Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Control Room Review

Valuable to see armed with a helpful amount of skepticism, this film documents and in some ways explores the coverage of the run-up to and commencement of the Iraqi War by the Arab world's most popular news outlet, Al Jazeera. Going into this film, you know what you're going to see - a different slant on the war coverage and a decidedly anti-American (or at least anti-Bush) sentimentality.

I enjoyed the film, though I could have done without the constant laughter and barely-suppressed cheers whenever Bush or Rumsfeld said something that didn't turn out they way they had hoped. I saw the film at a small 'Independent Theatre' on a week night, and therefore I was treated to a decidedly left-leaning audience. At one point, Rumsfeld was talking about Jessica Lynch and said that he hoped the prisoners would be treated 'as fairly as we would treat any prisoners,' which garnered long moments of hissing laughter from my unsympathetic audience.

I watched this film from a different perspective - I was trying to find out what Arabs think of the United States, and my initial suppositions were reinforced. They don't care for our expansionist tendencies or our culture. This much I assumed. But there is a deeper hatred, borne from jealousy or resentment or anger, that pervaded every conversation. At one point, the head of the Al Jazerra network rails at length on American policy, then mentions that he is saving money to send his children to America for a good education. Amazingly, he also adds that he would like to join them and possibly get a job with an American media outlet, after just speaking at length about the American media as a puppet of the Bush administration.

My biggest argument, other than the obviously-slanted opinions expressed without any attempt to contrast them with other viewpoints, is that no one in the entire film at any point mentions 9-11 or the unprovoked, catastrophic attack on the US by radical Arabs. No one tries to understand that the US was attacked and therefore might have been forced into a new mind-set, reducing our natural reluctance to involve ourselves in foreign conflicts. I suppose that if 9-11 had never happened, Afghanistan would still be run by the Taliban and Saddam Hussein would still be lording over Iraq. I wanted to yell at the screen - "If you leave us alone, we'll leave you alone!" Along those lines, I found it interesting that Iraqis were complaining that the US was removing Saddam from power when it was something that should have been left to the Iraqi people. My answer: he was in power from 1979 to 2003. If you weren't going to rise up and overthrow him in the 24 years he was in power (and I don't fault you-his grip on the country was absolute), don't complain when someone else comes along and does it for you. Just be happy you've got your country back, and do something good with it this time.

Here is the official line: "A chronicle which provides a rare window into the international perception of the Iraq War, courtesy of Al Jazeera, the Arab world's most popular news outlet. Roundly criticized by Cabinet members and Pentagon officials for reporting with a pro-Iraqi bias, and strongly condemned for frequently airing civilian casualties as well as footage of American POWs, the station has revealed (and continues to show the world) everything about the Iraq War that the Bush administration did not want it to see." I'm not certain, but I feel phrases like "the film the Bush administration doesn't want you to see" are only included to fan the flames and draw more criticism (and press attention) to the small film.

Underworld Review:
A bit of a flashback, I know, but I finally got around to seeing Underworld, a movie that came out last year. It was, in a phrase, the "Matrix but with vampires and werewolves". Interesting and inventive, I have to say I was let down by the storyline that seemed too jumbled and scattered for me to enjoy. And this is the second film IN A ROW where the exceptional Kate Beckinsale is garbed head to toe in the same clothes for the entire film. She's a beautiful woman-put her in something besides angry leather "I want to be Trinity soooo bad" outfits. At least they don't have to spend a lot on her wardrobe...

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