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movie review::syriana


just got back from seeing george clooney’s ambitious epic syriana, the latest manifestation of my increasing fascination with the middle east, its oil and the politics of the region.

under the tag line “everything is connected”, the film weaves together the stories of a rogue cia agent (clooney), a smart but na├»ve securities trader (matt damon), the royal family of an unnamed arabian emirate, a young pakistani worker for a major american oil company discovering the meaning of his faith and a morally conflicted lawyer trying to investigate the merger of two oil companies and to negotiate for them. That’s a lot of plot to fit into two hours.

unfortunately, the net result of the elaborate plotting is that the movie is almost incomprehensible at times, with references that never seem to get sorted out. also, the sheer number of characters who have active roles in the movie make it pretty much impossible to get any who are well-rounded and developed. instead, there is a parade of caricatures for whom it is difficult to develop much sympathy (it’s hard enough to remember their names). There are good americans and bad americans. There are good arabs and bad arabs. there are good women, well, actually, there are no women, save lightweight amanda peet as the textbook american wife of the 21st century.

there are good elements to syriana to be sure and these may, in the end, outweigh its obvious flaws. british-sudanese actor alexander siddig (the real-life nephew of Malcolm macdowell) is impressive as the beatific prince nasir. his opposite number in the film is the appropriately malevolent chris cooper, playing an american oil executive a lot smarter than his southern drawl and cowboy act would lead you to believe. clooney himself is very decent and takes a few steps further towards cementing his position as this generation’s robert redford.

one of the most telling things about this movie is how little the arab characters are involved in the high-level machinations that control their lives. the film’s dramatic climax, when siddig comes face to face for the first time with clooney, is dramatic, because at that moment, the extent of the intrigue that has been going on around him becomes evident. however, for the most part, it is the americans who control all the action, manipulating the arabs to suit their own ends. at the moment when the viewer could level the criticism that it makes the same mistake as american films often do- making it all about the americans and not understanding the cultural others who are supposedly the subjects- syriana makes a chilling reversal in its final minutes. it can’t redeem the film entirely, but the last twenty minutes more than justify the price of admission.

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jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: hot stuff, comin' through

i don't even know what to say about the weather. the end of september saw temperatures at a scalding 36c/ 97f outside. this is especially annoying because we've had a moderate summer. most days it rained a little in the morning, the temperatures didn't creep into the 30s too often and there wasn't the normal stretch of a few weeks when it felt like we were living on the sun. now, we've receded into more normal fall weather, although it's still on the warm side for mid-october. that climate change thing is a bitch.

trying to think of something positive in the situation, it does put me in a perfect frame of mind to write about urban decay's naked heat palette. it's the latest in what appears to be an endless series of warm neutral and red eyeshadow palettes that have followed in the footsteps of anastasia's modern renaissance. [which i ultimately decided i didn't need after doing a thorough search of my considerable stash.] i do think that it'…

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

of course, i was wrong. the ad in question ran in 1983. this is the part where i would triumphantly embed the ad from youtube, except that the governmen…