Friday, December 28, 2018

Vice (movie review)

Movies that strive to make some sense of the recent past should be in high demand, if only as a source of mnemonic touch stones, memory devices, which this film is filled with.  The events come in as a jumble in time, and we piece it together through flashbacks (afterimages as we sometimes call them, in real life scenarios).

Clearly there's no way to reliably penetrate the cloak of secrecy that surrounds a high office that keeps mum.  The movie deals with uncertainty by breaking the fourth wall and otherwise reminding us of the impossibility of an omniscient viewpoint.  How does a dead man organ donor narrate a film from beyond the grave?

Clearly no cameras were present to document the intimate details of the Cheney bedroom, and there's a Lady Macbeth aspect to Lynne Cheney's role.  Having them break into Shakespearean dialog is a sure fire way to remind the audience they're watching theater, movies being an evolved form thereof.

Scenes are designed to tell a story.  During 911, Dick and Lynne head for the underground apartments and, from there, Dick insists on consuming raw, unfiltered intelligence.  Powell gets strong-armed, against his better judgement, into making his famous pitch for war to the UN, which in retrospect had the effect of lowering public confidence in so-called "intelligence".

DC has never really recovered its reputation for knowing what's going on in the world.  Justifications for recent cruise missile attacks against targets in Syria have met with derision outside of legacy media.

From Cheney's angle, however, the challenge was to capitalize on 911 in order to improve the prospects of the energy companies, with whom he liked to meet in secret.  The goal was not tit for tat, but to demonstrate overwhelming executive branch military power in conjunction with its power to shape pubic opinion.

Much of the innovative legislation, post 911, was focused domestically and internally, on building a surveillance state, although the movie has only limited time to explore the ramifications of these developments.  Hollywood is still free to make and distribute questioning films like this, which put the inner workings of the White House under a critical director's eye.

At the time, mid-career, I was one of those critical of the raw intelligence, such as we were privy to in the internet newsgroups (lots of spam), and questioning the rationale for "shock & awe".

My focus (then as now) was preventing hanky-panky with nuclear waste products, with webcams and the like, about which science fiction planning I posted fairly frequently.

This wasn't my paid day job, as a coder and skills trainer with CUE, so much as my volunteer service as a Quaker, a sect opposed to acting out with outward weapons.

But then we don't control the world now do we, and our views are easily dismissed as irrelevant by the outward war minded.  I'm used to being marginalized.