It seems that Sony is sufficiently concerned about whether Kathryn Bigelow’s much-more-hotly-anticipated-as-of-April movie Kill bin Laden could swing the 2012 election that they’re considering moving its release date as far back as 2013. This strikes me as somewhat silly. Whether or not there is a Hollywood movie about it, or many Hollywood movies about it, as the case may be, released in any proximity to the election, the fact remains that President Obama gave the order to have Osama bin Laden killed. I’m reasonably certain we will be reminded of that fact through other media, perhaps including paid campaign advertisements.
Stories tagged with “Kathryn Bigelow”
Peter King, America’s most successful attention-whoring congressman, is upset about the prospect that the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, in the course of briefing Kathryn Bigelow on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden for her upcoming movie about just that, may have revealed classified information. This is, of course, a deeply goofy concern. The Defense Department and intelligence agencies have a reputation for being extremely available to Hollywood, and presumably know how to brief filmmakers without damaging the national interest.
More to the point, if Hollywood was ever going to try to get something right, the assassination of the architect of the most devastating one-off attack on American soil and goader of America into two wars would be it. And Kathryn Bigelow, who has made movies about servicemen before, presumably has some interest in national security and the safety of the men and women who provide it for us. If King wants to get upset about a Navy SEALs movie, he might do better to focus on Act of Valor, in which the team had much greater access to actual SEAL teams who are themselves acting in the movie, and which is based on actual SEAL operations. The details of the bin Laden raid were always going to be public, but showcasing the details of other operations seems more likely to compromise security than presenting accurately a story that would have been revealed anyway.
Last week, Paulie asked me in comments on my post about Miss Representation, “Say I’m a stereotypical guy looking to watch/read something new. What stuff written by or starring women am I likely to enjoy?” Here, in no particular order, are 18 things that I think would appeal to men. I’ve omitted classics because I assume you know. All of these, for me, pass Ta-Nehisi’s test in that these are not things you should watch or read out of obligation, but because they’re very good. Got more suggestions? Toss ‘em in comments.
1. Prime Suspect: Helen Mirren is so universally understood to be an amazing actresses, a salty dame, and a foxy lady, that it’s difficult to think about a time when she wasn’t a phenomenon in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. But if you want to understand Mirren’s general awesomeness, it’s worth checking out her seven-season run as DCI Jane Tennison, during which Mirren puts away serial killers, works with immigrant communities, challenges institutional sexism, has affairs and an abortion, and acknowledges her drinking problem. In other words, she’s an actual person rather than a saint, a living illustration of the costs of breaking gender barriers in the working world. And she’s funny, too.
2. Anything Barbara Stanwyck: The woman was tougher than most of the guys she was on-screen with, even in a dress so tight she couldn’t run in it, even in heels that she broke strategically as a way to get back to a mark’s stateroom on a cruise ship. “I love him because he’s a kind of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk,” she declared in Ball of Fire. “I need him like the axe needs the turkey,” she glowered about Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve. Stanwyck is the apotheosis of the idea women can be equal — even superior — to men with an entirely different toolkit. Read this profile and critical reassessment of her by David Denby. Then rent The Lady Eve and prepare to die laughing during the mirror scene.
3. Emma Thompson and Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility: Jane Austen is, indeed awesome, but Emma Thompson is the only woman who possibly could have improved upon her, turning Sense and Sensibility into a pitch-perfect examination of why women get emotionally attached too quickly, or don’t explain why they’re thinking — and how social pressure, particularly when it comes to class and money, leads men into bad decisions. The movie is sharp, very funny, and quite moving. Yeah, it’s Austen and it’s understated, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s boring.
We’ll never know who actually killed Osama bin Laden. But we’re about to get some actual Navy SEALs to use as hero-worship stand-ins. It turns out Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t the only person with a thematically-appropriate movie in the works — Relativity Media just announced that they’re distributing Act of Valor, a movie shot largely in secret with access to a SEAL squad brokered by the Navy. Actual SEALs star in the movie, and the events, which surround the rescue of a CIA operative.
I’ve got mixed feelings about this. It’s probably not going to be a stellar thing for our reassessment of our relationship with Pakistan if the American box office goes huge for a movie that sounds like it’s celebrating Ray Davis’s release. Also, with how The Unit worked out, I’m somewhat suspicious of movies that the military is psyched about and signed off on. I imagine the action sequences are pretty gripping, but they could also end up being in the service of some pretty rotten politics. And as much as I respect members of the U.S. military, I’m way more into their ability to carry out precision operations to take out mass murderers than their ability to act with any sort of depth or nuance.
But we’re going to get a lot of Navy SEALs movies and a lot of movies about killing major terrorists. Most of them are probably going to be bad, and to have pretty rotten geopolitics. The power of September 11 is that it created a consensus-free zone. Our entertainment about it—especially when the closest thing we have to a win is the death of one man—is no exception.
It looks like Paul Greengrass’s plans to direct Memphis, a movie based on the sanitation workers’ strike Martin Luther King, Jr. was supporting when he was assassinated, are on hold so he can jump on the Navy SEAL bandwagon and helm a picture about Captain Richard Phillips and the Maersk Alabama. I’m glad that in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, the early movies taking advantage of a new appreciation for the SEALs have gone to thoughtful action directors like Greengrass and Kathryn Bigelow.
But I’m sorry to see Memphis get pushed back. We have a preference in our entertainment for international concerns over domestic ones, for ass-kicking rather than organizing as a means to justice. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legend persists mostly because we focus on the work he did that doesn’t make us uncomfortable: we agree that segregation was rotten, but we’re uncomfortable with union organizing, so we focus on King’s work on the former rather than the latter. A movie that requires audiences to understand that King’s concerns with racial equality and economic justice sprung from the same well would be useful and powerful, and as commercially risky as asking audiences to relive the struggle for control of United 93 on Sept. 11. But the crack of a rifle that echoes down the ages apparently isn’t as exciting as a daring raid.