Stone's W

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Postby OscarGuy » Sun Oct 12, 2008 12:18 pm

My update today includes a new trailer for the film.
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Postby Sabin » Tue Oct 07, 2008 12:00 pm

'W.' seems damned with faint praise. More than the subject matter could hope for...

Josh Brolin seems to be singled out for praise but the kind of praise that could end up being left off. Cromwell is the supporting MVP? Right now, it might end up with zero nods.
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:09 am

And, Hollywood Reporter.

Film Review: W.
Bottom Line: A bold but imperfect film about a most imperfect man
By Kirk Honeycutt
Oct 7, 2008


Oliver Stone's "W." -- his take on the life and legacy of our current president, George W. Bush -- may be the first movie ever to come with footnotes. To counter critics who will characterize his film as propaganda by a latte-drinking Hollywood liberal, Stone aims to have a website up for the film's release that will detail all sources for the anecdotes in his film and the rationale about why, when and how they were used.

But the real question is not whether W. got a girl in trouble during his wild youth or whether he really eats food, picks his teeth and talks at the same time. What matters is what led our 43rd president to need a war to prove himself?

Here Stone and writer Stanley Weiser stick to the father-son dynamic that many other biographers and political commentators have championed. It presents its anecdotes so as to psychoanalyze a sitting president and so that the strengths and weaknesses of W.'s character are reflected in his behavior and eventual policies in the Oval Office.
It's a gutsy movie but not necessarily a good one. Its greatest strength is that it wants to talk about what's on our minds right now and not wait for historians. In an election season, people will have opinions about "W." before even seeing it -- or not -- so boxoffice may be erratic. It deserves a fair hearing by American audiences, for Stone goes out of his way to give Bush a fair hearing.

"W." is not really a political movie per se; rather it's a movie about a man who went into politics but probably shouldn't have. It's about how a father can misread a son and how a son can suffer in the shadow of a famous dad and how temperament gets molded by events both internal and external.

The film gets off to an awkward start with a presidential bull session with speechwriters and top advisers that produced his "Axis of Evil" speech about Iran, Iraq and North Korea. It borders perilously close to a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

We are introduced to Josh Brolin's impersonation of our president, to Richard Dreyfuss' uncanny Dick Cheney and to Thandie Newton's Condi Rice, Scott Glenn's Donald Rumsfeld and Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell. And everyone is right on target: They act, bluster and argue just like we thought they would -- only like cartoon figures in a wax museum.

The movie soon overcomes an audience's natural preoccupation with how actors play people still in the national spotlight to draw us into the story of George W. Bush, the black sheep of a dignified Yankee family of politicians and public servants. His dad, George Jr. (James Cromwell), is too busy climbing the power ladder to do more than shake his head at his son's indiscretions at Yale and later in a succession of failed business ventures in Texas and elsewhere.

W. resorts to the bottle and to rebellion against family propriety. He woos his wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks) by crashing a car into the garage door when she criticizes a speech. He loses an election, discovers God and gives up booze, but his thin skin and to-the-manor-born arrogance never deserts him.

The film's hopscotch over high (and low) lights is too brief and shallow to do more than register as Key Moments in the formation of character. The movie is framed by a weird device that finds W. in an empty baseball stadium -- he once owned the Texas Rangers baseball team -- playing an imaginary and presumably metaphorical game. A brief dream sequence about a combative confrontation with his father in the Oval Office is the film's other excursion into non-sourced anecdotes.

The only seeming commentary by Stone comes in the music selections -- "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," The Yellow Rose of Texas, the theme from "Robin Hood" and even "The Whiffenpoof Song." Otherwise, Stone refuses to show his hand either as a political provocateur or a satirist. He wants to let the facts speak for themselves.

But do they? It's all too easy, too pat. Can George W. Bush really be solved in two-plus hours?

Brolin is pitch perfect in our president's manners and speech. Brolin doesn't look that much like him, but he creates a memorable character that may not be W., but has vitality in both his certitude and confusion. The same goes for Cromwell, who isn't so insistent at mimicking the 41st president as catching his patient, patrician nature. Dreyfuss is scary good as a Machiavellian Cheney. Wright's Powell and Toby Jones's Karl Rove are dead-on. Yet Glenn doesn't quite get the smugness of the former Secretary of Defense.

The women are less successful. Newton is stiff and unconvincing as Rice while Banks and Ellen Burstyn don't seem to know what to do with Laura and Barbara Bush respectively.

All tech credits are solid as Stone tones down the visual razzle-dazzle to zero in on character. What he seems to want is Greek tragedy. What he gets though is Texas melodrama.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:08 am

Screen Daily.

Mike Goodridge in Los Angeles
07 Oct 2008 11:03

Dir: Oliver Stone. US. 2008. 129mins.

Oliver Stone has an uncanny knack of making movies which are better appreciated many years after they are made, and W feels like it will be one of them. A scrappy dip into the many lives of the infamous George W Bush, it could never live up to pre-release anticipation that it would deliciously eviscerate the Bush adminstration so vilified around the world in recent years. Instead, rather like in Nixon, Stone serves up a dramatic portrait of the man steeped in the mythology of a wealthy family and political dynasty, who falls from favour with the same spectacular swiftness as he rose to it.

And you can't help but feel that Stone was won over somewhat by Dubbya. As portrayed in a wonderfully brash and fearless performance by Josh Brolin, he is as charismatic as he is stupid, as idealistic as he is dangerously naïve.

Bound to divide critics and audiences in the US, itself currently divided as dramatically as ever in its history, W will nonetheless be released in a blaze of publicity that will drum up some strong opening numbers, even if neither side will be satisfied by Stone's vision. International numbers will ultimately be greater than domestic, as foreign audiences marvel more objectively at the story behind the man who invaded Iraq on a lie and brought the world to its knees.

For all the speed with which Stone strove to finish the film in time for the elections next month, W should have longterm commercial value even after Bush steps down from office. At its best, it holds up as a dramatized character study of the father and son presidents which will be watched keenly in years to come. At its worst, it is submerged by an over-populated cast of characters and a tone which shifts awkwardly between dramatic storytelling and smartass political comedy.

Stone will also disappoint many with the choices he and screenwriter Stanley Weiser made. The film focuses very specifically on the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and concludes with the realization that the campaign is another Vietnam. Intimate scenes between Bush and his cabinet from 2002-4 are intercut throughout with scenes from his life starting in the mid-1960s at Yale when he is inducted into a rich kids' fraternity.

We see how Bush couldn't hold down a job, battles a serious drinking problem and how his initial attempts to get into the family business of politics fail in comparison to his brother Jeb (who is, disappointingly, never characterized here).

Later, Bush quits drinking and becomes a born again Christian, embracing fundamentalist religion even as he steps up his political ambitions, first working on the campaign to get his father into the White House in 1988 and then standing for governor of Texas himself.

Back in recent years, Stone portrays the process whereby Bush, backed by Cheney (Dreyfuss), Rumsfeld (Glenn), Rove (Jones) and Rice (Newton), decides to take the war on terror into Iraq and forcefully prove that Saddam Hussain is hiding weapons of mass destruction.

But the film is not a biopic by any means. Stone doesn't choose to explore W's campaign to become president, nor the Florida recount or 9/11 itself. And by completing the film this year, he naturally can't cover the current financial crisis which erupted on Bush's watch, instead ending with a humiliating press briefing during which the 43rd president crumbles amid questions of his legacy and mistakes.

If the film itself fails to figure in the year-end awards shortlists, Brolin must surely be considered a likely best actor nominee. Wholly immersing himself in the part, he doesn't imitate the president so much as breathe human complexity into him. Rudderless and restless as a young man, Brolin nonetheless plays him as a likeable enough fellow, a harmless jock, attractive to women and tortured by his father's expectations. As a president, Brolin plays him as a man of some intelligence, even if his arrogance and machismo are on full ugly display.

In the enormous cast, Cromwell is powerful as the dignified Bush Sr, Dreyfuss, Wright, Jones and Glenn are excellent as W's partners in crime and Banks fine as Laura. Thandie Newton, mugging for the camera something rotten as Condi Rice, has little to get her false teeth into, but then again the cast is full of renowned actors with little to do from Jesse Bradford and Noah Wyle to Jason Ritter and Ioan Gruffudd, who has one short scene as a bullied Tony Blair.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Oct 07, 2008 9:57 am

Variety review.

I have to wonder how much better this might have been if Stone had waited 5-10 years, instead of cashing in now.


A Lionsgate release of a Lionsgate, Omnilab Media, QED Intl. presentation of a Moritz Borman/Ixtlan production. (International sales: QED Intl., Beverly Hills.) Produced by Bill Block, Borman, Eric Kopeloff, Paul Hanson. Executive producers, Albert Yeung, Thomas Sterchi, Elliot Ferwerda, Johnny Hon, Teresa Cheung, Tom Ortenberg, Christopher Mapp, David Whealy, Matthew Street, Peter Graves. Co-producers, Ethan Smith, Suzie Gilbert. Co-executive producer, Jon Kilik. Directed by Oliver Stone. Screenplay, Stanley Weiser.

George W. Bush - Josh Brolin
Laura Bush - Elizabeth Banks
Barbara Bush - Ellen Burstyn
George Sr - James Cromwell
Dick Cheney - Richard Dreyfuss
Donald Rumsfeld - Scott Glenn
Karl Rove - Toby Jones
Earle Hudd - Stacy Keach
George Tenet - Bruce McGill
Condi Rice - Thandie Newton
Colin Powell - Jeffrey Wright
Tony Blair - Ioan Gruffudd
Don Evans - Noah Wyle
Paul Wolfowitz - Dennis Boutsikaris
General Tommy Franks - Michael Gaston
Joe O'Neill - Brent Sexton
Kent Hance - Paul Rae
Ari Fleischer - Rob Corddry
Fran - Marley Shelton
Speechwriter #1 - Colin Hanks
Jeb Bush - Jason Ritter

Oliver Stone's unusual and inescapably interesting "W." feels like a rough draft of a film it might behoove him to remake in 10 or 15 years. The director's third feature to hinge on a modern-era presidency, after "JFK" and "Nixon," offers a clear and plausible take on the current chief executive's psychological makeup and, considering Stone's reputation and Bush's vast unpopularity, a relatively even-handed, restrained treatment of recent politics. For a film that could have been either a scorching satire or an outright tragedy, "W." is, if anything, overly conventional, especially stylistically. The picture possesses dramatic and entertainment value, but beyond serious filmgoers curious about how Stone deals with all this president's men and women, it's questionable how wide a public will pony up to immerse itself in a story that still lacks an ending.
Heavily researched but made very quickly - pic went before the cameras in May and is being rushed into release before the November election - "W." has the benefit of filmmaking energy and good performances where they count, beginning with Josh Brolin's arresting turn in the leading role. One can't say Brolin is George W. Bush - the real one is still all too noticeably with us - but the actor offers a more than reasonable physical approximation and an interpretation that's convincingly boisterous and determined. Aspects of the man unknown to the public are put forward that may or may not be true, but are sufficiently believable to make one go with them in a movie.

Opening with a post-9/11 cabinet meeting in the Oval Office in which the phrase "axis of evil" was concocted, then jumping back in time to begin a procession of key events in the life of a privileged party boy with something to prove, Stone and his "Wall Street" scenarist Stanley Weiser position the film, above all, as a father-son story. Long uncertain what his role in life is meant to be, the young George W. is severely chastised by his patrician father for his wayward behavior - "What do you think you are, a Kennedy?," blares George Sr. (James Cromwell) after one of his son's drunken escapades - but is nonetheless always let off the hook and given another chance by his father, who lacks the cojones to truly leave W. to his own devices and, later, to pursue Saddam Hussein to Baghdad in the 1991 Gulf War.

As the film continues to bounce back and forth, between the Iraq-dominated presidency and George W.'s unlikely transformation from ne'er-do-well rich kid to born-again Christianity, sobriety, ambition and resolve, it occasionally delivers intimations of looming tragedy, or at least of history that didn't have to unfold as it did. But the film is unable to achieve any aims higher than as a sort of engaging pop-history pageant and amateur, if not inapt, psychological evaluation, due to the unavoidable lack of perspective and a final act that has yet to be written. When the Texas flashbacks finally catch up with the Washington, D.C., framing device, the film suddenly becomes a half-documentary about the Iraq War, changing the tone as well as the up-close-and-personal feel.

The younger Bush is portrayed in lively fashion, much as one has always heard him described. First glimpsed in a metal tub being hazed for Yale frathouse membership, Dubya drinks hard, consorts with floozies, can't hold a job, gets into Harvard Business School only thanks to Dadand loses a run for Congress in Texas, as he's portrayed by his down-home opponent as "a carpetbagger from Connecticut"; afterward, in a memorable phrase, W. promises, "There's no way I'll ever be out-Texased or out-Christianed again." He's also fortunate early on to meet the right woman, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), a smart lady who readily recognizes his foibles but supports him step by step.

After years of aimlessness, the born-again moment arrives in the mid-'80s, when W. trades the bottle for Jesus. A few years later, when he sets his sights on the popular Ann Richards' job, Ellen Burstyn, playing Barbara Bush, gets perhaps the film's biggest laugh when, confronted with her son's plans, she yelps, "Governor of Texas? You must be joking!" Dad tries to talk him into waiting four years, until 1998, so Jeb can lock up the Florida job first, but by now, W. is his own man, unwilling to follow his father's orders or play second fiddle to his better-liked brother.

Stone and Weiser make no attempt to cover historical bases; Major episodes, including political campaigns, business alliances and elections, are completely omitted. Most scenes are devoted to illuminating particular aspects of George W. - examined in pithy interludes are his recklessness, people skills, insecurities, reliance upon Laura, impatience, belief that good will prevail and unwillingness to deviate once he's made up his mind. Stone stands back as if to strenuously avoid the appearance of judging his subject even as he pigeonholes him psychologically.

In the contemporary White House passages, however, it is not as easy to entirely avoid commentary and caricature. Many individual scenes are engrossing: a lunch with Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) in which the vice president maneuvers to get his way on the treatment of prisoners but is abruptly told by his boss to "keep your ego in check"; the many attempts by Secretary of State Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) to argue for a prudent course on Iraq, all of which are met with clucking disdain from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn); George Sr.'s reluctance to declare himself "born again" to shore up his support among "the base;" the elder Bush's stunned reaction to losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton, and Cheney's chilling answer to the question of what the exit strategy from Iraq will be - "There is no exit. We stay."

Docu-like feel of the latter stretch is emphasized by the sudden use of extensive real footage of Iraq, the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier stunt and a Bush speech before the joint Houses of Congress, with the actors blended in with actual politicos. Pic thus enters TV territory, to its detriment, and Stone has no choice but to end on an ambiguously fanciful note that can mean anything you want it to mean.

For the most part, Stone and his actors meet the basic requirements of pulling off this quick-draw portrait of still-evolving history, but one late sequence - of Georges Sr. and Jr. preparing to duke it out in a bare Oval Office - suggests the sort of stylistic imagination and audacious poetic flight that would have given the film some real heft. No visual correlatives or subjective projections of mood or attitude are offered, as they have been in past Stone films. Dominating are borderline distorted closeups, especially of Brolin, along with shadowy lighting and generally lackluster lensing. Some of the song choices are downright sophomoric in their too-obvious irony.

Along with Brolin, top performances/impersonations are provided by Banks, whose Laura Bush goes a long way toward clarifying the close marital bond; Cromwell, who may not be a dead ringer for George H.W. Bush but delivers the full intended force of his character in several key scenes; Toby Jones as the ever-present Rove; and, despite hints at editorializing, Dreyfuss, who may only present a caricature of Cheney but seems so physically and attitudinally on the money that he's instantly recognizable and acceptable.

Rather more iffy are Glenn as Rumsfeld, Thandie Newton as Condi Rice and Burstyn as Barbara; these roles are brief, so either the actors must register quickly as right or they don't. Great actor that he is, Wright just doesn't possess the same physical bearing as Powell himself. Stacy Keach, as the preacher who helps lead W. through his religious conversion, and Bruce McGill, as CIA director George Tenet, do well in some intense scenes.

Shot mostly in and around Shreveport, La., pic boasts solid, if not elaborate, production values.

Edited By Mister Tee on 1223391488

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Postby Zahveed » Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:00 pm

Big Magilla wrote:The YouTube comments thus far are idiotic.

Youtube is the number one site for trolls.
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Postby Big Magilla » Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:30 pm

The YouTube comments thus far are idiotic. People seem to think you have to like Bush to like the film which seems to skewer him pretty well.
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Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:25 pm

I'm very intrigued.
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Postby Zahveed » Mon Jul 28, 2008 7:08 pm

Looks interesting.
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Postby Greg » Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:36 pm

Here's the trailer for Oliver Stone's W
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