Every year this happens—my husband and I get behind on going to the movies. We like movies, and we especially enjoy watching the Oscars (will there be a broadcast of the awards this year?). So in advance of that occasion, we try to see the leading contenders in best picture, and best actor and actress category. But every year, we get behind.
Why, you might ask. Well, we are also fans of watching football, and until the games are over, including the play-offs, we tend to suspend other extra-curricular activities. We stay at home on Saturdays (if we aren’t going to Penn State games) and on Sundays, and watch football. So, no movies. True—we could go sometime during the week, but one of us works too long hours to be able to do that. Hint—it isn’t me.
So, this past weekend, we went to see three (count them 1. . .2. . .3) movies. First, we saw Charlie Wilson’s War, then Atonement, and the following day No Country for Old Men. Mind—this foray into movie land all took place BEFORE the announcement for this year’s Oscar nominations. As soon as There Will Be Blood comes to town—we’re there, too. (Oh, it just got in).
And now for some observations on our movie feast. I liked them all. Charlie Wilson’s War was my least favorite, although it is probably the most enjoyable. Remember, I am one of those loopy English major types—always searching for hidden meaning, for symbolism, for character development. So, even though I would rank it third, it was fun to see.
Charlie Wilson’s War is a straight-forwardly told tale of a real life congressman from Texas who gets a fire in his belly over the horrific excesses of the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks, is a hard-partying, divorced, boozing womanizing Democratic congressman. He does, however, have a wealthy benefactor (and sometime love interest) played by Julia Roberts. Primarily for Christian principles, it seems, she is determined to help arm rebel factions in Afghanistan to fight off the Soviets. The deus ex machine who comes to their aid is a quirky troublesome CIA agent named Gust Avrakotos, played wonderfully by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who has all the right connections to help arm the rebels.
There are some fun scene that draw on history, including one where Charlie Wilson goes to Pakistan and meets with the then President Zia Ul-Haq (this is the man who was primarily responsible for having Benazir Bhutto’s father judged and hanged). Wilson asks for a tall drink of scotch or bourbon; there is a pained silence until it dawns on him—and he is outright told—that no alcohol is kept in the Presidential palace in a Muslim country.
Of course, we know the ending—the rebels did in fact defeat the Soviets. Charlie Wilson won his war. But he also lost it. One of the closing scenes of the movie is Charlie Wilson trying to persuade a congressional committee to allocate $1 million to rebuild schools in Afghanistan. Predictably, he is ignored. The cautionary (and very obvious) message is that Congress happily funds in the millions various war efforts but does not fund building infrastructure. And, today, we know the consequences—the rebels included (though never named or identified in the movie) Osama Bin Laden, and future Taliban leaders. And now we are fighting a protracted war in Afghanistan just as the Soviets did.
Next time, Atonement and then No Country for Old Men.
See you at the movies.