Friday, November 09, 2007
Lions for Lambs
Imagine if one of Hollywood’s most famous and outspoken liberals got a couple of his big-star buddies together and made a movie about the Iraq war. Imagine if it was an earnest movie, not an obnoxious one, that tried its hardest not to be overly aggressive, but that stubbornly refused to do anything except promote its own political convictions — including provide even a shred of entertainment. Hold that thought.
Now imagine, on the other hand, a class of college sophomores in a playwriting class at a mid-level liberal arts college, one of those small, well-appointed institutions that turns out class after class of reasonably well-read world-changers, with six-figure debt, and iPods brimming with ultra-hip, obscure bands. And imagine, that after cramming on Brecht and Kushner and Miller, this class of future NGO staffers receives as its first assignment, a one-act play about “a contemporary political issue.”
Got that? Now take those two ideas and merge them, and you’ll have a pretty good approximation of Lions for Lamb.
UPDATE: Box Office Mojo posted a $2.1 plus million opening day estimate. That ain't so good. That puts it at #4 and the best it could possibly do opening weekend is therefore about $7 mil which is lackluster to put it mildly. It don't look too good for the future unless there is good word of mouth and a better second week, which is pretty rare.
A movie about medal of honor winner Sgt. Smith taking on 200 guys with a .50 early in the war or about the door to door in Fallujah or about the doomed seal team wiped out to the next to last man in Afghanistan . That's what we want to see, Hollywood, you morons. We can watch liberals talking earnestly on any TV news show for free.
Labels: Lions for Lambs movie
Take American Gangster, which on one level is an homage to The Godfather. But in my view, it is a rather sick remake of Catch 22.
The Godfather portrayed a violent mafia family that provided access to many forbidden vices. As Michael succinctly told the Senator Geary from Nevada, "We're both part of the same hypocrisy, Senator. But leave my family out of this."
Vito Corleone told the heads of the five families at the meeting after Sonny's murder that he did not condone drug dealing. Thus, within this mafia clan, there was the slightest hint of nobility. An indication that some criminals had their limits.
Meanwhile Catch 22 was a satirical portrayal of American big business with Milo Minderbinder in charge. A rapacious and mindless machine, a juggernaut careening out of control and run by madmen.
American Gangster takes the worst elements of organized crime, mixes them with a few concepts from Business School and creates an urban combat zone that stretches from 116th Street to 155th and river to river in Harlem. The psychopathic, sociopathic Frank Lucas surfs above his drug-addicted slaves in the company of the vilest and most despicable thugs.
In many ways it is astounding this movie was made. Not since Gone With the Wind have I seen so many blacks portrayed as a group of buffoons. As children among bullies.
How did this happen? In my view the movie was redeemed in the eyes of its makers by a couple of lines uttered by Russell Crowe, who said, near the end, "Sometimes I think the government just lets this drug dealing go on. If the government didn't let it happen, at least a hundred thousand people, cops, prison guards, a lot of others, would be out of work."
In other words, drug dealing and the misery it creates is just another government conspiracy that contributes to the maintenance of life in our democratic capitalist state.
The movie takes this absurd premise to mythical heights when it hangs the story on one of biggest urban legends of all time -- the claim that Frank Lucas and his drug enterprise smuggled heroin into the US in the coffins of US soldiers killed in Vietnam.
Didn't happen. Nice try though. But it didn't happen.
Vietnam did introduce many servicemen to heavy drug use. But, if one were to believe the movie, a viewer would think the US military ultimately reversed its forward motion, came out of the jungle and the rice paddies, to became a force that invaded the US and bombarded Americans with heroin instead of napalm.
According to the movie, Frank Lucas enlisted the US military, and by extension, the US government, in his drug-smuggling and distribution enterprise. Hence, the ultimate statement of government complicity rattling around in the mind of Russell Crowe's character.
But had the movie failed to redeem itself in the "liberal" context by indicting the government for backing and underwriting every foul deed, it would unspool as nothing more than a compendium of demonstrations of the utter savagery and contempt with which blacks treat each other.
Every character, including Crowe's was comtemptible.
Good long comment on a different movie, slappz. It did huge opening week box office, over $42 mil, but as much a fan of Denzel, Crowe and the director as I am, I'm not rushing off to see it, although eventually I will. I'm not averse to movies critical of America but you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. I'll try to post more on movies, I've definitely stopped seeing as many as I used to. Please come back both of you. I appreciate your good comments very much.
As for Lions for Lambs, yes the WWI reference was the Germans' classic saying that never had they seen such Lions (the soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force) led by such Lambs (the officers leading them).
I think the movie presents us the viewer with the position that the courage, strength and sacrifice that our soldiers constantly exhibit is dishonored by the Lambs who lead them. As a sidebar, I think the movie also posed the position that fewer and fewer of our college kids are willing to fight for this country, being distracted by drinking, MTV and iPods.
Not to be "un-american" but I completely agree with the assessment. The fighting soldier, sailor, airman and marine in this country has been dishonored by a lack of an overall strategy, a lack of sufficient personnel and a lack of a specific mission.
"And despite your claims to the contrary, his drug enterprise DID include shipments of narcotics in the coffins of soldiers killed in Vietnam."
The only source for this ridiculous claim is Frank Lucas and other people with a financial stake in spreading this vicious lie.
Heroin that was cultivated in the Golden Triangle of southeast Asia was smuggled into the US, but not in a manner that is one of the most offensive insults imaginable to people with a little more on the ball than you.
Just to bring you along on this issue. All bodies of military personnel were shipped from Vietnam from two locations: Ton Son Nhut Air Force Base and Danang. They were transported to Dover Air Force Base in Maryland. Not some cargo hangar in an unnamed airport as American Gangster purported in its best Oliver Stone manner.
Moreover, the Quartermaster Corps is responsible for the preparation and transport of bodies. A drug smuggling conspiracy would require the corruption of a large number of servicemen working in restricted quarters in a combat zone. It would further require the corruption of an entirely separate set of servicemen in the US at Dover.
A drug-smuggling conspiracy would require the complicity of thousands of people who, due to enlistments and job rotations, would change. It also suggests that not one patriotic soldier or airman was aware of such an outrage. To believe this urban legend is to admit you think that the servicement involved with one of the most solemn and sad aspects of the war were so corrupt and callous that they would stoop to the depraved level of Frank Lucas, a criminal of the worst form.
Like the screwballs who think 9/11 was an inside job, people who think heroin smuggling via military coffins are equally nuts and misinformed. But any idea can take root in the minds of people who have zero knowledge of the operations to which they attribute unthinkable behavior.
"I saw the movie and strongly disagree with your assessment that the US Government was complicit in the shipments in body bags."
Now you are demonstrating your weak grasp of the aspects of metaphors and other forms of imagery.
IN American Gangster, every cop except Ritchie Roberts -- the Russell Crowe character -- was corrupt. Hence, the police force is a corrupt operation. The NYPD is an agency of the city government, which is part of the government of the US. Hence, the conclusion viewers are meant to reach is that government is corrupt. Top to bottom. A point driven home when Crowe's character muses about why the government would want to see drug dealing in America continue.
The military servicepeople are portrayed as either wholly corrupt, as was Denzel/Frank's uniformed guy in Saigon or Bangkok or wherever the hell he was supposed to have been. Or they were patriotic dunces unwittingly aiding a drug-smuggling conspiracy by refusing to allow the inspection of coffins.
Frankly, the earnestness and outrage of the patriotic officer was believable. But the warrant to open caskets was not. That's pure Hollywood.
"The character in the movie that shipped the drugs was a lowly MP, not some general."
Of course you would believe an MP could hide a smuggling operation involving a cast of thousands. You believe that not only were NY cops wholly corrupt, but the military police had also bought into the madness. You willing suspension of disbelief shows you know zero about military cops.
"If you remember, when Russell Crowe's character wanted to search the body bags, the pilot of the cargo plane was appalled by the request and wouldn't let him do it."
The entire scene was ridiculous. Meanwhile, it wasn't the pilot who objected. Moreover, the pilot would have had no authority over the cargo after it was rolled out of the plane. Decisions of that nature would have gone to the base commander. But the entire scenario was absurd and a million miles from reality.
"I took it to mean that the pilot was a decent fighting man who wouldn't allow someone to search the mortal remains of his comrades."
Despite the eternal appeal and romantic notion of one man fighting a corrupt or uncaring bureaucracy, an investigation of military affairs would not have proceeded in the fashion described in the movie. Period.
During the Vietnam War the US military was well aware of the growing population of addicts in its ranks, especially among those serving in Vietnam. Drug use was problematic. Enlisted personnel returned from Vietnam and Thailand with abuse problems. Officers did not. It is beyond sanity to think that an organized smuggling operation could succeed without the complicity of officers. Meanwhile, the movie conveniently overlooks the reality that Air Force personnel are all volunteers, which says a lot about their patriotic nature.
The drug problems in Vietnam arose among draftees, who were less enthusiastic about their situation than those who willingly enlisted.
Anyway, American Gangster attempted to portray Frank Lucas as a guy on a mission to provide the best heroin at the lowest prices, doing for the heroin trade what Dell did for computers.
The movie claims that virtually every person in the vicinity of Frank Lucas was seduced by the drug-dealing life. Only Crowe's team of Untouchables were immune to the power of Lucas. But even Crowe's team comprised people who were heavy boozers and smokers and were presented as people who enjoyed life near the bottom, but not quite on the bottom. That's Frank Lucas territory. And Lucas seemed to live a life free of substance abuse. He smoked the occasional cigar.
Anyway, as I mentioned in my previous post, without the occasional commentary that drug dealing was sanctioned by the US government, the movie was a piece of racist trash that should put smiles on the faces of every member of the Klan for the way it portrayed blacks. Maybe you missed that aspect.
Still, let us presume you are correct and the entire thing is an urban legend. So what? I don't think the movie was liberal or conservative based on that just like I don't think the Godfather was slanted because there were a ton of crooked cops in that movie too. The Godfather was simply a great movie, and I think the Corleone family getting in the pockets of a Senator was a pretty apt portrayal of who pulls the strings of these elected officials. Nowadays, it isn't organized crime, but other special interests, many of which are anything but interested in the average American, and that goes for both parties.
I think we should see the movie for what it was, kind of a shitty movie considering all the hype and press it is getting. I thought the plot was all over the place and there were too many characters that were in the movie for really no reason.
As for the lines uttered by Russel Crowe about the government not doing all they could to stop the flow of drugs in this country, I don't see how you object to this line so much. I think it has a lot of merit, and that is coming from someone who is employed by the Department of Corrections as a Parole/Probation Officer. From what I see on a daily basis, the powers that be are either complicit, or just doing a terrible job in fighting the "War on Drugs." Either should be unacceptable to me and you, who pay for it.
As a summary, why do we, as a people, go to movies and try to find out if they are conservative or liberal, then act accordingly outraged? I see people angry that movies like Lions for Lambs are made, and decry the "anti-American" slant of the movie (without actually seeing the film no less) but NOT outraged or even interested in looking into the possibility that not only our men and women in uniform, but also the populous of this country are led by incompetent fools?