Saturday, October 07, 2006

I'm Not Sure Forest Whitaker ISN'T A Ugandan Dictator.

3.7 stars.
If the primary credential for winning an Academy Award is that people on the street recognize you, think you're capable of killing hundreds of thousands of people and run away, then you're probably going home with a golden statue in March. It saddens me to report that Sean Penn will most likely not be bringing home his second Oscar, because Forest Whitaker has not been able to convince me that he's a normal, non-sociopathic monster from 1970s Uganda.

The Last King of Scotland is the most unsettling movie I have seen since 1998, the first time I saw The Exorcist and never looked at crucifixes the same way. It builds itself up on a very similar platform to that movie - it catches you off guard because the characters and sitations presented don't become terrifying until about halfway through the movie. Just like Linda Blair is completely normal at the beginning and then little by little goes crazy demonic, vomiting green shizzle on priests, Forest Whitaker is jovial, personable and commands warranted respect for much of the first half of The Last King; by the time he's ordering pograms and executions on practically an hourly basis, you have no choice but to sit in your seat, shivering and confused.

Like All The Kings Men, the story of Idi Amin's rise to power is seen from the perspective of one of his closest advisors, this weirdo hedonistic Scotsman fresh out of med school who stumbles onto this seemingly amazing gig as the new President's doctor. He's taken in just like the rest of us. When Amin steps up to the microphone to speak to impoverished villagers, his voice is mesmerizing, intimidating, but more importantly, effective. He knows how to sell himself to the people in a country who have never had a legitimate democratic government and desperately need to believe this guy means what he says. If he doesn't, he at least knows how to make a killer stump speech. Key word "killer."

I suppose Idi Amin's growing paranoia about being usurped and killed contain some validity - after all, he's only running Uganda after leading a successful coup against the previous leader. However, watching him through the eyes of this Scotsman doctor - who seriously, can NOT keep his pants on. He literally makes eyes at some villager woman on the bus and in five seconds is boning her in a grass hut - Amin seems to have arrived at a winning concept: preach what everyone wants to hear and give them what they need. He goes on a hospital-buiding rampage that Willy Stark would have been proud of and sends Scotsman Thing to villages to provide vaccines to the people who aren't totally convinced the local witch doctor knows what he's doing.

However, in the background, you can see this is doomed. Every philanthropic deed has military soldiers in the background, unsteadily keeping the peace with their rifles and other assorted weaponry. As it turns out, Amin has enemies, lots of them, and that's even before he decides to secure his leadership by eliminating suspected dissenters. It really should have come as no surprise that the Scotsman would finally blunder his way into Amin's cross-hairs, culminating in a scene that made someone in the theater throw up. Just picture hooks. Bloody ones.

If Captain Hook had been Amin's personal torture specialist, this movie would have officially been the best ever. Just saying.

It's very rare for me to say that a movie was really good, but that I would go out of my way never to see it again. Such is the case here. It starts out as sort of a pastoral docudrama with natives beating their drums, and then descends into psychotic warfare. I spent most of the afternoon staring off into space and holding Big Bear tightly. (Alright, I know, that's every day.) The only part that I didn't like was when the Scot originally arrived in Uganda and we have to deal with Gillian Anderson's character, who's the wife of the doctor Scot Thing is supposed to be working with before Idi Amin and his cavalcade swoop in and bring him back to the capital. Of course Scot Thing wants to bone her, and I'm thinking the only reason we have to endure her shizzle is so we know that Scot Thing is also attracted to white women. But I can assure the filmmakers that I never thought he had a predisposition to black poon - I just thought he would tap anything that moves. Hell, the reason Amin gets pissed at him (SPOILER ALERT) is because Scot Thing bones one of his wives. I guess he figured, "Aye, he's got the other two wives, he won't be noticing that I be diddling the third."

Dear Forest Whitaker, you may want to keep your eye on these two.

I only saw this because The Queen was sold out at 11:00 AM on the West Side - and boy, were there a LOT of cantankerous old ladies pissed about that. Since I don't know anyone who wakes up before 12 on a Saturday, I had to endure this alone. I do not recommend anyone else do that. And DON'T EAT a meal before you go see it, because you'll end up experiencing that meal many times over.


At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy Crap!


At 7:14 PM, Blogger Ren said...

Can't wait to see it. Will comment further on Monday. Hmmm, is Forest a lock for Oscar gold?

At 5:51 AM, Blogger e.e.grimshaw said...

Unless you can think of someone else who channels mutilating Ugandan dictatorness, I would say yes. I enjoyed Sean Penn's performance more though. And I've heard that the Toby Young Capote performance is really good, but if I hear one more thing about any Capote-related cinema, my brain will explode all over the Garment District.

At 12:04 AM, Blogger Judith said...

Idi Amin was a very nasty piece of work who predictably was defended by the same people who made excuses for Yassir Arafat and Saddam Hussein.

Remember Entebbe? That was Idi Amin. And the UN passed a resolution condemning Israel's "attack" on Uganda to rescue her kidnapped citizens.


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