BATTLE IN THE SEATTLE
Vern’s thoughts on the movie, the historical event, and Thursday’s
opening of the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival
NOTE: This is another one of those ones I sent in to Ain’t It Cool and they never ran it. But I was kind of thinking of making it a geocities exclusive anyway because I knew as soon as some asshole talkbacker pointed out it was long I would ram my head through a wall.
At a glance BATTLE IN SEATTLE might seem like a perfect opening film for this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. For one thing, it has the word “Seattle” in the title. For another it takes place in Seattle. Those are only two of the reasons.
But I was thinking it was a mistake because this is a movie about the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, screening within walking distance of where it happened, but most of the movie is filmed far away in Vancouver. And some of us might have a problem with that. Could be risky.
I got a big laugh when I flipped through the Seattle Weekly’s coverage of SIFF. The Weekly was bought out by Village Voice Media a year or two ago, so alot of their reviews now are just recycled from the weeklies in other cities. Here is a movie about protesting globalism in Seattle, and instead of a local perspective they re-use an old review from a previous film festival written by Texas-based Robert Wilonsky. Don’t call Alanis Morissette yet, I’m still looking into this, but I have reason to believe it may be ironic.
At least actor-turned-first-time-director Stuart Townsend acknowledged what he was up against when he introduced the movie. He asked how many people had been there during the protests and when the hands went up he said, “Oh shit.”
Well, he didn’t have to worry about this crowd. They gave it a standing ovation, they cheered every time some character made some political statement they agreed with (which was alot), or when it reminded them of something cool that happened during the protests. There was alot of attempted sticking it to the man going on in the Seattle Opera House. The audience questions afterwards gushed about the movie. And to be honest the switches to Vancouver were not as noticeable as I expected. You get used to movies taking place in Seattle and just having one helicopter shot of the Space Needle. This one had quite a few scenes in front of the real Paramount Theater, the Chief Seattle statue by Zeke’s Pizza, the monorail, and a shot of the Cinerama. You see, THE HOLLOW MAN 2, or CHAOS starring Wesley Snipes and Jason Statham? You could’ve done better.
So opening night was not the disaster I imagined. There weren’t many major regional faux pas other than Governor Gary Locke being given a Chinese accent. There were no protesters outside the opera house chanting “This is what Seattle looks like.” So that was all good but in my opinion the movie was not. I hate to say it, because Townsend seems like a nice, sincere guy (and Charlize Theron is purdy – she was there and I can confirm that it was only makeup in MONSTER) but for me this movie doesn’t cut it. The characters don’t have much depth, too much of the story is told through awkward dialogue or news reports instead of showing it, the scenes don’t feel very real and I don’t think it does a very good job of communicating what exactly was going on.
That last one is partly because of the budget, because what made those days so awe inspiring was the sheer size of the protest. Without a ton of money it’s hard to show how epic it was. In the movie it mostly looks like a small group crowding up maybe half a block. The only time you can see how big it is is when they cut to actual documentary footage, but that’s always a little offputting because it instantly feels so much more real than the rest of the movie and emphasizes how fake the re-enactments are. There are a whole lot of scenes in huge crowds but where you can clearly hear the main characters talk to each other with minimal background noise. It just feels artificial.
The outsourced review compared it to CRASH, but that’s not an accurate comparison. There is no fucking of leg wounds or rubbing nipples against airplanes or anything like that. Or if they’re talking about the Paul Haggis one I don’t agree with that either. This is neither as hilariously ludicrous as CRASH’s worst moments or as well directed and acted as CRASH’s best moments. The only similarity is that it follows various characters on different sides of the conflict and eventually some of their stories intersect. You’ve got Ray Liotta as the in-over-his-head mayor (not named Paul Schell like the genuine article), Martin Henderson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jennifer Carpenter and Andre 3000 Benjamin as activists, Woody Harrelson and Channing Tatum as cops. Inside the WTO there’s a couple recognizable faces trying to get their issues to the table, including Rade Sherbedzija (the costume shop owner from EYES WIDE SHUT) and Isaach De Bankole (the ice cream man from GHOST DOG!).
The style of the movie is Paul Greengrass, handheld documentary kind of look. That’s a good way to do a movie on a budget but directors don’t seem to consider how the style can backfire. If the camerawork is “real” shouldn’t the acting and dialogue be more real than this? Should we really have the characters explaining the story to the audience, like “Six months of preparation. Here we go” or “Welcome to the first internet protest!”? The “real” look clashes with the Hollywood feel of some of the writing, like giving Henderson a back story about his brother who was killed in a previous protest. And none of the characters end up with enough screen time to really have a strong story. Theron especially seems wasted playing half of her role in a hospital bed.
The most interesting character is actually one of the few establishment figures, the mayor. Both in the movie and in real life I kind of felt sorry for that guy. He thought he had this big coup bringing the WTO to the city, and it turned into a notorious disaster that ended his career. He made a genuine but naive attempt to honor Seattle’s way of life by not squelching the protest, but it was worse than he expected and then pressure started coming from the (American-accented) governor and the White House to clamp down. So he goes in the opposite direction, complete overkill, and makes the problem way worse. But he can’t seem to accept the fact that he’s now The Man. He keeps mentioning to the press that he protested Vietnam. Hey come on guys, I’m one of the good guys, I swear.
A guy in that position is so much more interesting than protesters that I started to wonder why the movie wasn’t just about him. Alot of what happens is never shown, you just hear somebody telling the mayor that it happened, so maybe they should’ve saved money and gone in a more minimalistic theatrical kind of approach. You see the whole thing from the perspective of this poor bastard hiding out in a building somewhere trying to make the right decisions. But I guess that wouldn’t have had the messages Townsend wanted to get across.
* * *
Let me give some of that local perspective that Seattle Weekly couldn’t give. I had my own minor brush with the protests so I have an idea what they were like. I’m a left winger but not an activist. I was living outside of town and I wasn’t about to go to the protest because I didn’t know what the fuck a WTO was. I watched the news on the first day and saw those anarchist kids smashing some windows, which was portrayed as violence and a legitimate reason to spray tear gas and shoot rubber bullets at all the thousands of other people. I was suspicious because I’d seen kids get beat up by cops before and then watched them call it a riot on TV. But I wasn’t there, I was just guessing.
Then the next day they declared a “No Protest Zone.” Basically there was a small square where you were allowed to still have the first amendment, and the rest of downtown you would be arrested if you had a sign or accidentally chanted or played a drum or something. During the Bush years this became a regular part of protests. If Bush comes into town they square off a little cage of fence where you’re allowed to protest out of the sight of Bush and the media, and the rest is off limits. I’ve heard people credit Bush’s people for starting this technique but this is one thing you can’t pin on him. They already did it for Clinton when he came to town for WTO.
Anyway, I am one of those guys who believes in freedom and America and what not, so when I heard about the No Protest Zone (which is not explained in the movie) is when I decided to go downtown and see what was going on with my own eyes. When I got there it was pretty surreal. Quiet, not alot of activity, but lines of militarized riot cops blocking off numerous streets, standing there like stormtroopers under the Christmas lights.
In the afternoon I was talking to some friends on the corner when a relatively small group of marchers burst out of the Pike Place Market stairway, coming back downtown after a labor rally. These were the friendliest, happiest group of protesters you ever saw. Hippies, union members identified by their jackets, people in turtle costumes like Andre 3000 wears in the movie, and everybody was dancing and chanting to the beat of a percussion band. They were gesturing for innocent passersby like ourselves to join them. My friends and I looked at each other and shrugged. Why not? I like drums. I like turtles. I don’t like the priorities of global capitalism taking precedence over our local beliefs or whatever.
So we marched for a little bit and it was pretty uplifting and then as we came around the corner we saw another crowd of marchers coming from a different direction. Two relatively small groups combining to form one larger one! What poetry! As the crowds merged we cheered. But I remember seeing fear on the faces of the other crowd. They were not happy to see us and were gesturing back in the direction they came from, like “No– you don’t understand…”
And then I noticed the battalion of riot cops behind them. They were firing concussion grenades into the air, basically like a firework that makes a loud bang to scare and disorient people. There were white clouds wafting around – this was the CS gas I believe. Even nowhere near the clouds your eyes and nasal passages began to burn. They had some sort of tank-like vehicle, and a loudspeaker repeatedly announcing that everyone must disperse immediately or be arrested.
I gotta be honest, the whole thing pissed me off, but my friends were more interested in getting away from tear gas and pepper spray than in fighting the man. Which was not a bad idea, so I went with them. This was not our fight. Sorry, turtles.
The problem we found then was that dispersing was easier-said-over-a-loudspeaker-than-done. Every direction we went there were more cops, more chemical clouds, and lines of National Guard. And it’s hard to see when you keep rubbing your eyes. The Guard are mentioned in the movie but, as far as I noticed, never shown. In the media they were always referred to as “unarmed National Guard,” although in reality they each held a large wooden bat that in my opinion would’ve hurt if they chose to use it on you.
I went up to a line of them who, obviously, would not let me pass. I asked them which direction to go. “We’re trying to disperse, but every way we go is blocked.” They not only wouldn’t answer, they wouldn’t look at me. I’m sure that was what they were told to do to avoid being tricked or distracted by the wily anarchists of Eugene, Oregon. I don’t think I ever heard anything about National Guard getting out of line, so good for them. But let’s just say it was not comforting to have them there. I did not feel it was people they were guarding.
We eventually found an unguarded alley to sneak out through and got the hell out of there. But it was sobering to be caught in the middle of this very minor skirmish in the several days of cop vs. protester battles. Alot of people have a kneejerk reaction against any protest, assuming whoever does it is a crazy extremist or is just trying to show off or something. If you think I should be beaten, gassed and arrested for the crime of stupidly joining a hippie conga line for a few minutes then so be it, I will accept your wise judgment. What disturbed me though was seeing elderly people bent over coughing at the bus stops. Look, I don’t agree with some stupid kids breaking windows and spraypainting shit. But is that worth pepper spraying an old lady waiting for the bus out of town? I’m against it.
The movie tries to address this issue with Charlize Theron’s character. She doesn’t know anything about the protests except that her husband (Harrelson) is a cop and has to work overtime. She works downtown but when she’s sent home she gets caught in the crossfire. To get around the crowd she tries to cut down an alley, where she sees protesters running out of a cloud of tear gas, gas-masked cops chasing after them. I was surprised how much this reminded me of actually being there (even if Charlize’s alley was in another country).
But here’s the thing (SPOILER)… her character is pregnant. That’s the kind of thing that spooked me when I was in the middle of that, thinking of how many random pregnant women or asthmatic elderly people might’ve been stuck there. But in the movie (seriously, SPOILER) a cop runs up and hits her in the belly with his club, and she loses the baby. The audience gasped. It hurt to look at. I have no doubt that something like this could happen. But on the other hand… it didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. My blood still boils at some of the fucked up shit some cops did. The only officer fired for excessive force during the protests was a King County Sheriff’s Deputy named John Vanderwalker. He saw two young women in a parked car videotaping. He knocked on their window and when they cracked it he said “Tape this, bitch!” and sprayed pepper spray into their car. A separate videotape showed a medic, clearly labelled with a red cross armband and holding a first aid kit, crouching on a sidewalk. Vanderwalker ran up behind her and kicked her in the back. He denied that it was him in the video but they were able to enlarge the image and read the name on his helmet, so he was fired. The next year an arbitrator found that it could not be proven that he had lied, because he might have forgot that he ran up and kicked a lady in the back for no reason, so he was reinstated with back pay. He got a free vacation out of it.
That’s the one guy they tried to hold accountable, and that’s just the stuff he did on tape. Who knows what else he forgot about doing? But if he had hit a pregnant lady and caused her to miscarry, well, I think we would know about that. So to attribute something that horrible to a police officer seems like cheating.
I think that’s the biggest problem with the movie in getting its message across. There’s alot of truth in the movie, but by mixing it with typical movie phoniness you kind of dilute it. For example:
* They mention that the police tried to get the fire department to spray the protesters with firehoses, and they refused. That’s true (it’s verified in the REPORT OF THE WTO ACCOUNTABILITY REVIEW COMMITTEE SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL) but will people who don’t know that believe it? I mean, it sounds pretty over-the-top, like clubbing a pregnant lady.
* There’s a scene where an anarchist breaks a store window and Henderson and other protesters try to stop him. He thinks vandalism doesn’t constitute violence, they try to convince him it’s still giving the media exactly the images they need to make the whole demonstration useless. This kind of thing really did happen, but it seems phony when it turns into Rodriguez melodramatically calling Henderson a coward, and when the anarchist is played by Joshua Jackson of DAWSON’S CREEK.
* They also have a subplot about a local news reporter having her eyes opened over the course of her coverage. I felt like this really did happen as I saw local reporters trying to smear the whole protest because one dumbass vandalizing the Nike store was wearing Nikes, but eventually as the police started firing tear gas into bars on Capitol Hill they started to become more sympathetic toward the people getting beat up and visibly upset about what was going on. But in the movie they have her join the protest on live TV when she’s supposed to be reporting from a press conference. Do you really have to manufacture stick-it-to-the-man moments when you’re telling the story of a real one?
* It is also true that there were undercover police pretending to be protesters as Channing Tatum’s character does. I’m not sure if any of them got beat up by other cops, but I’ll let that one go. I liked what they did with his character so I hope people don’t think it’s just made up.
To me it seemed like the most crucial turning point was Capitol Hill. The mayor had declared a curfew, and the police had forced a small group of lingering protesters out of downtown and up the hill. Capitol Hill is a neighborhood with alot of young people, hipsters, gays, artists, punks. There are many bars and restaraunts and a lively night life. It’s where Sir Mix-a-Lot was talking about in that old song “Posse On Broadway.” He wasn’t lying, there’s always a long line for burgers at Dick’s even late into the night.
The movie shows a little bit of what a bad situation the cops were in.
They were working over time, not getting breaks, not getting enough water, pissing in bottles, getting piss bottles thrown at them. What it doesn’t mention is that most of them were from out of town. There weren’t enough Seattle police for the job so officers were shipped in from all over the state. So you have these tired, pissed off cops chasing protesters up the hill… I wonder if they even knew where they were? Did they know they had left the “No Protest Zone”? Did they know that the crowds up here were not protesting anything? What did they expect to happen when they started spraying and hitting regular apolitical people and telling them to “disperse” from their own neighborhood?
That night was the most out of control because the police found themselves battling not with WTO protesters, but with Capitol Hill residents pissed off that their businesses and hangouts were being tear gassed. The police wouldn’t leave, so the locals wouldn’t go inside. After being mistaken for protesters many residents went ahead and became protesters, gathering outside the local police headquarters. A city council member showed up and tried to negotiate between the locals and the police. The news crews stopped spreading hearsay about protesters being seen with molotov cocktails and started interviewing various bloodied people about all the horrible things that happened to them. And they kept showing the video of Vanderwalker kicking the medic.
BATTLE IN SEATTLE tries to show some of the chaos that night, but without really explaining the context. And then two of the leads are involved in a pretty ludicrous foot chase. But the thing I felt was really missing was the next morning. After having the police do nothing was a failure, and having the police beat the hell out of everybody was even worse, they tried a new approach. The stormtrooper outfits were put away and protests were chaperoned by un-armored bike police. Suddenly everybody calmed down and there were no more scuffles. This is the approach they’ve used for most political protests since then, with much success. Both Niketown and the old ladies at bus stops have gone relatively unscathed.
I can’t expect Townsend to tell the story I want him to, but to me that was the inspirational part of WTO. That was what showed me that people could take a stand and make a difference. Not activists but regular people who could’ve gone inside to safety but felt the need to stand in the way of an injustice in their neighborhood. And it did force the city to change their tactics. It made a difference.
As for the WTO protests? Well, despite what the trailer for BATTLE IN SEATTLE tells you it is debatable how much effect they had on anything. But in the movie’s one truly great moment it acknowledges this. Hundreds of protesters, including the main characters, are in jail. Henderson’s character is especially glum because he’s on his third strike, and he thinks they’ve failed. But Andre Benjamin’s Django tries to cheer him up.
“Yesterday those people didn’t even know what the WTO was,” he says. “But today…”
And you’re thinking oh come on Stuart Townsend. Let’s not overstate this.
“…well, they still don’t know what it is. But at least they know it’s bad!”
I didn’t mention Benjamin before because I was saving the best for last. He’s definitely the highlight of the movie. As the guy who tries to keep morale high among protesters he gets all the funny lines and few of the self righteous ones. It’s also nice to see a major rap star wearing a cardboard turtle costume. You don’t see enough of that.
I should also single out Martin Henderson. When I saw him on stage I realized “Holy shit, that’s the guy from TORQUE!” (and he was standing next to the stars of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, AEON FLUX, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN and HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE – quite a collection). I do not mean that as an insult because to be totally and completely honest I enjoyed the hell out of TORQUE. But he was not very good in it. In this one he is good and I think we will be seeing more of him.
* * *
Like most political movies it’s hard to see this one converting many people. I don’t think those people who instinctively hate protesters will have their eyes opened too wide. In fact, I’m not sure some people are even going to understand what the World Trade Organization is (it’s mostly explained in an opening montage like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK).
But I do truly believe that Townsend’s heart is in the right place, so I’m glad he was able to show it in Seattle without derisive laughter (except during a climactic scene where a cop tracks down the protester he beat up and apologizes to him – I guess we weren’t ready to believe that one). It kind of reminded me of Emilio Estevez’s movie BOBBY, but it wasn’t as laugh-out-loud corny as that one, and Townsend didn’t even cast himself in the movie. So it’s not THAT embarrassing.
My apologies for the negative review, and I look forward to the intelligent and courteous political discussion that will take place in the talkback.
Eventually posted at Ain’t-It-Cool News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/36912
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
May 29, 2008, 7:57 a.m. CST
Damn You Michael Bay
Damn You Michael Bay
May 29, 2008, 7:59 a.m. CST
by Annie The Pod Racer
May 29, 2008, 8:05 a.m. CST
I thought this was about Captain Panaka…
I heard battle and thought it was the epic story of how he became so cynical and lost his eye.
May 29, 2008, 8:17 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
For fuck’s sake Vern, who is going to wade through that? And who gives a fuck about your personal observations? <P>Right, obvious joke done, I’m off to read it.
May 29, 2008, 8:18 a.m. CST
better title: WHEN MOONBATS ATTACK!!!
By they way, a remake of the giant ants movie “THEM” has been announced. Oh boy, super fast cgi ants, here they come.
May 29, 2008, 8:23 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
if that asshole that bragged about being one of the rioters will show again. <P>Great review, Vern, although I hate that Greengrass style.
May 29, 2008, 9:05 a.m. CST
May 29, 2008, 9:39 a.m. CST
If I’ve ever seen one! Naw, I haven’t even read the review. Going to pretend its an e-mail and read it now though, damn you non workers. Hey Lost Jarv, was it you that was going to see Doomsday last weekend?
May 29, 2008, 9:49 a.m. CST
If you protest, just remember one thing:
The more tired, outnumbered, pissed off, and abused the police are, and the more property damage is done, the more protesters who don’t stay in the designated areas, and the more little black bandana wearing anarchists you see in the crowd: the more likely you are to have your ass handed to you by a cop before nights end. Just a thought.
May 29, 2008, 9:50 a.m. CST
by Alonzo Mosely
I have never been a fan of movie versions of real recent events, because you always end up sitting there watching the same hollywood moments you have seen a million times before wondering if there will ever be a point in time where they think we are smart enough to see a re-enacment of an event minus some screenwriters hack reworking of husband and wife leave on bad words, and now those may be the last words they ever speak, or whatever other cliche they have pulled from the ‘this is the only way stupid movie goers can uderstand events’ book.<p>
Also wouldn’t this movie have been better as a Seagal vanity project, in which he played an ex-CIA agent turned WTO protester. Eddie Griffin could have been a turtle, Michael Caine could have been the Mayor and Seagal could have got a big emotional speech at the end.
May 29, 2008, 9:52 a.m. CST
It’s ZEEKS, not ZEKE’S btw
by professor murder
I worked at that Zeeks pizza for 5 years and let me tell you…..you do NOT want to know what I’ve seen happen in that Chief Seattle Pool….lol
May 29, 2008, 10:10 a.m. CST
Stuart TownsendStuart Townsend
Directed this? OK? Like Emilio directing Bobby. Plus he’s not even Seattleish, nor a good actor. Ok i really gotta read the review.
May 29, 2008, 10:20 a.m. CST
As always. Thanks Vern.
May 29, 2008, 10:23 a.m. CST
This Review is Dead On
by The Only Nice Guy in this Forum
I was also at the premier and Vern’s got this review exactly right.
One thing Vern doesn’t elaborate on is that Theron’s character is the wife of a cop (played by Harrelson). They use the fact that she loses the baby as the thing that sets him over the edge and causes him to become extra violent toward the protestors who are egging him and other officers on. It would have been very easy to paint a sympathetic portrait of a cop who has been working way too many hours in high tension situation with unclear (and changing orders) that just loses it. Instead, they decided the only way to make the cop sympathetic was to kill his baby. Dumb.
In general I felt that the real-life footage was far more effective and moving than anything the actors did, and if this had been made as a straight up documentary it would have been a lot better.
The one thing that this movie does succeed at is starting conversations. My friends and I talked about the movie and its message for most of the drive home.
May 29, 2008, 10:39 a.m. CST
I don’t think I’ve ever commented on AICN before but I felt compelled to chime in this one time. That was a fantastic read Vern. Your description of the events was chilling..probably more effective than the movie. Keep up the great work!
May 29, 2008, 10:40 a.m. CST
I appreciate that cops are people too, and I give much respect to people who get pissed on for generally trying to do the right thing in their line of work. But the idea that protest can only occur in certain areas is the slipperiest slope that has happeded in the last fucking 20 years. If you don’t like me protesting, go back to fucking Russia.
May 29, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST
by professor murder
I live in Capitol Hill and when the police started tear gassing up on Broadway(the part about going into the neighborhoods out of the no protest zone), the effects of the gas made it’s way 4 blocks off of the the main strip down to my street and there I was at home with my eyes irritated and feeling the burn. The wind just kind of breezed it throughout the whole hill.
I will admit though, alot of confrontation wouldn’t have happened if those punk anarchist black bandana face covered douches weren’t there picking fights. The cops probably never would of even marched up the hill.
May 29, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST
Vern Lives Around Here?!
Dang! As for Battle in Seattle… why should I pay for something I saw for real? The horror… the horror… HEY! Where’s my Venti Iced Americano, half-decaf, no room?!
May 29, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST
by Rev. Artemis Prime
Aboslutly wonderful article. You sufficiently convinced me to avoid this movie, and to go and found what is to be found about the WTO. I don’t know much about the protests, but I do know something about protesting. And a no protest zone is about the dumbest shit I know of. I got gassed at a protest over the war back when I was a dope smokin’ hippy green party kid and the whole bit about the cops not giving you a place to disperse to sounds dead on. They actually were waiting for us in a parking lot and hit us when we tried to get in our cars and leave. It would be nice for once if a movie could try to tell what actally happened instead of throwing in trite hollywood bs that does nothing except detract from the truth. Right on Vern.
May 29, 2008, 11:48 a.m. CST
Hopefully this movie will have some kind of positive effect, maybe get people talking more about the WTO and globalization. Even though the movie sounds very flawed I give Townsend some credit for tackling this event and trying to organize it as a story, not a simple feat for a first time director. Meanwhile for a bit more realism I’ll stick with the documentaries put out by Big Noise Films.
May 29, 2008, 12:26 p.m. CST
Great review, Vern.
I lived in Seattle during the WTO protests and I think you completely reviewed the FUCK out of that movie. Awesome, awesome job! I lived in Capitol Hill (in the Ben Lomond building on Bellevue Court East) and I totally remember when the cops came up onto Broadway. I was walking my old dog and I had no clue what the hell was going on, but I had to get the hell out of there because it looked like they were ready to club anyone on Broadway. Yup, a late-20s guy with his ancient cocker spaniel was going to fuck with them.
May 29, 2008, 12:28 p.m. CST
P.S. Rest in Peace Henry Bojangles
I loved that dog.
May 29, 2008, 12:41 p.m. CST
About Day 2…
In addition to the ‘no protest zones,’ everywhere downtown because a ‘no sitting zone.’ Anyone simply sitting on the sidewalk, or even on walls, benches, etc.. were ‘handcuffed’ with plastic tie strings and put into trucks where they were put in this old Navy Yard hanger. <p> People started arriving in number just to sit down in hopes that the police would call the whole roundup nonsense off. Well, Seattle actually has a ‘no squatting’ law which prohibits (if chosen to be enforced) any type of ‘squatting’ (sitting, leaning, etc..). <p> Unfortunately, the police were well equipped and thousands of people were ‘arrested.’ I heard a young, middle-class, white kid near me say ‘let’s go get arrested!’ If I was that guy, I’d want my permanent record blackened with something just a tad more exciting than ‘I got arrested for sitting with a group of people!’ Know what I mean? <p> I would have said ‘I like turtles, but I dislike teargas more.’ But like you say Vern, It’s not the review I would have written, but it will serve, As Shakespeare might have said, while dreaming. Thanks Vern, though this review was quite absent of your usually more colourful language, involving more far-reaching comparisons and pornographic symbolism. Cheers, nonetheless.
May 29, 2008, 12:43 p.m. CST
Oh, And A Song
A Seattle Hip-Hop group called the Blue Scholars, with their song about the ‘Battle In Seattle.'<p> http://tinyurl. com/6kmrwl
May 29, 2008, 1:06 p.m. CST
Can we please
by Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World
Show a little maturity just once and not say “Too long! lolol just kidding vern” all ironic like. Jesus enough with the ironic bullshit. Everybody is so god damned ironic these days. It’s okay to like something shitty, it’s IRONIC.
May 29, 2008, 1:29 p.m. CST
I really can’t sympathize with these kinds of protestors. I’ve seen the shit thet do firsthand and the cops woul dprobably be justifed to shot every last one of them.
May 29, 2008, 2:15 p.m. CST
That’s a fucking great article Vern
Seriously, good form.
May 29, 2008, 2:19 p.m. CST
Andre at Cinerama
You mentioned both, and funny enough on opening night of SIFF when this played Andre 3000 wandered in to Cinerama to catch the late show of Indy 4 with a lady friend. They ended up sitting in the back where the A/C hits you, so he came down and talked to me and I turned the air off for him. Nice guy!
May 29, 2008, 2:29 p.m. CST
by Jackie Boy
May 29, 2008, 2:40 p.m. CST
Great Review Vern
I had friends living in Captial Hill at the time the riots started. They were inside watching the news, thankful they weren’t out in it, until a cop knocked on their door and started harassing them. <p>I remember the local radio outlets telling people to stay out of downtown (adding that badass teenagers who think tear gas won’t affect them will be in for a very unpleasant surprise).<p>Had the SWAT team hunted down the Anarchists from Eugene and wiped them out, a lot of people wouldn’t have shed a tear.
May 29, 2008, 4:27 p.m. CST
I’m sorry but
I don’t understand why global trade is a bad thing.
May 29, 2008, 4:36 p.m. CST
by Jonas Grumpy
“A lot” is TWO words, not one.
May 29, 2008, 4:44 p.m. CST
Memories, All Alone in the Moonlight…
by Jonas Grumpy
While watching the news reports of the protests from the safety of the other side of Lake Washington, I thought back to my time spent on Capitol Hill and in downtown when I was younger. Which meant that almost every scene of carnage and injury required me to say, “Hey! I know where that is! I’ve been there!” Reading this review reminded me of the time I was reminded of all that. When I eventually see the movie, I’ll be reminded of the time I read this review, which will remind me of all those other memories. Good times. (Just don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday. I can’t remember.)
May 29, 2008, 5:46 p.m. CST
I was there as well, reading this review brought back a lot of memories. Kinda strange to me they made a fictionalized account when there is enough compelling footage in existence for a 10 hour documentary.
May 29, 2008, 5:55 p.m. CST
Feel I have to add this
I was one of those apolitical types, but I worked downtown (8th/Pike next to the Dreamworks bldg.) and I happened to get gassed the 1st day. It was a HORRIBLE experience, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Didn’t realize how much mucous can pour out of myself. I wasn’t able to work for the next 3 days, so I took it upon myself to join a big sit-in, donate my house to people from out of town, and get educated about the WTO. It was one of the most the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had. I even ended up getting gassed two other times. All right, I know no one gives a shit…..nuff said.
May 29, 2008, 6:25 p.m. CST
A little disappointing
It’s funny that the reviewer would take such umbrage at the film’s wanton usage of liberties in depicting the events, and then do exactly the same . Take for example “The next year an arbitrator found that it could not be proven that he had lied, because he might have forgot that he ran up and kicked a lady in the back for no reason, so he was reinstated with back pay.” Googling found the actual arbitration in less than 2 minutes and, while less dramatic than the aforementioned statement, paints a significantly different picture. When taking depositions for the (mutually agreed) arbitrator, the King County Sheriff’s Department did not even bother to bring in any direct testimony of the victim or any witnesses. I’m not a lawyer but exactly how do you prove lying without key evidence? Afterall, as is often quoted when folks ask why Mr Bush hasn’t been prosecuted over the Iraq war, proving dishonesty, by law, requires more than a showing of inaccurate or incomplete recall. Intent to deceive is a key element.
May 29, 2008, 6:49 p.m. CST
by Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saves The World
All the things protestors do? …like.. “protest”? Yeah, they totally all deserve to be SHOT and KILLED for that. Grow the fuck up. People like Cobra Commander and Duke are not real, they’re cartoons. I say that because you sound like someone who never really grew out of that stage when morality was a simplified battle between autobots and decepticons, or whatever.
May 29, 2008, 9:05 p.m. CST
Why WTO Is Bad
by Bad LT
1. Local laws can be overturned by someone in Belguim. Let us say California passes a law by 65% vote on a ballot question that you must fish using turtle safe nets. And some French company that doesn’t have those nets protests it as an “unfiar trade restraint”. Some WTO panel in Belguim agrees, and guess what, the law is invalidated. By signing the WTO treaty, things like this have actually happened. In effect, the voters of any state, a state legislature, federal courts, all can be and have been overruled by WTO decisions. This is why conservatives like Pat Buchanan and libertarians like Ron Paul have come out against NAFTA/WTO, as it causes some loss of national sovereignty. And it is not free trade, which is mostly good, but MANAGED TRADE.
2. The unions are mainly against NAFTA/WTO because it causes loss of jobs. It makes it easier for American companies to go overseas – first to Mexico, now to China – where they can pay workers $1.00 an hour instead of $12.00 here. It started big time under Bush I and Clinton, but now under Bush II we have lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs.
3. WTO has done very little to set higher standards for worker rights, wages, safety and environmental concerns. China, in particular, has made WTO membership to benefit a goverment and corporate elite, while some workers are almost in slave labor conditions, with any dissent quashed by prison or death.
4. NAFTA/WTO is part of the agenda for both corporate Democrats and Neocon Republicans. It fits into a wordview where the US becomes the policeman, fighting wars not for national security, but to protect global corporate interests and overseas investments, like the oil, arms and international finance industries.
These are some of the reasons why I, as a libertarian and paleoconservative, joining with tree huggers and lefties, think NAFTA and the WTO are bad. For more info see www.amconmag.com, www.antiwar.com and www.infowars.com.
By the way, very good and intelligent review. Is this movie gonna get any kind of distribution, or did I already miss it?
May 29, 2008, 9:47 p.m. CST
Hey, Guy Who Got a Headache…
by ian n
Duke and Cobra Commander aren’t real? HOW ABOUT A SPOILER ALERT NEXT TIME!
May 29, 2008, 10:18 p.m. CST
I don’t see where what you wrote contradicts what I wrote. You’re right, they did a poor job of defending the firing. That’s why he could get reinstated based on the argument that he may not have lied about kicking a medic in the back for no reason, because it was possible that he had forgotten about it.<p>
Anyway, I don’t expect the movie to be some work of journalism, it’s not supposed to be that. I just pointed out some cases where I thought the particular liberties they took weakened the argument or made it not as good of a movie.
May 29, 2008, 11:17 p.m. CST
Firefox + FoxyVoice + Harddiskogg = Verncast
Too tired to read now, but Microsoft Mike will read this to me on the way to work tomorrow :D<br><br>
Wow, almost 15 minutes and it’s still going… ! Longo.
May 30, 2008, 12:32 a.m. CST
GREAT REVIEW VERN
Not exactly something I’m looking forward to watching, given the subject, but I’m there.
May 30, 2008, 1:19 a.m. CST
I was there for WTO…
…and my dad works in Pioneer Square. I went down there to make sure he was OK and what this movie doesnt tell you is that a lot of these hippie losers and ‘anarchists’ had no CLUE what they were ‘protesting’…there was a mob mentality with a lot of loser dumbfucks jumpin in. It doesnt matter whether its after a title winning ball game or the WTO the vast majority are a bunch of idiots trying to cause trouble. It has always been my experience that these protest marches by teh unclean masses are pointless as if you corner one these assholes they dont know point 1 of why they are supposed to be tehre or what they are protesting. Notice you never see ‘normally dressed’ protestors? Nope…you see scraggly unwashed sandal wearing pot smoking losers and clowns dressed as turtles. OOOh…and then then these same folks show up at ‘Hemp Fest’ in Seattle and tell you ints because they want to use hemp’s natural fibres to make economical clothing and you cant help but laugh because they reek of weed.
This movie proves that point when idiots like Townsend have to sensationlize their point with pregnant women getting beaten because apparently even HE thought what really happened wouldnt be enough on its own merit to get folks ‘mad at the man’. More liberal bullshit…Townsend in my mind just joined the ranks of Oliver Stone and Michael Moore in the ranks of hypocrites who thinks its OK for THEM to use propaganda but not the ‘other side’. Egotistical self righteous fucks.
May 30, 2008, 3:08 a.m. CST
I wasnt in Seattle
But I was in Quebec City for the FTAA meetings, one of the last big protests before 9\11. Which aborted probably the greatest movement for social and economic change of our time. It took a generation to get such a movement going… it was going to be for us what the 60’s protest movement was back then…I dont know if Ill live long enough to see it rekindled. Its not encouraging seeing as even the FUBAR Iraq war hasnt had its protest movement.
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:35 a.m. CST
Do you smell Puchuli?
May 30, 2008, 3:36 a.m. CST
fucking government computers suck
never work for the Dept of Army and try to look at the intertubes.
May 30, 2008, 4:46 a.m. CST
That was a minor a quibble with what you wrote, essentially boiling down to that perhaps the inclusion of a line of “slipshod prosecuting of the case” or words to that effect may have made the failure to successfully prosecute the officer a bit more clear. I suppose I was just personally interested in the minutiae of the incident.
The main thrust of the post was designed to highlight the inherent complexities of the issue (that I admittedly know very little about) that are not easily distilled to “us vs. them”, as you did admirably in the piece.
May 30, 2008, 4:47 a.m. CST
redfist? more like redneck
I say that as a long haired puchuli wearing hippy. <p> that said, I can jump on the badwaggon of ‘fight the power’ ‘down with globalization’ all that…. but truth is, I don’t really understand what the fight is about. <p> I can understand the argument that we don’t need or want a mcdonalds on every second corner, but having travelled the world, I did find it less stressful being in places that felt ‘globally connected’. <p> but like i said, I really don’t know enough about the fight. <p> I guess i could always type it into a search engine.
May 30, 2008, 5:46 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
Yup, Saw it. Loved it. Rhona can’t act but wouldn’t get kicked out of bed for eating crisps. <P>Would be better with Beer. Lots of Beer.
May 30, 2008, 6:24 a.m. CST
A year after WTO…
I was in Cincinnati for another protest (this time for the Transatlantic Business Dialgogue, a WTO subsidiary organization). A similar event occurred where the police told the protesters to disperse but then tried to block us in. I also saw them beat up some kid who was probably no more than sixteen because he said a bad word. It has always been my experience that the police start the violence, not the protesters. I’m sure that’s not true one-hundred percent of the time but I’m willing to bet that’s the majority of cases.
May 30, 2008, 6:35 a.m. CST
BendersShinyAss? More like….
Fuck I am too latargic to insult you.
I guess I could type “insult” into a search engine.
No, but really, I could care less as well. I am more worried about the cops spying on my family than from some asshat business man exploiting southern Brazil.
May 30, 2008, 6:45 a.m. CST
JUST LIKE MICHAEL BROWN, REDFIST IS ANOTHER BUFFOON
hired during the Bush Administration. Can’t wait for Obama to clean house.
May 30, 2008, 7:41 a.m. CST
MCMLXXVI doesn’t even say FIRST.
Thats how fucking hardcore he is. <p> No don’t worry, I haven’t gone soft… I still think he’s a proper twat. <p> Followed closely by redfist the redneck.
May 30, 2008, 8 a.m. CST
They shoulda had the WTO meeting at the Bilderberg compound.
by Bob Cryptonight
No room for protestors…plus they coulda done some owl fucking afterwards.
May 30, 2008, 8:12 a.m. CST
Thank you, Bad Lt.
Thank you for your explanation for why WTO is bad. May I make a few comments? On 1) I totally agree. On 2) It may be good for consumers to be able to buy goods that are produced cheaper overseas and competition is a good thing. However, I understand the pain that workers feel when they lose their jobs. 3) This is sort of ironic because in number 1 you say the problem is that WTO imposes laws on people and that’s bad and then in number 3 you say the problem is that WTO doesn’t impose the laws you want it too, so the problem isn’t that WTO is intrusive and too powerful, the problem that WTO isn’t intrusive and powerful in the way you want it to be. That seems ironic to me. I think you should stick with number 1 and drop number 3, because they seem contradictory. 4) Just because your enemies are for something doesn’t necessarily make it bad. Although I agree with what you say about not wanting to be the world’s policeman. Thank you for you explanation. ps, I liked your movie although I could have done without the full frontal nudity shots of Harvey Keitel.
May 30, 2008, 8:51 a.m. CST
I watch a lot of protests.
I live near DC, and protest viewing is sort of a hobby. There is an element in the WTO protester/Black Box element that is flat out spoiling for a fight.
May 30, 2008, 9:30 a.m. CST
So what have you taken from your experience with these “dumbfucks”? Do you feel because there are dumbfucks that the panel in Belgium should be allowed to overturn the California referendum on turtle-safe fishing nets?<p>
By the way, from the things I saw the vast majority of the protesters were in fact “normally dressed” unless you count labor activists wearing their union jackets as hippies.
May 30, 2008, 10:09 a.m. CST
i support the wto
i dont support sending riot cops in to punch hippies.
May 30, 2008, 10:11 a.m. CST
Redfist… Whats the issue? Are you growing drugs?
Or are you just smoking a private stash and having a paranoid fit. <p> that means i can start fucking with you, like I’m actually the one who is on your case. that’s right. remember that room in the simpsons movie where a thousand people are monitoring every american citizen. I’m on the computer that watches everything you do. <p> thank christ too, I’d much rather be watching an Aint it cool talkbacker rather than some boring old lady. <p> Dude, i have never seen any one save as much porn as you. thats a federal offense right there. I’m going to be informing your mother. so you’d best get deleting. <p> seriously though… what are you growing? is it any good?
May 30, 2008, 10:24 a.m. CST
the message gets lost in anti-globalization protests
by Spandau Belly
We get plenty of anti-globalization protests in Montreal as well, and ultimately the protestors fail. Not because they get discredited as hippies or by the violence or vadalism of their tactics, but because at the end of it all most people still don’t even know what they were protesting.<br><br>When it’s a protest against a war, it’s pretty obvious what the mob is asking for. I find when you talk to these real anti-global enthusiast types is that they have miriad of issues under one banner and they frequently blame too many organizations and offer to complicated an explanation for how these bad situations occur.<br><br>A lot of the time the issues are a hodgepodge of environmentalism, anti-slave labour, pro-fair trade and some other grab-bag anti-establishmentarianism and of course lots of people who just general anarchists masquarading as social critics.<br><br>I realize that being a good person these days takes more research and ultimately comes down to a lot more gut calls. You have to be so conscious about how you live and what you consume and that involves trusting some media source, and that most people feel too busy or the information overwhelms them with its scope and complexity. But I think these anti-globalization types need to get some good examples out there and provide people with realistic alternatives if they really want to make a difference.
May 30, 2008, 11:09 a.m. CST
Think of this movie as the trailer for this summer’s Dem Nationa
by The Nihilist
…because the protests for THAT are going to make the protests in this movie–and the real protests in Seattle, for that matter…look like a softcore porn love scene.
May 30, 2008, 7:06 p.m. CST
by Bad LT
JohnnyAngel thank you for your comments, and you make some good points as well. The thing about NAFTA/WTO is that when it comes to setting membership standards that benefit workers or the environment or small businessmen, the answer is usually NO, but when states or countries pass laws that help these groups, they are often subject to being overturned by a corporate objection that they are an unfair trade restraint. But I take your point that #1 is more serious. And it is true that WTO does give us cheaper prices on some goods – though they may not always be good quality or safe. And I would argue job loss is more serious than the benefit of lower prices. Obama, Hillary and McCain are all, with MINOR variations, pro-NAFTA/WTO. The only way to stop the march to globalization and managed trade is if the activist left forms an alliance with the libertarian and paleoconservative right, and mounts an appeal to the pissed off center which has been damaged by these policies. But the corporations fund the Dems and Reps. We may be able to win on the issue of no more wars on behalf of corporations. But I don’t see America leaving NAFTA or WTO anytime soon. Maybe some minor reforms. The issue of the emerging police state is a seperate one. The police have become militarized in part because of the war on drugs and the war on terror. Many police are taught to view any citizen expressing his or her First Amendment rights as a terrorist. Ron Paul was the only candidate who really spoke out on these issues, like repealing the Patriot Act, free and FAIR trade, bringing troops home from Iraq, keeping them out of Iran and ending the war on drugs. Obama is slightly better than McCain on some of these issues. And never forget, when you see two young hot chicks in a car, tell them to “Show me, with you mouth, how you suck a guys c–k.” My most important campaign point.
May 31, 2008, 12:31 a.m. CST
by Stevie Grant
Regarding your “Why the WTO is bad” posting, did WTO actually overturn any local or US legislation? And that question includes Washington overturning it for the WTO. Based off you’re other points, you seem to view the WTO incorrectly (ie, not a pure geo-politicin’ playground) and don’t understand organized labor’s business model (yes, labor unions are simply businesses of a sort, usually). But if the Washington ever overturned State, County, or City legislation (by action or threat) on behalf of the WTO, that is beyond fucked up. Yet, it’s US politicians who should burn for it, not the WTO, an almost, purely political organization. Protesting against them is like protesting against corruption in Washington: well-intentioned but hopeless.
May 31, 2008, 12:56 a.m. CST
The national coverage of these protests
left you with the impression that the participants were nothing but those anarchist kids smashing windows. It seriously looked like some kind of nomadic army of hateful full-time anti-everything protesters had followed the WTO into town. No discussion of the localism vs. globalism debate; no mention of union participation or their concerns about job loss; no mention of fishing nets or the overturning of local laws. At the time I knew of no reason to question what I was being shown; At least your local media started covering the heavy-handedness of the police response. It wasn’t until I started catching indy media content on a local college station that I got to see another perspective on what had gone on. Thanks for sharing your first hand experiences Vern… too bad about the movie tho. (PS, your review clocked in at 26:47 as read by the MS Speech API at 40% speed.)
May 31, 2008, 2:13 a.m. CST
by Bad LT
The WTO undermines national sovereignty
By creating a supranational court system that has the power to economically sanction countries to force them to comply with its rulings, the WTO has essentially replaced national governments with an unelected, unaccountable corporate-backed government. For the past nine years, the European Union has banned beef raised with artificial growth hormones. The WTO recently ruled that this public health law is a barrier to trade and should be abolished. The EU has to rollback its ban or pay stiff penalties. Under the WTO, governments can no longer act in the public interest.
They have also overturned US laws on turtle and dolphin safe fishing nets. The EPA made changes – watered the laws down – and then the WTO upheld them.There have been other minor cases regarding other laws. And many time Congress and state legislatures are simply told by their own legal staff “you can’t do that – pass a certain health, safety, environmental or small business protecting law – because it will just be overturned by WTO or NAFTA. Also we have used WTO to get laws overturned where foreign countries try to promote their own filmmakers by restricting US films, so that the people of foreign countries may also know the joys of Michael Bay and McG.
May 31, 2008, 8:50 a.m. CST
I saw the movie at SXSW. I thought while there were a few weak points overall it was a tremendous film by a first time director.
The performances were amazing. The best actors in the film were definitely Theron, Rodriguez, Henderson and Andre 3000. After seeing “Battle in Seattle” I’m no longer concerned over the fact that Michelle Rodriguez is a major character in “AVATAR”. I look forward to seeing more from her, Martin Henderson, and Andre in the future.
The film wasn’t perfect but I have to say I think I was more impressed with it than Vern. I was also blown away with the quality performances by MOST of the actors, especially given what little some of them had to work with. Overall I would agree it has its obvious flaws but the cast makes up for the few dialogue issues and the execution given the budget and location is majorly impressive. I felt like by watching ti I was there. That’s enough for me and maybe the Academy but we’ll have to wait and see on that I suppose.
May 31, 2008, 10:08 a.m. CST
Normally this would be the time when I would insult your manhood (lack of it), call your mother and your imaginary girlfriend out as scatastic skanks and talk at lenght about how I would like to piss in your mouth, anally violate you and never call you again, but I will show more class. But I will just let rest of the Talkback kids point at you and laugh, because they all now know what a spineless little asshat you are…so run along and change your login name and try again.
May 31, 2008, 10:09 a.m. CST
End of Line.
May 31, 2008, 4:26 p.m. CST
now why you gotta go ruin some friendly banter with such an ugly post? doesn’t anyone here know how to play? or is it all name calling. What a waste of fucking time.
May 31, 2008, 4:30 p.m. CST
I know my girlfriends are skanks. i like them that way. the prim and proper ones really disapoint when you cantch them fucking around behind your back. as for my mother… well, she’s a free woman, she can do what she likes. although pissing in the mouth of others is sexually provokative to most, it doesn’t fly with me, sorry. Besides, I’m not sure you’d know what to do when i gargle it and then spit it in your face. maybe thats part of your plan? i draw the line at anal violation. i like my butt nice and tight so i can tease those who wish to violate me. it makes for a thrill like no other. why would i change my login name…. this is who i am
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.