Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Oliver Stone, known for directing some of the most accurate and diligently researched historical/political films of the last twenty years, returns again to the subject of American political figures with his "bio-pic" of George W. Bush, W.. Wait...what'd he say?
Shouldn't that have read, "Oliver Stone, known for directing inaccurate and personally biased historical/political films..."? No, my friends, it shouldn't. I said it right the first time. For a long time Cheeseburger & Fries have individually derived much insight from such Stone flicks as JFK and Nixon.
There's really no such thing as a perspective of agreeing or disagreeing with JFK's point of view; almost every line of dialogue, every character touches upon something specific, and specifically documented, from years of conspiracy research. Name another historical film that's as steadfast in having its roots in actuality (even if the actuality is based on theory). I can't.
The exaggerated figure of the tragic Nixon in Stone's film version is an exaggeration of an exaggeration. Like some cartoon character come to life, the actual Nixon is as distorted and expressionistic as Stone's vision. The film to me has always played poetically, dramatically accurate. Anthony Hopkins may not look like Nixon, but rather than do a bad impression (as was a criticism against him), he seems to invoke Nixon. Besides, didn't the real Nixon always seem like he was doing a bad impression of himself? And so very much of the dialogue of Nixon is based on transcriptions of actual conversations and speeches, I've always discerned that Nixon hits the mark; in fact, it even inspires a bit of sympathy for Nixon in me.
I'm not saying that these aformentioned movies are non-fiction, exactly. More that Stone's movies come closer to the idea of Truman Capote's conception of the "non-fiction novel."
And with that., we have W.. What surprises me most is that the movie isn't really all that controversial. And we're talking about a movie that's documenting the life of a President before he's out of office. At this particular point in human history, even the most average of average citizens tends to disapprove of the Bush administration. Like Nixon, so much of the conversations and speeches are based on a literal transcription of what was said, that the invented aspects, under Stone's direction, play poetically/dramatically accurate.
What Stone presents is George W. Bush as a son who could never quite win the approval of his father, or seem to be able to live up the legacy of his family. He deals with this by adopting a rich kid fake Texan cowboy persona, drinking and fucking up and being a likable pal to his other privileged cronies. When he finally turns towards the family business of politics, he ultimately discovers he's a natural (moreso than his father). With the help of, as the W. character calls him, "genius boy," Karl Rove, he develops, after years of failure, an approach to politics that's more about winning than substance, and that's American politics in is most pure form. And he can finally stuff it in his father's face.
The tragedy here, interestingly enough, is a tragedy that Bush is unable to even perceive. That arrogant idea of being a winner at all costs, whether it corresponds to the facts to the real world or not, does not translate into waging wars. The kinks of history, placing Bush and his administration in the White House during 9/11, allows them to do just this, waging wars more on the idea of being a winner, more than the country collectively as a winner, but one's own self, of self-indulgence and self-gratification, in the guise of Bush and his cronies.
Well, it lasted for a while. Unprecedented power, unprecedented approval from a population, a good amount of which were blinded by fear and uncertainty. But all good rackets come to an end. What's adept of Oliver Stone is that he's carved the epitaph for this particular racket/administration, before its even actually gone.