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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Moment of the Decade #5

This will be the last of my "Moment of the Decade" series.

It certainly has been a wild ride, readers. Years from now, when I am accepting a cherished writing award in the church basement of my local community, I will look back fondly to my Moment of the Decade series that I wrote way back at the stunning age of 19. By then, I will have had tasted multiple professional successes, have nine models for wives and an 11-inch penis (they still grow, right?).

Likewise, I am sure you will remember this hallmark of modern cultural analysis when you are off solving the problems of the world, yourself (sorry for taking all the hot wives, by the way). But as they say: "all mediocre attempts to catalogue a decade of complex ideas and experiences by a third-rate entertainment pop culture blog must come to an end." And so this too ends.

I had a couple of more things I wanted to write about but literally couldn't justify them due to obscurity. One was the self-less sacrifice of Blackwargreymon in the second season of Digimon Adventures and the other was the release of Sugarcult's song "Memory" as the most underrated pop song of the decade. The goal of this whole shindig was to highlight some of the less obvious moments of the decade but even those were too obscure for the guy who once wrote about K.A Applegate's Remnants series.

So enjoy, your last moment of the decade. We've come full circle back to the land of cinema.

Sarsgaard Flips Out - Jarhead

I talked to an old friend recently. At this point in my life, it blows my mind that I have such a thing as an "old friend." I experienced seven years of secondary education in the same town and had no choice but to have the "same friends", nobody knew, nobody old, just the same, day in and day out. But now I'm no longer in that same town and as such I have old friends.

This old friend had joined the army. We were talking about his experiences in basic training, what it's like to shoot a gun and of course how the service effects one's "female situation."

At some point in the conversation he seemed to struggle with how to explain it. Then he said:

"Remember that movie Jarhead that everyone was convinced sucked?"

I was.

"It doesn't suck. The army is exactly like that...nothing happens. Remember when Peter Sarsgaard says something like 'I never even fired my rifle?'"

I did.

"Yeah, that's what it's like."

I have never been in the armed services, nor have I ever fired a gun at another human being. But I do understand a little bit about pop culture, movies and the way things work, and I have no choice but to admire a war movie in which nothing happens.

Jarhead was not very well-received by critics. It got a lukewarm 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and was featured on very few end-of-the-year top ten lists. I didn't even really know how I felt about it after I saw it. I had this vague notion that it was a good film, maybe even a great film...but still I didn't like it.

Those of you who have seen it probably know why. It is a slow, tense build up from boot camp through Operation Desert Storm but a dramatic release never seems to come. Private Anthony Swofford and his merry band of U.S Marines just kind of stroll around a horrifically boring Iraq landscape, waiting for something to happen. Jarhead puts its characters through basic training hell, trains then to be killing machines, winds them up and lets them go nowhere and kill nothing.

And the more I think about it: maybe that was the point.

Whatever the movie was trying to say, the slow build up with no release leads to one of the most effective and disturbing scenes I've seen in five years.

While trying to fight boredom in the desert, the sniper team of Private Swofford (Jake Gyllenhall) and Private Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) receive the assignment to assassinate a crucial Iraqi official in a guard tower. Swofford and Troy are all too happy to put their training into effect and do something other than sit around talking about women or masturbating.

Troy lines up the shot perfectly and gives Swofford the go ahead to take another human being's life. Just before Swofford can take the shot, a military higher up (Dennis Hayesbert a.k.a President David Palmer from 24) burst into the tower and tells the boys that the Air Force will be taking out the enemy instead. Why kill one with a strategic sniper-shot when you can take out the whole farm with a napalm bomb?

Private Troy doesn't quite see the wisdom in that.

Troy yells that he and Swofford had the shot and begs President Palmer to just let Swofford shoot the man in the head before the Air Force wipes it all out. He doesn't ask...he literally begs. He screams "we had the shot!", falls to the floor, begins to weep and literally rocks back and forth.

It may sound like a bit much when I write it, but when Peter Sarsgaard acts it, it is just simply astounding. This man really wanted nothing else in the world to see the red mist spray out of the back of another man's head as his bullet tore apart his brain.

The tragedy of Jarhead (and perhaps the two Iraq Wars, themselves) is that a collection of young Americans wanted to spill blood...and didn't get to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what about that scene where he's naked?