"The Fog of War"
Directed by Errol Morris.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 1/30/04
I wouldn’t have read it were it not for
Man About Town Brett Stone, but I have read it and I can confirm
it: This link is the funniest video-game-related article I have
ever read, and further, I think it is my new favorite Sports Guy
article. If you have ever played any version of video-game football
ever, you MUST read the second half of this link (starting at
“Thursday, 12:45 ET”):
Man, I love laughing. Enjoy the big
After the Oscar nominations were announced
on Tuesday, I decided to spend money on films that were in the
running for the big awards before I come out with my picks for your
local Oscar pool over the next four weeks. Sadly, I have seen
almost every film nominated for an Oscar already—the main problem
when you see 130 films in one calendar year—so I am stretching now
to take in documentaries, cartoons and short films just to have
something to do.
(Seriously, I went down the list again this
morning, and if you throw out short and foreign films—most of those,
if not all, have not been released in theaters here—there are only
seven films I haven’t seen. This may mean I am going to have to
bite the bullet on a couple of these, including “Brother Bear” and
“Girl with a Pearl Earring.” Pity the fool.)
First up is “The Fog of War”, the
documentary on former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, told
entirely from his accounts in interviews two years ago. While
working for President Kennedy, and then LBJ in the early-to-mid
1960s, McNamara estimates that we almost went into nuclear war with
Cuba and Russia at least three times...and, over the course of the
film, McNamara gives us eleven lessons that he took away from his
experiences, including time he spent in the service and the things
he learned from World War II, as well as the numerous problems he
faced when dealing with the conflict in Vietnam.
I didn’t know much about McNamara coming
into the film, but I left the theater last night with a new
perspective on how our nation’s armed forces were utilized and, at
various points, misused during about 35 years of service. There are
some scary insights pointed out by McNamara, even IF his perspective
seems skewed at times, and writer/director Errol Morris does a good
job of incorporating footage of a younger McNamara during key points
in his career. At times the film is quite touching; a sequence
where McNamara details the day he got the phone call about JFK’s
demise is maybe the best of the movie.
Much like the Robert Evans biopic “The Kid
Stays in the Picture”, the worst thing about “The Fog of War”—or
maybe the best thing, if you look at it the other way—is that we
only get the perspective of McNamara, and I think an independent
narrator or insights from other luminaries of the period would have
made the film more interesting. Also, the original score by Philip
Glass seems to have almost no variety, so each time McNamara
finishes a story, we get to hear that familiar song with that damned
flute over and over again, and then we get a minute of shots of men
loading ordnance on planes, or guns being fired, or bombs being
dropped. This footage is good, it just comes too often to serve as
a bridge from interview to interview. Finally, the film’s epilogue
seems to fall flat on its face, since McNamara doesn’t want to talk
about Vietnam any more. Why even include this in the film?
Ultimately, “The Fog of War” isn’t as
eye-opening as my front-runner for the feature doc Oscar,
the Friedmans.” I learned something, which is good, but I’m not
intrigued to ever see the film again.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard