It's pre-Oscar, pre-Bafta and, er, post Golden Globes time! (you probably didn't notice the latter due to the writers strike) New delights! New movies! Yay!
Charlie Wilson's War, about the Congressman from the Second District of Texas is a January Joy (well, it only opened in the UK last week, so possibly a little more joyous over here than over there where Americans got to see it during the Holidays, before Christmas,)
Now what's not to like about Tom Hanks? Julia Roberts? Phillip Seymour Hoffman? All three and more (Emily Blunt near naked! Ned Beatty! [not naked], Ken Stott as an Israeli (ha!) and Dan Rather with a beard!) in this true fable about the roots of clandestine American support for the Mujahadeen fightback against the Russkies in Afghanistan, whose victory led to the almost immediate fall of Communism and ultimately the creation of Osama Bin Laden's ability to attack from a power base in Afghanistan. ("we fucked up the end game")
One of the best script-edited movies I've seen in a long time - great lines, zingers, jokes, pithy put downs, sexist one-liners, dated references to the Middle East that still resonate and a bottle of Talisker (whisky) that turns out to be bugged - all hail Aaron Sorkin, this gets a full Nationwide four stars. (Out of 5)
It is fabulous. And if you haven't seen it yet then go see it, but don't read the next paragraph because it'll just spoil it all for y'all.
So... let me get this story right (strokes chin and furrows brow). After the Russians invade Afghanistan and lay waste to it's population in the most callous way you can imagine (there's a scene of a helicopter gunship pilot discussing his private relationship while attacking the population of a yet another mountain village) we're supposed to believe that no-one, just no-one, in the CIA, the White House, Congress, and the "clandestine services" can do anything at all until a disconnected playboy congressman from a small district in Texas happens to see a Dan Rather report while in a jacuzzi in Vegas and the takes it upon himself to fight everyone in DC to defeat the Soviets. Why, forgive me folks, I thought that was the CIA's job. I thought they were supposed to be doing that (as the film proves they did quite handsomely - after the apparent intervention of Congressman Charlie).
In fact, if I was the CIA today, I'd fund a movie about what a brilliant job they did in Afghanistan, but being a covert organisation, I'd make it look as if someone else gets all the credit.
Now, from Lufkin to the Rio Grande may not be far geographically ('bout 800 miles across Texas) but cinematically you can't really get much furher, as the Coen Brothers have proved with No Country for Old Men, which has had rave previews for weeks now and yet only opened last week, to yet more rave reviews.
This is the Coen Brothers "back at their peak",the most oft repeated phrase I read last week, in among the rave reviews.
It's a tale of a drug deal gone wrong in West Texas, a chase after the money, and so on (I won't spoil it)....in fact I can't spoil it because I couldn't understand a frikkin word they were saying.
Now, the sound might have been "muddy" in the cinema (which has never bothered me before) but the truth is that every character speaks low and slow, no lip movement is allowed (despite the fact that I'm sure most of them move their lips while reading the sports pages).
The baddy, the goody, the Sheriff and the others (even Kelly MacDonald who's frikkin Scottish in real life!) all speak in an unhurried Coen Brothers drawl, which is normally fine.
"The Man Who Wasn't There" was on Saturday night TV with a Black and White Billy Bob Thornton muttering at half speed in a Southern drawl and that is a Coen favourite hereabouts!
Tommy Lee Jones - a movie star who seems to have been at his peak for over a decade now - likes the odd mutter - his asides in MIB were priceless - but his entire script must have been marked "sotto vocce" this time.
Only Woody Harrelson's brief appearancec benefitted from clarity. I understood his every word.
No, a second viewing is required for this "brilliant return to form", although I fear the worst. Despite loving the Coen Brothers - really, really, I do, I quote from the Big Lebowski fervently and will never forget either Barton Fink or Albert Finney's hat in Miller's Crossing - I do remember watching Fargo for the first time and being the only person in the cinema who didn't adore it.......