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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 naïve 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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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 :: soft touch

ah winter, how my lips hate you. it's too bad, really, because the rest of me likes winter, down to about -12 or so. but there's no arguing that i get dried out. nuxe rêve de miel is my super best friend at this time of year, even more so than otherwise. [i gave bite's agave lip mask a try only to find out i'm allergic to something in it.] but our [still] new apartment is somewhat drier than the old one [electric vs hot water heating], which meant that, for a long stretch, virtually every kind of lipstick was uncomfortable. the horror. [i wrote a post a while back about the formulas that are friendliest to chapped lips.]

faced with this dilemma, i decided to try something not exactly new, but [for me], out of the ordinary: being a gloss girl. now, i don't mind glosses. i buy them from time to time, and i used to buy more until i discovered that i just wasn't using them near enough to justify the continued purchases. my issues with glosses are that they feather…

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…