Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
As I’ve noted elsewhere, this past week I exorcised an old demon of mine by performing at The Green Mill for the first time since a disastrous open mic evening a decade or so ago, in which I read a poem about the face of a serial killer in an issue of Newsweek and was heckled throughout by a pair of drunken regulars. I was there this weekend as a staff writer for The Paper Machete, a weekly “live magazine” founded and curated by one-time TimeOut Chicago head theatre critic Christopher Piatt.
I was assigned to comment on the controversy over whether or not Kathryn Bigelow’s new film, Zero Dark Thirty, comes off as an apology for our torture policies during the Bush years of the War on Terror. I decided to narrate this as a more fictionalized version of myself on this one, since it’s rare I get to be fictional when I perform solo.
Zero Picture Deal
(C) 2012 Bilal Dardai
Listen Marty, this is Phil. I know, that’s not your name, that’s okay, it’s not my real name either, hell of a party, am I right? But listen, are you sitting down? Where are you, the 101? This hour? Near Burbank? Then you’ll be there for a while, bubbeleh, so shut up and listen.
I was having a talk with my guy, you know, my guy who I talk to, about this Kathryn Bigelow movie, this Zero Dark Thirty coming out, the one about the guys that got Bin Laden? Bigelow. I dunno, with a K I think. You know, one of the women ones. No, you’re thinking of Jodie Foster. No, you’re thinking of Lindsay Lohan. Bigelow. She’s the one we gave a couple Oscars to a few years back so people would stop talking about sexist the industry is. Used to be married to James Cameron. No, you’re thinking of Linda Hamilton. Right. Point Break. Yeah, that’s her.
So listen, I’m talking with my guy and he tells me there is a controversy with this movie and so of course, ding, like a German shepherd, my ears are up. And he tells me, my guy, he tells me this movie, this Zero Dark Thirty, it starts off with this scene where some Arab gets goddamn water-boarded, you know, tortured for information, and then this Arab being tortured he gives up the information and the rest of the movie is about how water-boarding got us the information we needed to go get Bin Laden and then there’s a half hour about how we got Bin Laden thanks in part to all the torture.
Well no, he hasn’t seen it. No, I haven’t seen it either. I just had a kid; I don’t get to see movies. That’s what I’m telling you, I found out about it from my guy who I talk to. Right. Torture scene. Right at the top. And I’m talking real torture, not just those sick mechanical death traps we started putting in all of the October releases.
So he read that these guys, these what-you-call, these bloggers, right, bloggers like on the Internet. One is this guy Andrew Sullivan and the other is this guy Glenn Greenwald. And my guy, he says that these bloggers read about this torture scene from each other. As in, Sullivan read about the movie from Greenwald or Greenwald read about it from Sullivan, I don’t know which. No, my guy doesn’t read Greenwald. No, he doesn’t read Sullivan. He read about Greenwald and Sullivan from some other guy he reads. No, I haven’t gotten around to reading what they have to say yet. I’m sure I intend to.
Oh, no, neither of them has seen the movie either. But my guy tells me that they’re outraged by it. Very, very outraged, as a matter of fact. The sort of outrage that compels you to write I swear to God at least a thousand words about it. And yes, of course, I’m outraged too; it’s deeply upsetting to hear about this thing in this movie that these bloggers I don’t read have said is upsetting about a movie they haven’t seen. I did not rent an Armani and spend five grand at George Clooney’s fundraiser, and I didn’t forget to vote on November 6 so I could live in a country that still believes all those things about torture that we had Kiefer Sutherland tell them during seven seasons of 24.
But we are wandering away from the point here, which is that these two bloggers, this Sullivan and this Greenwald, these guys are two of the bravest fils de salope, pardon my French, I have ever heard of. I am being serious. You don’t know how much guts it takes to speak up and tell the world the truth about events you wouldn’t have the security clearance to know about. As far as I am concerned these two men are goddamned American heroes and what do we do with goddamned American heroes? That’s right. We make movies out of them.
The way I envision it, in my mind’s eye, in the high-def IMAX camera of my mind’s eye, we open with these two guys, and one of them, let’s say Sullivan, he’s waking up in his bed in his boxers, there’s an empty bottle of whiskey next to the nightstand. His mouth tastes like the back of a bus seat. And at the same time, we see this guy Greenwald, and he’s out of bed the first buzz of his alarm, into his track suit, into his trainers, out the door for his morning run. And you cut, back and forth, between this hung over slob and this bright-eyed athlete as they’re going over the first hour of their mornings; Sullivan spilling his coffee grounds on the counter, Greenwald jumping over a park bench, Sullivan dropping a hunk of wet food into a bowl for his cat, Greenwald you get the idea. So you set these two guys up as polar opposites but then, but then, the end of this whole sequence, shoom, split-screen. Both these guys at the same time they sit down at their computers and they open up their blogs.
Ka-bam. You see what I did there? What I just did there? Tell me this is not genius. No I was being rhetorical. Shut up I’m still talking.
We get some close-ups, some pans across their screens, see what they’re writing about. Mundane crap. “Yesterday I had lunch at this place I am never having lunch there again.” Pages and pages of this junk. Guys with nothing to say but a lot of ways to say it. But just wait for it. Wait for it. Wait for it. We see the date. On their phone, or on their desk calendar. Guess the date. I’ll tell you. It’s a Tuesday morning. It’s September 11, 2001. And suddenly for both of these guys. Just like it does for everyone else. It all changes.
So then the rest of the picture follows the ten-year manhunt for Bin Laden and whatever it is these guys were writing about during that whole operation, like a real Lethal Weapon slash All The President’s Men buddy flick and maybe we get that West Wing slash Social Network guy to do the screenplay. But it also follows the film career of Kathryn Bigelow, who I truly believe we could get Sigourney Weaver for; and then these threads, all these threads, they start coming together, and we have this climactic final scene where for the first time Sullivan, Greenwald, and Bigelow are all in a room together. There’s a computer with these guys’ articles about the torture in Zero Dark Thirty up on the screen, and these three have just had this running gun battle up to here, with her trying to stop them from posting their article on the Internet.
And Sullivan says to Bigelow, “Back off, lady. We’ve got the truth on our side, and the whole world is gonna know what you did in your movie.”
And Bigelow says to them, really seductively, and her outfit’s been ripped in several exciting places, and she says to them: “You haven’t even seen my movie. Why don’t you wait until you view the scene in context before you offer your criticism, and then we can have an honest discussion about the recent history and utilization of torture in America’s foreign policy, in the hopes that such a discussion will enlighten us all on exactly what kind of world power we wish to be. By blustering on about my film without having seen it you compromise your credibility.”
But Greenwald looks Bigelow right in the eyes and he says to her, “You just don’t get it, do you. We’re internationally respected bloggers with very strong opinions. We don’t need credibility.”
And he hits the Post button. Bam!
Well no, Jesus, no of course it didn’t happen like that. I mean, not that I know of. I don’t talk to these guys. So fine, okay, we change some names. Anthony Mulligan. Ben Brownwald. Colleen…Shmigelow. That’s easy. That’s done. The important thing is that we tell these bloggers’ story, about how they fought back against the Hollywood machine and even if they didn’t win they made the studio system bleed a little. Oh, Warner Bros. or Paramount, for sure.
And listen, I already have an idea for a marketing campaign. We hire this blogger to start posting articles about the film, see, before he has a chance to see it. I think you feel me here. Let’s go get lunch and talk this through. Hasta luego.
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Current Music: The Shins, “Australia”