September 3, 2007

Bourne in the USA

Warning: This post contains MILD SPOILERS for any lamesters who have not yet seen The Bourne Ultimatum.

In our recent discussion of the politics of The Bourne Ultimatum, commenter Bettencourt wrote "I felt the news footage of congressional hearings should be followed by footage of Limbaugh, Coulter, O'Reilly and the like arguing that the Democrats are weak on terrorism because of their opposition to brainwashed amnesiac super-assassins killing English and American citizens and government employees."

Funny enough. But funnier still is that O'Reilly didn't need actual hearings to set him off — he just attacked the movie itself. Carrying Bill's water, Mickey Kaus declares the film anti-American. Mind you, not anti-Bush or anti-CIA or anti-brainwashed amnesiac super-assassins killing English and American citizens and government employees. No, to be any of those things these days is to be anti-American. "The film is unredeemed by any sense that America or the American government ever stands for or does anything that is right," Kaus rights. Except of course that it ends with a montage of the American government doing something very right: holding people accountable for monstrous crimes committed in the name of national security. If only the real American government could do that! As far as I'm concerned, the movie is far more pro-American than either branch of our current government.

TNR's Christopher Orr forces Kaus to concede that Joan Allen plays a heroic CIA deputy chief, but brushes this off by saying "she's a cardboard plot mechanism. The film's heart and energy go into depicting the evil U.S. bigwigs."

That's right, Mickey thinks the heart and energy of The Bourne Ultimatum is... David Strathairn! I guess all those scenes of Matt Damon busting his ass for truth, justice and — yes — the American way weren't energetic enough for him.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I haven't seen the new Bourne flick -- and I'm dreading it, since after all the bloggy debate I'm not going to be able to avoid analyzing the politics instead of, you know, enjoying it -- but I'm just wondering: Is there any movie that you do consider anti-American?

JT: "Walker" certainly shows Americans up to no good without redemption (although my memory of it is hazy) but Michael Bay movies make me want to exterminate the whole bunch of us and salt the earth after. Is it more anti-American to say "Americans have done and are doing very bad things" but to imply they can be changed through awareness or to say "Americans are super awesome" but to imply they are super stupid by making very expensive crap movies that can only be approved for production on the basis of assumed massive earnings. Frankly I come away from a movie like Walker with a better feeling about my country and people and their future than I do coming out of Transformers or The Rock or Con Air or Armageddon. The latter group make me feel doomed.

I watched Breach last night. Good flick. Great performances. Would have to qualify as anti-American under Mickey's criteria. All the heart and energy (and good lines) go to the bad FBI guy, who's not only selling us out to the Ruskies while talking up patriotism -- he's a devout Catholic who's also a sex perv. Only Hollywood could invent a person like Robert Hanssen.

This part of MK's post is also worth a mention:

I watched Greengrass' United 93 and left convinced it was a searing indictment of Bush's behavior in the hours after 9/11. (Air controllers spend much of the film trying to locate the AWOL President so they can obtain an order to shoot down the hijacked jet.) I didn't know anything about Greengrass, and the film looked like it had been based on actual records by a meticulously dispassionate observer. But Greengrass' Bourne film undermines his credibility and retrospectively dissolves United 93's anti-Bush power. I don't trust anything the man makes.

Of course, United 93 was based on meticulous research. The idea that Greengrass might have developed any of his views about Bush based on knowledge of what the man has done doesn't seem to to occur to Mickey. In MK's world, people pick their heroes and then rewrite the facts around that. So Bush is not to blame for his actions on 9/11. Greengrass is the villain for pointing them out.

united 93 is such an apolitical film! funny that Kaus saw it as anti-bush...

but though I hate Bay, the first half of transformers (right up until the camero gets all huffy and updates itself), was actually pretty fun.

I know that Peter Landesman isn't exactly a fresh topic anymore, but frankly I'm so giddy over being cited in a Radosh post that I can hardly think straight. Anyway, there's a brand new trailer for "Trade" out there, different from the one that screened with "Saw III" last year (yes, the film's been waiting that long to come out), hyping the fact that it's from the Oscar-nominated writer of "The Motorcycle Diaries" and based on an "award-winning" article.

What award did Landesman's piece win? And after all this time on the shelf, do they really think this movie is Oscar bait?

I know, this thread is supposed to be about Bourne. So let me get this straight -- Mickey Kaus discounts the historical/political accuracy of United 93 because the same director followed it with an action thriller from a Robert Ludlum novel featuring an indestructible hero? "I don't trust anything the man makes." Did he think Bourne Ultimatum was supposed to be a docudrama?

By the way, Ultimatum is even better a second time (though Bourne's indestructibility is much more bothersome to me than John McClane's in "Live Free or Die Hard"). Since I wasn't sitting in the second row this time, I was actually able to deciper the geography of the Tangier bombing scene.

I actually just turned down a chance to see a preview of Trade. I'm really hoping the film bombs quietly so I can avoid talking about it.

As far as I can tell, the closest the article came to winning an award is a citation from the Overseas Press Club, which apparently means nominee, rather than winner. I know, hard to believe they'd exaggerate something like that.

I suspect "Trade" will indeed open and close quickly with little fanfare, but I was so looking forward to you tearing it some new sprocket holes.

Sorry, that last comment was me, not "anonymous." Posted too quickly.

So that's a no, then?

I can only say I can't think of any that I've seen, though I'm not sure what would qualify. One might say a film that portrays the entire executive branch as a criminal enterprise -- but I have a hard time calling All The President's Men anti-American. I think it would have to be something that casts as evil not just government but the American idea -- democracy, equality, law.

Wait, how about Triumph of the Will? Can we agree on that? Oh, and Birth of a Nation.

Why, what were you thinking of?

I was just wondering what your baseline is. Casting democracy as evil is a pretty high bar. Platoon depicts an American armored personnel carrier flying a Nazi battle flag; I take it that even that wouldn't qualify as anti-American by your standard.

I think something, like El Topo, that says American democracy, equality, and law don't exist or are a criminal lie, AND that Americans are vile almost to a man as a people, AND that isn't intended (as Walker and Platoon are) as a way to get Americans to sort that shit out, is anti-American. It's a good question.

Yeah, Platoon (not a particularly good movie) is an attempt to show how the Vietnam war warped American values. You can disagree with that premise (though I don't) but I don't see how that makes the film anti-American. It's almost by definition pro-American by counter-example.

I think one could make a good case for "Dogville" and "Manderley" both being anti-American. Though one could argue that von Trier is indicting human nature rather than American nature in these films, his use of Bowie's "Young Americans" played over photo montages of American atrocities over the end credits of both films make a good case for the films taking an explicitly anti-American viewpoint (though some critic, I can't remember if it was Edelstein or Denby, argued that they're more anti-human than anti-American).

I like the idea that the congressional hearings at the end of Ultimatum show the American system working, but frankly I found that resolution even less probable than Bourne's ability to walk away numerous car crashes and explosions (much as I like the film).

What was that Turkish movie where Gary Busey played a Jewish doctor who was harvesting Iraqis' organs and sending them to Tel Aviv? That one sounded pretty anti-American.

Oh, like that doesn't really happen...

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