W the Movie

(USA - 2008)

by Mike Lorefice

Alfred Eaker & Ross St. Just's W the Movie

Cast: Alfred Eaker, Pink Freud, John M. Bennett, Ross St. Just
Genre: Surrealism/Comedy
Director: Alfred Eaker & Ross St. Just
Screenplay: Alfred Eaker
Cinematography: Nick Hess & Matthew Lattore
Composer: DJ Monkey, Gustav Mahler, Ludwig Van Beethoven

“This is a delightfully black piece, which fits given the times we’re in. Just remember to keep your tongues firmly in cheek because if we’re gonna tackle death, we might as well have a sense of humor about it” – BlueMahler

My favorite movies tend to fall into two categories, ones that aim to replicate the real world as accurately as possible and those that offer a unique viewing experience by creating their own distinctive world. Alfred Eaker has accomplished the later so well that, while I can report it’s the most stylishly individual film I’ve seen this year, I’m almost at a loss to explain it’s visual treats any further. The scenes don’t take place in traditional indoor or outdoor settings, but rather in artistic constructs with each sequence in this vibrant film having a distinctive color scheme. Superimposition and layering effects, mixing live action with paintings and animations are just a few of the tricks Eaker & Ross St. Just have up their sleeves.

W the Movie is a perfect example of low tech effects being superior to solely CGI. Though the process is similar in that both put the actors at the mercy of the green screen, and, in this case, the low tech effects also aren’t believable, at least the handmade artwork and more humble animation keeps some semblance of genuine human creativity on display in almost every scene rather than the typical lifeless manufactured banality. Instead of looking like another sterile product - another Xbox game minus the interactivity - the effects in W give the film personality and life.

An art school painter specializing in abstracts, Alfred Eaker has predominantly worked in the more classical field of art. Obviously a good artist, as you can see from the numerious paintings here, he’s found a way to meld his own work and that of his friends into the realm of cinema. Even though the art is usually high caliber, it’s not the quality of the art in W the Movie that makes the film special. Eaker & St. Just actually show that as long as you are consistent about keeping your audience immersed in an anything goes dream world that evokes more than it represents, you can be at least as effective with a cardboard cutout of a cow as you would be with the real thing.

Whatever you think of the effects in and of themselves, it’s definitely the way they are incorporated into the live action that makes W a standout. Most mass produced movies have generic plots and effects, so they are really only differentiated by the generic actors, who tend to be obnoxious posers. W the Movie has very little plot and while it might not have great acting, as when it’s actually serious the actors simply convey the message in the most blunt, no punches pulled, spin free manner, if nothing else it’s smart enough to keep these aspects secondary to the art. The film really lies in the effects, backgrounds, and score. Though mostly utilized for the backdrops, the artwork combined with the classical symphony score set the tone and convey the mood.

Alfred Eaker’s surreal political satire isn’t intended to be the most coherent and consistent film out there, rather his nightmarish evocation of George W. Bush’s two destructive terms comes at you from all angles and directions. The film attempts to branch out and deal with some of the not so obvious side effects of Bush’s calculated and miscalculated deception, for instance turning America “culture” into a larger than life pro wrestling style circus side show, but, while the unpredictability is welcome, these diatribes aren’t fleshed out enough to be much more than humorous distractions. For the most part, Eaker finds comically absurd ways to incorporate the real life sins of the Bush regime into a hallucination. For instance, the stolen 2000 election has W putting the votes for the Party of Yes candidate in the microwave and eating them as ballot pie. Meanwhile, the delayed reaction to 911 is due to it taking W so long to realize NY is part of his territory (when he finds out this “country” isn’t at war, he suggests merely sending them a dozen roses!).

I don’t totally agree with Eaker’s politics, most importantly rather than painting one party as good and one as evil, it’s time to realize that nothing will ever change until one of the parties is willing to put the public interest over that of their corporate sponsors, which, for the most part, happen to be the same companies from the same industries. However, Eaker is, at least, one of the few that’s had the guts to put his strong, one-sided view on the screen. Thus, while it’s rather leftist didactic politically, at worst one can accuse him of trying to be honest by doing things such as recasting Fox News as GOP TV. I mean, even though they may enjoy it because it appeals to the beliefs of the most devout right wingers, I haven’t come across many that actually believed Fox News wasn’t a Republican support system.

While W the Movie makes the a ridiculous parody American politics have turned into abundantly clear, as with his provocative aesthetics, Alfred Eaker’s surreal collage of political irreverence cannot be briefly summed up. Despite being able to guess the points that will be covered such as stealing the election, being asleep at the wheel for 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, attacking the wrong country, and controlling the world through fear, censorship, and torture, the fun is how Eaker keeps finding ways to send up the forseeable without allowing the film to become another predictable biopic. There is consistency, but it lies in the films chaos, absurdity, and tragedy.

George W. Bush is portrayed as a rapid juvenile fundamentalist who rules with the same manic, dogmatic, dictatorial fervor as the Pentecostal preachers Eaker grew up with in the midwestern backwoods. His opponent, BlueMahler, a journalist who basically just states his version of the truth as if reading from his column, driving even his no attention span son Samson (Ross St. Just) crazy, is somewhat ignored by those not forced to listen to him for his lack of over the top inspirational technique, but mostly just drowned out the way a fan of the opposition is at a Michigan football game.

BlueMahler is a sort of pathos filled, occasionally pretentious liberal humanist combination of Charles Chaplin, Gustav Mahler, and Superman as portrayed by the more ordinary, aging, and vice plagued George Reeves. Though Eaker evokes Ingmar Bergman in a scene were BlueMahler plays chess with death’s standin, W, one of the most interesting themes of the film is Mahler is a deeply flawed protagonist. This is especially important because W is an obvious cartoon caricature, so the film, which utilizes a much more artistic and adult version of the sort of 50’s style comic book fantasies Ralphy has in A Christmas Story, could easily devolve into something that’s incredibly black and white, or rather red and blue.

Despite Mahler’s earnest attempts to enlighten the world to the dangers of W, beyond the obvious that he generally ignores his family and is too fond of legal drugs, he’s often closer to an alter ego to W than his opposite, arch nemesis, and eventually seems to become his conscience. The similarities of the two are made more clear by the fact that Alfred Eaker plays both parts with their faces painted in America’s patriotic blue and red, which represents both the flag and the colors of the political parties. Their designs may be different, but Mahler’s face is only half blue, and underneath... And I think that sums up the political scene in America very well, even though the obvious hatred for the Republicans will keep most people from seeing it as anything but a polemic.

Like most good surrealism throughout the ages and arts, Eaker’s apocalyptic symphony of W.’s presidency is incredibly, mockingly offensive to the powers that be. Any movie that depicts the President sucking his thumb in between laughing like a hyena as he stammers through “W, and money, money, money” isn’t exactly aiming to focus on the common ground, but that’s as it should be in surrealist political satire. Scenes such as W dreaming of forcing citizens to bow down to a giant gold $ sign are pretty classic, in my book. The vote for W televangelist particularly cracks me up with lines such as “I believe gay marriage should be between a man and a woman” and “The only way to reduce the number of nuclear weapons is to use them, Hallelujah!”

W the Movie won’t go down as the defining film on the Bush era from the bland, cite your sources historical perspective, but it perfectly captures the feeling of just being stuck watching the country go to hell in a handbasket. You can’t give up the fight, and yet sometimes you can talk until you are, as the old cliche says, Blue in the face, and still be left with nothing more productive to do than burying the dead.


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