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  1.  (389.1)
    An admission: The West Wing lost cachet for me around about 9/11. Wasn't a screaming fan to begin with, but I've long been a fan of Sorkin's dialog and (mostly) his ability to structure really good, reasonably topical stories. The limpnoodle handling of post-9/11 and the death of a thousand cuts it endured towards its end indicated I wasn't missing a lot.

    'Sunset Strip' came along, and I thought it was a neat metafiction: a show about the show, within the show. But ultimately, aside from the self-indulgent cocaine rants (which made me want to choke a mule), there wasn't a lot to hold onto with that little world. The traveling hallway shots didn't make a lick of sense to me: there was no gravity, no salience. I felt a legitimate disconnect between author and audience.

    With 'Charlie Wilson's War', I think there's been a return to form.

    Sane, linear dialog that Philip Seymour Hoffman fucking HAMMERS. Tom Hanks actually comes across as a flawed, deeply flawed, but ultimately good man. Julia Roberts...well, Julia Roberts looks a lot like Margaret Thatcher in this movie, but it makes sense, in an awful way. Structured well, salient, actually connects better than 90% of the 'oh-look-we-woke-up-one-day-and-golly-there-was-a-middle-east' movies come out of Hollywood.

    Structural flaws? Eh, the end left sort of a hard-dick-with-nowhere-to-put-it kind of thing, but overall, yes. Sorkin has redeemed himself from the reaches of Teh Suckā„¢.

    At least until he dooms another television property.
    • CommentAuthorharchangel
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.2)
    I absolutely loved the play of dialogue between Hoffman and Hanks....just genius. It had the whole theater in stitches.
  2.  (389.3)
    Its funny, back during the Studio 60 fiasco I was an ardent defender that Sorkin would be back in form with this film.

    Yet, I have not made the time or felt the need to go see it. Maybe this thread will rekindle my interest.
  3.  (389.4)
    It seems to make all the difference when Sorkin isn't the one in charge - this was a work-for-hire gig where he had to adapt a book and basically turn it into a cliffnotes version of it with sardonic dialogue. And the lack of self-indulgent, rambling speeches that disappear up their own arses was welcome.

    It has all his preoccupations: strange political bedfellows having to work together, his horrified fascination and sexual attraction to strong, right-wing women, and his usual combination of both idealism and irony.
  4.  (389.5)
    Ah hey Adi. When did you get here?

    Anyway, you may have a point about Sorkin not being the one in charge, but it may also help that its a political piece and that remains what he does best.

    I expect I will watch it when it gets to DVD if I do not find the time now.
    •  
      CommentAuthorC.c.
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.6)
    As a feel-good movie The American President is still one of my favorites. Deride away, if you please. I didn't know he wrote Charlie Wilson's War, so now my interested is piqued. Plus PSH is terrific. It's nice seeing him get the critical accolades he deserves in the last five years or so.

    And as far as Studio 60 goes, it was like the West Wing without the political intrigue. I can care about the fate of the country and foreign policy; I have a harder time caring about the trials and travails of well-paid comedians and their networks. It was sort of doomed from the get-go.
  5.  (389.7)
    @C.C.

    Comparing 'The American President' to 'Charlie Wilson's War' only works if Michael Douglas sweated it out in hot tubs and rubbed nipples with Playboy covergirls named 'Kristi', while concurrently blowing eightballs off a stripper's ass somewhere in the Cayman Islands.

    'Feel good' this is most assuredly not.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJacen
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.8)
    I haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War yet but I wanted to take a moment and chime in on Philip Seymour Hoffman. I just watched Before the Devil Knows You're Dead last night and what a performance! If you are a Philip Seymour Hoffman fan put this film at the top of your queue. It is one of his best and that is really saying something.
    • CommentAuthorLyons
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007 edited
     (389.9)
    Sorkin's writing makes my eyes roll, and I wouldn't see a Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts movie under almost any circumstances, so even the attraction of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman won't get me to see this.
    •  
      CommentAuthorC.c.
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.10)
    @ Monk.Eastman

    I wasn't suggesting it was. Just that I liked it, despite it being an idealistic, feel-good flick. Too bad it was sheer fantasy, eh?
  6.  (389.11)
    @CC

    unintentional snark.

    ultimately, i think it's insane that both movies were written by the same person.

    mr sorkin loves him some capitol hill back stabbery.
    •  
      CommentAuthorUnsub
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.12)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    My friend and I had free movie passes and the choice was the Will Smith vampire movie or Charlie's War. Him being a HUGE Hoffman fan saved our evening.
    I would never have went on my own but I really enjoyed this. I have several friends fighting in Afghanistan so a lot of it was quite topical.
    It left out a lot like how the Saudis and the Pakistani SS gave money only to groups that supported sharia law. Before that the Afghans were the most liberal muslims with Kabul being a vacation spot with bars for foreigners and women not wearing headgear and even driving. It was the US and especially the Saudis who created the Taliban. The Northern alliance(mostly Tajiks) are the ones who did the bulk of the fighting against the Soviets and the Taliban. My friends who are fighting there say they do an amazing job patrolling in flatbed trucks with worn out AK's that they usually capture from dead Taliban who get them via Iran and made in China.

    The head of the Northern alliance and the most capable leader they had was murdered by an alquaida suicide squad disguised as reporters 2 days before 9/11.

    I loved the part of the movie where they had a slave girl auction to support sharia muslims against communists to "HELP" the girls in afghanistan.
  7.  (389.13)
    @Unsub:

    Don't know if you remember, but there is one briefing scene with Hoffman where he explicitly mentions the Tajiks, their roles, and how much the Pashtuns hate them.

    And my wife did a tour in Iraq, with number of her unit-mates recycling into Afghanistan duty. One of them tells a similar story about the Tajiks, although was less explicit regarding origin of weapons or Afghan history.
    •  
      CommentAuthorUnsub
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.14)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    I do remember that scene and especially the joke. Afghan history is like 400 years of war.
    England has an interesting history fighting in the country as well.

    I think the fact that they took out Massoud 2 days before 9/11 is incredibly telling. He would have been "THE GUY" who could have brought the US the head of Osama after 9/11. He was the most important person to the US that most americans had never heard of.

    Canada actually gave 2500 old C7's(M16's with iron sights) to the Northern Alliance. A nice gesture but a drop in the bucket. The US and Israel gives 100's of times that to propping up Fatah which I think most Americans would be shocked that it was the PLO and the same group that commited the Beruit marine base bombing?

    I am a nut for international poiltics and war and a Hoffman fan so of course I dug the movie. Julia Roberts was shockingly good(for her not in general) and Tom Hanks was good enough.
  8.  (389.15)
    I feel moronic for not seeing this as of yet. As a big fan Sorkin fan and a political junkie, this flick sounds tailor-made for me.
    •  
      CommentAuthorJay Kay
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007 edited
     (389.16)
    I wanted to see this until I read this:

    Now I don't want to so much.
    •  
      CommentAuthorUnsub
    • CommentTimeDec 26th 2007
     (389.17)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    Great article Darknight and it goes into some issues I brought up about the situation in the region. That said it is still very worth while seeing the movie.
    It does skip a major reason that the Pashtuns got the money even though they spent it killing their own people while Massoud did not. It was not because they thought he was shia(although they may have spread that as propaganda) but that he did not support sharia law. I noticed that left leaning reporters and news have a hard time coming to grasp just how important religion is to politics in the middle east. For most people there is no difference between religion and politics. Also while the Pakistani secret service was also sending US money to the Pastun sharia warlords fighting Massoud the Saudis sent just as much if not more and sent many fighters including Osama. The idea that 9/11 would not have happened without US support is iffy. The Saudis and their money would still have been there.

    If Massoud had not been assassinated 2 days before 9/11 it is very likely that Osama would not have been safe and he might be in Gitmo. Also Massoud was very well respected and could have brought a lot of ex Mujahadeen into the current government. His death was a HUGE gift from Osama to the Taliban although one with some serious self interest.

    If tthe US politicians would actually listen to the generals they have in Afghanistan we would win the war in a few weeks. The Generals want to bring the moderate taliban tribes into the government as well some want to pay for the opium crop both to support the farmers and keep it out of the hands of the rebels for funds.
    Instead US policy is to burn the fields pushing the farmers right into the arms of our enemy's and giving enormous support both financial and political away.
  9.  (389.18)
    @DarknightJRK:

    I don't go to the movies or anything other than entertainment.

    'Based On A True Story' is, after all, a pretty ragged brush to paint history with.

    @Unsub:
    What we're seeing in Afghanistan is our policies at war with each other. Most of the world's dope grows in Afghanistan. If we subsidize it--even for a good cause--Europe and large swaths of North America would have concurrent aneurysms.

    War on Drugs, no?

    Because dope fiends are so much more likely to suicide bomb your grocery store than a zealot whose whole family died of starvation. We must keep the children safe, Unsub. WE MUST KEEP THE CHILDREN SAFE.
  10.  (389.19)
    Yo J-Traub.

    Been lurking on and off for weeks.

    To everyone, the movie is a cliffnotes version of the events. Anyone who really wants to see the whole picture should read the book.
  11.  (389.20)
    One other thing about Sorkin,

    He is liberal obviously, but he is a very specific type of American liberal in terms of how he relates history. To be kind it can be called idealized, to be critical in can be said to be a white wash. His ideology is in the right place, usually anyway, but his structure and explanations tend to lean a bit to good intentions going afoul rather then genuine moral culpability. And he is certainly not above some narrative license to portray that view.

    This can be seen in season 3 and 4 of the West Wing especially.