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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

You know I go to a lot of movies. A lot. This past year I racked up more than 250 total, so I have spent a lot of hours in the dark, and one thing I have learned in all that time is that I go there to escape reality, not relive it. The world in general sucks big time and I don’t want to hear about Iran or Iraq anymore. I’ve had so much of George W. that the mere mention of his name gives me the Hershey™ Squirts, and I tremble at the idea of listening to election coverage for another eleven months before we finally get to the part where the media then spends four or five more months rehashing the triumphs and failures of each party while degrading the losers until there is nothing left of the candidates’ dignity or the reporters’ (not that the reporters involved have much to lose in the first place, do they Mr. Rather?).

I also prefer my movies to the constant drivel of reality tv. Do I need to see one more person swallow a cockroach to win $50,000? Or one more morbidly obese chubbette cry while a Marine drill sergeant screams at them to do another push-up on their way to a more slender body? It makes me want to reach for a bag of Twizzlers™ and go sit in a closet and wait for the next millennium in the hope that our species will either die off completely or evolve into something better. There’s got to be something out there in the universe finer than where we are headed now, Our next generation of girls is comprised of a world full of Britney wannabes, Lohan worshippers, and Spears’ sisters idolizers. The boys are no better. They bow down to the false gods of rap and think Da Brat, DMX, Mos Def, and Ginuwine are role models. The longer the rap sheet, the more street cred the dude has got in our young men’s eyes. Me? I’m still not back to trusting Martha Stewart around my silverware, and I don’t think I ever will.

My point, and I do have one, is that I go to the movies to find entertainment that will take me out of the day-to-day dramas of reality, and when a movie like
Charlie Wilson’s War comes along I find myself immediately asking myself ~ Why? My perfect husband, who loved the movie by the way, says that it is because stories like these need to come out so the public can know how one man can change the course of an entire country and our own Congress. Yes, I suppose that is true, but didn’t Mr. Smith Goes to Washington do that well enough back in 1939? I know nobody today would watch it because it is in black and white and stars a bunch of dead people anyone under 40 has forgotten ever existed, but this Charlie Wilson’s War bugged me because it has to do with Afghanistan in the 1970s, and, frankly, I’ve heard enough about Afghanistan in the 2000s to last me a lifetime.

Charlie’s story does have its moments though, I’ll have to admit. Charlie (Tom Hanks; The DaVinci Code) is basically a do-nothing Congressman from East Texas who has been re-elected five times for no apparent reason. He is a womanizing, hard drinking, party animal, and hardly the type to get involved with real political issues. That’s before he ends up in bed with the luscious and very rich socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts; Charlotte’s Web), who backs the Afghani cause in their war against the Soviets. Quicker than you can say… well, I’m not going to say it, but you can imagine what it might be (and I’m sure Charlie got a great one from Joanne), Charlie is on a goodwill mission to meet Afghanistan’s neighboring Pakistani President (Om Puri; Fool N Final), who insists that Charlie visit the Afghan refugee camps on the border of his country and see for himself the devastation inflicted by the Soviets on the Afghani people.


No human being with a beating heart could resist feeling enormous compassion for what Charlie finds. Well okay, Cheney and Bush could, but they weren’t in power back then, so let’s not go there. After seeing literally thousands of maimed, homeless, and dead Afghanis, Charlie returns to the US a changed man. For once in his life he is going to do something in Congress, and that is where the story turns into “The Little Engine That Could.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Charlie is going to succeed in getting what he wants because there wouldn’t be much reason to make a movie about him otherwise unless he went meshuga and shot up Congress with an AK-47, but I think we’d all remember if that happened, even 30 years later. No, the movie becomes a kind of "Jerry Lewis Telethon" without Jerry Lewis (Thank God!) as Charlie and his new BFF Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman; Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead), a rebellious covert CIA operative, raise money to buy modern ground weapons and anti-aircraft cannons for the Afghani soldiers.

Hurray! Hurray! What starts as a “little” Congressional line item of $5 million dollars in the budget
(with matching funds from the Saudi Arabian government) slowly balloons to $500 million, but eventually the Soviets are defeated and democracy is established forever. Yeah, right.

Isn’t this the same Afghanistan that is now using these exact weapons we gave them against U.S troops, killing our soldiers and fighting said democracy 30 years later? I’m just saying. That part of the picture isn’t even mentioned because this is a feel good story with pretty, glossy stars at the helm and witty banter from writer by Aaron Sorkin (tv’s “The West Wing”). But it is still supposed to be a “reality-based” movie. My ending would just be too much of a downer for Sorkin and Company, so they chose instead to end on a high note, with planes exploding and tanks imploding and the Soviets marching back home in shame. That all may have happened, but was it actually the crux of the story that America needs to see?

I think if you are going to do a movie about what goes on in Congress, then it is time to be brave
and show us the real deal. I don’t want to see it, mind you, any more than I want to see Britney’s va-jay-jay splayed out like a piece of flounder at the fish market every time she gets out of a car, but let’s be honest. This country is downright stupid when it comes to what goes on in Congress and most people haven’t a clue what the deficit means to them personally. Still, when a line item can go from $5 million to $500 million while flying under the radar, we’ve got a big problem. You want to make a “reality-based” movie, Mr. Sorkin, then let’s see you and Mr. Hanks tackle this next. Sure, it'll be a horror movie first, but it'll also be real.

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