, and was able to pick up some overriding themes.
One review encouraged watching it because “What it does do, is show us what goes on in the Middle East. Why some things are the way they are. How someone can be your friend today, but b/c of shifts in policy can be your enemy the next day.” Thank goodness we have George Clooney to explain the complexities of Middle Eastern policy: oil men bad, America bad, Chinese good.
Another viewer agreed that it was a splendid, apolitical explication of the troubles in the Middle East:
Robert Baer’s non-fiction book is transposed apolitically, despite all the interviews and the trailer itself. If you are naive enough to think we in the US are safe and warm without the services of the CIA or those hotel room meetings of men in expensive suits… Without them the US would look like Mexico. We should all pray every night that those men keep us rich, fat and happy. ‘Nuff said.
Paging through several screens of reviews, most of which were concerned with whether it was boring or challenging, led me to only two reviewers who found the movie’s politics off-putting. One of them correctly identified the political orientation that drives Clooney’s movie making:
left wing clap trap. george clooney’s personal politics enters into this movie. america’s bad, big oil evil, america evil, big oil bad, etc etc etc. I turned it off when they had the evil CIA blowing up the moderate socialist arab prince who wanted to bring democracy and womens rights to the middle east. (yah right)big oil cooperates with the evil government to murder an innocent man and his family in the name of greed and the evil neo-cons. of course it must be true! more of hollywood’s always portraying anything at all CIA/USA as the bad guys. and in this movie, the young terrorists are protrayed rather simpathetically, after all they are just poor young men being abused by the bad persian gulf states that our government supports just because we want the oil, so of course they have a right to be upset. what a bunch of crap. I admire cloonies attempt to do something beyond the usual junk hollywood puts out, but this is so biased left wing anti-corp anti gov anti big bussiness anti-bush it’s just tooo much.
Another was more pithy, and pretty much reflects Mr. Bookworm’s attitude about the movie:
Excellent movie-making craftsmanship doesn’t redeem the most anti-American movie to come out of Hollywood in living memory. I was appalled to see suicide bombing portrayed as rational and justified, and during the act itself there is heroic plucking of the harp. And the muddled conspiratorial plotting of big business and the CIA is reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s JFK, another well crafted disgrace. This is the very worst of Hollywood.
Mr. Bookworm also surprised me by announcing that, if the election were held today, he’d vote for McCain.