How does one go about lampooning those who lampoon themselves? It’s easy with people who take themselves too seriously, but those who repeatedly, excessively and exhaustively fumble and bumble in their twisted logic while running a superpower nation? That’s dangerous territory to tread in order to keep it honest, avoid a derisive tone, not make light of the perilous results and work in the funny bits.

FUNNY?  Is this even possible?

I’m not one to put much stock in History According to Hollywood, and find myself looking for the gaffes regarding historical content. Anything pulled from the dusty-corners-of-the-phone-booth-of-the-mind of a screenwriter and churned through the movie-making mill is often suspect cinematic product when it promotes itself as a slice of life from another era or a glimpse behind the scenes of well-known historical fact. I have to say, after seeing Oliver Stone’s latest flick, W, the one good thing — the ONLY good thing — that can be said about the presidency of George W. Bush is that it’s spawned a new genre of filmic entertainment.

When I first heard that Stone was making a film about G-Dub and hoped to release it before he left office, and then later stepped up production to release it before the 2008 presidential election, I simply shook my head, then plugged my ears, then closed my eyes and repeated “la-la-la-la-la,” hoping it would go away. Yes, like 80 per cent of most other Americans (if the latest polls are still indicative), I have had my fill of the W era.

Fortunately I opened my eyes and uncorked my ears long enough to be one of hundreds of attendees ofthe 15th Annual Austin Film Festival’s opening night premiere. We were given a day-before-opening-day gander at this docudramatic spoof  (PaisleyTM) on the life and times of a president who can’t leave office fast enough for most of us. What made this screening particularly remarkable was its proximity to G-Dub’s old address as Governor of Texas — a mere three blocks down from the Capital on Congress Avenue at the Paramount Theater.

The film follows the antics of Bush’s A-Team: Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, et al, while cross-cutting a glimpse of his formative years. I expected to see a repetitious revisiting of G-Dub’s biggest public relations boo-boos for easy laughs, expounding on obstetricians practising their love of women (as did Michael Moore) or botching a Chinese proverb (“Fool me once…”) and went in expecting a retread. All I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised.

Stone’s portrayal of Bush’s presidency and persona is one involving ego, vengeance, alcoholism, American imperialism, sibling rivalry and a son seeking his father’s approval. The story uses the historical facts as a framework, but goes a step further to weave an interesting tale of someone who was not only incapable of the position of President of the United States, but sought office for all of the worst reasons and ended up being something of a folksy Muppet for those who developed their own agenda.

It would be impossible to experience this portrayal of the worst presidency in history in the light it was meant to by the director if we all hadn’t lived through it. The film reads kitschy, tongue-in-cheek and breaks from reality often. Its message, by way of following the Rovian campaign tactics that move Bush into the Governor’s Mansion and then the White House, is delivered subtly, but in these times of ours comes across solid: Get out and vote, people.

Josh Brolin is brilliant as our lame-duck pres, and certainly deserves the Oscar buzz he’s getting. I’d reveal the cast for Bush’s motley crew, but I’d encourage filmgoers to wait until they see it to be pleasantly surprised by the talent and the performances. Stay away from the Internet Movie Database until after! Josh Bolin will guest host Saturday Night Live this week and it’s expected that his remarkable G-Dub and Tina Fay’s dead-on Sarah Plain will meet. A battle of the brains, everyone! Could get interesting.

James Cromwell, who plays George Herbert Walker Bush, was the artist in attendance in Austin. As part of his Q&A following the screening, it was revealed that W  marks the fourth time he’s played a U.S. president for big and small screens, and he’ll repeat a role as Lyndon Baines Johnson in an upcoming film project. He, too, is brilliant as “Poppy Bush.” His anecdotes about working with Stone rivetted the audience and the time ran way over schedule, much to the chagrin of the crowd waiting for the Max Payne screening outside the theater.

Even if you are media-exhausted and your attention is tapped out for the president we can’t wait to see go, I still recommend the cathartic guffaws you’ll get from W. And don’t forget to vote!

Submitted by Paisley Pajamas

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