Fitfully Amusing, Says Claude about “The Men Who Stare At Goats”April 17, 2010
Claude and I watched The Men Who Stare At Goats last night. Just learned from Claude that the source material for this film was written by the guy who did the BBC series “Secret Rulers of the World” which included such topics as the Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Grove and David Icke. That was a fascinating series, and I had no idea of this fact until Claude just, from his vast photographic memory, pulled that little tidbit out of his a– brain.
The Men Who Stare At Goats, directed by freshman director Grant Heslov (Oscar nominated for writing and producing Good Night and Good Luck), is a very entertaining film. This movie seemed to be critically panned by a lot of movie critics, save Onion A.V. Club, who said it was underrated. I could not agree more. Very strong performances by George Clooney (who looks his absolute hottest when they have him made up as a 19- or 20-year old fresh in the Army), Jeff Bridges, who nearly reprises his Big Lebowski “Dude” role, and my favorite, Kevin Spacey, who plays the smarmy guy so well. Kevin Spacey has incredible range in my opinion – really wish I could get people to watch Beyond the Sea and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and this film to see his incredible range. And who can forget Ewan MacGregor, who has completely conquered his heavy Scottish accent in this and The Ghost Writer – he has magnificent range (see Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, Brassed Off and playing a Jedi master in the Star Wars prequels, which is a BIG component of the plot of The Men Who Stare at Goats) and is going to win an Oscar at some point, I’m sure of it.
Readers know I’m all about cinematography and shot selection, and this definitely has it. The film is largely set on the base of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a place I know a little something about since I grew up in Fayetteville, NC and worked on the base. I could tell immediately that these shots, supposedly images from the early 70’s, were not filmed on the base, but they worked anyway. The Men Who Stare At Goats was filmed in New Mexico, Puerto Rico and California. The desert scenes are stunning, and the shots and angles make this a very visually interesting film.
The humor in The Men Who Stare At Goats is intelligent, very unexpected at moments, and really does make you laugh out loud. If Claude’s laughing out loud, it’s funny, and he did. I thought it was extremely funny with smart humor that didn’t dumb itself down for laughs.
The premise of the film is this: During the Vietnam era, the military became interested in psychic warfare because the Soviets were supposedly interested in psychic warfare (there’s a great scene of two officers going back and forth – “they know, we know, they know we know, we know they know we know, they know we know they know we known they know…”) and allowed a group to develop to study this, led by Jeff Bridges’ character. Clooney’s character becomes his top protege and Spacey comes in and wants to compete with Clooney. Hilarity really ensues as we see these characters go further into the fringes of “new age” thought into what really saves some lives in the end. The story is largely told in flashback, as we open with current times and Ewan MacGregor as a reporter who wants to “embed” himself in Iraq to win the respect of his wife, who is leaving him. MacGregor meets up with someone who tips him off to Clooney, and then begs to write the story of this psychic warfare development from its beginnings to the present day. I don’t want to give away too much, so hopefully I’ve piqued your curiosity enough.
I’m sorry The Men Who Stare At Goats didn’t fare well at the box office. I encourage readers to rent it – it’s definitely entertaining, thought-provoking and enjoyable. I especially encourage my readers who grew up with me in the Ft. Bragg area and went into the military to watch it. You’ll get a real kick out of it.
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