Sunday, January 08, 2006

Movie night - the brilliance of Syriana

Yesterday I finally made it to the movies for the first time since seeing Serenity, and saw both Harry Potter and Syriana. Harry Potter was as I expected - good, but nothing to really make me sit back and take stock of my life.

Syriana on the other hand was amazing.

It was like someone took all of my favorite things and made a movie with them - CIA involvement, stuff getting blown up, an important message about terrorism and its causes, and first and foremost, oil. Right at the beginning of the movie there is talk of Kazakh gas and oil field. I fell in love with the movie right then and there.

Of course, I find it hard to believe that this movie was actually made. It seems like a very dry topic - and although I was gleefully rubbing my hands and bouncing in my seat as strands of oil dealings came together, I wondered who else might be so into the subject that they'd find it such a fascinating movie. I mean, who else feels an upswelling of emotions and a desire to be involved in the industry when seeing an oil facility onscreen? I swear, this movie was made specifically for me.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was the technique employed to distance the viewer from any emotional scene - emotion was strongly underplayed, the focus being on a global view of how all of the oil and gas issues are interconnected.

I highly recommend Syriana - it's anti-American in some ways, but I found myself being able to understand the position of the US oil industries as potrayed in the movie. Maybe I just view things in a very pragmatic sense, but I didn't feel that it was an entirely one-sided portrayal of the oil industry, and felt that it was quite easy to sympathize with US interests. Such balanced movies are rarely seen, and 'documentary' makers such as Michael Moore could learn from the restrained touch employed in this fictional-yet-more-truthful-than-many-documentaries movie.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is nothing biased about calling a liar a liar. Everything in the Fahrenheit movie is backed up and not so much is in this film version of one version of a former CIA thug's claims.
Who can accept Syriana's bizarre and unearthly "evil bombing foreign workers," totally unlike anything in the real world where natives or neighbors are the real bombers, or its other concessions to muddling untruthful inoffensiveness? We donb't want to offend the Arabs we're calling primitive, so let's make the bombers imported service industry workers?! Why not make them Eskimos, I've never come across an Inuit complaint Hollywood took seriously. This is objectivity?!
They are either of a piece, or Moore is superior, but you should not be able to convince someone who knows what you're talking about that this action movie (with a totally unAmerican intelligence behind it, and even some relevance, yes, but it's an intelligent action movie and not a documentary) was more objective than a presentation of facts by researchers.
If any documentaries ought to be examined for objectivity (which does not mean "balance" or giving equal time to a paid GOP liar or conveniently overlooking Bush's $94,000 Abramoff dollars while screaming about Hillary's $1,000), it is Errol Morris's experimental method whereby the subject is given the whole of the screen. Morris interviews througfh a camera with a projection of his face on its lens, visible to the subject, and the subject converses naturally in theory with the camera. It's brilliant, but is it a purer stab at the truth than Moore's team of researchers and impolite questions? Is it a stab at the truth at all to give war criminal McNamara a new age outside-the-box grandstand for his 11 lessons learned like some CEO lecturer?

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or to put it a little less shrill: how on Earth do you make it past the natural comparison, Hollywood movies that seem scripted from a Pentagon basement, or past a reasonable comparison, unbelievably blatantly biased news shows that actually do pretend to Platonic perfect objectivity, to sneak in a dirty cowardly baseless fashionable attack on Moore? Since when was Moore a devotee of the mainstream media's false god?
"Objectivity," as it is usually meant, is only a tool for getting at the truth (or as near as possible). It is usually also an overreaction to imaginary phantoms of ideology trumping reality, which never happens in capitalist media ever, but is a constant state of affairs in evil icky socialist wastelands like Canada. If Moore tells truthful things that can be verified and the "real" media, with their objectivity idol (which is really about being above doing any real investigative work), cannot to save their lives, what does that say about "objectivity"?
What people seem to mean by "objectivity" is a completely different complaint, and a perfectly legitimate one: Moore clearly enjoys being a ham and a celebritry and his work suffers for it. Thing is, Moore at worst is still preferable and less arrogant than virtually everyone else in both the entertainment and the "news" media, and all his squishy pounds have no bearing on the facts he brings. (I love it when inevitably fat cowards who "support the troops" but won't serve point out that Moore, unlike most other Americans, is overweight, and therefore must be "biased" and wrong.)

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Moore is nothing but a demagouge. You call him objective? Thats almost laughable. He and his team of researchers didn't present truth in the Fahernhight movie. When you present the truth you're supposed to be present all sides. They presented an editorial. You say all the facts in teh movie are true - and that may be correct - but the question is whether the movie provides all the relevant facts - and it clearly doesn't not (before teh US occupation for example Iraq was hardly a happy summer camp that Moore makes it seem). So yeah....Moore objective? No, not really. But thanks for the laugh.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He and his team of researchers didn't present truth in the Fahernhight [sic] movie. [Later in this same paragraph it will be conceded that they might have.] When you present the truth you're supposed to be present all sides. [WHAT?] They presented an editorial. [While I undestand that the racist garbage in the WSJ OpEd page is pretty free of facts, there was a time when this would be a non-statement; if this man was lying, which he was not, "editorial" would hardly be a defense.] You say all the facts in teh movie are true - and that may be correct - but the question [No, stop right there, you twit. The question, as you yourself ask it earlier, is whether there is any truth to the very serious things Moore says.] is whether the movie provides all the relevant facts [because God knows Faux News and GE/NBC and CNN and National Pentagon Radio and every newspaper over a certain circulation weren't totally on board the "Road to War" wagon from day one, so it's Moore's job to argue for the defense {department} too!]

Can it be that such a person was allowed into a college?
Rightists in this country since the terrifying ugly outbreak of limited democracy in the sixties have been liars. They have aggressively led a campaign of Soviet or cult-style willful delusion, an ideologically correct version of reality.
The cute part is that they demand, on purely emotional grounds (danger of hurt feelings) that their delusion be presented either as reality or at least as one take on it (presenting all sides, balance).
This is stupid. It's not "different," it's not your opinion as opposed to my opinion, it's not how you feel, to which feelings you are entitled, it's bullshit. After a point becomes demonstrable, you are not "different"
but "stupid" for retaining what should become thought of as a delusion.
No doubt you already recognize the tactic from the Intelligent Design debacle that couldn't be more hurtful to this country, which this scum claims they love, if it had originated in Beijing. Stanley Fish recently connected the ID bullshit with the same argument long made by Holocaust deniers -- that we should present all sides, including that of the would-be resurrectors of Nazi Germany, in the Holocaust "debate."
I think the more important part is not this garbage about Moore telling lies about wealthy and powerful people drowning in their own lawyers, who would sue him to immolation the second he let slip something he couldn't back up multiple ways, or his "style" being somehow both an error (it isn't) and his own (he is hardly the first or the only filmmaker of his school, but he is the most successful), but the central question of "objectivity."
In investigating anything, in getting to real evidence that our leaders do not have our best interests at heart, do we really need to drag out a greater farcical ritual of Platonic mental purity that never existed than would a judge presiding over a criminal case? Let us ask, what could Moore have done that would've satisfied people who open our mail, hand out jobs to their unqualified buddies, in recess appointments because they know they'd never survive the least scrutiny, in important positions like emergency management, and think a document entitled BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STTRIKE WITHIN U.S. sounds "historical"?

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or again, did the makers of Syriana present any "extremist" points of view in a way that would make them reasonable or did they balance Washington and Petrochemical realpolitik, CIA ethics and a rogue's hopes for stability against a fictionalized Mossadegh figure? It's easy to affect "balance" when you shift the goalposts around as much as Syriana: but a real documentary shouldn't do that. Syriana is a wonderful movie for the questions it will get Americans asking or the intelligence it doesn't shy away from, but don't think for a minute its fiction squares with a reality almost nobody in Hollywood is willing to accept warts and all.
Did "Munich" give a seconds' thought as to what could have made the Arab terrorists commit murder? That would've been an extremely easy case to make, just a five minute appendage tacked on to the beginning, a montage of the human-bulldozing and baklava and child-sniping and freedom enjoyed by all in the Middle East's only "democracy."
Were five minutes spared for the unforgivable, inconceivable possibility that the terrorists might be immoral but not insane aliens from another planet?
Munich is a very sick movie, a genre they have in Israel in novels as well, which we are probably going to get plenty of in the near future: Israelis sit around talking about how guilty they feel.
I want you to know as I starve you and keep you awake and tell you your daughter is dead and slide the ink tube from a ball-point pen up your penis that I FEEL TERRIBLE ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING. JESUS I FEEL SO GUILTY. I wish I wasn't doing it (but hey whattayagonnado?). I can hear my mother berating me now. Can't you spare a minute to think of how I feel about torturing you? Etc, only with that intolerable Spielberg feeling.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Moore is nothing but a demagouge.

When a demagogue tells that much truth and the New York Times says Iraq is going to conquer us unless we get them first, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain says it'll happen in less time than it takes to get a pizza, and Colin Powell says a tube of talcum powder is science-defyingly still-viable plague-in-a-can, what does that make a demoagogue? At worst a better choice than the fair and balanced responsible mainstream that's so generously condescendingly to look out for me.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Nixie said...

People, people, people. How on earth do you get so worked up over something based on a blog post on a tiny little no-name blog that no one reads, the topic of which wasn't even Michael Moore?

All I meant by my statement is that I don't like documentaries that reach towards emotionalism even if all the facts are 100% true. I like cold, emotionless portrayals of things, and Syriana was brilliantly detached.

And in my opinion, you can't compare the Fog of War to broad documentaries - it's a chance to give an old man a venue to ask for forgiveness - it is a blatant appeal to emotionalism, and it's personal opinion whethere someone likes it or not (I personally love it - and certain scenes choke me up every time).

So please, people...don't get all worked up about this. It's just a silly little blog.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So a few points from the "twit".

One. No, truth is truth. However, when you take true facts and take them out of context, they can become false (or at least, lead to false impressions) that is what Moore does.

Two. Maybe NBC/ABC/CNN are all as bad, but since when "they suck to" justify your own suckiness. No, i'm sorry - they are wrong, and Moore is wrong. That simple.

Third, for someon who is so briliant you relly on ad-homenum attacks. Yes, I graduated College ( a good one) and even a top five law school. And have done legal work for all sorts of "advanced" clients. So, no, i am not uneducated - i just have a differnt opinoin then yours.

Finally, Munich and Israel. First of all, Spielberg takes the time to explain why palestinian terrorists did what htey did. In case you missed it to go to the bathroom - thats the entire conversation on the Balcony between Avner and Ali. Where Ali talks about needing a home - that is the reason they are doing this.

Second, on the question of guilt. Golda Meir - when Andwer Sadat came to Jerusalem in his peace making move told him back then that she could forgive him for killing young Isralies, but could not forgive him for makign her kill young Arabs. That is the differnce - both sides feels (and are not insane) that they have to kill. One takes all sort of precuations to avoid hurting civilians, the others slaughter innocent athletes with a smile. you can argue about the legitimousy of a palestinina cause, but its the actions that are at question.

Finally, about Israeli policies - this, habibi, is a quintesential chicken and egg problem. You want to argue that they do so b/c of their missery - i'll point out that thier missery is a result of thier actions. That in 2000 the average life for apalestinians was much better then it is now, and that this was more so before their terrorism activities in the 1950s and 1960s. And while you can talk to me all about their need for a home - the bottom line is that there is ONLY one reason they have no state - they haven't declared it. That, habbibi, is not an oversight. Now ask you self why they havent.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, I graduated College ( a good one) and even a top five law school. And have done legal work for all sorts of "advanced" clients. So, no, i am not uneducated - i just have a differnt opinoin then yours."

If this is how graduates from top five law schools in the US learn to spell, then it is no wonder the country is deeply mired in manure and in getting deeper all the time. I guess it is true that you get the government you deserve.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Nixie said...

I hate to interrupt this mini-flamewar. But in defense of the non-spelling person. This is one case where you shouldn't judge the spelling - he's foreign-born and thinks much faster than he can spell. As a result, his spelling is atrocious. Read between the misspellings. He's a bright guy. Just can't spell.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any chance that you may engage the substance of my argument, not just make ad-hominum attacks? just saying...

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was neither flaming nor judging the guy on his English -- I always bingle at least one word -- my problem was with logic that no language can justify and no college should accept. Here, this is Glenn Greenwald -- much more intelligent and even-headed than me -- attacking the same "objectivity" problem. Glenn by the way is one of the best not-terribly-famous blogs around and worth checking regularly.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see one of the problems is that we're all anonymous. I wasn't the guy who attacked his spelling, I was the earlier anonymice. I fact I was also the anonymous with the bad logic, just to keep me going.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, about Israeli policies - this, habibi, is a quintesential chicken and egg problem.

No, it isn't. Not here anyway: the question was this garbage, this unworthy straw distraction of objectivity which no serious person wastes their time with. My objection was never to Israeli policy: my point was, what Zionist (here, in particular Spielberg) regards the justifications and apologetics of a terrorist as being on the radar of "objectivity"? And yet certainly this is the "other side," the presentation of which is necessary for "truth," according to the other anonymous.
Bias is a boogeyman meant to protect us from people who really do have an unfounded self-interested bias, you know, like every single advertisement and mainstream media report you've ever seen, read or heard in your life. There is something besides these poles "bias" and "objectivity," and that is the set of conclusions any reasonable and careful person can be expected to draw following certain facts. Is a biologist "biased" in favor of evolution (out of the same dark self-interest present in an ABC reporter who flouts the magic of parent company Disney), when evolution has not in the most technical and exacting sense been proven? Or is this a reasonable conclusion based on verifiable evidence that will stand to questioning?

12:56 AM  
Blogger stalebREAD said...

Wow, you've really stirred up a hornet's nest here. It seems as though someone is in love with the term 'ad hominem' and everybody seems to latch on to a different aspect of the previous argument/original blog posting. Kudos to the blogger for inciting such dialogue.

3:14 PM  
Blogger stalebREAD said...

oh, and how come everybody's anonymous?

3:14 PM  

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