Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Death of a president

Now, I realise that you all won't be able to watch Death of a President in your American movie theaters. Knoxville-based Regal Cinemas, for one, has decided it won't be showing the film in its cinemas.

OK, CE Petro of Thoughts of an Average Woman, decries this move, but says...

While I personally don't go to movie theaters (I can't sit still that long), I will buy the DVD when it comes out. Perhaps Newmarket should seriously consider distributing to Independent cinema's since the big boy (Regal) doesn't want to play.

I say, save your money.

When I first heard about this film I thought it was pretty effin' cheeky to be making a film about assasinating a sitting president and using his real image. You know, I don't like this president, but he is still the president of the US. Killing an elected leader is insulting all of us and robbing us of our democratic rights (even if I think that Republican machine politics already did that, but that's another story).

I wasn't alone in my negative reaction - and I can well imagine how others - such as those who actually like President Bush - may have felt. The British press was like "What's wrong with you Americans? Can't you take a joke. It's just fiction."

Ha. Ha. Ha. No, actually it's not funny, it's not big and it's not clever.

But anyway, the film was much hyped here and was shown on cable television last night. (And frankly, cable tv is exactly where this kind of thing belongs). This was the front cover of the free evening paper I picked up on my way home yesterday:

Personally, I can't imagine why anyone ever thought of showing this in a cinema in the first place.

Yes, the real images of Bush and the images of the actors for the film were seamlessly and effectively intertwined (mostly). But I didn't get the feeling that the writers really understood Bush and what makes him tick as they had his speechwriter and protection officer describing intimate moments with the president. For example his speechwriter said "when he shook your hand you felt you were the only person in the world". I'm sure that shaking hands with the president of the US is a pretty electrifying experience, but I don't think anyone's ever described shaking hands with Bush that way. Clinton, yes. Bush, no.

There was quite a long lead up to the assasination itself, lots of protesting on the streets of Chicago. Lots of heavy-handed foreshadowing which was completely uneccessary - since you knew what was going to happen. Then Bush was shot, died in surgery and the manhunt was on.

The film is meant to be about how killing the president would result in a rush to judgement, in the further trampling of civil liberties and some bad consequences for some completely innocent Muslims and Middle Eastern countries. Well, maybe. And how Dick Cheney uses this incident to further his already-cooking nefarious plan against the Syrians. I have to admit I wouldn't put it past him. But c'mon.

I'd love to tell you how it ended, but I'm afraid I fell asleep just after the "Patriot Act 3" was passed by Congress in an Emergency session. The Vol-in-Law stayed awake, and when I opened my eyes and asked him what happened he just said "Stupid shaggy dog story."

So I don't know who did it, but it wasn't the Syrian guy. The Syrian guy who accidentally and totally innocently ended up in an al Qaeda training camp - which contributed to the jury thinking that he had done it. I'm sure we've all booked into holidays that didn't quite live up to our expectations, but when you sign up to go to a training camp in Afghanistan - and your travel plans include sneaking over the border from Pakistan - you have to think "this isn't going to be some kind of self-esteem and leadership course I'm going on."

Anyway, my verdict has gotta be a big thumbs down - maybe the Vol-in-Law who saw the whole thing will add his opinion.

And here are the opinions of others who've seen it

if all the constantly outraged christian righteous wingnuts totally don’t dig Death of a President, why don’t they make a film about the assassination of Tony Blair? watch it before y’all judge it, assholes. and yes we know — Michael Moore is fat.

-Dateline: Bristol

Event television, that's how they describe stuff like Death of a President. And even if "they" don't in this particular case, I would.
What is key, though, is how scary are the prospects of what would happen in such a situation. The erosion of personal liberties in the post-9/11 world fully informs this film, and it takes but the smallest of leaps in imagination to guess what type of shit would be acceptable after the assassination of a president in the third millennium.

Stirring stuff, this. I give it 68 out of 100.

- A blog about nowt

Last night I joined the millions of other pommies in watching the much hyped Channel 4 documentry entitled “Death of a President“.

I’m not a big fan of Mr. Bush, but I do sympathise with him a bit. There are a lot of people out there that hate his guts and blame him for a lot of things which make this assassination quite foreseeable.

Imagine a documentry made about the, God forbid, assassination of Nelson Mandela. Would that be broadcasted in South Africa? I think not.

-Mark's Digital Farm

And here's the last one, I'll quote - and the one that I'd agree with most

From the start it licks along at a good pace, using cleverly edited archive footage to show the Presidential convoy coming under an abortive attack, then Bush's speech at the Sheraton hotel in Chicago, then his assassination on leaving.

Alas, after the shooting it slowly degenerates into the sort of second-rate American made-for-TV movie you'll find gracing the BBC in the early hours. As wooden talking heads try to sound spontaneous the film becomes bogged down in mealy-mouthed soul-searching dialogue. Prior to that this had been a film you could imagine being made in the aftermath of an assassination. But when was the last time you saw the assassin's lawyer give a lengthy interview to one of these things?

The moment the hand-wringing starts, this production becomes tedious, but that doesn't devalue the thundering opening. After watching this I can see how the President might come to be assassinated, and can picture the events as they might happen. I am entirely unconvinced, however, that - were I an assassin myself - this would be the final piece in the jigsaw for me to now go and bump off the Leader of the Free World.



rimone said...

his speechwriter said "when he shook your hand you felt you were the only person in the world". I'm sure that shaking hands with the president of the US is a pretty electrifying experience, but I don't think anyone's ever described shaking hands with Bush that way. Clinton, yes. Bush, no.

y'know, when i saw that, i thought she was very good, acting just as if she were one of /them/, the real kool-aid drinkers. and i laughed my ass off at her words, of course.

ps, thanks for the link. :-)

* (asterisk) said...

Thanks for the link.

Sure, the movie had its flaws, but overall I'd say I've seen many films this year that were way worse and yet were big Hollywood hits!

Guess that's showbiz, huh?

Vol-in-Law said...

My beloved wife is correct in every way.

Overall I thought it was pretty dull, especially the 2nd half. The CGI was pretty good, but the plot turned out to be pretty implausible. If anything I thought the postulated US reaction was more restrained than what I would expect IRL, given the "Syrian agent trained by al Qaeda" plot I'd definitely expect at least a missile strike on Damascus.

In the movie Cheney *wanted* to attack Syria, but there was No Real Evidence, so naturally they Couldn't Go Forward.

Hmm, how plausible is that?

rimone said...

In the movie Cheney *wanted* to attack Syria, but there was No Real Evidence, so naturally they Couldn't Go Forward.

Hmm, how plausible is that?

lol, you made me rinse my screen w/vodka.

Ollie said...

Many thanks for the link. And not only that, but quoting me! In bold! Bloody hell.

If they'd chopped Death Of A President at the half way mark - about 10 minutes after the shooting - and left it there, as an hour-long documentary, it would have been good.

If they'd ratcheted up the drama after the shooting, rather than that being the cinematic climax, and gone on to show the wider international reaction (celebrations in the Middle East, Tony Blair's reaction maybe, a big What Happened Next of international diplomacy), it would have been good.

As it was they didn't, and it was alright. But I, too, was struggling to hold my attention past the supposedly controversial bit.