Colbert Takes Out BP (Literally): Late Last Night
Stephen Colbert was on fire last night on The Colbert Report, with a riff on the gulf oil spill. Colbert partnered with search engine Bing, who offered to donate $2500 to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation every time he said the name of their company. I generally hate product placement, but Colbert raised a ton of money for a good cause, and gave Google one hell of a name drop in the process.
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Colbert continued the segment on the spill with an extended skit in which he hulks-out and goes to town on BP CEO Tony Hayward. While he does take a shot at the Knicks in the process, (Hey! We’ve got some...good...uniforms.) Colbert’s animal-assisted smack-down is pure wish-fulfillment. I really hope that whenever we end up charging the real BP execs it involves trial by combat with a shirtless Obama and some pissed-off dolphin sidekicks.
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The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi traveled to Hacienda Heights to investigate the controversy around a program that teaches Mandarin Chinese to middle school students. The fear, of one pointy-haired lady at least, is that children would be indoctrinated with Communism from a young age. Or possibly be turned into Manchurian Candidate-esque sleeper agents. I don’t know how this woman's language classes went, but when I took Spanish in middle school we didn’t do anything more complex than “where is the library”, never mind “from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs”. That has passive voice and everything. Besides, I took a year of Chinese in high school, and the only side-effect is that I occasionally feel the urge to stand in front of tanks and invent the decimal system.
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Jimmy Fallon's Late Night guest was Glee's Chris Colfer, who proved to be adorably awkward for a boy who can handle dancing in ten-inch heels. Colfer admitted to accidentally breaking an antique NBC lamp in Jimmy’s dressing room and seemed nervous, but I think NBC would only care if the lamp belonged to Jay Leno.
Chris Colfer also did some promotion for tonight’s finale of Glee, and let slip that the gang will be adding another Journey song to their repertoire. The gang’s rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing” went gold in digital sales, so it looks like Fox is looking to cash in with a new power ballad from the rock group. You know whatever it is that they pick is going to be all over the radio for the rest of the summer, so I really, really hope that they don’t try to replicate the music video for "Separate Ways". I don’t think I can deal with that much 80’s.
Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.