29 June, 2007

Movie Review: Syriana

This movie is pretty great, so far. I'm about halfway through it, and I wish it were, believe it or not, longer. I think that the material would make for a terrific television series -- one that no one, not even HBO, especially not even HBO, post Albrecht, would produce.

If George Clooney and Matt Damon (and the supporting cast, including Chris Cooper and Jeffrey Wright) wanted to serialize it, I would watch it. Me, and three other people.

I am not sure there is a place for a nuanced look at the politics of petroleum, at the real, live human beings that inhabit places like Iran and Iraq and Pakistan, in a country which produces thinkers like this genius, the American version of the Taliban, but far, far scarier (we have infinitely more resources to wage rageful destruction on our supposed enemies).

In Syriana, a group of foreign workers in, presumably Saudi Arabia, attend a Madrasa and are treated to a free feast of flatbreads, dates, lamb kebobs and pilafs. The cleric, an Arab, instructing a group of young Pakistanis and Afghans, instructs the foreigners on religious thought -- turn your back on the modern secular world. Look, he says, at the Americans and the decline of their society, esteem, reputation and wealth. Draw the line from their godlessness to their problems. Surely, he says, this is Allahs will. But the Pakistanis and other foreign workers face unemployment, poverty and deportation as guests in the fertile crescent. Hope is what religious instruction offers these people, hope and hate. It is the same as in Kansas or Utah, California or Indonesia. And the same thing that is "wrong with Kansas" is surely wrong in all of Allah's vast kingdom: poor people, fed the rhetoric of hope and hate, used as pawns in a power struggle designed to keep these same people as mules for those in power, be they the emir or a president.

Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi, better known as Siddig El Fadil or even better known as Alexander Siddig (and known to me as Dr Julian Bashir) makes an appearance as Prince Nasir Al-Subaai. He also makes appearances in "24", Fox's near-pornographic Islamofascist hate-fest (a show where the fake Fox News broadcasts are hard to distinguish from the networks' "real" news broadcast), he appears as Khalid Sheik Mohammed on a TV movie called "The Hamburg Cell" and a number of other credits that appear to say the same thing: if you name is like Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi, you will get roles on TV as a terrorist. Prince Nasir is not that, nor was Julian Bashir, a positive role for Siddig on a science fiction franchise famous for its African-american communications officer, Vulcan science officer, Klingon security chief, a gay Japanese man, black, female and (gasp) British commanders and captains living in the rainbow colors of Benneton Federation future.

Well, the future looks sexier in Farscape, Firefly and Battlestar Galactica (if its not actually the past), but Star Trek could be worse -- it could be Star Wars, where politics and dialog hover down at the George W Bush level of 8-year old "hate our freedom" discourse.

Which comes back to my original point, and plaintive plea: George Clooney, if you are reading this (and I know you aren't), stop what you are doing and pitch Syriana as a series. A multi-year, multi-arc, 50+ hour television drama. Grab David Chase or, better, David Simon, and Robert Baer and Stephen Gaghan and find out who the new Chris Albrecht is and pitch it, baby, pitch it.

The Wire ends next year. What will fill the void? You can take 5 years off and film a series, can't you? America needs to know about this, think about this. Clooney, we need you. And, as a way to send a nice "fuck you" to Fox News, you can use Keith Olbermann for incidental background news clips. Think about it, it would be bril.

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