DIRECTED BY: Alfred Eaker & Ross St. Just
FEATURING: Alfred Eaker, PinkFreud
PLOT: “W” appears in a meteorite in the Arizona desert, steals the election for
the party of No, and becomes a tyrant opposed by liberal reporter BlueMahler.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With half the characters distinguished by facepaint that makes them look like either World Wrestling Federation rejects or members of a failed 70s revival glam band, acting in front of shifting psychedelic computer-generated backdrops, this surrealist satire of George W. Bush’s presidency is definitely weird enough to make the list. The problem is that, as a polemic against the 43rd President of the United States, it comes with an expiration date. It’s too particular and too parochial, both in terms of subject matter and target audience, to earn a final place on a list of 366 representative weird movies.
COMMENTS: Because it is a vehemently partisan mockery of a former President, as opposed to a generic political satire, W the Movie is difficult to review. Your reaction may depend on your politics; the far left might applaud it as a hilarious send-up of a dangerous political hack, those on the right may be outraged (and personally insulted), or simply dismiss it as liberal piffle. Moderates and fence-sitters are unlikely to be swayed. All sides will recognize it as deliberately unfair; Bush’s foibles are exaggerated past the point of absurdity. W is cruel, crude and stupid, and at his most decisive when he demands his pancakes with “lots of syrup”; his foil, BlueMahler, is brave and righteous, and his only character flaw is neglecting his wife and son as he devotes his life to exposing the truth about the alien demagogue and his infernal war. W the Movie makes the work of Michael Moore (who himself makes as appearance as a ghostlike, babbling puppet) look fair and balanced. There’s a place in the film world for narrowly political art and clever character assassination, and in this sense the producers are to be commended for not fearing to enter the fray, take sides, and name names.
But, polarizing political content aside, there’s quite a bit to be admired in the low-budget production. It’s an excellent example of how a unique, almost mesmerizing visual style can be forged through CGI on the cheap, when artistic effect and atmosphere is placed above the fetish for strict realism. About 90% of the film was shot in front of a green-screen, and memorable virtual sets include W riding on a missile against a cloudscape (a la Dr. Strangelove), W worshipping at an altar of giant gold coins, and an amusing black and white parody sequence with W in Ford’s Theater. The effect is a bit like the old studio-bound pictures of the 30s and 40s, where the backgrounds were matte paintings, but modern technology combined with a hallucinogenic vision makes these brightly colored living mattes slip, morph and shift before the viewer’s eye. Therefore, the film is constantly interesting to the eye, even when the plot gets difficult to follow. Furthermore, Eaker does quite well in multiple roles, including both W and his nemesis BlueMahler. Actors cast in smaller roles range from adequate to distracting. The humor is also uneven, ranging from the highly effective (the Ford’s Theater scene) to the painfully embarrassing (the 9/11 tragedy is used as an excuse for cheap jokes about W’s pro-life stance and lack of geographical acumen). More genuine funny and fewer pointed potshots would have made it a happier movie experience. All in all, W‘s well worth checking out, but if you’re to the right of Obama politically, you may want to check your party of No pin at the door.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
4/23/09 UPDATE: W the Movie won the “Best Experimental Feature” award at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.
7/22/10 UPDATE: For a limited time, we are screening “W” for free on YouTube. Enjoy!