A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 415 – Bush’s Brain

Bush’s Brain – April 19th, 2011

Why, oh why do we own this? Apparently it’s because one of Andy’s former staff members and a suggestion he made. The thing is, when someone tells Andy “Hey, you should see this movie” he doesn’t rent it or look into it. He finds a copy and buys it. This is why we have the collection we have and this is why we own this movie. It’s definitely not my taste. I like to keep my political views to myself. It’s a work thing, and I could go into detail about public librarianship and why I keep my mouth shut most of the time but it would take up this whole review. Suffice it to say that I have some very strong feelings about politics and political parties and policies and so on and so forth, but I tend not to share them.

And I admit, part of that? Is because politics make me angry. Really angry. So angry I stop being able to express myself coherently. To be honest, I feel like I’ve got very little in the way of control over how anything in this country goes. I can vote. I can write letters. But I’m not a politician and I don’t want to be one and my workplace does require a certain amount of public neutrality. And I firmly stand behind the ideals of my job, but it does make for some frustration. So one might think that in my private life, when I don’t have to be so careful, I would appreciate a documentary that’s a series of attacks on a political figure I dislike, right? Wrong. It just makes me all the more frustrated. Watching this doesn’t change the amount of power I have. It doesn’t put me in a different position or give me anything useful to do about him or people like him. And let’s face it, I didn’t need a documentary to tell me that many politicians do shady, scummy, underhanded things to get ahead. That some of them go beyond what’s considered the norm? Not a shock here.

Really, it makes me feel much like how Michael Moore makes me feel. Sure, make your arguments, but you’re making them to the wrong audience. I highly doubt that anyone who likes Rove would watch this and have their minds blown and do a 180 on the man. I mean, it makes me dislike him more, but I didn’t go in with a positive opinion of him anyhow. He always struck me as an incredibly intelligent and ruthless man with a boatload of privilege. But this documentary is preaching to the choir and doing so with a whole lot of talk and rumor and very little fact. Aside from some excerpts of a letter Rove sent the authors of the book this documentary is based on when he go a copy of the manuscript (and I do wonder if this was made as a rebuttal to his rebuttal to the book) it’s mostly got a lot of interviews with people Rove worked with or worked against or both. It’s got interviews from a variety of politicians and journalists and really, aside from some specific events and items like ads he put together or election dates? It’s opinion.

“Can I definitively tell you Karl Rove did this or that? No.” So says one of the interviewees here when talking about the Texas gubernatorial race between George W. Bush and Ann Richards. And that, I think, sums up so many of the interviews this documentary is based on. It’s a lot of people speculating and making assumptions and you know what? That makes me angry. It makes me angry because I don’t like Rove and I think there are plenty of reasons not to like him. But this documentary is going about it in such gossipy ways. It makes a poor case for the accusations they’re leveling against him and that makes it that much harder to claim that said accusations have any foundation. It’s so damn frustrating and it makes me angry. Just like everything political.

And then on top of it all, for the last twenty minutes or so of the movie there’s an extended piece about a Marine named Fred Pokorney who died in battle and we sat there waiting for it to involve Rove somehow. We floated ideas about friendly fire cover-ups and the like, but no. Sad as it is, it’s not really anything to do directly with Rove. It’s one in far too many stories of soldiers who haven’t come home and never will. And I can see what the filmmakers were trying to say here, blaming the war on George W. Bush’s presidency and therefore on Rove since the whole point of the documentary is to claim that Rove put Bush in the White House. But the closest connection they could actually manage was Pokorney’s family saying they don’t think politicians care about the soldiers who’ve died, juxtaposed against Rove giving a speech where he states that every individual matters. It’s a tenuous connection at best and really, its major impact should come from the Rove connection to Bush.

The trouble with that connection is that the movie spends so little time on it. We hear plenty about Rove’s early years and apparently dubious campaign methods (I say apparently because quite a few of them are supposition, not evidence-supported fact) but when it comes to George W. Bush? Well, there is some time spent there on how Rove got to know Bush, but his actual role in the White House and actions and all? The lack of in-depth reporting is pretty sad. What comes across the most is more personality than anything else. The description of Rove as so clever he could shut you down with a swift quip puts me in mind of nothing so much as the queens of last night’s movie, reading their opponents and throwing shade. But I doubt Rove has ever vogued and unfortunately none of the folks in last night’s movie had the opportunities he’s had. If it turned out that he had then perhaps I’d have actually learned something from this movie.

I asked Andy if he’d watched this yet when we grabbed it tonight and he admitted that he’d only made it through about twenty minutes before having to turn it off. I asked why and he said it was “heavy handed”. I had no idea. It’s even got that scare music used in the worst sorts of negative political ads, which, considering the subject, would seem to me to be either a very poor choice or some badly played irony. Andy further admitted to me that he’d never have put this in again if we hadn’t been doing this project. And yet he never got rid of it. He disliked it and couldn’t get through it but it’s still taking up shelf space. I am so confused by that, so we’re going to make a list of movies we’re ditching as soon as the project is over. And this and Death Proof are the first inductees.


April 19, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Bush’s Brain

April 19, 2011

Bush’s Brain

I bought this movie at the urging of a heavily left leaning staff member of mine. At least that’s my recollection of things. I’ll freely admit that I’m about as far to the left politically as it is possible to be. I spent a lot of the early part of this millennium upset with the president of our nation. I was angry with him, his decisions and the things he did to our country. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that I hated George W Bush. As such I didn’t particularly mind the notion of a movie that attacked the man regarded as having been responsible for putting Bush in office.

There’s no kind way to say this though: this is a poor excuse for a documentary. It’s a collection of interviews based on hearsay, speculation and bitter grapes. It’s fear mongering and hate speech. I don’t mean that Karl Rove is innocent of the shady dealings that this movie accuses him of taking part in. I simply mean that no good case is made in any of the allegations.

Most of this movie is interviews with the two authors of the book the movie is based on and with various political opponents of candidates that Rove worked for. Hardly unbiased. Even that would be acceptable if a single thing they said was backed up by fact. They accuse Rove of bugging his own office. They accuse him of sicking an FBI agent on his political opponents. They talk about the Valerie Plame leak, constantly saying things like “I can’t prove that Rove was responsible for the leak, but if he were it would be his style.” That’s not reporting, it’s speculation.

Not to mention the transparent emotional manipulation. There’s an entire segment of the movie that briefly explores the life and death of an American serviceman named Fred Pokorney. Amanda and I kept waiting for the movie to explain why this tragic tale of a life cut short had anything to do with Rove. It doesn’t. It just shows us Pokorney’s wife and father mourning, and implied that he wouldn’t have gone to war and died if Karl Rove hadn’t used Iraq as a chip in a political poker game.

What this movie drives home more than anything else for me is the acriminous nature of modern politics. A much better insider take on it in my opinion is Bush press secretary Scott McClellan’s book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. McClellan talks a lot about the never ending campaign shapes not just the spin put on politics but every political decision. Are there people, Karl Rove among them, engaged in a constant war of words to promote their candidate and denigrate the other side’s? I don’t doubt it for a second. Are the stories we read in the paper often fed to the press by these political wranglers? No doubt. Indeed I’ve become more and more skeptical of all news stories regarding politics precisely because I know this kind of maneuvering goes on. But Karl Rove is only one example. I don’t doubt that there are equaly duplicitous political masterminds on the Democratic side.

So where does that leave this movie? Well to be frank it’s not worth the time it takes to watch in my opinion. Karl Rove IS a force to be reckoned with, this I have no doubt of. He can be credited with formulating the entire Republican strategy for re-claiming congress in the last elections (a strategy of blocking every effort to get anything passed in congress over the last two years and then blaming Obama and the Democrats for not getting anything done.) But this movie doesn’t build any sort of credible case against him. It just vents its spleen for an hour and a half, and then is mercifully over. I don’t believe I will be watching this movie ever again.

April 19, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment