invasion of the paramount: day ten

hello and welcome to my tenth and final day of programming chosen by the fine folks of the paramount theatre. the anchor leg of this relay is being run by aaron ward, development associate at the paramount, and we start off with george clooney's directorial debut, confessions of a dangerous mind (2002).

it's based on game show magnate chuck barris' batshit crazy autobiography in which he claimed he was a covert CIA operative. in between developing game shows and lowering the overall IQ of the american television viewing public in the 1970s, he was, according to him, traveling the world at the CIA's behest, carrying out assassinations, thirty-three in all. he often used his television production role as cover, frequently rewarding contestants with trips to politically sensitive destinations on which he served as their chaperone. in between the murders and gene, gene, the dancing machine, he found himself torn between two women, one representing the stable domesticity that barris desired but couldn't commit to and one representing the cutthroat cloak-and-dagger world that a man of his peculiar talents would find irresistible. vitagraph favorite sam rockwell is excellent as barris, all his tics turned up a notch to capture the twitchy hustler energy that the real barris overflowed with. clooney's direction has kind of a first-timer feel to it, though. you can definitely see him lifting moves from the more prominent names he worked for previously as an actor. at times it is a bit junior varsity steven soderbergh. it could be worse, though, and i really enjoy what he and screenwriter charlie kaufmann mined out of the book. this is kind of a sad and desperate story and, appropriately, the self-aggrandizement and paranoia is never eclipsed by the black comedy. it's probably a lot more fascinating, in general, to kids like me that actually grew up with the dating game, the newlywed game and especially the gong show on their television regularly. on the gong show we got a daily dose of his zany schtick as he emceed the worst talent show you've ever seen, a parade of people who wanted nothing more than to be on television and be "famous" but had little to no discernible talent. as it turns out, the empire he built on his exploitation of these people had nothing on the kingdom he built in his own deluded mind where he was the most attention-starved of them all. or not, if it is all true. i almost don't want to know for sure.

and, finally, we have luis mandoki's innocent voices (2004).

we examine the theme of rebellion and strife in latin america as seen from a child's point of view for the second time this week. unlike day six's machuca (2004), though, this one finds the kids much more directly in the line of fire. the setting is the salvadoran civil war of the early 1980s and the story is told from the point of view of chava, an eleven year-old boy who lives with his family in a village that seems to be ground zero in the conflict between the salvadoran army and the guerrillas. the salvadoran military at the time made it a practice to impress all boys into service once they reached the age of twelve, so chava is staring directly down the barrel of that if he manages to survive the daily/nightly firefights and bombings that are ripping his village to shreds. ultimately, chava and his friends elect to follow the guerrillas but are captured by the national army and marched to a remote spot to be executed. chava watches from his knees as two of his friends are shot in the back of the head. just as a soldier is about to pull the trigger on chava, however, guerrillas descend upon them and he is saved. as he escapes, he comes upon a rifle but finds himself unable to use it on one of his former classmates, the other child ultimately guilty of nothing more than having a birthday in the wrong place at the wrong time. chava's mother finally arranges to have him sent to the united states, which he does not want but accedes to because he finally realizes if he stays he will die. it is a heavy idea for a twelve year-old to deal with. though the film suffers from repetition occasionally and generally lacks the coming of age charms of machuca, it certainly makes you understand the attendant horrors and injustices of the use of children as soldiers in no uncertain terms. i am also comparing apples to oranges a little there, as these children literally live in a war zone. for them, growing up is a much more literal concern than a figurative one. they are lucky to see the next day, every day. it is a grim enough existence for adults. it must be infinitely more so for a child that has little grasp of the larger forces/ideologies at work and sees his family and that of his friends being rent asunder for reasons they can never hope to understand. equally chilling are the scenes of children as fully armed approximations of adult soldiers, exhibiting a childish pride at feeling grown up just because they have had a rifle shoved into their hands and a uniform on. it sort of underscores the fact that there may not be a great deal of difference between twelve and eighteen in a lot of ways and the horrible things that children and young adults are asked, or forced, to do in wartime effectively end childhood then and there. this would have made an excellent counterpoint to yesterday's viewing of starship troopers (1997). if you doubt that war is bad, watch this, not that. it leaves no room for misinterpretation.

and with that, we are done. thanks, aaron, it was a pleasure. it was a pleasure all the way around, in fact. i expected no less. i will be back tomorrow to wrap things up. for now, i am off to watch whatever i want for the first time in ten days. thanks for reading, everyone!

No comments:

Post a Comment