Saturday, May 20, 2017


Year 9, Day 140 - 5/20/17 - Movie #2,635

BEFORE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt carries over again, and I've tried my best this year to cover more political topics, beginning with "Reds", "The Parallax View" and "The Conversation" in January, but then I admit I got a little sidetracked with Hollywood films like "American Ultra", "Assassins" and "Suicide Squad" don't really count.  But hey, I did watch "1984" in February, and then the three films in the "Ipcress File" series in March, then "Now You See Me 2", which also covered issues of illegal surveillance, then the hacker film "Blackhat" in April before getting into more spy-based films like "Body of Lies" and "MI-5".  But tonight I tackle the REAL spy stuff, like things that happened in the real world.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Citizenfour" (Movie #2,123)

THE PLOT: The NSA's illegal surveillance techniques are leaked to the public by one of the agency's employees, Edward Snowden, in the form of thousands of classified documents distributed to the press.

AFTER: Ugh, it's more excessive flashbackery tonight, as once again a filmmaker (Oliver Stone, they got to you too...what a shame...) decides that the best place to start a story is not at the beginning, or during the really exciting surveillance stuff, but in a hotel room where Snowden is being interviewed.  (Umm, someone already MADE that movie, it was called "Citizenfour".)  I never understand the mental reasoning that takes filmmakers in this direction - "Nah, screw the drone strikes.  We open on a man sitting on a bed in a hotel...").  With all the claustrophobia of underground houses and sealed-off bomb shelters ("Ex Machina", "10 Cloverfield Lane") this has become a running theme this year, and if I watch "Room" in a few weeks, I think I'll be so over this trend.

(Also, Hollywood loves squeezing the maximum amount of drama out of the action of copying files over to a drive and watching that status bar inch across the screen....geez, if I wanted to watch files being copied, I'd just go to work...)

But as flashbacks are concerned, in the end, what's more important, that we the audience get a clear idea of what happened, or that we know at every single point that it's Monday, July 10, 2013 - no, wait, now it's September 7, 2005 - no, wait, now it's March 17, 2009.  Give me a break, already, I'm exhausted from all this jumping around.

Another mistake was to show actual footage of the actual Edward Snowden at the end.  Because while Gordon-Levitt managed to capture the look of Edward Snowden, the real footage proved that he couldn't quite get his voice down.  I closed my eyes, and as a character, he ended up sounding more like Ashton Kutcher.

Now, with that out of the way, I will say that I now have a better handle on Snowden, what he did for the NSA, what the NSA was doing to everyone, and how Snowden turned the tables, by leaking information about the illegal surveillance that was being performed on normal Americans in the name of fighting terrorism.  Snowden believed that the President after Obama could very easily abuse this technology and that would result in a form of tyranny.  Honestly, I don't know what he was thinking...

It's funny, you don't hear much any more about what the NSA is doing, because we've got about 12,000 other scandals in Washington that have taken over the headlines.  The surveillance on average Americans was supposedly stopped, but you can't un-invent technology, so who knows?  There's more Skyping and Snapchatting and texting going on than ever, am I supposed to believe that the NSA suddenly just lost interest, because they SAID they did?  And can you imagine President Chump using this technology to finally prove that Rosie O'Donnell is in fact a big fat pig, or trying to eavesdrop on Obama's relatives to finally prove that he was born in Kenya?

Hmmm, in 2013, Snowden was granted asylum in Russia.  In 2016, Trump publicly asked for help from "Russian hackers" to help find Hilary's missing e-mails from her private server.  Now in 2017, the FBI is investigating whether Russian hackers had any influence on the election.  Just trying to connect the dots here.  Have Snowden's "speaking engagements" in Russia over the years given them the information they needed to compete with U.S. surveillance technology?

Also starring Melissa Leo (last seen in "The Big Short"), Zachary Quinto (last seen in "Star Trek Beyond"), Nicolas Cage (last seen in "Matchstick Men"), Tom Wilkinson (last seen in "Sense and Sensibility"), Shailene Woodley (last seen in "The Descendants"), Rhys Ifans (last seen in "Notting Hill"), Timothy Olyphant (last seen in "Mother's Day"), Scott Eastwood (last seen in "Suicide Squad"), Ben Chaplin (last seen in "Cinderella"), Ben Schnezter, Logan Marshall-Green (last seen in "The Great Raid"), Lakeith Lee Stanfield, with cameos from Barack Obama, Donald Trump and the real Edward Snowden (last seen in "Citizenfour").

RATING: 5 out of 10 cell phones in the microwave

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