TCS Daily

Snuff Cinema

By James Pinkerton - September 14, 2006 12:00 AM

TORONTO -- Five years after 9-11, it's apparent that we all aren't getting along. And the political left is throwing plenty of mean punches. A case in point is that new Bush snuff movie, "Death of a President." Some might say that "snuff movie" is too strong a term -- but how else to describe a movie that clearly revels in the prospect of George W. Bush's being assassinated?

Anyone who doubts that movies still have the power to stir up passions ought to come here, to the Toronto International Film Festival, which rates as the most important movie conclave in North America. The festival has taken control of this city; thousands of out-of-town VIPs, and self-declared VIPs, have brought with them legions of flunkies and fleets of limousines -- I have seen Lincoln Town Cars cruising around with California license plates. Some have been animated by greed; there's lots of movie-distribution-dealing going on at the Sutton Place and the Four Seasons. Others are motivated by glamour, however vicarious; everyone here has a tale of seeing Brad Pitt, or of almost seeing him, or at least of standing in the same place where he once stood.

Another hot passion is politics. Movies have always been political, but in polarizing times, the politicization is all the more obvious, even murderous. A case in point is "Death of a President," easily the most buzzed-about movie here. Actually, true buzzsters call it "D.O.A.P." -- pronounced, of course, "dope." Get it?

"Death" is a pseudo-documentary that purports to show what happens to America in the year after President George W. Bush is assassinated on October 19, 2007 (stock market nerds might note that 10/19/07 is the 20th anniversary of the 500-point stock market crash, for whatever symbolism that's worth).

A few points about the movie: First, it has a "big" look. As film-society types would say, "Death" is fluent in cinematic language; it brings one into the action, it's well paced, the music enhances the mood. Interestingly, the film was made for a mere $2 million; if so, such a large movie on such a small budget could only be possible for an offshoot of a big network, such as More4. The parent company, Channel 4, used its own deep resources to acquire archival footage and to help out on the slick special optical effects. So "Death" looks like a theatrical release, not a made-for-TVer.

Of course, it also helps that so many Britons were eager to help out on this project. It's no secret that the chattering film-making classes are vehemently anti-Bush and anti-Tony Blair (Blair hasn't yet been shot on film, but he's been done in, politically, by the left in the UK, not the right). And so a film such as "Death" -- which begs comparison to the BBC's equally anti-Blair/anti-Bush movie from 2005, "The Power of Nightmares," -- is obviously a labor of love intended to win peer-group awards, as well as box-office receipts.

And there might be more motivation than that. In the 12th century, King Henry II grew distinctly weary of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket. "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" Henry asked, and the next thing he knew, four loyal knights did just the ridding Henry was hoping for. Now fast-forward nine centuries: Is it really all that hard to believe that the "Death" filmmakers hope that somebody gets a "bright idea" to rid the world of a troublesome president?

Certainly, in the film's telling, Bush deserves a nasty fate. "Death" spins a scenario of rising anti-Iraq war protests in the US, in which the protestors become European in their intensity, complete with masks, semi-uniforms, even body armor. Amidst this white-hot streetscape, Bush delivers a speech in downtown Chicago. The US Secret Service is nervous about the high tension in the city -- but not nervous enough. Bush is shot and killed by a sniper.

Newly sworn-in President Cheney delivers a eulogy of his predecessor; it's a techno-tour de force, thanks to computers. And then, of course, the descent into Dick's abyss: The "Patriot 3" act is signed into law, free speech effectively outlawed.

Meanwhile, President Cheney orders the US government to "go after" Syria. The moviemakers emphasize what they see as an obvious and ominous similarity between Cheney's targeting of Syria in 2007 and Bush's targeting of Iraq -- not Afghanistan -- not long after 9-11. Conveniently, a Syrian-American is arrested and charged with the crime. The man is a dubious character, having spent time in Afghanistan, but, the film argues, a pattern of suspicious behavior is not the same as murderous behavior. Various faux forensic experts come forward on camera to challenge the evidence against the Syrian; the movie drags here, becoming almost a laboratory-courtroom drama. But legal procedure is clearly near and dear to the filmmakers; in the question-and-answer session after the showing, producer Simon Finch declared that the "danger of a rush to judgment" was the principal message of the picture. Cheney and Americans might show "impatience with legal machinery," Finch said, but the rest of us should remember the importance of rights-based proceduralism. Audiences are then free to insert their own suitably negative thoughts about Guantanamo, rendition, wiretapping, or any other aspect of the Bush homeland security program.

As David D'Arcy, film critic for, observed to me afterward, "The filmmakers see this as the new America. This film is their delivery vehicle, consolidating all their concerns about 9-11." OK, fair enough -- the flick represents their point of view. For another POV, there's "The Path to 9-11," the ABC drama that has generated its own ruckus, as various sides sought to write, edit, and then re-edit the historical record to meet their specific wants and needs. Nine-eleven is many things, but by now it can also be considered a full-fledged political football, to be tossed and dropkicked like any other historical event.

But returning to "Death", here comes the twist in the tale (Warning! Spoiler dead ahead!):

The Syrian is convicted and sent to death row. But then comes a strange piece of revelation: It turns out that a black American, a US Army veteran, is the real killer. The African American had fought with distinction in the 1991 Gulf War, but when his own son is killed in Iraq during the current fighting, he snaps. He kills Bush with his rifle, flees the scene, and then, in a secluded location, kills himself, leaving a note and enough evidence to convince all but the closed-minded that he committed the crime. The film, of course, suggests that the black man was justified -- partially, if not fully -- in what he did. As the man's wife explains, "He loved the Army, proud of serving America...He felt that Bush destroyed all of that." So the cosmology -- make that demonology -- of the film is clear: Bush is so bad that even a loyal patriotic man is driven to kill the president. But the Cheney-ized feds aren't interested in this inconvenient truth, because they are intent on blaming the Syrian, and Syria.

And of course, the filmmakers, too, have a predetermined target: Bush. As producer Finch put it, "We would really engage people" by killing President George W. Bush onscreen, as opposed to just President John Q. Public.

Finch is right: When trying to drive home a point, it's always best to use specific images and proper nouns, if possible. Be vivid and lurid, that's the ticket. As vivid as the blood flowing from Bush's chest, and as lurid as the headlines that "Death" has already generated.

So for the next number, I suppose that Finch and his close colleague, director Gabriel Range, will make an even more vivid and lurid movie. How 'bout, say, a movie featuring the Prophet Mohammed doing something, well, unspeakable? Or maybe just showing him as an ordinary human, doing ordinary things? Such a picture would get some buzz, stir up some controversy -- wouldn't it?

But I won't hold my breath waiting for that hypothetical Islam-bashing, or even Islam-historicizing, film to be made or shown. As we have seen, there's plenty of evidence that the "Death"-men, Finch and Range, are cine-provocateurs, happy enough to see Bush endangered. But there's no evidence that either man wishes to see his own life endangered.

Finch and Range know that vast majority of Americans won't like this film; even as they hope that a small minority of Americans will make it profitable for them. To make money, and to make a splash, they are willing to hurt American feelings. But hurting the feelings of Muslims who might kill them in retaliation? That's a different story. That's a movie that will never be made, at least not by these two. These blokes might be cool with murder, but they are definitely against suicide.

James Pinkerton is the TCS Daily media critic.



Rush Limbaugh made a good point about this.
What if conservatives made a movie about President Clinton being kidnapped by al-Qaeda and then beheaded?

It could be a discussion of the cultural response of Americans to the cowardice he and his entire administration oozed. The Democrats scream "intimidation" every time a Republican suggests that a given judge ought to be stripped of their judgeship, what would they say about their President being beheaded by Osama himself on camera?

I'll take it one step farther. Imagine a movie set in 1998, where an enraged father and former-Marine who lost a son in the Tanzania bombing kidnaps Clinton and beheads him. The new President, Al "I invented the internet for Mother Earth!" Gore decides to blame right-wing extremists for the death, and begins rounding up NRA members, Michigan Millitia members, and bans "hate speech" like the Rush Limbaugh Show. It turns out that this Marine father kills himself and leaves a note blaming it on Clinton's "persistent policy appeasement and total unwillingness to confront terrorism." How would the left react?

"You're threatening violence against the President! Somebody arrest these maniacs!!" is my guess.

Excellent point

I find it fascinating
that the left always assumes the right wants to turn the US into a police state, and any evidence that can be misconstrued to support that belief is taken as more proof positive.

Secondly, that the left always assumes that the right is just one step away from acheiving this goal.

Mark's comment
Yeah - what's up with that?

The left and demz can't win...
at the polls, and at policymaking. They do nothing but criticize and belittle, providing no viable alternatives.

So, instead, they scream "I wish you were dead!"

How childish.

you forgot #3
That the left are the only ones trying to do this, while all the time blaming the right. Our civil liberties have been far more undermined by the left than the right. (check freedom of religion and, by proxy, of speech)

Better be careful with that rhetoric
They are winning, in the polls if not at them, this election cycle. We will have to see how it all pans out, but I suspect we will see a changing of the guard in the House and very possibly in the senate as well; erasing in one fell swoop 20+ years of advancment in congress and 10 years of majority power.

I hope the political pundits are wrong, and it is going to be a close thing, but it is going to be a "bloody" November for Republicians even if they do retain the majority in both houses.

Rest easy...
the Dems won't win. If they do I will say that I was wrong but I am confident enough to throw it out there. Let the piggies squeal.

As for this idiotic movie, it is pure liberal masturbation and nothing more.

Porn for the piggies? ;)

I try to keep track of these things
and the situation is looking up for Bush. Of course there are still 6 weeks till election day.

A number of Republicans who had been considered vulnerable, are starting to open comfortable leads.

A number of Republicans who had been considered goners, have pulled back into the margin of error. Santorum was down by as much as 12 to 15 points a month ago, 3 points earlier this week.

Democrats who had been considered safe, are now considered vulnerable. Menedez in NJ. Because of ethics and financial scandals, he's now trailing slightly. He was ahead by 5 or 6 points a month ago.

There's almost zero chance of the Democrats taking either house, and I suspect the losses will be a lot smaller than most pundits are hoping for.

Yes, but…
There are still several Republican representives on the bubble. If Leiberman wins that will be a big loss for the Democrats. It will be interesting to see if Leiberman the Independent is different than Leiberman the Democrat. Democrats would really be hurting if they do lose NJ, a big blue state.

Still, it is going to be a tough November on Republicans unless things change drastically between now and then.

here's an interesting graph

It charts Bush's populatity numbers vs. the price of gasoline.

Gas should come down a lot more before election day.
A rising Bush, lifts all Republican boats.

There are still a number of Republicans on the bubble, but fewer than before. Also, the number of Democrats on the bubble has increased as well.

If the election were held today, I would be surprised if the Republicans lost more than 5 seats in the house, and two in the senate.

At present, all of the trends are in the Republican direction. If Bush can stay on the stump the next 6 weeks, instead of retreating back into his bunker again, and if gas prices keep going down, then there is a slim, but non-zero, chance that the Republicans might actually pick up a seat or two.

It also helps the overall economy
Which should lift republicans as well.

I saw a poll this morning, might have been Rasmussen, that had Bush's approval rating back up to 47%. 14 points in less than a month.

Too true
This is why NJ and Conn. are important. If all else comes out neutral in the rest, the Democrats will lose two seats and the Rep. will pick up one and split on the other.

The highest I've seen is 42
Still a significant improvement. If he can keep this up for another 5 weeks he could be over significantly over 50% by Nov. and that would really sink the democrats boat!!

We haven't seen the end of this drop, by a long shot.
Unless Iran tries to start something before the election.

One of the reason's gas prices went up so much, is because people feared that a war could cause an interruption in supplies. So they bought any oil they can, and stored it in anything that didn't leak (too much (BP pipelines)).

Now that those fears are easing, there are lots of oil company executives who are looking at all those barrels sitting around, not earning them a penny, and they are deciding to lower their stockpiles.

First they stop buying oil to hoarde away. That decreases demand. Then ...
If they sell the oil on the open market, that increases supply. If they stop buying new oil, and live off their reserves, that reduces demand.
Either way, it continues the downward pressure on oil prices.

Two more pieces of downward pressure is that customers have adjusted to higher prices.

1) Every person who bought a Prius instead of an Escalade, still has that Prius. People who bought energy efficient lights, still have those new lights. People who installed extra insulation, still have that insulation. The drop in demand from these changes may not be permanent, but they will take years, maybe decades of low oil prices before they work out of the system.
2) Oil companies have spent billions buying new exploration equipment over the last few years. They aren't going to put their new toys out to pasture, they are going to use them, and keep using them. If oil prices fall enough, the toys won't be replaced when they wear out. But they will be used. The oil companies have also been researching new ways to find new oil, and to get more oil out of existing fields. This new knowledge does not disappear just because oil prices fall.

The structural changes caused by several years of high prices do not disappear, just because oil prices fall a bit. They won't disappear even if oil prices return to 1990's levels.

There are other factors at work. Oil producing countries have huge needs for cash. Saudi Arabia has a restive population that has gotten used to being paid not to work. Iran is trying to finance a nuke program, resupply Hezbollah, and rebuild Lebanon. Venezuela has decided to prop up Castro, and he's still trying to build S. America's biggest military. Mexico has lots of domestic welfare programs that it has to fund. And so on.

When oil prices rose, the smart thing to do would have been to put the extra money into a rainy day fund. It was not hard to predict that the prices of the last few years were above the equilibrium level, and would have to fall someday.
I can't see much evidence that the big oil producing countries saved that money. Most of them spent it as fast as it came in. This caused their people to get used to the higher levels of subisidy. Their people won't be happy to see the subsidies return to the old levels.
Pretty soon the drop in oil prices will reach a point where the new spending can't be supported at their current production levels. There will be a lot of pressure on these countries to increase their oil output. OPEC may tell it's members that they need to cut output. And the countries may even "officially" agree to cut output. But they won't.

In all probability, the prices will undershoot the new stabilization point, by as much as they overshot on the upside the last few years. I wouldn't be surprised to see oil back in the low $40 dollar range by early next year.

As I said before, the big fly in any ointment is Iran.
If they have a nuke, and set it off, or do anything else equally outrageous, all bets are off.

I agree
The price of gas should dip to around $2-$2.25 a gallon by February as the price of oil drops below $50 a barrel. I Don't know if we will see $40 oil, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Oops! There goes all the investment in alternative energy sources!!

I don't know anyone...
That has been "polled" lately, at any time.

Demz control the media, except for Fox. But, many republicans, and I, are too busy to either do the letter writing campaign or do opinion polls.

San Diego is a good example.

I may not aprove of Bush's job, but that does not mean I will vote democrap.

Squeal for me!


Eh, don't know about that...
I think with more money in the pocket due to less spending on fuel, we can and probably will invest it in alternative energy while we can.

Doubt that
At least not on ramping up our present production. Bio-fuels require $2.25 a gallon to break even; and that is a minimum. No use producing something you can't sell.

Wind power is in a similar boat.

New Movie
I'm making a new movie. It's called "Death of Director" and it's about a politically controversial director who makes a film about the death of a president. When the film leads to some ******* actually trying to work it out and succeeding, the director is tried for "conspiracy to commit." According to the OJ Principle of Justice, the director is acquitted, but as he leaves the courthouse, he is run over and killed by a septic waste truck that has had its parking brake released by an Islamic terrorist, confusing the septic waste for a "dirty bomb" a la 7th century Islam.

Police States
1. Communist countries
2. National Socialist countries

Note to uneducated:
Socialists are like communists, except they allow personal and corporate property as it is used for the good of society (or the government).

You would have to think real hard to find and example of a police state that did not fit the criteria listed above. The left allows tries to paint conservatives as wanting the police state that left-wing governments always create.

Gas prices
For the last 40 years a gallon of gas has cost about the same as a gallon of whole milk.

Buy your logic, cows cause hig gas prices!

Not even close
Only for two periods in that time frame, 1973-1975 and 2004-2006 has that been true. The rest of the time milk has been much more expensive, especially on a percentage basis. (Actually, even at the peak price for gas, milk was still nearly a dollar more a gallon in most cases and places.)

cause and affect
A chart showing correlation does not indicate proof.

For that a theory has to be developed and tested.

The theory regarding gas prices and presidential popularity is that when gas prices get high, people blame the govt, which is headed by the president.
When gas prices fall again, that anger goes away.

it's not a proven theory, but it at least is plausible.

Would you care to create a chart that tracks week to week movements in gas and milk prices, and put forth a theory as to why the two might be related?

Or do you just want to say stupid things?

Consumer confidence is shooting upwards

This should help Bush and the Republicans rebound.

One that I forgot
I read a report recently that BP's North Shore pipeline could be back on line in as little as two more weeks.

That's 400,000 barrels a day added to world supply.

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