Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats, or On The Impermanence Of The Mediocre

Your Correspondent finds himself in a curious position w/r/t movies. Of course he enjoys watching movies; why else would be have seen so many of them? But more and more, he finds himself despairing of this whole let's-make-movies-of-good-stories lark.

Case in point being the stultifyingly mediocre The Men Who Stare At Goats, which is being written about in a last-ditch effort to wring any glimmers of interesting comment out of it, even as YC feels it fading from his brain like the polaroid picture at the beginning of a better movie, such is its incredibly forgettable nature. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Men Who Stare at Goats. Did you ever have a conversation with someone and walk away, realising you had no idea what that person's name was, or what they did, or what their passions were, or how you'd got talking to them in the first place, but with the general feeling that they'd spoken in a lot of well-wrung cliches about things that, by all appearances, ought to be pretty interesting, if they'd only cared enough to use their own words? Yeah.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is already but a flickering clatter in YC's brain, a selection of wacky hippy montages and funny Clooney faces, a slide projector missing most of its pictures. He can feel the slides falling from their carousel, and he cannot be bothered picking them up.

He remembers that it hewed closely enough to the tone of the book, and that it conformed to that irritating syndrome whereby someone writes about something in a way that skilfully blends the literary and the cinematic, so as to capture the best of both spheres, and someone else reads that and goes, "wow, this is so cinematic, it ought to be a movie!" No it oughtn't, it ought to be a book, one of whose strengths is that it has a pace that is skilfully-maintained in ways that at times resemble that of a good movie. And you know what it is already? That exact thing! So put it the fuck down.

Your Correspondent dimly recalls the opening title card: "You Would Be Amazed How Much Of This Is True". Yes, well, very good, but you'd be amazed how much of this has, in the transition to the screen, been cack-handedly bent to feel as much as possible Like A Movie, and how pointless that renders the "true" bits, and indeed how insulting it all is. Because for instance, one of the True things is how the US kept innocent detainees in the War on Terror in steel boxes and flashed strobes on them and played them music 24 hours a day to stop them sleeping, so when that happens in the movie, you would be surprised how much of that is True, but you know what else might surprise you? How incredibly crass and insulting it is to then conflate those people with cute wee goats and reduce them to props in the Redemptory White Guy Experience of the main characters. So now not only did we perform cruel and unusual torture on these guys, but we then fictionalised and objectified them to the point where they served less of a narrative point than a farm animal? Hey, yeah, fuck you buddy.

Hardly any scenes of The Men Who Stare at Goats now remain in Your Correspondent's head. They drip from his mental screening-panel like wet ink, leaving only the words they were based on. And he is fine with that.