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DVD Zone: July

| June 30, 2006 | 0 Comments

SYRIANA
Warner Bros.


It has been this way for the past hundred years. Wars are fought over it and governments toppled because of it. Corporations rake in yearly profits that eclipse the GNP of many mid-sized nations because of it. And, until someone finds a way to make your T-bird run on jelly donut filling or fruit juice, it’s always going to be about it. Oil, that is. Black gold, Texas tea.

It doesn’t matter who’s behind the wheel of the big SUV at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, public policy is all about oil. That slippery little fact has come into sharper focus over the past couple of years, but just wait and see what happens when prices at the pump hit four bucks a gallon within a year.

Syriana takes a long, hard look at the cause and effect of these policies. A true ensemble piece, the film centers on three separate individuals whose jobs and actions shape and control the debate.

A puffy and bearded George Clooney plays CIA a agent known only as Bob. At the end of his career, Bob has seen the results of his government’s actions, yet truly believes what he is doing is right and just, and wants to keep it that way. Matt Damon plays an energy consultant to the son of a Middle Eastern emir. While it’s never actually said which country, there’s no doubt it’s meant to be Saudi Arabia. And Jeffery Wright plays a federal investigator looking for shady goings on relating to an American oil company merger.

Unlike films with a more linear storyline, the characters in Syriana rarely intersect. With the exception of Clooney and Damon’s brief interactions, the film plays out as a series of vignettes designed to raise the debate instead of a straightforward narrative.
This is not to say the film couldn’t use a bit of pruning, as some of the sub-stories go nowhere. Scenes involving Wright’s father add nothing and go unexplored, and Tim Blake Nelson’s corruption-is-good tirade is a direct lift of Michael Douglas’ “Greed is good” speech from Wall Street.

Syriana was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, who also wrote Traffic. Actually, with the pacing and style of the film, it could easily be called Traffic II: The Oil Years.

The disc is a bit light on special features with three deleted scenes involving Clooney’s wife, mentioned in the film but never seen, and interviews with Clooney and other members of the cast and crew.

While it may be a bit of a challenge to keep what’s going on straight, the film does indeed gel as a complete work if you pay attention.

Film: ***1/2 / Features: ***

PROJECT RUNWAY:
THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
Miramax

All right, enough’s enough. It was cute for awhile, but it’s gone to far. It’s time for someone to step up to the plate and let you in on a little secret.

Reality TV sucks.

I know it might be difficult for some of you to hear, and I’m sorry to spill the facts like this, but somebody had to say it. Consider it tough love, or perhaps even an intervention.

Seriously, why would anyone spend hours of their life obsessing over the actions and antics of people you wouldn’t be caught dead with, or if you saw them on the street, you’d cross to the other side to avoid them? I understand the draw of watching members of the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God society debase themselves for their 15 minutes of fame, but come on. You really have nothing better to do? These shows are to reality what Velveeta is to cheese.

Now, imagine people you don’t want to know making clothes you don’t want to wear. Sounds like solid gold, baby. And with the four-disc set of the second season of Project Runway, you get extended episodes so you can spend even more time with these dolts.

However, Project Runway does have something that others of this ilk don’t — Heidi Klum. Ya gotta admit, having a supermodel show up in a micro mini to berate the contestants every now and then does raise the game a bit and make things interesting.

Show: ** / Features: ***

Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Monthly

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