Review: Armadillo

Armadillo (2010, directed by Janus Metz)

A group of new recruits, eager but apprehensive, wait to be taken away to a foreign land, their young heads filled with thoughts of heroism and adventure. Once they arrive though, their illusions quickly get ripped away, and they are never the same...

War films have their own conventions and cadence. From All Quiet On the Western Front through Apocalypse Now to the Hurt Locker, long periods of boredom get punctuated by madness and death. Same as it ever was. The thing is, those are all works of fiction. Great (well, merely good in Hurt Locker's case) as they are, they aren't reality. They are just stories we tell ourselves to help make sense of that madness.

Armadillo flips the script. It's a documentary, the story of a six-month stint in Afghanistan by Danish forces, but it adapts all those familiar conventions and cadences to the doc format, and by doing so completely transforms them. This is no longer a story we tell ourselves to make sense of the madness; it's the madness reaching out and infecting our stories, and making them hollow.

A lot of Armadillo's power comes from the footage that the filmmakers were able to get. Embedded directly with the unit, Metz and his team were not only able to observe how their experiences changed them first-hand, they were also able to dive right into actual combat thanks to helmet-mounted cameras. No Hollywood slo-mo explosions to be found here; this is just pure chaos, soldiers screaming at each other in an adrenaline haze as they discover the limits of superior technology and numbers against a foe on its home turf.

For all the gut-wrenching immediacy of the combat scenes though, or the surgical precision with which they are edited, it's the humanity of the film that makes it truly unique -- and not just the humanity of the soldiers we come to know. The Afghan villagers that they meet and interact with act no differently than any other people would under similar circumstances, trapped between two enemies. The elders stoically mourn their losses; the parents try to protect who and what they can; and the teenage boys act like arrogant, oblivious dicks, just like they do at your local mall.

Really, to call Armadillo a war story misses the point. It's every war story, but with the glossy, insulating veneer of fiction stripped away. And it's also the very personal, very specific story of a group of young men who left home seeking adventure, and came home sobered and shattered.

And while (oddly clumsy opening voice-over aside) Armadillo keeps its politics close to the vest, it's impossible not to wonder, at the end of the film, whether the price those young men paid was even remotely close to worth it.

Damn Canadian Commies

I hope RIM holds firm on their privacy stance for Blackberry users. I'm sure they won't, but it would be nice if they did.

Or, to put that in Foxnewsese, "High-tech firm Research In Motion, funded by a foreign socialist government, makes phones only a terrorist could love!"

Now There's a Scary Precedent

While I agree that Justice Jay Bybee is a scumspawned fucktard who I wouldn't piss on if he were being stung by flaming jellyfish, I don't think you can really impeach him for that.

August's Travesties

41 songs on the month, 15 (!) of which I hadn't sung since starting the blog, if ever. Breed was brilliant, and I'll be doing it again for sure. Don't Pay the Ferryman... eh, not so much.

#1 Crush - Garbage
All Apologies - Nirvana
(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes - Elvis Costello
Animal Nitrate - Suede
Babe - Styx
Band On the Run - Paul McCartney & Wings
Beds Are Burning - Midnight Oil
Boogie On Reggae Woman - Stevie Wonder
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen (w/live band)
Breed - Nirvana
Cult of Personality - Living Color
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da - Police
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - Animals
Don't Pay the Ferryman - Chris De Burgh
Freddy's Dead - Curtis Mayfield
Hey Ya - Outkast (duet w/Lisa Awesome)
High School Confidential - Rough Trade
How Deep Is Your Love - Bee Gees
In The End - Linkin Park (duet w/Johnny Priceless)
Interstate Love Song - Stone Temple Pilots
Let's Spend the Night Together - Rolling Stones
London Calling - Clash (w/live band)
Missing You - John Waite
Never-Ending Story - Limahl
Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello
Panama - Van Halen (w/live band)
Paranoid - Black Sabbath (w/live band)
Peace Train - Cat Stevens
Peaceful Easy Feeling - Eagles
Peg - Steely Dan
Piss Up a Rope - Ween (w/live band)
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
Rock n Roll Suicide - David Bowie
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) - Bruce Springsteen
Shake the Disease - Depeche Mode
Song For Whoever - Beautiful South
Starlight - Muse
Street Fighting Man - Rolling Stones
Sunglasses At Night - Corey Hart
This Diamond Ring - Gary Lewis & the Playboys
You Got Another Thing Coming - Judas Priest

Oh, Right, That's Why

I stopped paying much attention to Daily Kos a while ago. I'll check something out if someone whose opinion I respect links to it -- it's not on my verboten list the way Politico is -- but for the most part I think they've lost their collective shit over there, and just don't have time to wade through the nonsense to find any gems.

I'm still on the mailing list though, which means I get regular emails pushing Markos' new book, called (unhyperbolically enough) American Taliban. The latest missive begins as follows:

Conservatives say a lot of ridiculous things.

Riiiight. You wrote a book explicitly comparing the far right to the Taliban, and conservatives are the only ones saying ridiculous things.

Yeah, can't imagine why I stopped reading your site, dude.

Of course, I say shitty things about right wingers all the time, so maybe that just makes me a hypocrite. But I at least try to condemn specific individuals for their own actions, not paint everyone out at the that end of the political spectrum as evil incarnate.

Markos has put himself on the same level as Mark Levin and Ann Coulter with his book. He's now just another monkey throwing handfuls of shit at a rival pack. It's just what the country needs.

TIFF Overload

So I slapped together a list of all the films that are 'on my radar' at TIFF this year... the final tally was 75 movies.

Yikes. Even if I work the system like a pro (which I am) and mesh the industry and public screening schedules perfectly, I'll still be lucky if I get to see half of them. Plus there will be the handful of stuff that isn't on my radar right now that I end up seeing due to positive word of mouth and such.

For what it's worth, I have a good feeling about this year's lineup. In previous years, me having a good feeling about the lineup has been relatively meaningless in terms of whether it was actually a good lineup or not.

America's Gift To the Taliban

Reading this Newsweek piece (yeah, yeah, I know) makes me want to punch Pam Geller in the ovaries:

Zabihullah also claims that the issue is such a propaganda windfall—so tailor-made to show how “anti-Islamic” America is—that it now heads the list of talking points in Taliban meetings with fighters, villagers, and potential recruits. “We talk about how America tortures with waterboarding, about the cruel confinement of Muslims in wire cages in Guantánamo, about the killing of innocent women and children in air attacks—and now America gives us another gift with its street protests to prevent a mosque from being built in New York,” Zabihullah says. “Showing reality always makes the best propaganda.”

Insert 'why does the right wing hate our troops' snark here. I'm too pissed off to come up with anything clever myself.

UPDATE: Adam Serwer takes a more moderate approach:

On some level you can't really worry about what terrorists are going to say, because no matter what the U.S. does they're going to find some way to twist it into extremist propaganda. But the U.S. doesn't need to convince terrorists, it needs to convince the people that reside within what Marc Lynch describes as " the vast middle ground, the Arab and Muslim mainstream which both the Bush and Obama administrations have recognized as crucial both for defeating al-Qaeda and for achieving broad American national interests."

In general yes, but I think the Park51 might actually be a more effective recruiting tool. The other things Zabihullah are all actions of the military; the Park51 protests can be used to represent the views of the American people in general. That's no longer framing the conflict as 'the US versus the Taliban'; that's now bin Laden's beloved 'Islam versus the West' territory.

Even When We Used To Take Drugs

Saw the Stone Temple Pilots concert tonight. Good show, even though they were surprisingly ragged in spots, and Weiland seemed way out of it -- even screwing up the lyrics to Big Empty. Given the tumble he took in Cincinnati a few days ago, I'm really really hoping it was just due to pain killers.

Cage the Elephant opened, and well, yeah. Your typical "the rest of our stuff sounds nothing whatsoever like our hit single" opening act who will disappear from whence they came soon enough.

Brain Hurt Now

I probably should have stopped at those four rather than watching the epic "Grill Skillz" two-parter:

Once you get past a drunk Dave Thomas, it really takes off into Crazytown. The most terrifying thing about Grill Skillz? The idea that Wendy's might actually have its own in-house music publishing company, Wendy's Music International.

God Bless You StrangerRandy

I don't know who you are, but you have done the world a great service by making these fine Wendy's training videos from the early 90s available to all.

I expect mashups and club remixes by the time I wake up tomorrow. Get to work, people!

(h/t minion of Sully)