The High Countries

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The Informant!

The Informant!, A Case Study in Lying.

Whitacre (Damon) lays tape... one of hundreds.

A Case Study In Lying

by Bryce VanKooten

The Informant! — with a little jitter at the end — is a quirky movie. Its a spectacle of laughter and stress for just under two hours. When I walked out with my buddy Bryan, we both looked at each other and said, “I’m exhausted … But that was pretty good.”  Now, even hours later, it still seems like a fair assessment.

Matt Damon (and his extra 30lbs, on the ol’ tummy) came out swinging a little slower (re: different) than in his previous Ocean’s or Bourne flicks, while reuniting with his old pal Steven Soderburgh. The Informant!, along with a couple nice new faces to dramedy – the versatile Tony Hale and Joel McHale — finds a niche like an itch you can’t scratch. Never the ending spoiler, I was tossed and turned by this faux Crime Caper so frequently that I must have changed seat positions to three positions on loop: laughter, cringe, horror … Repeat.

Infiltrating the life of whistle-blower-turned-FBI-informant Mark Whitacre, The Informant! keeps it’s pace like a bad summer camp relationship — giggles, realization, anger. There was no room for sympathy. There was no room for understanding. How do you understand a pathological liar? As Bryan and I sat there through the film, we couldn’t help but slowly see ourselves get more and more angry at the pathetic and despicable display of humanity on screen. And he got me! I didn’t know he was lying! And it was so obvious the whole time! I will admit though, I do love a good foolin’.

There’s a couple scenes that make the movie worth the price of admission. Sadly, many of them were spoiled in the trailer (a curse I’ve coined “Being Fox’d”, for its similarity to 20th Century Fox and Megan Fox’s reputation for impeccable previews and horrific results), but a few remain on the screen. Matt Damon’s spot-on execution of all of the ‘bugged rooms’ scenes are brilliant to the core and his portrayal of the ghastly 1990’s ties are pastel-perfect. Props to the Costume Department … (pun). There’s a mid-level biochemist somewhere in the world right now tickled pink, guaranteed.

The most pivotal of all Whitacre’s moments onscreen was between his unflinchingly loving wife Ginger (Melanie Lynskey) and the charming, beaten down FBI Agent Shepard (Scott Bakula). Finally caught in a web of lies, Whitacre is confronted by the consequences of his actions. He is, indeed, a pathological liar, among others things … including a felon. It has that Beautiful Mind twinge to it, you know? That feeling that, the truth is out, but reality just somehow got more confusing.

The lesson to be learned for Whitacre is not ‘telling the truth’ – he’s been told, advised, coerced, arm-wreslted, pleaded with, bargained for that countless times – the lesson here, one would surmise, would be to figure out his motivations leading up to his felonious actions. A man who seemingly had it all – countless cars, land, money, a loving wife and kids – risks it all … for what?

And that’s something we never get. I still don’t get it. Fame? Variety? Spice? Sheer boredom?

Why do I like this movie?

I just do.

It’s quirky and funny and well written and sharp. All the actors are spot on and it nails the evanescent truth about lying. I can hear my father’s words now, “I can’t promise you you’ll get caught, but I can promise you one thing: you tell me the truth and you won’t get in as much trouble as you will if you lie to me about it.

Plus, Joel McHale, first major feature role? Come on…

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September 23, 2009 Posted by | Entertainment, Film Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jesse Jackson: “I wanna cut his (Obama’s) nuts off…”

Jesse Jackson Obama's Nuts...

As time unfolds, the Reverend's words may prove more telling than his legacy.

Distinguished quests,

I realize that understanding, mercy and tolerance are flourishing ideals of this postmodern world. I am keen to the fact that most ill-spoken quip can be extinguished with a simple apology, half-witted explanation or conniving, cover-up lie.  By now, I am sure you have all heard that Jesse Jackson did some quipping of his own this week. In our by-the-second news world, this email is legions of seconds too late and reads like yesterday’s classic novel, I’m sure. All tardiness aside, hear me out.

After reading Bill O’Reilly’s book, The O’Reilly Factor, I can say that its main point was the emphasis of dialogue. By whatever means necessary, Bill always tried to have dialogue with most guests. And even in some of his most heated moments — like with Heraldo Rivera — cooler heads usually prevailed. When guest would choose not to come on the show, nearly each time, with enough persistence, they’d make ammends. Hillary and Bill Clinton, Eminem, Reverend Al Sharpton – all finally succumbed, whether to pressure or realization and appeared on the show in one way or another, save one: Reverend Jesse Jackson.

At the time of print, the Reverend had yet to appear on the show. He had not given rhyme or reason for his impartiality towards Mr. Reilly and never once returned a call personally. He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want to be anywhere near him, maybe for good reason. Each time the Reverend came up in news, Bill was there – ready to give objective view — sometimes on polarizing and seemingly fallacious topics (such as the death of Stanley “Tookie” Williams). With each new news day came more criticizing, grandstanding and stake-driving from the Reverend in response to any and all of The Factor’s coverage. “There’s always a place at the table for dialogue”, Bill would say, adding, “…but it seems the Reverend can’t find the time.  Maybe next week.”

Years have come and gone and although the Reverend has appeared on The Factor (with topical guidelines overflowing from his team’s notepads), never once has the Reverend been the poster child of what he preaches. If there’s people around, tolerance will be preached, but when the mics go off – the dialogue apparently changes.

The courtesies that Mr. Reilly patriotically offered to Mr. Jackson – listening ears, and open mind and a patient tongue – were once again offered publicly to a man that, by his own teaching, would not deserve such a service. Reverend Jackson’s (and it kills me to say that) words echoed through the halls of the causes he so fervently claims to champion against: hate, anger and envy. Could anger ever be more inopportune?

Outside of the sound bites uncaught by hot mics, the point is this: The Reverend Jackson — a man who so adamantly strives for the public stage by which to boast his own tyrannical and illogical fight against racism — has just become the apple of his own eye. Its the modern-day allusion to David’s conversation with the prophet Nathan.  Jesse Jackson’s entire life has been his crusade to place damnation on the masses and wash his hands of any guilt.  After his comments on Monday, and by his own actions, his legacy takes true form.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, News, Television | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Whole Package

Get Out of My ‘Offive’

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There’s talk around the town about an Office spin-off. Are you kidding me? It isn’t on tap to start until sometime after the 09 Super Bowl, but frankly, whenever its scheduled is far too soon. Yes, The Office is a nearly-as-good-but-not-quite-as-epic spin off of the UK version (by the same name), starring the irreplaceable Ricky Gervais, originally aired on the BBC. And therefore, I suppose its true; once American television gets a hold of a successful product, its only a matter of time until it is stripped of its excellence, wrought with product placement and repackaged to resemble only a glimmer from whence it came. Sadly enough, if this remake-fest begins, I’m confident America will tune in…sadly, about as long as they watched Joey.

With all this repackaged garbage bombarding our living rooms, I can’t help but think back on some of the worst repackages in the history of our culture. Ones like Freddy vs. Jason (Monster’s Inc. was more frightful), or the repackaging of an athlete, like…well, every week on Dancing with the Stars. Don’t get me wrong, Dancing with the Stars isn’t THAT bad. I can stand it for about 11 seconds, whereas I can only watch a My Name is Earl for about 10––so hey, its relative. But one thing’s clear, they’re no Planet Earth. And hey, why can’t we get another one of those?!

Regardless of preference, this ‘repackage-everything’ mentality also got me thinking of some cool things that should be repackaged. What? Let me share an example: Hulk Hogan was on the down-and-out, but THEN he got a reality show and bam! Back in the spotlight. Yeah, we know, his family is a car wreck (no pun intended) and about as glaring as Dikembe Mutumbo’s bad knees, but hey, wasn’t it fun? He was back on the proverbial track there for a couple weeks! All that to be said, what should be repackaged? We know Star Wars needed a fifth box set (Gold and Silver Editions), and there was no way Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows could skate through untouched so, why not, split it into two movies. As my mind wanders into the realms of the unknown, I dwell on the things that someday, I hope to see.

Ocean’s 18: Yeah, tell me about it. 19 isn’t as easy to hide as 11, but think of the things you could do?! Everyone split into two man tandems, executing nine different heists, all consummating to form the end of the Iraq war. Yeah, think about it.

Shaquille O’Neill to the NFL: This doesn’t even need explanation. This would be, without a doubt, the most profitable/entertaining saga to hit this planet since the life of Mike Tyson––and possibly as violent.

Aquafina Entering the Energy Drink Market: Let’s face the facts; Aquafina should just take Jerry Seinfeld’s advice and “…put enough caffeine in there to kill you … Then, back it off a little”. Call it Addict. There’s your dang drink.

Punk’d Meets Reality TV: Whenever someone wins their respective competition, curtains part to reveal Ashton Kutcher via video, on the set of his current movie, pre-recorded saying, “Uh, You got Punk’d…”. Quite frankly, this could work effectively on The Miss America Pageant.

All gag’s aside, are we not sick of this yet? Is there nothing to be said for class anymore. If have the choice to buy a jersey of my favorite team, do I go online and look for a classic jersey, the home jersey, the away jersey, the alternate jersey or the 2009 Classic version of that same classic jersey? Have we had enough? What if one day, they repackaged Britney Spears––her faith meant something, she was classy and cool, and southern and spicy? Oh…to dream for what could have been.

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment