Thursday, 10 April 2008

A Stone Crashes Through The Oval Office Window

Baffling though it is, rumours that Oliver Stone's next movie would be about a drunk, obnoxious George W. Bush acting like a jerk in the Oval Office appears to be true. I'm really staggered by this. Not because the widespread dislike of the man has passed me by, but because this has been announced while he is still President. A couple of years ago left-wing pundits bemoaned the fact that Bush was getting a free ride from a pliant and craven media who were too chummy with the White House staff to effectively report their malfeasance, moral turpitude, cowardice, incompetence, and other crimes which are seemingly infinite in number.

Since then, Stephen Colbert roasted the President with a speech at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner that qualifies as one of the most astonishing displays of chutzpah of modern times, a watershed moment in the War on Unreason and Wilful Insanity that attracted opprobrium from the chastened media, but several awards, most notably a Spike TV Guy's Choice Award for Gutsiest Move, a Shades Of Caruso Award for Best Thing To Have Ever Happened Ever, and best of all, the endorsement of none other than Morpheus! (It's at 4:48 on the video linked to above.)

Not only did he get PWNed by the derision of a man who once held his own against Agent Johnson on top of a moving truck for a good few minutes (not easy), but Bush's approval ratings sank to -1 googleplex% or something, which has freed many people from their inhibitions about roasting the man who once thought a mandate meant winning fifteen votes more than the other guy. It might have been more than fifteen. I'll check later, though it sounds about right.

Even with this wave of unpopularity and increase in prez-razzing, Oliver Stone (his post-Alexander bankability partially restored thanks to the modest success of World Trade Center) has gone beyond any satire yet announced, and has seemingly been given permission by the cosmos to go all out on Dubya's ass even though he's still "in charge of the Free World". A preview of what appears to be the first draft of W makes me wonder if it is meant to be serious or not. Could this be Stone's attempt at a potentially successful political version of Meet The Spartans, complete with references to flight suit harnesses pulled too tight and pretzel-induced comas? Amazing.

Stone attracts a lot of flack, and I understand why, but I've remained fond of his work, even when it looks like the temper tantrum of a sentient Avid editing machine whose CPU has been filled with presidential biographies, tracks from The Soft Parade, and gallons of radioactive testosterone. JFK can be attacked for its theorising, but the way those theories were presented, in that incredible, enormous final speech by Kevin Costner, is a masterclass of editing. Nixon has a cluttered narrative and ugly visual style, but it's fascinating and underrated despite that (and Anthony Hopkins gives what might be his best performance). I even enjoyed Any Given Sunday and Alexander, though that's probably only because I'm bonkers-berserker-crazy about Al Pacino and historical epics, even when they're a bit/a lot crap [Delete where applicable].

With a few reports of reviews blasting the script for a total absence of subtlety and featuring what sounds like slapstick scenes of Bush Behaving Badly that are so bizarre I have a really hard time believing they are really going to be filmed, the casting decisions announced so far are the only reliable barometer of what the movie will be like, and the choices are a mixture of inspired and baffling. Mom and Dad Bush are perfect (James Cromwell being the go-to old guy du jour), but Josh Brolin, though "hot" right now, doesn't seem like a Bush type to me, unless the film really is going to tip over into spoofery. I like Elizabeth Banks, and look forward to her realising her potential, but even then I'm unsure.

As for the rest of the casting, Ioan Gruffudd as Tony Blair seems about right, though surely Michael Sheen has been contracted to play Blair into the foreseeable future. I doubt Gruffudd would be given a chance to create a performance as terrific as Sheen in The Queen (who was totally robbed at the Oscars that year). I don't even know where to begin with Thandie Newton's casting as Condoleezza Rice, though. Her patented bottomless African sadness seems worlds away from Rice's steely demeanour and clinical, emotionless intellectualism. Plus, appearing in this will further delay the inevitable filming of Chronicles of Riddick II: Space Conan In Space.

But what about the other players in this comedy of bad manners? There's been some speculation already, so here are my suggestions. First, Mr. Known/Unknown Knowns/Unknowns himself, Donald Rumsfeld, who could be played by Canyon's all-time favourite actor, Jude "Mike Novick from 24" Ciccolella, though playing someone as cock-sure as Rummy means we won't get to hear Jude's catchphrase from 24, "My! God!", used whenever anything happens. Seriously, anything. War, gas attacks, beer frothing out of a can, Sky+ box runs out of memory, etc.

If there was a flashback, young Rummy could be played by Chris Evans (not that I'd wish that on our hero Evans, but the likeness is remarkable). Note that Evans has his top off and is showing some flesh. You're welcome, ladies (and some gents).

Vice-President Dick Cheney was a tough one, and after much consideration, I realised it had to be Andrew Stehlin in full 30 Days of Night vampire get-up.

I know that a choice like that seems kinda lazy on my part, and many people will be horribly offended that I compared Cheney to a heinous bloodsucking maniac who thinks humans are cattle to be exploited, but you have to understand I haven't yet seen 30 Days of Night (my Hartnett allergy kicking in), and I'm only guessing that that vampire is anywhere near as evil as Cheney actually is. If I've sold Cheney short with the comparison, I apologise.

Compared with Dick, finding an actor to play former Secretary of State Colin Powell was easy. It could only be Terry Crews, especially if played in the style of his bravura performance as President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho from Mike Judge's magnificent Idiocracy.

Often credited as being the person who took George to one side and told him, "That smug thing you're doing? Faster! More intense!", Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove can only be truly captured using animation. A perfect design was featured in Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away: Boh the demanding baby, seen here about to have a terrible temper tantrum.

That said, there will be no transformation into an adorable mouse like at the end of the movie. Perhaps instead he can be turned into a Golgothan, like in Kevin Smith's Dogma. It would at least match his nickname. I wish I knew George Bush well enough to get a nickname. I wonder what it would be. Twinkle-Tits? Dirt-Legs? Jam-Head? I have to admit, the guy has mad (as in eccentric) nickname skillz.

Chief of Staff Andrew Card, once voted Least Likely To Be Mistaken For Leo McGarry From The West Wing, exists, at least in my mind, to tell the President that everything is going just fine and the people love him and no, the mob outside the White House with burning torches and pitchforks are there to attack Bill Clinton and they haven't yet realised he's not around anymore. Who better to capture that optimism than the happy half of the Mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

With the roles of his parents so well cast, it's only fair I spend more time trying to cast Jenna and Barbara Bush than I have everyone else here. And, three minutes later, here's my choice! Jessica and Ashlee Simpson!

I chose them because they are real sisters who are blonde and brunette, and not because there have been lascivious claims made about their private lives. That would be rude of me, and really, the Bush daughters deserve no heavy criticism. It's not like they invaded Iraq to ensure worldwide oil production remained at a steady pace allowing oil producers to ramp up the price of petrol leading to many billionaires becoming super-mega-trillionaires or anything like that. They just like beer. Me too! Yay Bush daughters! (Please read the Greg Palast interview I just linked to. It will change the way you see everything.)

As I said above, the Ioan Gruffudd casting is potentially quite interesting, but Tony needs a perfect Cherie if we're ever going to take him seriously. Who better than ubiquitous cover girl and smiling fan Jessica Alba, so that we can duplicate some of that supernova-hott sizzling chemistry from the universally adored and acclaimed Fantastic Four films.

Their smoking sexxy scenes together (such as the one from the first film where Reed gets distracted by an equation, and Sue nags at him about it, or the one from the second one, where Reed gets distracted by an equation, and Sue nags at him about it) was obviously the number one reason those films just about made a profit set fire to the international box office as if it had been blasted by a fireball from Johnny Rumsfeld-Storm's hands!

Continuing the Marvel adaptation theme, former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton reminds me of Nick Nolte, whose gruff, unpredictable, and scenery-chewing performances are a perfect fit for someone who walked into UN HQ on his first day and started to eat the building from the inside out.

Let the Evil Soar! Using special technology like what they used with Oliver Reed in Gladiator, former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be played by Julian Beck from Poltergeist II: The Other Side, though again, there may be an evilness deficit at work. The magic of CGI effects can fill in the blanks there.

Some of these selections have stumped me terribly, but this one might have been the easiest casting choice since choosing Morgan Freeman to play God in the Almighty movies. Former press secretary Scott McLellan could only be played by a similarly reanimated Oliver Hardy.

Convicted/pardoned lawyer and assistant to the President I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby brings to mind clueless cultural pundit, mediocre novelist and dire kneejerk newspaper columnist Tony "former Mr. Julie Burchill" Parsons.

Of course, Libby could only go about doing his master's bidding with the help of a member of that pliant, supine, mesmerised press corps, most notably Robert Novak, whose ghoulish ruthlessness, unearthly aura and total moral decay would be perfectly captured by Angus Scrimm, AKA The Tall Man from the Phantasm movies.

Speaking of malleable puppet-men and craven, misguided Bush-enablers, what about two Brits who reiterated the White House line about WMDs so enthusiastically that I'm surprised their mouths didn't fly off their faces with the effort. Former Home and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw resembles food critic Anton Ego so strongly that I think Brad Bird had already made the connection...

...and former Defense Secretary Geoff "Buff" Hoon's air of hyper-confident machismo and brawny ambition are a perfect fit for a reanimated Benny Hill:

The reports on Stanley Weiser's script don't reveal much, other than some peculiarly broad dialogue ("I'd like to stuff a plate of freedom fries down that slick piece of shit's throat"? Really?), but there's a good chance we will at least get to see Bush winning the nomination as the Republican presidential candidate in 1999, so they will have to cast someone as rival John McCain, and who better than lovable old man Mickey Rooney. Everyone loves cuddly old Mickey Rooney! Perfect to play lovable cuddly funbucket McCain!

Of course, McCain was exposed to lethal doses of Gamma radiation several years ago (it was covered up), and his renowned McCain Smash! episodes mean there might have to be a CGI option kept back for any scenes featuring his response to his defeat.

Once those scenes are finished with, Weiser and Stone will inevitably move onto Bush's next victim, Saviour of the World Al Gore, who is the living embodiment of Professor Frink.

But will the script show his re-election in 2004? If so, John Kerry is going to turn up, and after throwing out several lookalike candidates for the role, I realised that the half of the world that reacted so negatively to the peculiarly anti-narrative finale of No Country For Old Men desperately wants to see a rematch between Llewellyn Moss and Anton Chigurh, and so the coveted role of John Kerry can only go to Academy Award winner and Stone Fox Javier Bardem.

Now all we need is for the film to feature scenes of Bush gnawing on ribs and wiping his hands on various world flags, yelling "Fuck youse all! I'm presidentin' up in this bitch" every five minutes, riding around the White House on a plastic car shaped like an enormous eagle, and offering to arm-rassle everyone he meets (and ordering Secret Service guys to shoot anyone who beats him), and I would pay lots and lots and lots of money to see it.

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