January 21, 2009

"W."

Here's by review from The American Conservative of Oliver Stone's movie about the ex-President:

Given the limitations of Oliver Stone’s biopic about George W. Bush (modest budget, rushed production, lack of memoirs by the officials who started the Iraq War, and Stone’s own fading powers), “W.” turns out better than expected. Anchored by another charismatic performance by Josh Brolin (the hunter turned hunted protagonist of “No Country for Old Men”), this tragicomedy of regression to the mean offers a plausible depiction of the President’s resentful yet admiring relationship with his imposing father, and the complicated ways that set the stage for the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Brolin has emerged recently as such an enjoyable leading man to watch that he makes spending 129 minutes with George W. Bush fun.

The historical accuracy of Stone’s films has been improving since their nadir with the infuriating but stylistically dazzling “JFK” in 1991. Unfortunately, as the older, wiser Stone has gotten more honest, his aesthetic bravura has dwindled. I only noticed two scenes that seemed distinctly dubious: Dick Cheney ranting about America acquiring a global empire of oil, and a 1988 passage in which Dubya talks his dad into running the Willie Horton ad. (The undying omnipresence of favorite liberal talking points like Willie Horton in our cultural memory points out that history isn’t actually written by the victors, it’s written by the writers of history.) The great majority of the screenplay, though, strikes me as on solid ground, historically and psychologically.

Visually, Stone seems to be trying to make “W.” look even more like a made-for-TV movie (maybe one of those Dallas reunion specials) than the limited budget mandated. The score is weak. Other than a creepy-acting Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, the supporting actors don’t look like much like their real-life counterparts (Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney?), but turn in competent performances.

And don’t expect a complete portrait of the origin of the War—there’s barely any mention of the neocons or of Bush’s unquestioning political correctness that made him assume Iraqis (!) were ready for democracy.

Still, “W.” is entertaining, informative, and likable. It has not been a success with the critics, who are annoyed that it doesn’t condemn conservatism as inherently evil. Indeed, Stone’s depiction of George H.W. Bush as an old-fashion prudent conservative is downright hagiographic. The 6’-7” James Cromwell, best known as the farmer in the talking pig classic “Babe,” brings more gravitas to the role of the 41st President than did the boyishly goofy elder Bush himself.

Stone was the natural choice to film the empathetic screenplay by Stanley Weisberg (who cowrote “Wall Street” with him two decades ago) because he has much in common with the President, such as substance abuse problems, a religious conversion, and declining popularity. The son of a Wall Street tycoon, Stone entered Yale the same year as Bush. Stone’s rebellion played out more flagrantly. While Bush followed his father’s path (Skull and Bones, military aviation, oil, and politics), just more drunkenly, Stone volunteered for combat duty in Vietnam (as shown in his “Platoon.”)

It’s unfortunate that Freud’s silly theories have discredited all psychological analyses based on nuclear family dynamics, because they can sometimes explain much about politicians. The ambitions of both Winston Churchill and Barack Obama, for example, were fired by political fathers who ignored their sons on the way up, before failing ignominiously.

George W. Bush’s Poppy Problem was the opposite of Obama’s: his father was an all around pretty good guy. As Stone commented, “Forty years is a long time to wait when your father is better at sports, politics, oil, money, diplomacy, and even academics than you are.” Nor did it help that his dad saw W.’s younger brother Jeb as his natural successor in the White House.

The relationship between father and son also had its good side. The father kept giving the prodigal son second chances, and W. finally repaid him, quitting drinking the day after his boozy 40th birthday party in 1986, in part to keep his behavior from distracting from his father’s White House run. He went on to be a surprisingly decent governor of Texas by concentrating on just four reforms. Then, the Peter Principle promoted him to his “level of incompetence,” the Presidency.

While the father was known as the In-Box President, the younger Bush wanted to be the opposite, the Pushbutton President, the decider who makes a few big, tough choices based on gut instinct, then lets the Pentagon sweep up without bothering him with tiresome details.

Rated PG-13.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

So what he doesn't get from from his dad he gets from his mom? I never really much bought into the media idolizing of Bar (they idolized her because she was reputedly more liberal than her hubby). The character of her son suggests to me that I was right.

Black Sea said...

" . . this tragicomedy of regression to the mean . . ."

You've summed up it up in a phrase. Well done.

John Craig said...

"Other than a creepy-acting Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice, the supporting actors don't look much like their real life counterparts"

Steve, if we ever go on a double date with those two, since you can't tell the difference, you can take Condi and I'll take Thandie. Newton looks like Rice about as much as Charlize Theron looks like Hillary Clinton.

(And yes, I know Rice is gay.)

Otherwise, a great review.

Anonymous said...

I'll skip this one. The real 8 year drama was horrific enough for me.

headache said...

Steve,
OT, but your book is getting traction. In South Africa the conservative academic/Afrikaner activist Dan Roodt just published an article on his web referencing your book:

http://praag.co.za/content/view/4058/402/

Unfortunately for you it's in Afrikaans, but since the US is going multicult maybe this is your chance to learn a (decent) foreign language.


Here's an excerpt in case you already learnt that language:

"Die Amerikaanse internetskrywer Steve Sailer het intussen 'n boek oor Barack Obama gepubliseer onder die Harry Potter-agtige titel, America's half-blood prince, waarin hy Obama se eie standpunt oor "ras en erfenis" ontleed. Sailer kom tot die gevolgtrekking dat die Amerikaanse elites hul greep op die werklikheid verloor het deur te dink dat Obama die land se rasseprobleme gaan wegtower."

Mr. Anon said...

Liberals like to dust off an old Republican now and again and rehabilitate him so as to prove how broad-minded they are. Vilify them in life, and then, when their time is passed and they are safely retired, say a couple of nice things about them.

I would admire a politician who treated liberal journalists (which is to say, virtually all journalists) the way they deserved to be treated - with implaccable hostility......always.

albertosaurus said...

I have trouble with Josh Brolin because I have trouble with No Country for Old Men.

Brolin's character is out hunting with a rifle and a backpack when he finds the dead drug courier with a salesman's display case full of cash. As I watched this scene I expected him to put the money in his pack. Otherwise his hands would be full as he scrambled across the open country and up and down the hills. Otherwise too he would appear to any observer as a very strange sort of hunter who lugs around awkward luggage.

The transfer of the money at the site of the dead courier seemed so obvious to me thay as I watched I was startled when he didn't do it.

The reason of course was that had he done the normal thing at that point he would have found the tracking device and there would have been no movie. He and his wife would have lived happily ever after, moving to Las Vegas perhaps a month later. The bad guys would have had no clue to follow. No movie.

When I see Josh Brolin now I associate him with idiocy. Maybe that's another reason he was cast as W.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Mr. Anon, the liberals even had a few good things to say about Reagan, once he was safely dead. Just watch - in a few years, when we get a realist conservative president, the media will be serving up gooey stories about GWB and his "idealism" and "compassion for undocumented workers". Hard to believe, after the Eight Years Hate, but it'll happen...

testing99 said...

Steve, your dislike for Bush colors your thinking.

First, Iraq was something DEMS wanted done, as well Reps. Clinton had to bomb the heck out Saddam to get him to comply THAT MOMENT with any agreement, that was not a long-term solution and no deal with Saddam would stick.

The status-quo was tolerable during good times and no threats, but after 9/11 exposed that as a fantasy, and the lack of fear of the US response, someone had to be made and example of and Saddam picked a fight with the US. It's why Clinton (Bubba and Hillary) supported getting rid of Saddam, along with most Dems.

As far as Iraq was concerned, getting rid of Saddam was easy (it took 4 weeks, with minimal casualties below 200). It was getting a friendly state in his place that was tough, but 9/11 required doing it and agreement by both Dems and Reps. Until predictably things got bad and AQ dealt itself in, and ramped up the killing.

Bottom line: nuke proliferation and non-state proxies make the US terribly vulnerable to attack. Our aircraft carriers and nukes mean nothing, because Islamists don't believe we will do anything serious (and cited Mogadishu and Saddam's survival as the weakness).

The end of the Cold War meant MORE conflict and threats not less, with lots of failed/weak peoples and states with nukes, no real central government and lots of factions. With nukes able to kill NYC when they want. With no real perception of US responses that would frighten faction leaders.

Bush to his credit understood that, though he was wrong on Shamnesty, Open Borders, Islam is a Religion of Peace(tm), and made no effort to fight or defend himself politically. He was also a Liberal, which is why Liberals hate him so much.

Stone is not a rebel -- he's a conformist. A REAL rebel would be a Republican in Hollywood, who backed strong military action to deter non-State enemies with access to nukes, and recognized the polygamy drove the attacks on targets of weakness and opportunity. That it's always about them, never about us.

Stone holds to Liberal orthodoxy that has been in place for more than 40 years.

Anonymous said...

I may have said this before, but I agree with Steve that the casting of Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney was questionable. Is there really such a dearth of balding heavyset white guys in America that only Dreyfuss could be found?

-Vanilla Thunder

Anonymous said...

testing99. Bush's misleading information about Iraq's WMD program led us into a costly, pointless war that did nothing to help the US.

If and when we run into a real WMD situation nobody's going to believe the US government with it's history of prevarication.

Bush's Daddy issues will cost us for a long time to come. Don't be naive.

Mr. Anon said...

"testing99 said...

Steve, your dislike for Bush colors your thinking."

Whereas with you testing99, nothing colors your thinking, ever, especially facts or new information.

"Clinton had to bomb the heck out Saddam to get him to comply THAT MOMENT with any agreement, that was not a long-term solution and no deal with Saddam would stick."

Complete nonsense. Clinton lobbed bombs at Iraq as needed in order to deflect attention from him and his sexual escapades (sometimes referred to as "The Johnson Administration").

"It's why Clinton (Bubba and Hillary) supported getting rid of Saddam, along with most Dems."

More nonsense. Hillary Clinton supported getting rid of Saddam because she was petrified of not seeming hawkish enough. Do you mean to say you believe that what the Clintons support is a good guide to sound policy?

Anonymous said...

First, Iraq was something DEMS wanted done, as well Reps. Clinton had to bomb the heck out Saddam to get him to comply THAT MOMENT with any agreement, that was not a long-term solution and no deal with Saddam would stick.

It's just incredible the way you people can castigate ruthlessly any hint of prejudice and simultaneously and demonize at will. Personally, I think it's Israel with whom no deal can be made to stick.

I say reduce the military, close the borders, expel the invaders, get rid of "unsinkable aircraft carriers" (they may not sink, they sure can sink you). Reckon that might work?

headache said...

t99,
I thought you'd get to those nukes. And the polygamy thing. Anyway you have a point that Dems wanted Iraq too. I suspect Barry's nay on Iraq was purely opportunistic. He knew the Dem support FOR the war was sufficient, so he could afford to position himself for the eventual future public dismay once the going got tough. In that sense he is both opportunistic and irresponsible.

I'm back and forth about Iraq. It’s clear that the US has double standards about which dictator's to remove and which to leave. Otherwise they would have to be busy 24/7 in most of Africa, considering the rate at which dictators breed there.

The MSM decided Iraq was a mess. That's why the average sub-intelligence editor can write without flinching about the "Iraq quagmire". But compared to Vietnam Iraq is not a mess. I think Bush's big mistake, which cost him a lot of conservative support for the war, was shamnesty, pandering to minorities/Dems, and the housing loan debacle. This angered a lot of conservatives who then turned against the Iraq war as their only outlet, since opposing monitories is considered racism and carries huge personal penalties. The MSM played this out and Barry cashed in on it.

On the other hand the Iraq war was not a necessary war, i.e. after the success in Afghanistan the US had restored its deterrence, as the Israelis like to call it, and could have gone home. In that sense it was a waste of time, money and lives. And a huge distraction from the more crucial issues at home.