“Casablanca” is perhaps the most beloved, easily the most quoted, and probably the closest the American cinema has come to Shakespeare other than the first two “Godfather” films.
(It ranks 3rd on the AFI’s top 100 list, and depending on my mood, it’s somewhere between 1 and 3 for me, rotating places with”Godfather” 1 and 2, and “Seven Samurai.”)
So of course, that was the comparison Chris Matthews made in his gushing review of ”Fair Game,” the Sean Penn/Naomi Watts propaganda film about the most overblown story of the decade—the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby affair.
MATTHEWS: While there will never be another Casablanca, Fair Game is perfect for our murky time.
Right, and while there may never be another Les Nessman, Chris Matthews is perfect to represent the Left of our time.
Here’s the whole blather of Chris Matthews’ new ending segment, “Let Me Finish:”
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a stirring movie I saw last night. I had heard of the first-rate script, the masterful performances by the leads, Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. What I was not prepared for in Fair Game was the story itself, the wondrous dramatic courage of it all. The movie opens with this preternaturally gutsy CIA agent out in the world of terror, trying to stop the spread of nuclear weapons from getting into dangerous hands. I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer guts of Naomi Watts’ character, anyone would be, especially in America and especially someone who has children like we do, young adults and thinking how inspiring this must to be them, to have this pull to go out there and risk all for your country like this young woman did.
The real-life Valerie Plame Wilson is the true hero of this saga. Her career fighting the dangers facing us, her discipline in keeping it secret, her readiness to honor a loving marriage in the face of it all. And then the crushing waterfall of betrayal. The decision by war hawks in this country, the neo-con crowd holed up in the White House bunker who wanted to protect the case they’d built for the Iraq war, that whole PR campaign they’d ram-rodded out of the White House and the country’s op-ed pages that ran roughshod over good journalism and all the other obstacles we need if skepticism and eventually truth is ever to survive the onslaught of propaganda, especially the war-whooping kind that was embraced by this country’s establishment after 9/11. This is one fine movie. While there will never be another Casablanca, Fair Game is perfect for our murky time.
It’s the great story of two people caught up in a dirty, ruthless campaign to justify a war that most Americans can see now was never justified either by fact or the fiction ordered up to sell it. Want to understand Iraq and how we got there? Want a real look at the Bush White House and how they got us there? Want to see on the big screen what our nightly fights here are all about? Go see this movie.
For a “fair” review, check out Kyle Smith in the New York Post:
“Fair Game,” a more serious-minded and meticulous account, nevertheless simply leaves out facts inconsistent with the overall thrust (and I do mean thrust — prepare for outrage to be rammed down your throat). Unless your pulse races at the mention of Robert Novak, you’ll be underwhelmed.
Which sounds like your average segment by the usual suspects on MSNBC, come to think of it.
And though the film both shows her both bragging about not breaking during her CIA training and crumbling emotionally when called a mediocrity on TV, here’s a little detail it leaves out: The Plame leak wasn’t political persecution. (The Washington Post again: The charge “that the Bush White House orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity to ruin her career” “is untrue.”) No one was ever charged with the crime of knowingly outing an undercover agent (something Penn gets very shouty about) because no one did that.
Watch out for that giant lizzard, Chris.