Friday, January 18, 2008

Veggie crunch

Time flies! I just realized I have a backlog of posts that I started but neglected to publish. The OCD has lessened a bit in the last few months, but the "need" to finish something on a list (for instance, draft posts!) is still ingrained. Whether genetically or otherwise is up for debate.

The post-New Year's veg-out, which seems like yesterday, included going to see Charlie Wilson's War with The Scot. I am normally not a fan of either Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, but both were bearable in this movie. And Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it, and he's brilliant as always.

I liked the film. I didn't love it. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay, so of course the dialogue was good. It was also refreshing to see a movie about an area of American foreign policy that normally doesn't see the light of day... well, anywhere. Hanks plays the title Texan, Congressman Charlie Wilson, who almost single-handedly got Congress to fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

On the one hand, it's a movie about budget appropriation meetings! That rocked my world. Who doesn't love a good subcommittee backroom politicking? I guess the reason I merely approve of the movie and don't fawn over it is because the whole time, I kept thinking ahead to the Afghan civil war and then the rise of the Taliban, to say nothing of future American involvement in the area. There's no hint of it in the movie, but then maybe there doesn't need to be. Still, the absence made me uneasy.

Ultimately, though, the movie's audience is watching it with Iraq in its mind, not Afghanistan. There's a scene towards the end of the movie, after the Soviets pull out of Afghanistan, where Hanks/Wilson tries to secure funding for rebuilding schools, and gets laughed out of the committee room. (What's one of the three hot-button election issues? When do we pull out? What resources are needed?) Even the obligatory text before the credits, which goes up at the end of every film "based on a true story," was a Charlie Wilson quote about changing the world but messing up the end game. No follow-up on how, exactly. Nothing specific about Afghanistan. The audience is left with a story that is, sadly, eerily similar to one they see on the news every day.

I do recommend seeing it...

Then, in '06 the Thanksgiving post-turkey veg-out included a viewing of Shanghai Knights, which the friend I watched it with pointed out was suspiciously similar to The Great Mouse Detective. Yes, it's been in my Netflix queue ever since then, and I just recently moved it to the top. I thought I'd never seen it, but I must have, because I had this weird feeling of deja vu while viewing it --and not just because Shanghai Knights ripped off of it (the storylines really are very, very similar). I think I must have watched it years and years and years ago.

It's a decent children's cartoon, though, and the animal characters are all drawn in that old Disney animated tradition. The plot is, familiarly, one that tries to parallel a well-known book in an attempt to get kids to read it. Like Wishbone. Although the credits had a bit that said "Based on the stories of," so I guess there's a mouse detective story out there. Anyways, an evil rat wants to take over the Empire by sabotaging the Queen's jubilee, and the Holmes-esque mouse genius and his bumbling but loveable doctor sidekick have to stop it all. (It even has a scene where Ratigan and Basil fall to their "deaths," à la Moriarty and Holmes in The Final Problem.) The cartoon also does that overdone but somehow still cute thing where the animal world parallels the human world, so the mice in the story have their own queen who lives in the mouse hole at Buckingham Palace.

I'd forgotten that animated films are so short. They seemed so long when I watched them as a kid!

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