"If victory favors me, I will protect your child with my life."

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Vice

When I heard writer/director Adam McKay was doing a movie with Christian Bale (TERMINATOR SALVATION) playing Dick Cheney, I couldn’t picture what that would be, but I assumed I would love it. The former Saturday Night Live writer has much more experience in beloved Will Ferrell comedies than in Serious Important Movies, but I enjoyed THE BIG SHORT‘s novel and audacious attempt to make entertainment out of explaining the early 2000s housing bubble. Many worship ANCHORMAN or STEP BROTHERS, but for me it’s TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY that makes me laugh no matter which part I rewatch for the one-thousandth time on cable. Maybe people don’t think of it this, way, but to me it’s the best pop culture portrait of what was going on in our country during the Bush years. So I figured McKay had good instincts about this stuff.

TALLADEGA, with its PowerAde sponsored family prayers and gay French elitist villain, lampooned the unearned bravado, proud ignorance, xenophobia and crass-corporatization-of-everything that George W. Bush represented to many of us. By the time Bush left office he was kinda like BATMAN FOREVER after BATMAN & ROBIN came out – nobody would admit what a big fan they’d been – but that attitude is still here. Back then, people made fun of the way he pronounced America, and that became shorthand for what was going on. But these days “‘Murica” has been reclaimed by the people who want to glory in all that shit. It’s written in big letters on this giant pickup truck I see parked in a neighborhood I walk through often, next to a sticker with a picture of an assault rifle and some macho line about the 2nd amendment and protecting freedom. I feel my forehead turning red whenever I see that truck because it’s always parked just up the street from a cafe where a man with just such a weapon, legally purchased, randomly murdered four people, and then a fifth person downtown. That’s Bush’s ‘Murica all right – wave your Dumb Asshole flag with pride while you trample on the graves of its victims.

In the tradition of the CONEHEADS and MYSTERY MEN teaser posters

VICE is about a different aspect of that era – the sinister saga of an uncharismatic Nixon administration creep turned oil CEO who unexpectedly fell into the office of Vice President, then played the system to gain unprecedented executive power and, among other things, start wars that are still ongoing and have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. It’s a fascinating character and story that I imagine would be hard to tell in a normal movie sort of fashion. Unfortunately we now have evidence that it doesn’t work in an unorthodox fashion either, or at least not the unorthodox fashion(s) that McKay chose. I’m sorry to report that despite some good scenes and moments, VICE is a weirdly terrible movie.

But first, let me say that Bale’s performance as Cheney is next level, even for him. There’s some stuff at the beginning where he’s young and drunk, two ways I’ve never seen the real Cheney, yet just by the dead expression on Bale’s face he truly feels like the guy. He does the grunting, charisma-free sort of talk we know from interviews and debates – the Batman voice meets The Penguin – but what really sells it is the sounds he makes in the pauses before speaking. Breathing loud, or saying “uhhh.” There’s a part where he’s in the White House sitting for an intelligence briefing and somebody hands him a danish. He says “That’s, uhhhh…” and that’s it. Two syllables, one word, no meaning, completely sells him.

I’ve seen many reviews that sort of write off the performance as just an imitation, like on a sketch show. I disagree and I feel like I have special qualifications for this judgment. In case you haven’t heard me brag about this before, I need to tell you about my greatest accomplishment in life: I flipped off Dick Cheney. Looked him right in the eye. Whatever I wrote at the time may be more accurate, but here’s how I remember it.

I’d read Cheney was in Seattle for a fundraiser, staying at the Westin, and I didn’t have to work until the evening, so I decided to go see if there was a protest. No luck – just a couple random people scattered around with signs, no crowd forming anywhere. I stood on the corner of 5th and Virginia and I don’t think I was there for that long before all the sudden holy shit, a convoy of black vehicles rolled by and right there, one empty lane of traffic away from me was Dick Cheney, Liz to his left. I think I had made a little sign with something corny like “War profiteers not welcome” or something, but instead of holding it up my instinctive reaction was to yell “FUUUUCK YOUUUU” and hold aloft the mighty double bird. He looked right at me, smirking, and waved.

(Hopefully this will be in the deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray.)

So I have some personal experience in this area and I say that it’s fuckin supernatural how well the actor captures the soul-less malevolence on that prick’s face. Bale gained weight, sure, and Greg Cannom (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, FRIGHT NIGHT PART II, KICKBOXER 2: THE ROAD HOME, THE SHADOW, KULL THE CONQUEROR, TITANIC, BLADE) did a great job on the makeup, but it’s through some ineffable force of Christian Bale magic that we can look into his eyes and collide head first with the event horizon of the vice president’s presumed humanity. That feeling of a guy who seems incapable of making a person to person connection and for a second it might seem like social awkwardness or cowardice but then you realize it’s because he has about as much respect for you as he does for a fruit fly.

So yeah, give him the Oscar.

If I had any concern about the movie after its very good trailer it was that they might play his “vice” like some cool Scorsese anti-hero shit, or, worse, try to give him some likable qualities. Those aren’t problems here. At one point he has a family dinner and jokes around, a rare moment where he behaves like a regular human, but it’s intercut with the catastrophic war he just started in Iraq, so it only makes him look like more of an asshole. Surprisingly for a biopic they only show him being good about two things, both family related. In one scene he menaces his father-in-law (Shea Whigham, FAST & FURIOUS, FURIOUS 6) at his mother-in-law’s funeral, for seemingly being responsible for her death. In another, he is instantly accepting of his daughter Mary (Alison Pill, SNOWPIERCER) coming out to him. I’m glad they didn’t try to humanize him any more than that. I suppose they may have tried and just not been able to figure out anything else.

The cast is mostly good, if not on Bale’s level. Most out of place is Tyler Perry (ALEX CROSS) as General Colin Powell. He tries his best but he’s just so physically unlike Powell, one of the more on-camera members of the administration, that the challenge may be insurmountable.

The weirdest is Steve Carell (CURLY SUE) as secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. I couldn’t mentally separate him from comedic Carell characters like Michael Scott from The Office, but he’s also capturing the Rumsfeld personality as I remember it – the cynical, amoral asshole who un-self-consciously blabbers out crazy shit, seemingly convinced that he’s some kind of lovable, chummy truth-teller. The juxtaposition of the comic persona and the historical figure makes its own sadly current statement that somehow in this country buffoons can become masterminds if they’re connected and greedy and cruel enough to get to the top.

You know I always love Amy Adams (BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE). She plays Cheney’s wife Liz, who I saw in that car but knew nothing about. She’s portrayed as a strong, scheming woman who was sort of a puppet master, turning her drunk loser college boyfriend into a politician, even filling in for him at speaking events where she clearly outshines him. She seems to share in his creepy, inhuman thirst for power, making them perfect soulmates. Or whatever it’s called for people without souls.

Sam Rockwell (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) plays Bush, and I think he works well, though I was more impressed by Josh Brolin in W. It’s a surprisingly small role, which I think is calculated and clever. The first act centers around the response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, and we don’t even see the president until much later in the movie. I like that.

Like Bale, Rockwell and Adams are nominated for Oscars for this, which is fine. But the movie itself being nominated for best picture is puzzling to me. To each their own, but I can’t imagine the person who would see this and be happy with the way the story is told. THE BIG SHORT’s gimmicks came out of the premise that this financial world shit is intentionally too complicated for normal people to understand, and that’s why they get away with it. I see no good reason for McKay to use the same approach for this subject, yet here is Alfred Molina (SPECIES) as a waiter who lists various authoritarian powers as if they’re dinner specials. Can you guess how many of them Cheney orders? And here’s a scene where somebody says the story reminds them of Shakespeare and then the dialogue turns faux-Shakespearian. I know there was a big musical number that was cut because it just wasn’t working, and I’m very curious how they could tell the difference. To me most of the wacky shit bombs, and even the ones that made me chuckle a little (like the MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL style fake ending joke) seemed wildly out of place.

I suppose I did like the reoccurring gag about him calmly announcing and apologizing for his heart attacks. Other jokes often come off as flimsy excuses to string together scenes that don’t add up to a story. Every time it gets a groove going, some cutesy shit pops up and either makes me cringe or seems like a shortcut robbing us of a real cinematic experience.

Arguably the most annoying gimmick is the at-first-unidentified narrator. He keeps explaining shit instead of, you know, making a movie about it. And then he’s revealed as Jesse Plemons (BATTLESHIP) who we’ll keep seeing breaking the fourth wall as he does normal, non-Cheney-related things like go for a jog or take care of his kid in his living room. Eventually we learn what the character’s connection to Cheney is, and maybe it’s kind of a cool idea on paper, to be very charitable. If so the pay off is still nowhere close to being worth the distraction.

(Also, SPOILER for those who have seen it – is that even ethical? Do they know who that guy is and depict him accurately, or are they assigning their own political beliefs to an unknown dead guy? And making him a veteran for extra credibility?)

McKay also keeps McKaysplaining things using documentary techniques, from the not-as-good type of documentaries that are more Power Point than cinema. He uses onscreen text, Ken Burns style freeze frame zoom-ins, Michael Moore style file footage montages. It would not be surprising if McKay showed up in the movie with a microphone and camera crew chasing after the real Cheney and getting turned away by security. Maybe this is for people who were too young to experience the mini-industry of anti-Bush documentaries, but they could still buy FAHRENHEIT 9/11 for 99 cents on Amazon, or The Robert Greenwald Documentary Collection for $3.26. This was an opportunity to do a real movie.

Really it kinda feels like if you were shooting the shit with McKay and you were young or from another country or something so he’s telling you anecdotes to explain to you what the deal was with Cheney. “Yeah, he shot a guy in the face and then the guy apologized to him!” That might be a good conversation if you’d never heard that story, but wouldn’t it be great if he’d had time to figure out how to translate it to the medium of film? Maybe some other time, I guess.

As if to ensure I could never forgive this shit, McKay has the temerity to end on a hacky joke about a cartoonish airhead being excited for “the new FAST AND FURIOUS movie.” Not since X-MEN: APOCALYPSE‘s X-MEN 3 joke have I felt so embarrassed for a bad movie trying to point fingers at a better one. Right after I saw this, FAST FIVE was on cable,  and yes, it is a movie that accomplishes (even exceeds) what it sets out to, and is still being enjoyed seven years later, which I cannot fathom happening with VICE. What the fuck got into the director of STEP BROTHERS to make him think he should shame people for their lowbrow tastes? As a horrible vice president once said on the floor of the senate because he was criticized for awarding no-bid contracts to the nefarious corporation he had previously been the CEO of, go fuck yourself.

Pretty good title though. Double meaning, like HOSTEL.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 at 11:04 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “Vice”

  1. Yes! Thanks for the review, Vern.

    My girlfriend was 8 when 9/11 happened. One thing I thought about coming out of this movie is that this telling of the story could be a good gateway for millennials who came of age during Obama and don’t have the vivid memories and context that we had living through two terms of Bush. From our political climate now, I think you would agree it’s incredible how much people can forget in just a few years.

    I didn’t think the style of the movie was always at odds with the story, just sometimes. I think my main beef with the storytelling is that it blows by a ton of events so quickly, like Valerie Plame to use one example. I think it would be a much stronger movie if it had slowed its ass down and maybe spent a whole movie on just the years in the W White House instead of trying to cram Cheney’s whole life in there.

    But then, of course we would’ve been deprived the joy of seeing Bale do all those incredible nuanced things you mentioned.

  2. Also Vern, I can’t believe the man who invented Ricky Bobby (which for the record has genuinely great car racing sequences) literally frowns upon the FAST series. I think those particular movies were meant to be a placeholder for any kind of bright shiny thing that distracts people for engaging in political debates.

  3. Does it surprise anybody that this got nominated in liberal Hollywood? I’m progressive as fuck but it’s pretty obviously why it was nominated.

  4. Fine review, Vern. And mostly agreed. The acting is superb, but McKay gets too cute too often.

    Meh.

    To me, this film is not even in the running to be recognized as a “best” picture. Green Book is the one. Loved it.

  5. I knew you would call out that awful last scene. Up until then I found the movie a bit too smug (McKay is just sort of condescending as a filmmaker, imo), but more enjoyable than THE BIG SHORT, at least. But he’s really showing his ass to assume moral superiority by taking an unnecessary shot at teenage girls and Fast and Furious sequels. “Dude, you directed ANCHORMAN 2.”

    The girl even says the movie “looks lit.” Yes, congrats on your internet connection, McKay, keeping you informed on all the hottest teenage jargon.

  6. Smugness should infuriate people when it’s deployed by politicians more than when it’s deployed by filmmakers

  7. Patrick,

    I don’t understand your comparison. Is anyone here saying they are more angry at Adam McKay then they are at Dick Cheney?

  8. Fine subtleties of wordplay are not beyond the talented polymath Eli Roth

    1) A public house of lodging and entertainment for strangers and travellers; an inn, a hotel. E.g. 1846 E. Bulwer-Lytton Lucretia III. ii. xix. 146 “As is the usage in hostels, a pair of boots stood ouside the door, to be cleaned betimes in the morning”.
    2) A dyslogistic diminutive of “host” (obsolete). E.g. 1624 A. Darcie tr. Originall of Idolatries xv. 62 “Your round hostel, which you cause to be ador’d.”

  9. Patrick thought he had quite the clever mic drop there. He did not.

    That post-credits sequence is embarrassing.

  10. Hahaha JSP you got me, I’m still here. I guess I did think that’s what a couple of the commenters were saying, poking at the liberal smugness of McKay’s POV, but I suppose they were really talking about the Scorsese on adderall stylistic conceits.

    It was a smug movie stylistically but I thought its heart was in the right place. I did like the movie’s overall attitude of “he was a human being but still, fuck this guy.”

    I loved that Carell didn’t look much like Rumsfeld but was able to evoke the impish spirit of the man in the first few seconds of his performance.

  11. You know what was a great point that Vern raised? The ethics of making the guy who gave up his heart a narrator of the movie.

    I Googled it and it looks like the character is a total fabrication because the donor will always be anonymous…

    It was a unique device to tell the story and it worked for me but – as you guys have been saying – it IS a bit smug.

  12. I am stone cold liberal and am down for a critical portrait of Cheney as well. But of the 50 or so 2018 theatrical releases I’ve seen, VICE is by far the worst. It’s so basic with its “insights”, so insufferably smug and didactic and almost none of the satire works at all. It appears to have been edited inside a blender. This movie is a disaster. I can’t remember being more annoyed walking out of a film.

  13. Yup, this movie sucks for all the reasons Vern touched on and even some more–Christian Bale as young Cheney went into Carrie Fischer weird uncanny valley CGI for me, for instance.

    It’s startlingly and remarkable how few solid, let alone great, movies have been made out of the Iraq war and the Bush administration compared to what the 70s and 80s gave us from Vietnam and Nixon.

  14. I’m with you @Chuck. I think the moment I both knew and felt this movie hit the point of no return and there was no chance to salvage it was when to underscore the point that Cheney’s demeanor and tone can make the ridiculous sound reasonable, McKay decided to go for practically a fourth wall break where Cheney pontificates about how everybody should get together on the white house lawn to circle jerk. The movie vacillated and tried to balance too much between the traditional biopic tropes and “Cutting edge” hit you with a hammer “comedy.” Leaning one way or the other would’ve resulted in a better movie, the two together made for a sloppy tonal cumrag of a project.

  15. It was a weird choice to end with Mary and Liz Cheney having that falling out…I think it’s safe to say we were all far less invested in how the Cheneys were feeling than the fallout from the war.

    Gotta love the hypocrisy of a gay woman only giving a shit about her family’s stance on the homosexuality issue when it directly affects her.

  16. I still want to see this as I have a morbid fascination with the 2000s and enjoyed THE BIG SHORT for that reason.

    Honestly, I prefer the 2000s to the 2010s, while America was in some hot water back then, much like today, life for the average American was still mostly business as usual.

    Or at least, people on average had better attitudes, a sort of whistling past the graveyard mentality, everyone is just so fucking ANGRY all the time now, nobody knows how to laugh, have fun and just be mellow anymore.

    I’m not blaming people, you can say people are angry all the time for good reason, but it’s unpleasant to live through.

    Basically in the 2000s you could still escape the troubles of the world for a while, but there’s no escape in this modern digital age.

  17. I just want to pop in and mention very casually how much your (Vern’s) writing differs from other film critics. Not a big deal or anything, but there are many major publications out there who are WAY less thorough and heartfelt when they do their obligatory annual “I-need-to-see-this-film-because-it-might-win-an-Oscar” reviews. And I don’t think A.O. Scott gives a shit about Scott Adkins, so Vern wins.

    I mean, Vern just continues to write about ONLY what Vern cares about. And it just so happens that Vern cares about an awful lot of stuff. Throw a notable movie in Vern’s direction and Vern will Vernify it. Can’t stop the beat. Don’t stop the beat. You’re a Rotten Tomatoes of one.

  18. One scene where I thought the filmmaking was pretty effective was when the Bush team is moving into the White House and they intercut the scheming of Addison, Wolfowitz & Cheney with the Monopoly-type pieces on the Washington game board. I think if McKay had taken a more straightforward approach to the storytelling but then saved the bombast for moments like that, it could’ve been a movie as good as its trailer.

  19. Also +1000 for the TALLADEGA NIGHTS re-recommendation. That’s probably the best thing Ferrell has ever done, unless you hate ELF and joy.

  20. Agree with this completely. For the first two acts I wanted to like the movie but was repeatedly put off by the sit-com tone of the gags and remedial-level explanations of things. There’s a scene in Cheney’s office where he, Carrell and the gang discuss their evil plan so cartoonishly it would make the Legion of Doom wince.

    It lost me completely in the third act with the reveal of the narrator’s connection to Cheney and the weirdly graphic heart surgery scene. To me, the fact that Cheney had a heart transplant after he left office is completely insignificant. The movie’s point seems to be, Do you believe they gave this monster a new heart and prolonged his life by ten years? (To loosely paraphrase a remark by the narrator.) But what are they suggesting? That doctors should withhold organ transplants when they subjectively disapprove of a patient’s political legacy? That gripe was so petulant and stupid I had to throw my hands up and conclude that the movie and its writer-director were too juvenile for the task.

    But yes, Bale’s performance is great.

  21. FWIW Ben – I saw the heart thing as a metaphor rather than an indictment of the ethics of giving war criminals new organs. It juxtaposes him literally getting his heart cut out with the sequence in which he finally sells out his gay daughter in an attempt to secure the family legacy. It’s a condemnation of his ethics, using something that happened to have happened, more than anything else.

    I thought the moment where it goes from GWB’s foot quivering while he makes the speech to the guy in the Middle East doing the same while sheltering from bombs to be really effective and affecting. Was willing to forgive the film *a lot* for the clarity of that moment.

  22. “Liberal” Hollywood. Like the “liberal” media, go one level up and look who you find there. People like 9 figure millionaire Mnuchin and billionaire Perlmutter. As for the media, look one step up beyond the writers and the people who manage and own them. Not quite so liberal/left/whatever when you look at who’s got the real power in these organisations (they’ll take money from everyone, though).

  23. Steven – Indeed, that was a great moment when Bush gives his oval office speech, and the camera dips below the desk to show him nervously tapping his foot. Paralleling that with the guy across the world doing the same thing was very smart and cinematic.

    Ben – Yeah, but these guys were the Legion of Doom, it would be hard to overplay their villainy.

    Shan – Agree completely. It’s been gross to discover how many Blu-Rays in my collection have Mnuchin’s name on the credits.

  24. Saw this a week ago. I have very mixed feelings on it, but I’m very glad I saw it. It annoyed me, confounded me and at one point (the Shakespeare scene) embarrassed me, but it never bored me and I have thought about it frequently since, and it has also left me with much to research and read up on. I didn’t care for THE BIG SHORT, so this was actually a step up in my book.

    I thought Cheney/Bale’s soliloquy at the end was chilling and powerful, but it didn’t really jive with the rest of the film. I would say the film is defined by its view that Cheney wasn’t really motivated by any ideology or beliefs, just by pure lust for power. How accurate that is or not in a strange way I feel it actually kind of lets him, Rumsfeld and the Republican party as an institution off the hook, by not examining the tenants of their policies and actions. I’ve seen some say this reflects a post-Trump tendency to slightly romanticise “the system” now that many of our primary issues comes from sources we consider to be outside the system. Contrast McKay’s approach here to Stone’s in W a decade earlier.

    Some other random thoughts:
    . I felt the point of showing the fall out with his daughter at the end was that it represented his last lingering thread of his humanity going. In the film his one real redeeming quality was his unconditional love and support of his daughters, the one thing he would not prioritise over power. With that gone, it implies he is pure beast.
    . The placing and inclusion of the hunting scene seemed incongruous to me (for a start if I remember correctly it comes shortly after the Iraq War starts in the film, whereas it happened almost half way through Bush and Cheney’s second term), almost as if McKay was forced to do it by producers because it’s the first thing a lot of people think of when they think of Cheney. The idea of producers pushing for it because it’s the most popular thing from “the Cheney IP” amuses me
    . It’s weird to think that this film with its A-List-ish cast has made a fraction of the money and impact FARENHEIT 9/11 made in 2004, that despite early 00s pop culture being somewhat notorious for mainly shying away from politics after 9/11.

  25. I didn’t love this movie either, but I offer a slightly more charitable read of that mid-credits scene: while I agree no matter how you slice it, it seems smugly dismissive of what’s great about the Fast & Furious movies and sort of uses them as a catch-all for inane bullshit in the same way I derisively refer to Transformer movies, the whole scene struck me as potentially more of an attempt at self-deprecation. The Fast & Furious girl, taken together with the partisan argument that erupts between the two guys, seems like McKay poking fun at his overall project and recognizing the very unresolved question of who exactly the fuck this movie is meant for, depicting the entire would-be audience as consisting of right-wingers who have already decided this is left-wing propaganda, the left-wing choir there is no need to preach to, and the mass of moviegoers who couldn’t give less of a shit (here standing in for the disaffected/disenchanted/disenfranchised/nihilistic/who gives a shit/nonvoting majority of the country). This breakdown also functions as a handy metaphoric description of the only three responses anyone has to any news item/story/opinion piece with political content that relates to this present moment.

  26. I see Mnuchin’s name as an Executive Producer on so manny titles from 2014 to 2017, like Mad Max Fury Road and Edge Of Tomorrow, and the DCU films from that period. Did he have an Executive possion at Warner Bros, or was he more like an investor that just got does film a lot of money.

    He was also co-chairman for now bankrupt Relativity Media which has associate produced tons of films, but he was never credit as a producer on this films like Les Miserables, Den of Thieves, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, American Gangster, The Social Network, the list goes on and on.

  27. Anyone want to debate the merits of life in 2000s America versus life in the 2010s?

    Would anyone honestly not prefer the 2000s? I think it comes down to while the problems were on a much bigger scale, many of them were happening in faraway lands, now all of America’s problems are things happening at home.

    Maybe it’s just me personally missing my teenage years, more than the times in general.

  28. Well, pop culture is a little more varied now. I felt super disconnected from the Pitchfork-approved indie rock that dominated the ’00s.

    I’m also somewhat inspired by the spirit of revolution in the air that wasn’t present then. Unfortunately, that revolution is happening on both ends of the spectrum. Like, people can now publicly announce that they’re fascists, and somehow that’s a mainstream thing to say about oneself, legitimized at the highest level of office. Which is fucking crazy. On the same token, I think there’s a general distrust of power and dismantling of the belief that wealth equals virtue, which is healthy, and having Trump in the spotlight revealed that to everyone.

    I know that the outrage feels out of control right now (I agree that a lot of it is), but in my experience the ’00s were really frustrating with how amoral they seemed. We allowed for shit like BUMFIGHTS for god sakes.

    This is the most turbulent period of Western culture in my lifetime. So I agree things are a mess, but I also think there’s a spirit of fighting back that wasn’t around ten years ago.

    I should also note that I live in Canada, not the USA, but I consume all the same news media and frequent the same websites so I have opinions.

  29. Griff – Personally I find all of it terrifying

  30. Palermo – Oh yeah, the 2000s were a very amoral time, which is a huge contrast from now, I was actually thinking of BUMFIGHTS myself not long ago as a perfect example of the ugliest side of that decade.

    It was a very hedonistic time, now we live in a very moralistic time, the trouble is Americans don’t really know how to not go to the extremes of things, so you got ugliness like BUMFIGHTS in the 2000s, but now you have basically the death of humor in the 2010s, is there no middle ground?

    Even the negative aspects of 2000s culture like BUMFIGHTS hold a morbid fascination for me because it’s just so radically different from modern times, I’ve noticed that decade to decade everything about how American culture works radically changes, one decade is the opposite of the one before it, it just kinda causes me to have whiplash.

    Patrick N – The world’s been a terrifying place since September 11th 2001, two thirds of my lifetime.

  31. I blame all this on Twitter.

  32. I don’t think of the 2000s as an amoral time. In many ways, it reminds me of the 1980s, where there is also amoralism and consumerism, but there’s also a backlash to those things, mostly visibly coming from the religious right. But quite a number of things were presented politically in a moralistic way–banning gay marriage, spreading democracy across the globe, the wars, patriotism, putting more restrictions on creative content (esp. after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco, etc.) We’d also have things like being encouraged to go out and shop, borrow, and buy to keep the economy going after 9/11. And of course the financial crisis at the end of the decade.

  33. Just commenting to say “spot-on review”. Agree with everything. A wasted opportunity of a movie. Or, there was no way for this story to make a compelling movie. Either way, surely not “best picture oscar” material.

  34. I really liked the film.

    Also, the heart surgery was graphic because it included footage of Adam Mckay’s Own real-life heart surgery. That’s HIM on the table.

    I also appreciated the balls of the narrator subplot and found the relationship between cheny and his daughter to be weirdly moving. One thing I didn’t like was the portrayal of Bush, that was the one element that struck me as very SNL skit-ish.

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