Standard Operating Procedure

Looking up at Grand Central

I used to take friends and tourists for walks up in the windows of Grand Central. Remember that?

I was kind of surprised there were only about 25 people in attendance at a 7 pm showing of Errol Morris’s new documentary, Standard Operating Procedure the other day. Walking by some of the lines for the Tribeca Film Festival where close to a hundred new documentaries are being screened might provide an answer or maybe it’s because no one really cares about intangibles like the recoverability of America’s standing in the world. As some would like to put it, what’s there to recover from [besides …]? As has been pointed out, the real horror of Abu Gharaib is what’s not pictured. How a dead body from the interrogation rooms would show up, (pictures taken, “look ma, a dead guy!”) and then how he was ghosted away the next day. No names of superiors are mentioned and CIA names are obviously on a “you don’t wanna know or we’d have to kill you” basis. Most of the soldiers interviewed were made scapegoats and part of a dog-and-pony show for anyone wanting to dig deeper. Punished mostly for taking pictures.

Clicking on mainstream reviews of movies like Rendition, The Kingdom, and Syriana, one finds a genuine bias against these pretty believable efforts to make some fictionalized sense of real events. Small wonder they flopped at the box office but seem to be doing alright in DVD incarnation with their 3-4 star ratings amongst Netflix subscribers. Typical crits include “morality is too black and white in these films,” “thin character development,” and “sheer Hollywood grandstanding.” Realism aside, the freeway car bombing scene and subsequent apartment house shoot-outs in The Kingdom are top-notch action filmmaking. These cry-me-a-river entertainment journalism clearinghouses are the same ones with news arms that rely on soundbite journalism, some even going out of their way to publish “we’re not about soundbites” stories. Thin character development, doncha think? Sheer no-spin-zone grandstanding. Stop pulling news out of your ass and report on the issues. Get out of bed with the War Pigs. [Sheer lazy MCHuge grandstanding finish.]

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