April 4, 2007

"The Good Shepherd," now on DVD

It's a surprisingly respectful history of the CIA (or, as the movie points out, only lame-os not in CIA call it "the CIA") directed by Robert De Niro and written by Eric Roth as told via a central character based on James Jesus Angleton (played by Matt Damon).

Now, Angleton, who ran CIA's counter-intelligence operation for many years, was a pretty interesting fellow, half Mexican by descent (his unWASPy middle name is "hay-zoos"). His many enemies within CIA thought he was a paranoid loon. But, in this movie he's the most buttoned-down boring WASP spy imaginable. Damon's CIA man is so superhumanly affect-less that he never even notices that he's married to ... Angelina Jolie, who seems to have no more idea than the audience why she was cast in a role better suited to, say, Chloe Sevigny (who calls herself "another Aryan from Darien.")

The point of "The Good Shepherd" is apparently for a Catholic director and Jewish screenwriter to show that WASPs are boring, which is hardly the most slanderous thing anybody has ever said about WASPs. De Niro brings his old buddy Joe "I Amuse You?" Pesci out of retirement to play a Mafia don hired by Damon to assassinate Castro. Pesci enunciates the ethnic subtext of the movie:

Joseph Palmi: You know, we Italians have our families and the church, the Irish have the homeland, the Jews their tradition ... What do you guys have?

Edward Wilson: We have the United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

If the alternative is rule by the likes of the twitchy maniacs that Joe Pesci normally plays, the movie seems to suggest, being bored by Matt Damon isn't so bad. The problem, though, is that for De Niro and Roth to get their message about WASP tediousness across, they made whole film a little boring.

That said, it's a relatively serious, informative film.

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


Anonymous said...

Down w/Wasp tediousness!
I've had my fill.

Anonymous said...

you pick some boring movies to write about.

i was just thinking the other day how awesome "the thing" was and how much people like it today, versus 1982 when critics hated it.

it scared me for real, and after watching it at my friend's house, i was actually afraid to go outside to my car and drive home in the dark rural outskirts of pittsburgh.

horror is probably the hardest genre to do well. it's HARD to frighten adults. usually you end up either annoying them with cheap jump scares, or making them laugh because they did not buy whatever scary thing you were selling.

john carpenter really put out a lot of great stuff in his prime.

Anonymous said...

argh. need a way to edit!

anyway, here's to hoping tarantino gets something similar out of kurt russell in grindhouse.

Anonymous said...

From Ed Epstein"

"Angleton told me a little about his extraordinary life— the little he wanted me to know. He was born in 1917 in Idaho. During a punitive raid on Mexico the year before, his father, William Angleton, cavalry officer in the Idaho national guard, courted and married his mother, a seventeen year old Mexican beauty. The family then moved to Italy, where his father worked for the National Cash Register Company. Living in a magnificent villa overlooking Rome, he became quickly accustomed to the wines and cuisine of Europe. He attended school at Malvern, an elite public school in England. In 1937, with war tensions building in Europe, he returned to America and enrolled at Yale. While there, he founded and edited "Furioso", a quarterly devoted to original poetry. To write for it, he recruited a number of world renown poets including Ezra Pound, Archibald MacLeish, and e.e cummings."

Anonymous said...

Chloe Sevigny is better looking and in my opinion, a better actress than Jolie. But I don't think she is quite Aryan-more Nordic, with some Western Slav thrown in.

But I think her career has been harmed to some extent by her, well, what other way can we say it-going down on Vincent Gallo in "The Brown Bunny". In the minds of casting people, she's been tainted, I think. I don't think it will kill her career, but it will have a negative effect for a long time.

Garland said...

One thing in defense of the Jolie casting, everyone’s favorite problem with this pretty strong film: she had to be super-seductive in the early scene, capable of Seducing this boy scout quickly and sort of being a glamorous personification of this elite world he was at that point still on the edge of. Jolie did her job well.

Garland said...

Sevigny is a genius at making good with thankless wife roles; see Zodiac and..um…I’m sure there was something else that prompted me to say this.

Anonymous said...

I previously commented on Good Shepherd and am still baffled that it escaped a best picture nomination.

I recently saw Namesake, which appears to be an ethnic identity movie for Indians but actually is a well executed memoir with the modest ambition and aspect of an 80s/90s foreign art film (it may actually be American, I'm not sure). One thing I liked about Namesake was that many of its touching moments seemed to have been drawn from the actual history/legend of (the screenplay writer's?) family. Its messages stay with you and acting by the father character is very fine. A little long, but with reason. If you made it through Good Shepherd twice, you're prepared.

Anonymous said...

I’m sure there was something else that prompted me to say this.

Christian Bale's secretary in American Psycho, a thankless role in a pretty lousy movie, but she made it real.

Anonymous said...

some typical mexican invader with no license killed bob clark and his son yesterday. clark directed "a christmas story" and "porky's".


"You'll shoot your eye out kid."

yeah, unless some mexican who shouldn't even be here kills you first.

Anonymous said...

I guess 'boring' means we're not corrupt, violent, irrational and dishonest like, well, others....and that we have created the countries that have the most stability and liberty....then i guess we're 'boring'...but I can't think of a jewish artist who has yet to surpass - or even coming close to- 'boring' WASPs like Sargent, Homer, and Frederick Church.

regarding the Namesake- the actress who played the mother was beautiful..and it did a good job of depicting and 'empty' shallow upper class new york family (the white girlfriend)

Anonymous said...

Keeping in mind that it appeared to be drawn from the actual lives of an indian family, it is worth noting that, compared to the son and daughter characters, the father and mother characters in Namesake seemed more interesting, their story more immediate, more real. And this kind of goes to the theme of The Life Aquatic and a general sense, widely held I think and burbling somewhere just below the conscious level, that prior to about 1980 life was somehow more real and more satisfying than life in the decades since, for some murky, unclear reasons. I have a theory here which is that some combination of increased IQ and media interconnectedness gave rise to an unprecedented level of self-consciousness and that more than anything, this contributed to the reduction in the rich/real sense of life. The son and his indian girlfriend both reflect identity oriented self consciousness (in their different ways) as they come of age in the 80s and 90s. The mother and father, who get married around 1970, both seem to behave in a more natural and unaffected way. This isn't at all a theme in Namesake; however, if the movie is a true chronical to some degree of the screenplay writer's family, it makes an interesting document of the change in the real/rich quotient. For sure, some of the roots of the change predated 1980 (I mean, 50s intellectualism, for starters). However, the seeds really sprouted around this time and the age of fitting things, selves, artists, etc. to preconceived molds began. The rest is history.

Anonymous said...

We have the United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

WASPs did have the US, but in 1965 they very generously allowed their traditional friends in the Jewish and Irish communities (Ted K et al) to start giving it away on their behalf.

Anonymous said...

James Jesus Angleton didn't look anything like Matt Damon. Angleton was tall, dark, lanky, and only half Caucasian. He would have been better played by an emaciated Benicio Del Toro.

Glaivester said...

I want to see the scene where his ghost starts talking to Michael Ledeen at his ouija board.