starring Josh Brolin, James Cromwell, Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn
screenplay by Stanley Weiser
directed by Oliver Stone
TROUBLE THE WATER
directed by Carl Deal & Tia Lessin
by Walter Chaw John Powers once called Nixon-era Oliver Stone our most Nixonian director: smart, driven, divisive, unlikeable. So the neatest trick of Stone's latest biopic, W., is to make George W. Bush--arguably the most reviled, detached, ideologically arrogant president since James Buchanan--a figure of genuine pathos. Never mind that this incurious, adolescent, fundamentalist fanatic is our proverbial Nero, fiddling while every foundational tenet of Lincoln's party is fed to anti-intellectualism and evangelical Christianity. George Orwell said something once about how the end of democracy is heralded by millionaires leading dishwashers; what's unexpected for me is the extent to which the Republican party in the new millennium has not only convinced the blue-collar to vote against its own self-interests by waging class warfare against liberals, but also begun to turn against the intellectuals in its own party. "Georgetown cocktail party" conservatives are now painted with the same broad brushstroke as "Latte-sipping" lefties--and this idea of abandoning the middle class takes on the onus of not just money and privilege, but education and eloquence as well. The logical end-point of wanting a President as ill-read, venal, and feckless as your alcoholic born-again Uncle Festus is a figure like Governor Sarah Palin, whose chief qualification appears to be her ability to blend into your local chapter of Oprah's Fan Club without a ripple. Hate, division, ugly innuendo, and racism: sowing fear and reaping the political benefits until the house falls down.