Saturday, October 25, 2008


I saw Oliver Stone's W. the other night. I don't have a whole lot to say about it--it's actually a pretty straightforward movie--but I do have a few thoughts. First, I thought the worst parts of the movie were when Stone and the screenwriter, Stanley Weiser, attempted to hit the cliches--"axis of evil," "shock and awe," the pretzel choking incident, etc. It just seemed like they were trying too hard.

In general, I thought the movie was most successful when Stone and Weiser got more creative and went beyond the bare story. The secrecy of the Bush administration means that it's in the final third that the movie gets really good, as Stone and Weiser find themselves forced to speculate on what might have gone on in some of those meetings. But once Stone and Weiser start getting creative, they don't stop; thus, the final third also includes a clip from a fake news show called Spinball, featuring an Ann-Coulter-lookalike, and a dream sequence with Dubya and his daddy.

Speaking of Bush, Sr., I should add that James Cromwell's performance is quite compelling. He often carries the movie. The scenes with him and Josh Brolin are fascinating.

Before I saw the movie, I suggested to a friend that David Cross should have been cast as Ari Fleischer. I didn't yet know that Rob Corddry was playing the role. It's the same effect, but he's underused anyway.

I stayed to see the ending credits, as I always do, and was pleasantly surprised to hear Bob Dylan's "With God on Our Side" used as backing music. It was interesting, though, that almost all the verses dealing with previous wars were edited out of the song. It didn't seem to be a timing issue; the song ended long before the credits did. Maybe the filmmakers didn't want the movie to end with such a strong pacifist message (though they did let Dylan's last lines stand: "If God's on our side / He'll stop the next war"). Or maybe they thought it would lessen the impact of this particular movie if they allowed Dylan's lyrics to stay, reminding us that other leaders have made questionable political decisions regarding war and peace. Either way (and it's probably a combination of these two anyway), it seemed like a bad move.