Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday Movie Day: Boozing Politicians, Pathetic Prospectors

Charlie Wilson's War (2007): Despite a fantastic director (Mike Nichols) and a stellar cast (Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt), I was not impressed with this film. Perhaps it was the casting--both Hanks and Roberts feel extremely out of place here (especially Roberts' ugly hairstyle). Perhaps it was the overall story--a boozing, womanizing, do-nothing congressman covertly supplies funds to Afghanistan during the Cold War in order to fight the Soviets. With the help of a rich Texan woman (Roberts) and a sarcastic C.I.A. operative (Hoffman), Charlie Wilson plays a significant role in world history by helping bring about events to end the Cold War. The film didn't give me much faith in the American government. Politicians doing cocaine and hanging out with strippers, being influenced by rich people with personal agendas, supplying weapons to other countries without considering the consequences, and not finishing the job by helping the Afghanis pick up the pieces of their destroyed country. It all left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Even the story didn't keep me especially interested; for being a 90 minute movie, I was checking my watch at the 45 minute mark. The only highlight was Hoffman's dry sarcasm throughout the film. Many of his comments made me snicker. Overall, the film suffers from an identity crisis--it wants to be a political thriller, a comedy, a drama, and a romance, all rolled into one. Sadly, it's only mediocre on all these levels.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948): Rated by AFI as one of the top 100 American films of all-time, this adventure film lacks...well...adventure. The premise of the film is three men's search for gold in Mexico. An elderly prospector and two drifters join together to wander the desert, avoiding bandits while searching for gold. But the film is less about the adventure and more about their character development in the context of adventure. Humphrey Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs, a down-and-out drifter with a bad attitude and a worse character. His downward spiral into paranoia and greed is extraordinary; Dobbs is one of the most pathetic characters I've ever seen in film or literature. His greed for gold destroys any sense of judgment or wisdom he once had. The film is far from hopeful, furthering the message that greed leads to nothing good. It also has some classic lines and scenes, like "Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!" Overall, the film has a slow pace compared to contemporary adventure films, but is worth watching to see a bit of movie history.

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