Movie Commentary-A Private War, Widows & Some Reflections on Local Democracy

courtesy of Aviron Productions

New blog including-what to see and not see at the movies and what you didn’t want to know about the world around you. Hopefully. there’s still a chance to change some of it.

Readers may have noticed that I go to a lot of movies, sometimes indiscriminately, but despite the person kicking the back of my chair or seeing the world with someone’s head in the middle of a scene, I love movie theaters.


Sometimes I go based on reviews and just as often, like in the case that a purplish green monster with an egg fetish turns out to be the leading man, I disagree, sometimes furiously so. My movie-going partner suggested Widows so we went. Wow, incredible cast, intense, fast paced with moments of heartfelt tragedy and it made no damn sense at all.

It was full of mind-blowingly impossible leaps into silly subplots; and what about the most important premise-that of Viola Davis’s lost love and deep grief-even though about halfway through the film she realizes the truth about her loving husband but goes on as if she didn’t….

images (2)

Courtesy Vanity Fair

One more comment, directors/screenwriters, it’s not enough to hire good actresses, especially WOC, if all you wanna do is plop them in the middle of a confusing mess. Real women’s lives are full of enough peril, intrigue and loss, you don’t need to fabricate completely unlikely ones. By the way a good heist movie always has its comedic moments, not just guns and cars and blow’em up.

Speaking of blowing things up and gun toting thugs, have I got a movie for you! It is only playing in one small theater locally and will probably leave there soon. It is not a hit and though some critics have mentioned the Oscar worthy performance of Rosamund Pike, it will likely go unrewarded due to its very realistic portrayal of the world at war.

A Private War

download (8)

The flick is A Private War in case you haven’t guessed and why would you? It’s the story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, an American reporter based at the Sunday Times in London, who also shared her broadcasts with CNN. I must admit I knew little about her but the movie effectively telegraphs the ending for those of us who didn’t know it going into the darkened theater.

It opens with an overhead of what was once Homs, Syria that looks like a CGI rather than an actual photo, such is the devastation. The date on this shot begins an ominous countdown. It only gets more tension-filled, horrific and heartbreaking after that.

I’ve never been to Syria but at one time I might have chosen it for a vacation spot, full of ancient multicultural art and architecture and tree-lined boulevards with welcoming people offering a cup of tea to a tourist. I’d have probably bought a rug-my favorite art which you can enjoy in your home every day. But now not only do no tourists hang out there, few Syrians choose to stay and western journalists are few and far between. So in our country, we know as little as we choose to about the terror of living in a country once spoken of as part of the Arab Spring. Of all the miseries visited on most of these countries now, Syria seems to have established its stasis as hell on earth.

While Marie Colvin is seen in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya where they show her interviewing Gaddafi and using her gym card to talk her way through a dangerous check point in Iraq, she told Anderson Cooper Syria was the worst war she had ever documented.

Check out these before and after pictures if you dare:

The film veers into her problems with alcoholism and her smoking addiction is so obnoxious it makes you want to smack the cigarettes out of her hands (or is that just me?) It demonstrates her suffering from PTSD with flashbacks and at least one breakdown scene. But the treatment made me wonder if because this was about a woman, we got a little more pathology than was necessary. On the other hand, it’s also unlikely the director could have spent much more time in such true-to-life war scenes and narrow escapes than this  flick gave us. It is believed that ultimately Colvin was targeted and finally killed by the Assad regime.

I did like how the movie depicted her casual approach to sex. Hollywood seems to believe that’s rarer than it actually is. As to her addiction to war, it seems likely that the more she saw the more she needed to stay in a state of adrenaline rush to stave off the things she saw. Or as Chris Hedges book title aptly notes, War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. download (9)

Anyway, it’s a tough movie to watch, much more so than movies about old conflicts. The final title states that since 2012, when the story ends, 500,000 more people have been killed in that sad place. Maybe you should go see it–we owe those Syrians still living it and the journalists who attempt to document it at least that much.

An Honorable Mention on the Failure of Politics-Here at Home

Little that happens in the city of Oakland can compare with the conflagrations in the Middle East, but the basic premise of how politics, even the  politics of democracies, begins to fail us and our most vulnerable populations, can point to how citizens (in the broad definition) lose faith over time and turn to simple solutions and autocratic rulers. If we watch closely, we can see how leaders turn into rulers.

Here I’m returning to the profound ugliness of how our city has responded over the years to two important problems 1) the build-up of housing insecurity to the point where it’s taken for granted that many people will be consigned to what’s now referred to as curbside living, and 2) the never-ending struggle to force our most expensive department, OPD, to stop brutalizing, killing or casually neglecting segments of our town.

Recently Mayor Schaaf while receiving the endorsement of “our paper” also got a slight slap on the wrist due to the many unfunded liabilities that running a somewhat civilized metropolis might incur. This my guess as to why she and our lame duck city council broke every process and budget making rule to get the police union to give up future retirement benefits in return for allowing it to operate in the less than constitutional manner to which it has become accustomed.

Somehow that was more important than 1) police reform, 2)respecting the incoming council, and 3) bypassing the voters’ hard fought desire for  oversight of its troubled police department, that is, ignoring the Police Commission completely. Besides all of the aforementioned affronts to democracy, it seems penny wise and pound foolish as the department continues to bleed expensive lawsuits.

Our Town is small and most of us have nothing to fear from its leaders , we often see them out and about [unlike some folks who’ve lived here the longest who still have to fear the police]. So it’s difficult to state how betrayed many of us feel at these developments. Our mayor has often told us how much she loves Oakland. Tis the season to show it.


1 Comment on "Movie Commentary-A Private War, Widows & Some Reflections on Local Democracy"

  1. valeriewoakland | December 3, 2018 at 6:23 am | Reply

    Good post. And the photos of Syria and horrifying.

Leave a Reply