Thursday, May 03, 2007


The DVD wouldn't play on my old Panasonic, so we had to borrow an LCD projector from Cha's office and watch it using a laptop. That was fun, like a drive-in movie in the house.

Forest Whitaker kicks ass. Loved him in Bird, Smoke, Platoon, and most particularly in Ghost Dog. His performance in that craptastic schlock The Crying Game was heart-breaking, and remains the only memorable thing about that movie.

This is not your cuddly intellectual Forest, however. In playing Idi Amin he's tapped himself into some deep-seated vein of pure malevolence, made himself into an entirely different creature. Whitaker's Amin is charming and witty one second, and coolly oversees torture and massacres the next. Childish vulnerability, obsequiousness, monstrous apathy, paranoia--this bundle of sociopathologies is a smorgasbord for any actor, and Whitaker is up to the task. A great performance.

The movie, however, is only so-so. I didn't much like the story, wherein some Ewan McGregor clone recently awarded his medical degree in Scotland runs off to Uganda to "make a difference." Apparently "make a difference" means shag the locals and drink. I suppose this is meant as a commentary on post-colonial British/English/European meddling in African affairs, but it's clumsily handled. I disliked entirely the character Dr. Garrigan, whose naivite is beyond profound. Garrigan is rightly sickened by the English and their scheming: they help Amin to power because perhaps they can use him to continue exploiting Africa, and then they want to get rid of Amin because he's uncontrollable. But if anyone deserved to be got rid of, it was this butcher. By the end of the movie Garrigan--who has aided and abetted Uganda's dictator--is awakening to Amin's true nature, and one is supposed to sympathize with his plight. Um, no. He should be hung for crimes against humanity. [Spoiler alert: We get some satisfaction along those lines.]

The Last King of Scotland is basically a thriller with a political/espionage backdrop, wherein a young idealist is perverted by power and wealth into enabling a genocidal maniac. Perhaps the novel is better? Maybe I'll find out some day.

The director Kevin Macdonald made the documentary Touching the Void, which I enjoyed a great deal.

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