I happen to have rewatched this movie recently, remembering basically liking it when I saw it in 2007 or so, recalling some of the plot points but not all that much. I’m pleased to say that it’s a really great movie that you should seek out if you didn’t get around to seeing it. Basically, the movie positions itself to be something of a white savior movie but winds up being an anti-white savior movie, in which the white guy comes to Africa to set it aright through his amazing medical skills and essentially fucks everything up, gets people killed and only earns his undeserved escape thanks to the graciousness of a Ugandan doctor played by David Oyelowo, a character who is at least twenty times as good a person as he is. It’s a brilliantly elegant Trojan horse of a movie.

The film’s main character, a newly-minted Scottish doctor who is a composite of real people as played by James McAvoy, is succinctly developed in the film’s first scenes when he spins a globe to find an exotic place to go in order to ply his freshly-acquired medical training. The first choice is Canada, which is summarily rejected: obviously, not exotic enough. Next choice is Uganda. Does he do research into the culture, the safety and security of the place, the political situation? Fuck no! Instead he arrives in Uganda during a coup and through happenstance runs into the new Generalissimo, Idi Amin, obviously played by Forrest Whitaker in a career role, about which more in a moment. The relationship between them could be called a bromance, but is really more of a mutual seduction, with real film noir overtones. It’s reminiscent of another Peter Morgan-penned film, The Special Relationship, which establishes a bond between two men that isn’t sexual but is intimate and intoxicating. People complain about the preponderance of movies about and for men–as well they should–but even in spite of the numbers, it’s genuinely rare to see a movie or television show that convincingly portrays friendship bonds among men. This is definitely one such movie.

I tend to disdain showy “famous people” performances as the apex of acting, and I don’t know why critics and the Academy hold these as just the absolute height of acting prowess–my best guess is that they’re pretty easy to evaluate if you are familiar with how the person being portrayed sounded like, walked, and looked like. But nobody remembers what Idi Amin sounded like, or really anything else about him, other than the (quite racist) cannibalism rumors. And yet it’s obvious that Whitaker is just perfect from the moment he shows up. The accent is flawless. The energy and body language are just right. He projects exactly the right sort of charisma. Whitaker’s Amin is a man of charm who has a decent sense of humor and is able to have fun. He’s also a violent paranoiac who has few qualms about using power ruthlessly for his own ends. And while this was not intended from a movie that came out a decade ago, the populist rhetoric he uses has a very different resonance now than it did when it was released. It makes it even more relevant since we have more of a visceral reaction as to where this sort of thing leads.

The movie is structured in such a way that the first half focuses more on the “good” parts and the second half on the “bad” parts of being close to a friendly dictator, but the first half features a lot of subtle hints about the awfulness. Not that McAvoy ever figures it out. He doesn’t just wander into being corrupted by power, he runs into it at full speed. He excuses, he rationalizes, he even defends Amin to the (openly racist) British diplomats in Uganda, who initially enthuse about Amin’s service in the British Army before quickly losing patience. The character, among other things, fingers one of Amin’s inner circle without even knowing if he’s guilty of anything, impregnates one of Amin’s wives, and he even gives Amin a few helpful pointers about how to spin the press into covering him in an inaccurately positive manner. That much of this is due to McAvoy’s naivete is hardly an excuse so far as the film is concerned. He’s no white savior. If anything, he’s Barrabas, let off lightly while the better person suffers the most.

The Last King Of Scotland winds up being a movie about privilege, white and otherwise. McAvoy arrives in a turbulent foreign country without bothering to learn anything about it. After all, he’s a young, white, handsome, male doctor: the world his his playground. A man wholly unaccustomed to even considering the causes of his actions winds up paying severely for it, though not nearly as severely as most, or as he deserved. Pleasantly, Uganda (and, by extension, Africa) is portrayed not as a place of backward people needing a white man’s gentle guidance, but rather as a complicated place with a lot of problems, some of which are the fault of white men, some of which aren’t. I found it pretty great on a rewatch.

Share
Lev filed this under: ,  

It’s been six months and Trump has yet to slip and say the word “fuck” in an official context as POTUS, which is longer than I thought he’d last. Probably just about the only way he’s exceeded my expectations.

Share
Lev filed this under:  

This is something that bears repeating:

In the end, it was two conservatives – Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas – who became the third and fourth senators to come out against the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act. Yet conservatives are still placing the blame on moderate senators, who were uncomfortable with how the bill would have phased out Medicaid expansion and enacted deeper underlying cuts to the program.

I’m not really going to be all that sad if Republicans cut Dean Heller loose over this, but the real problem here was that the Republican Party promised people a unicorn for seven years. Blaming a small number of “moderates” for not creating the unicorn is silly. Everybody in the GOP promised the same unicorn, but guess what, there was never going to be a unicorn, so…

While Citizens United has had some horrible effects, it’s hardly been some unalloyed good for Republicans. It gave them more money to spend on elections up and down the ballot (though how decisive those funds were during the Obama era, as opposed to the usual out-party turnout dynamics, will soon be seen), but it also empowered a bunch of dumb old rich guys who don’t know anything about politics and just want what they want right now. The need to keep the Kochs and the Mercers and all the rest happy by pushing wildly unpopular ideas is a major part of Why The Republican Party Cannot Govern. Who knew that finding something that pleases both hyperprivileged rich sociopaths and gets over 50% in the polls could be so complicated!

Share
Lev filed this under: ,  

It is interesting that Hillary Clinton’s numbers haven’t bounced back at all since the end of the campaign. You would figure the lack of ads being run against her and buyer’s remorse would have helped her rebound a bit, but apparently not. It says something about Clinton’s complete inability–outside of her hardcore base–to engender sympathy, but that’s I think more an effect than a cause. There really wasn’t any ideological difference between Clinton and Obama, but the latter was so damn good at making a majority of the public feel like he was “one of them.” How many times were liberals mad because Obama gave away too much to Republicans in negotiations (again!), but then he’d give a State Of The Union and the web would be full of sentiments to the effect of, damn, this guy is so well-meaning and smart! Clinton just couldn’t do that. Instead she had a way of doing the opposite even when she was giving people most of what they wanted–for example, her rejecting a $15 minimum wage because her economists said $12 would be better. Who cares?! It’s just a way of telling everyone working toward that goal that she’s not with them, and signals to working people that she’s not willing to go out on a ledge for them. It’s not like they were going to be pivotal in the election or anything! (In retrospect, that may have been the moment where she actually lost the election.) Obama would let people think he was with them even if he wasn’t, Clinton seemed to be obsessed with not letting people do that, for whatever reason. After a point I’m not sure what she was really fighting against with this stuff. But if the goal was to try to draw a sharp line with left-liberals to set herself apart from them, well, it worked, and they still don’t much like her.

Yeah, she wasn’t a blank slate, and the election was stolen, and sexism played a significant part as well. But it was such a passionless campaign, so focused on numbers and policy papers and generally the realm of the factual, so out of touch with the emotional. But politics is about people, and their emotions–rational or not–are an important part of it. Clinton just couldn’t ever get that.

Share
Lev filed this under: ,  

Looks like this cynical corporate synergy strategy backfired:

After Ed Sheeran was pilloried in some quarters of social media for his cameo appearance in Game of Thrones, the show’s director Jeremy Podeswa has come to his defence, saying he is a “lovely performer” who “deserved to be there”.

Sheeran, who has previously complained of abuse on Twitter, left the social network altogether in the wake of the episode screening. But in an interview with the Daily Beast, Podeswa has said he is “a bit surprised that people have made that much fuss about it… he looks right in the show; he fits into the fabric of the show.”

I don’t watch Game Of Thrones anymore–after a point I felt like I understood moves and watching it became tedious–but the notion that a calling-attention-to-itself cameo by the MOR popstar of the moment was going to delight everybody was a little out of touch.

Share
Lev filed this under:  

See, as much as I like to read Tom Nichols–one of the few remaining sane, non-monstrous Republicans around, seemingly–talk about how Trump is wrecking the GOP, I just can’t entirely believe it. I simply don’t see Trump, almost no matter what he does, doing much lasting harm to the GOP. Within fifteen minutes of when he’s gone, they’ll all reunite around whatever technocratic, center-left Democrat succeeds him as the Great Satan, and the media will again dutifully forget what Republicans actually stand for when a Democrat is in office and pretend that whatever nonsense Koch-funded astroturf outfit takes over means that now, they really do just oppose excessive government spending. Within a few months, virtually no Republicans will say anything negative about Trump, and he’ll simply be down the same memory hole as Nixon and Dubya (who is, shockingly, nearly as favorably viewed now as Obama is).

But it’s not just simple amnesia. The simple fact of the matter is that the bulk of Republicans are simply not looking for the same things out of government that we are. Democrats want effective delivery of government services, safeguarding of the safety net and national security, promoting equality and freedom, things like that. Republicans just want tax cuts. What once was a joke is now pretty much an unanswerable argument. They used to pretend they really cared about national security but their behavior around Trump/Russia belies this. Just tax cuts. They liked Bush because he gave them those (just about the only thing he didn’t make a mess of). They like Trump because he’s going to get them those. One fifth of the country literally cares about no other political issue besides shoveling money into the pockets of the wealthy, and that’s not going to change soon. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton lost a lot by assuming that educated, well-off, suburban Republicans cared about literally anything other than this. But, in conclusion, we all want the same things, we just disagree on how to achieve them. I’m sure that strong evidence of collusion will eventually turn them against Trump! Should happen any day now…

Share
Lev filed this under: ,  

One of the more curious assumptions Republicans seem to make about TrumpCare is that this will “get healthcare out of the way.” I think this is a bizarre assumption to say the least. Given that they’re advancing a policy that doesn’t seem very likely to work, that they don’t seem to care very much about whether it does work or not, and that will make a lot of people worse off, it seems more likely that health care will keep popping up as they have to pass “fixes” to the crises their bill creates, which will only have the effect of hardening public opinion against them on this issue (maybe in general). That their strategy seems to be outright lying about the contents of the bill leaves them vulnerable to taking the blame as things head south. There are undoubtedly some loyal Republicans who believe the many outright lies of Trump or Pence or Ryan, one assumes they’ll be pretty damn mad when their insurance goes away. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it from passing! But still.

I can’t find a clip of it on YouTube, but it reminds me of the bit from Show Me A Hero where Peter Riegert asks, “Do we actually want this housing to work, or don’t we?” Republicans are doing nothing to indicate they give a shit if it works, so it probably won’t. But I don’t think passing a trainwreck of a bill and then just ignoring the subject is going to be a viable alternative. Don’t know if it’ll actually lose them any WWC votes, but I see a constant series of fixes and electoral losses if the thing actually passes.

Share
{ 1 comment }
Lev filed this under: ,  

This turned out to be pretty accurate. I have no real confidence in Heller making a difference in opposing the bill–I haven’t seen anything to suggest him as anything other than a party hack–but we’ll see. Though I will apologize a bit for the swipe at Dianne Feinstein, who has given even me no real chance to criticize her this year. I’m really surprised!

Share
Lev filed this under: