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Posts tagged “film as theatre

Random Thoughts: Charlie Wilson’s War


Adapting the late award-winning CBS producer George Crile’s book, Aaron Sorkin wrote Charlie Wilson’s War and probably had a play in mind, since most of the scenes consist of place, characters and their lines electrically ricochet. There’s little visual manipulation or tricks from director Mike Nichols. He’s the best director for these kind of ‘play’ movies, winning for Tony’s and all. We’ll jump to a scene where our hero, Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and American spy Gust Avrikotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman) pay a visit to Zvi, an Israeli arms dealer.

ph. Universal

Zvi: Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t recognize our right to exist, we just got done fighting a war against Egypt, and everyone who has ever tried to kill me or my family has been trained in Saudi Arabia!
Gust: That’s not true, Zvi. Some of them were trained by us.

A few minutes later, Charlie reveals a pending coke charge against him, And Zvi replies with ‘I love you Charlie, but you are a grown man who still hasn’t learned to look both ways before crossing the facking street!’

In many scenes of the movie, Hanks plays the straight guy and takes the back seat for Hoffman and Julia Roberts’ Joanne Herring. It’s wonderful to see Hanks as a part of an all-cast ensemble, but then again, when Julia Roberts is in the room, everyone else is a bag lady.

Speaking of her, Julia Roberts is both overrated and underrated. She dominated the box office in the 90’s yet people wanted to throw something at her when she won an Oscar against Ellen Burstyn. Charlie Wilson’s War is her second movie with Mike Nichols, the first being a happy woman with a dubious past. She’s also a mainstay in Steven Soderbergh’s movies as well as two early movies by disgraced director Joel Schumacher. Her hook up with directors isn’t as edgy as if she worked with Michael Haneke or Lars von Trier, but Nichols and Soderbergh give her great work she deserves.

Charlie Wilson’s War is a satire of Washignton’s lack of foresight, the Orwellian ‘Eurasia and Eastasia’ insanity that America has adopted, like a superpower that by its own fault has enemies and war zones change by the decade. One can see US imperialism, as shown in the film, as a parasite doing its mission in one country and leaving it devastated after the mission is accomplished.

But it’s not just the Americans who are at fault here. A young Afghan tells Charlie, ‘Don’t send us rice and bandages. Give us guns.’

It’s still fun and witty, Although a movie can never be perfect if it could be summarized in its last ten minutes.

Charlie Wilson’s War is gonna be on AMC again tonight and tomorrow afternoon. It’s a good laugh, or six.


Feminism and Autumn Sonata


ph. Criterion

If it was only as instinctual as Helene, a disabled young woman, calling out for her mother, Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman). But Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata is about Helene’s sister Eva (Liv Ullmann), who sees an opportunity in seeing Charlotte again and she has a lot to say. What drives Bergman’s characters are emotion and memory, and therefore the possible social and political ideologies behind them get more ambiguous.

In a scene where Eva takes Charlotte to her room, we find out that she is and can be beautiful, sorrowful, vain, demanding, impatient and cruel, and she is all those things throughout the film. Eva, however, takes on her mother’s attributes in parts of the film, especially when she feels in control of the situation.

What makes the film just as ambiguous, then is how similar they are despite their different appearances and chosen paths.

I wanted to discuss its political interpretation because of a certain shocker spoiler. We can’t fully talk about artistic intentions here, but when a movie, a script or a book brings up a learned woman’s stance supporting abortion, she ends up looking like a babbling shrew. I suppose my discomfort comes from the later texts that had a less complex interpretation of the issue. In this movie, its hard to map out what it means for Eva to rid of a child under Charlotte’s orders, that Charlotte’s taking away Eva’s right to become a mother, that it is never explicitly said whether Charlotte is pro-choice, when the operation is allegedly forced, or if the child is presumable conceived out-of-wedlock.

By the end of the film, Eva’s husband seems to have questioned his unadulterated worship towards her. Watching and listening in the hall whether Eva is alone or with Charlotte, he’s the stand-in for the movie’s audience. We’re asking questions too, which is another thing I love about this movie.