Jarhead is a movie about the experiences of a single
member of the U.S. Marine Corps in the First Gulf War, or whatever the
official name is for the war fought over Kuwait between the allies and
Saddam Hussein. The story was originally written as a first person
memoir by Anthony Swofford, a marine who was actually there and
remains the central character in both the book and the movie.
It is, in fact, a very good movie which does exactly
what it sets out to do, which is to allow somebody with first-hand
experience of a unique situation to share what he knows with the rest
of us. In at least two respects, a movie cannot really do this as well
as a book. First, a film is limited by the inherent compression
required in condensing a long story into a couple of hours of
representative scenes. Second, a movie adds a barrier between the
diarist and his audience - the interpretation of a director and his
staff - while a book like Swofford's best-seller is basically a direct
conversation between him and the reader.
In this case, however, both of the cinematic
disadvantages were minimized.
1) Swofford's book is not just about his
participation in the Gulf War as a sniper, but about everything in
his life that led him there. The actual time of Desert Shield and
Desert Storm takes up only a small part of this memoir. Most of his
stream-of-consciousness recollection involves other things like his
life as a military brat and his previous experiences in the Corps.
The movie wisely chose to touch on the background elements only to
the extent absolutely necessary to picture a soldier's life in the
field, and how it relates, or fails to relate, to the experiences
which placed him in that field. Apart from the action in the desert,
the script accorded significant screen time only to the process
which led Swofford to become a sniper. This was an excellent
decision on the part of all who contributed to it. The compression
required from the screenwriter was far less daunting than if he had
tried to condense the memoir in its entirety.
2) Swofford's voice remains essentially
undiluted in the screenplay because he was an active participant in
the creation of the film, and still plays an active part in the
film's post-theatrical life, by participating in a full-length
commentary track on the DVD.
On the other hand, a movie has advantages over the
printed word. To be sure, it is dramatic to read about a platoon of
marines standing in an oozy mixture of sand and oil while several
massive oil wells burn in their sight-line, some of them a just few
hundred yards away. It is quite another experience, a far more vivid
one, to see that unimaginable image on screen in a night scene lit
only by the flames spewing out of the ground, punctuated by fried
Iraqi carcasses floating around in the ooze. That is a unique image
which very few men actually saw first-hand, but which is now indelibly
etched into the brains of millions of people who have and will see
Jarhead. Because of this movie, I was there. I saw hell while I was
still alive, just as Anthony Swofford did.
The film received generally positive reviews, and many
of the negative ones ignored what the movie accomplished and
complained about what the movie did not accomplish. The New York
Times wrote, "Jarhead is a movie that walks up to some of the
most urgent and painful issues of our present circumstance, clears its
throat loudly and says nothing." Another reviewer wrote "Puzzlingly
hollow .... Although its portrayal of war as tedious hell scores
points for novelty, the lack of a discernable point of view
considerably limits the film's impact." Do you see what the reviewers
are really saying? They are arguing that the film had a great chance
to rail against America's militarism, or against the Bush family, or
against the oil-based world economy and did not. In essence, they are
saying that the author should not have stuck to the things he knew and
was in a unique position to know, and should instead have devoted some
of that time to liberal sermons like the ones fouynd on the editorial
page of the New York Times. Those comments also indicate that the
author should not have told the unvarnished truth, but should have
offered lots of crazy, wild-eyed speculation like Syriana, or perhaps
should have just been filled with unresearched disinformation and just
plain stupidity like The Constant Gardener.
This sort of criticism was by no means restricted to
liberal ideologues. The right-wingers found fault with Swofford as
well, and criticized him for his lack of patriotism and his inability
to keep secrets which should have remained among the band of brothers.
The typical political movie operates like a
Presidential press secretary. It starts with a point-of-view and then
relates some facts to support that position, while ignoring any facts
which tend to undermine it. Since it is fictional, it feels free to
create its own, some of them implausible if not outright impossible.
Many reviewers wanted this to be a political movie, but it is not. The
movie version of Jarhead tells the story of the war in the way
Hemingway would have told it - straightforward, declarative,
first-person. The soldier knows about nothing for sure except the
things he sees for himself, and he tries to share his eyesight with
us, not his insight. Because his story is true and the world is
complicated, some of the facts he relates will support our
preconceptions, while others will undermine them. Without a specific
ideology, the marine's experiences offer plenty of facts for you to
incorporate into your world-view or ignore as you see fit. He is a man
who trained intensely to become a hard-ass sniper, then goes off to a
war and never fires a shot. The soldiers spend more time posturing for
reporters than they do soldiering. His platoon comes upon an entire
highway filled with cars and people - presumably escaping civilians -
all fried to a crisp by American airpower. The grunts call the
ubiquitous fried bodies "crispy critters."
At least one reviewer (Mike Ward, richmond.com) had
insight into the film's strict adherence to the unvarnished facts, and
said, "Some criticize Jarhead for ambivalence and ambiguity.
But that's what Swofford's experience was about."
In fact, that's what life is about in general.
If I had to be picky about the film, I'd say that it
really does have a major weakness, although I don't know how it could
have avoided it. There are some parts of this film that can put you to
sleep faster than a Hugh Hudson film festival. One of the central
themes of the film is that this war was not so much hell as limbo.
Desert Shield, the part where troops amassed in the desert to stop
Saddam's forward progress and to lay the groundwork for an attack,
went on for months and months in which the soldiers had nothing to do
except sit around the desert and wait for orders. Desert Storm, the
actual war, was over in four days and Swofford never even fired his
rifle. Because the film tries to tell the truth, and the truth was
about guys sitting around with nothing to do, the creative team gets
caught in a dilemma. It can either portray that boredom or lie. It
chose to tell the truth by trying to capture the "feel" of Swofford's
days in the desert, but those days mostly "felt" boring. Let's be
honest, soul-destroying boredom rarely makes for a compelling
cinematic experience. The script told the truth, and it chose valid
artistic expression over contrivance, but boredom and ambivalence are
not really very interesting or engaging, by definition. That's why
most films choose to lie instead.
I therefore am painted into a corner, just as the
filmmakers were. If I tell the truth, I steer many of you away from an
outstanding film. As I see it, the truth is that Jarhead is an
excellent movie, an honest battlefield memoir brought to life with a
good script and brilliant visual imagination, but it is also a film
that may infuriate you if you want it all to get tied together in a
neat point-of-view, and it may bore you because if General Sherman
lived today he would say "war is limbo."
The (female) nudity is a brief flash from Brianne
Davis. (There is quite a bit of male nudity.)
Just Friends (2005)
This is the movie in which Ryan Reynolds donned the
fat suit to play a sweet-natured teenage loser, then took the suit
off to play what the kindly fat boy grew up to become - a
svelte, handsome, womanizing, shallow, big-shot record producer. He
accidentally ends up back in his home town, reunited briefly with
the girl who cherished him as a best friend back in school, but
would never accept him as a boyfriend because he was - well, to be
blunt, a fat ugly loser.
I liked Just Friends, although that may be because
it is precisely the kind of romantic comedy I can tolerate,
possessing the following characteristics:
1. High on comedy, low on romance.
2. Fairly close to the reality of what would
happen if these characters actually had to interact.
3. Filled with mean, dark-spirited humor, yet with
character redemption and an intrinsic sentimental streak, in the
same general spirit as Scrooged.
I laughed quite a bit, enough to get me watching
every minute of the special features, which made me laugh some more.
Ryan Reynolds tones down his usual snarky cynicism, and Amy Smart is
basically the film's "straight man," but big laughs are delivered by
the secondary players. Anna Faris is hilarious in the third lead as
a clueless, horny, Britney-type pop tart who is being wooed by
Reynolds' record company. What's more, and I never thought I'd say
this, Chris Klein is also very funny. Klein plays his usual "sweet
guy next door" routine, but it turns out that the character really
is a slimy, scheming guy who only uses a typical Chris Klein schtick
to get laid!
This is basically a Christmas film, but is
nonetheless worth the watch if you want a few mindless laughs.
No nudity, but Amy Smart spends about the first five
minutes of the film in her panties, spreading her legs!
Walmart.com drops HD DVD titles
- "The first batch of Warner HD DVD titles have abruptly disappeared
from Wal-Martís Web site, three weeks after the retailer started
taking online pre-orders for the high-definition discs. Consumers who
had place pre-orders received e-mails from Walmart.com beginning March
8 telling them their orders had been canceled. The items 'may become
available some point in the future,' the e-mails said."
Remember that story about how blondes will be extinct in 200 years?
Turns out to be total bullshit.
Paul Lynde as bachelor #1 on The Dating Game!
You've Got Mail - if the authors really understood computer lingo
Photo Gallery - The "Growing" Legend Of Barry Bonds
The Geography of Seinfeld
The Top 10 Strangest Lego Creations
Jessica Simpson Dumped by Adam Levine via Four-Word Text Message ...
(webmaster making notes for future use)
If only the story were as good as the headline.
"Eva Longoria's lesbian crushes"
Wow - that is some unscrupulous and devious sports psych-out!
Face recognition software. Whom do you look like?
- My #1 match: George W. Bush! #2 Kevin Kline (Do they look alike?)
Is this Eddie Van Halen, or the crazy brother of Doctor Emmit Brown of
Back to the Future fame?
Sandra Bullock will star in a film about 'Peyton Place' author Grace
"I'm Pregnant," Britney Reveals
- Britney Spears and husband Kevin Federline are telling friends
that they're already expecting a second child.
One more reason why guys should not stop to ask for directions.
Urban Legends: There is NO David Letterman list of Top Ten reasons why
there are no black NASCAR drivers.
Jacko ordered to close Neverland
"The BBC has got a first glimpse of the 21st James Bond movie, Casino
Royale, starring Daniel Craig as the all-new 007."
retroCRUSH takes an advance look at Ask the Dust
- It sounds like a good movie. Of course, the important element is
this: "I'd say that there's a good 4-5 solid minutes of eye popping
Hayek nudity in this movie. Even some full frontal shots."
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format.
Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
"Abigail Leslie Is Back"
Abigail Leslie Is Back (1975) is a Joe Sarno soft core shot and released at the end of the exploitation/soft core period. Within months, hard core would completely replace soft core in the adult movie theaters, and that would be short lived, as video tape would prove to be the death of the entire adult theater business. Interestingly, with DVD and cable, soft core still has an audience. New soft core makes some profit, and the vintage exploitation softcore is big business for companies like Something Weird Video and, in this case, Retro Seduction Cinema.
This film was lovingly remastered from Joe Sarno's personal print, and, with major color grading of one scene that never looked right, is the best looking version ever seen anywhere.The DVD includes a commentary with Joe. Unfortunately, Joe is getting along in years, and those with him were using IMDb to jog his memory, but a very interesting fact or two emerged. First, some of this film was shot behind the "Amittyville Horror" house, months before the famous murder. Far more interesting is that, while Joe never showed hard core action explicitly, he encouraged his performers to have actual sex, but was careful of camera angles. He felt that made for better scenes.
This film stars primarily hard core performers, who, when asked to actually act, did so rather convincingly. The cast includes porn legends Eric Edwards and Lamie Gillis, and Mary Mendum, Jennifer Jordan, Chris Jordan, Anne Keel, Julie Sorel and Jennifer Wells. Also, look for Sonny Landom, who made the switch to mainstream films, including 48 Hours, Prediters and Lockup, and even ran for Governor of Kentucky. Joe had nothing but praise for his cast and crew, which is not unusual for him, and everyone I have ever heard who worked for him felt the same way. Joe is known for true to life characters, and spending the time to do character development. His sex scenes often have real heat, probably due to the fact that it was often real sex.
In this film, Abigail Leslie returns to her home town of Baypoint (actually shot in Ammityville, Long Island), a couple of years after a scandal forced her out of time, when she was found in bed with her best friends husband. The men are not at all unhappy at her return, but the women are less than thrilled. The one who has the most to lose is the former best friend whose husband she had seduced, Mary Mendum. Of the main players, Mary is the only relatively sexually pure and repressed characters. Chris Jordan, from the poorer side of town, is thought to be asexual, but Abigail (Jennifer Jordan) discovers that she had a lengthy incestuous affair with her brother. This is the same brother that has become friends with Mary Mendum, who, while faithful to her husband, is not all that happy with her marriage. Before the film is over, Abigail will seduce everyone in town and organize orgies, proving that she is no more of a slut than any of them.
We have full frontal from Chris Jordan (barely), Jennifer Jordan, Mary Mendum and Julia Sorel, and breasts from Anne Keel and Jennifer Wells.
IMDb readers say 5.9. Joe flles that soft core died when it did because distributors wanted hard core, not because the audience evaporated. I tend to agree. I film with lots of nudity, hot sex scenes, and a little story and acting still does well, as do these DVD revivals. This is one of Joe's best, and he is a class act to begin with. This is a C+.
Pat's comments in yellow...
NEVERLAND RANCH SHUT DOWN
Not The Health Department? - Thursday, California authorities ordered
Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch shut down. Jackson was fined $169,000
for failing to pay his employees and maintain workers' compensation
insurance. Animal welfare officials were sent to care for the zoo animals.
Jackson cannot reopen Neverland or hire anyone else until he pays $306,000
in back wages plus fines and insurance fees.
* To pay that much, he might have to hock his teddy bear collection.
* But he has to hire someone else! He desperately needs a back-up parasol
* Michael just forgot to pay his employees...He's not used to paying off
people over the age of 12.
* Unlike Michael, zoo animals live on meat, not magical pixie dust.
"JOEY" LOSES TO BUMBLEBEE MAN
We Won't Be There For You - America's love affair with the sitcom "Friends"
is officially over: NBC brought the spin-off "Joey" back from hiatus
Tuesday, and it drew only about 4 million viewers. That's 300,000 fewer
people than tuned in "Contra Viento Y Marea" on the Spanish language
* If they dubbed "Joey" into Spanish, Univision might take it.
* Joey Tribbiani won't be the first actor to give up on L.A.
* The concept wasn't believable: what are the odds that a good-looking guy
with no brains or talent could become a Hollywood star?
MADONNA QUITS MOVIES
Who Says All The News Is Bad? - Hollywood.com reports that Madonna has
decided to quit acting in movies. She said critics don't appreciate how
much effort it takes to make a movie, and they pan her movies before
they're even release. She said, "What film can survive people saying it's
going to be a bomb from the second it's announced?"
* Maybe a film that doesn't have Madonna in it.
* Critics pan Madonna movies before they're made because it saves so much
* She's going to quit acting in movies? When did she start?