Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Grown Up is the Child's Ultimate Form

Forty-six percent of respondents would blame congressional Republicans, 36 percent would blame Obama and 13 percent would blame both. Sixty-nine percent said that the GOP is acting like "spoiled children" in the budget fight, while 58 percent think that of congressional Democrats and 49 percent think that of President Barack Obama. Six in 10 respondents reject the GOP's approach and think it is more important to avoid a shutdown than to make major changes to the Affordable Care Act.

This is from this article about the current shutdown of the U.S. government. That politicians are immature and unable to see past their own careers and reputations to the actual job of governing is hardly a new revelation. This seems like as good a time as any to talk about Armando Iannucci's wonderful 2009 political comedy In the Loop.

It's a loose spin-off of his BBC series The Thick of It, the most important carryover being Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) as Director of Communications. A crucial question about In the Loop and The Thick of It is, why is a viewer so inclined to like Malcolm Tucker? Capaldi's sometimes improvised rants as the character are legendary--you'll find no shortage of clips on YouTube. So how do you feel about a blog entry being written about you, Mr. Tucker?

One person who posted clips of Tucker to YouTube wrote, "I wish I were Scottish so I could be this crude and yet casually classy at the same time." It's not simply that Capaldi is Scottish that makes what he does seem classy. Calling someone a cunt is crude. But say this to someone:

Don't get sarcastic with me, son. We burned this tight-arsed city to the ground in 1814. And I'm all for doing it again, starting with you, you frat fuck. You get sarcastic with me again and I will stuff so much cotton wool down your fucking throat it'll come out your arse like the tail on a Playboy bunny. I was led to believe I was attending the war committee.

That's poetry. Tucker's rants come quickly, contain vivid and often grotesquely bizarre imagery combined with esoteric references the mind automatically searches for before deciding whether or not it even wishes to view the portrait Tucker is painting.

This is much more viscerally satisfying than anything "Queen of Rage" Michele Bachmann might say. The beauty of Tucker's anger wins far more hearts than a man like that in real life really ought to. But this is one of the great things about The Thick of It and In the Loop. As the titles suggest, you're drawn into this world and you begin to share in the fundamentally absurd and irresponsible motives of these characters.

Gina McKee plays Judy Molloy in In the Loop who works with an MP named Simon Foster played by Tom Hollander. She's an actress I've seen in two other movies recently, Croupier and Naked. And it got me to thinking how one doesn't see the interest anymore in making movies like the ones Mike Leigh became known for in the 80s and 90s, or Kevin Smith, or Gus Van Sant--the raw tale of average young people and their naturalistic or creatively obscene dialogue is no longer something one sees gain prominence in independent or mainstream film. Gina McKee's presence in this film made me wonder if In the Loop is something for Mike Leigh fans who've gotten older.

Unlike the television series, In the Loop actually features references to real policy affecting the people rather than being completely submerged in bureaucratic catfights. Somewhat satirising the lead-up to the Iraq war, the film focuses on British and U.S. government officials jockeying about the possibility of presenting the idea of going to war as a good thing. What we see is a world of earnest emotions on a foundation of cynicism. People like Tucker are consumed with the importance of the pissing contest but aren't directly interested in the effects of policies that are instituted incidentally.

SIMON FOSTER: "Yep. That's that, then."

TOBY WRIGHT: "'That's that, then,' is your line for the ages, is it?"


TOBY WRIGHT: "Well, yeah, 'I remember the day war was declared and I turned to the minister and he said, 'Yep. That's that, then. Anyone want a mint?'"

SIMON FOSTER: "Piss off, Toby."

Toby (Chris Addison), Foster's assistant, hadn't expressed any especially great indignation about going to war before. The horrible moment seems to bring this reaction only because it seems to confirm the cynicism upon which his whole world is based, the uselessness of it all that compels him to concentrate entirely on relationships and social manoeuvrings instead.

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