Posts Tagged Christian Bale
Producer Adam McKay’s VICE explores the epic story about how a bureaucratic Washington insider, Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), quietly rises to become the most powerful man in the world as Vice-President to George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell), reshaping the country and the globe with far reaching and long lasting impact to future generations. VICE is a film that matches McKay’s wildly original “The Big Short” about three years back.
While VICE is both angry and informative like it’s predecessor “The Big Short”, unlike the predecessor, VICE does not share implementable insights for ordinary folks. VICE has opened to some mixed reviews and so I will mention and acquiese to the criticisms first. At times VICE feels disjointed as it jumps between time periods, interspersed with wacky methaphors. It also becomes apparent very early that McKay’s concern with telling Cheney’s story or the story of the country and the world that Cheney impacted, pales in comparison to McKay’s anger towards us, the audience. We, the citizens are reproached for having greater interest in entertainment than in the affairs of the government, things that “really” matter. This is where he begins the story and that is where he ends and given what is happening in the country today, I would forgive McKay for blaming the citizens.
In VICE, McKay has a formidable challenge. As the film shows Cheney’s rise to power, it also weaves in years’ of political history of the country. The forces that shaped the climate and allowed Cheney to consolidate his power, began long before Cheney came on the political scene in any serious manner. In fact, McKay traces the conservative forces shaping the political climate in the country, all the way to 1980s. And as he goes through Reagan and Senior G.H.W. Bush years, Cheney is shown to be going through his own transformation. At first, a good for nothing “dirtbag”, aided and supported by his ambitions wife, Lynne (Amy Adams), Cheney focus on amassing power and fortune. It is from Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell), Cheney got earlier lessons in looking at Washington as a ruthless, zero sum political place where winners displace losers and policy takes a backseat to power.
Cheney began his political career as an intern to a Congressman and then worked his way into the White House during Nixon and Ford administrations. He served as Secretary of Defense to George H.W. Bush. He was out of the political scene during Clinton years, when he assumed the role of Chairman and CEO of Halliburton Company. In 2000, Cheney was chosen by George W. Bush, as his running mate and has been cited as the most powerful Vice President in American history. McKay telling the story of how Cheney rises to this level and then consolidates his power is nothing short of amazing. Using the fly fishing metaphor, McKay shows how Cheney put a small hook and then gradually draws in his prey. Even as he dies several times, mostly politically, but also endures several heart attacks, Cheney comes back, with more powerful lessons on consolidating power, strongly aligned to the brand of conservatism that seems only to consume, even if it destroys future generations.
Latching on to an obscure theory, propelled by some conservative judges like (Scalia), and made popular by the conservative media, Cheney finds panacea to all political challenges that stand in his way of consolidating his power, in Unitary Executive Theory. Rooted in Article Two of the US Constitution, the theory vests “the executive power” of the United States in the President. Though broadly accepted, it is assumed to be circumscribed by some boundaries of strength and scope. In the aftermath of 9/11, Cheney took advantage of the public anger and sentiment to “do something” and vastly expanded the strength and scope of the power of the President. By his own agreement with the President, Cheney then had the unilateral power that he used for wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the enhanced interrogation techniques that included waterboarding, among other things. Cheney is said to have said, “We need to think in a new way about these low-probability, high-impact events; If there’s even a 1 percent chance that WMD have landed in the hands of the terrorists, we need to treat it as a certainty”. He masterminded the pressure on naysayers in the Bush Cabinet, including Condoleezza Rice (LisaGay Hamilton) and Colin Powell (Tyler Perry). Despite no clear evidence of WMD, Powell was pressured to give a speech in the UN regarding strong evidence of WMD which he later described as his most painful moment of his political career.
Despite the fact that none of the 9/11 terrorists came from Iraq, the United State’s war on Iraq eventually cost 189,000 direct war deaths, nearly 5000 deaths of U.S. service personnel, in addition to 32,000+ troops coming back with injuries, not including PTSD. US spent over $1.7 Trillion in this war. Nearly, 134,000 Iraqi civilians lost their lives in this war and 655,000 people who have died in Iraq since the invasion that would not have died if the invasion had not occurred.
So what did we gain from the Iraq war? Who gained from the war, if not the Iraqi civilians or the American citizens?
Contractors, primarily Halliburton company has reaped over $140 billion from US invasion of Iraq. In the end, the movie will leave you feeling both deeply sad and angry. Cheney’s brand of conservatism, his generation of mostly while males, stole from the future to enrich themselves. (Certainly not saying that all while men are evil and in fact it is with the support of dedicated men and women, white and black, that our country will always face the challenges head-on and after the challenges, will always emerge better and stronger). The cascading impact of actions of Cheney, Rumsfeld and others, very likely threw the country into a deep recession and eventually impacted lives of several future generations. AND HERE IS WHERE I HAVE A MESSAGE FOR MCKAY. Not it is not the concern with entertainment that keeps the citizens busy and unconcerned with what goes on. It is not even boredom with tiresome facts that are not revealed all at once. It is our preoccupation with making ends meet, with getting two square meals on the table for the families, that keeps us so woefully unprepared for devilish machinations of our elected leaders.
VICE is a not-to-miss movie of this holiday season. The film has received several Golden Globe awards and numerous nominations. It is great entertainment along with powerful history lesson for free. On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.9.
The movie “American Hustle” is based on a series of real events that took place surrounding what was dubbed as the Abscam Washington scandal that rocked the nation during 1970s. American Hustle is a movie about quintessential hustle for money, power, royalty, plunging necklines, head full of hair, and ego and power, characteristic of the capitalistic west. Director David O. Russell has done a brilliant job, and the movie has a stellar cast to represent all the memorable characters. Entry of each character scales what is at stake and builds the excitement. Here is a spoiler alert for the entire review below.
SPOILER ALERT * * * *
The movie begins with the story of a brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (superbly played by Christian Bale) who figures out “how easy it is to take money from desperate people”. Rosenfeld is hilarious, subscribes to his own set of principles, and is obsessive about his hair. (He is not the only one obsessing about hair but more on that later). Rosenfeld decided he needed a partner with some polish and finesse to grow his con business. He promised to secure mega loans for his trusting clients, some of whom got duped twice.
Amy Adams is superb in her role as Rosenfeld’s partner in crime, Sydney Prosser, who later becomes his mistress. To their clients, she goes by as a Brit, Lady Edith. She is nobility; smart, successful, flashy, and beautiful, who meticulously curls her hair, and dresses in exquisite clothes with plunging necklines. While enabling her lover, Prosser was not fully aware of the extent of his crime, until the feds targeted her and had a warrant for her arrest.
And so enters another colorful character, FBI agent Richie Di Maso (played by brilliant Bradley Cooper). Di Maso promises to drop charges against Rosenfeld and Prosser, if Rosenfeld would work with the FBI to uncover a bigger crime, involving politicians and other public figures. Rosenfeld agrees and the trio become new partners in crime with a goal to “trap” other high profile figures. If obsession with hair is any indication of vanity, DiMaso is as obsessed with hair as his other two partners. He is also obsessed with getting as many convictions as possible, regardless of costs in money or ethics or relationships. Lavish schemes are hatched, meetings are organized, money needs are identified, and Di Maso cajoles, begs, promises success and ultimately succeeds in convincing his budget conscious superiors to shell out money for a grand front, replete with dome Perignon, authentic Louis XVI furniture, and even rented Lear Jet with (Mexican American FBI agent Michael Pena) ridiculously funny, fake Arab Sheik.
The target of elaborate scheme to entrap the rich and famous begins with the beloved, popular, and family man; the charismatic Mayor of New Jersey, Carmine Polito (played beautifully by Jeremy Renner) and eventually involves several politicians and Mafia bosses, including notorious and violent Mafia overlord Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro).
Even from such a stellar cast, Jennifer Lawrence manages to steal the thunder in her role as Rosenfeld’s wife. Her husband refers to her as “Picasso of passive-aggressive karate”. With her passive aggressive tactics, she holds Rosenfeld tightly on a leash, so he cannot leave her, but she isn’t afraid to hook up with a mafia underling and naively spills secrets, almost giving away the FBI sting operation.
I think enough secrets are spilled here. Watch the movie to learn about the scandal where the FBI agent himself got caught up in ego and greed and kept raising the stakes, a scandal that in the end trapped him in his own greed; a scandal that resulted in real-life, in sixteen convictions, and brought down famous people, hustling to acquire more of everything they had plentiful. With terrific star power, fantastic mix of mystery, evil, greed, and comic relief, this can quite possibly be the best movie of the year. I rate it a 4.8 on a 1 to 5
scale, with 5 being excellent.