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This week:
The Constant Gardener

Filthy says:
"I gotta Get Me Some Drugs."

Summer's end is the New Jersey in the movie business; the place they dump the deadly, unloved and failed. Inept stabs at blockbusters like The Sound of Thunder are the bloody, unwanted fetuses stashed a foot deep in the toxic muck of late August. Embarrassing vanity projects like Underclassman that studios realized were mistakes long before they even started shooting them are dumped like petroleum byproducts into the briny marshes. And, grown up movies focused more on story than stars let free faster than three-legged dogs and pet turtles. Without giving them a budget, the studios tell them "You're better off here. This is where you belong" before speeding away, never looking back.

A movie like The Constant Gardener is for grown ups. It's too good, thick and knotty to be an Oscar movie, and it's not star-driven enough for those fuckwits to know how to market. So, here it is, limping along, whimpering and malnourished, lost in the tangle of crap and debris of New Jersey. I know that lovable, good things can be found lost in the muck and murk, half-covered in shit for those who look, because that's exactly where I was when Mrs. Filthy first met me. And it's where I am about half the time when she comes home from work. Sure, it's my own filth, but the point is that great things can be found if you just wipe some of the shit away.

The Constant Gardener is the best movie I've seen this summer. That's sort of like being the prettiest she-male in the revival tent. The lack of competition doesn't do it justice.

Ralph Fiennes (pronounced "ralf fee-enn-ess" regardless of what he says) is a British bureaucrat in Northern Kenya, accompanied by his well-intentioned hippie wife (Rachel Weisz). When Weisz is murdered on a trip with a Kenyan doctor, Fiennes uncovers a pharmaceutical conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of British government.

The story is based on a John LeCarre novel, and like most of his books it's a hell of a lot like Graham Greene. A passive anti-hero becomes entangled in a situation beyond his control. He is forced out of complacency to make the strong moral decisions he spends his life avoiding. In this one, Fiennes knows his wife has been secretive and duplicitous, but he assumes it's because she's having an affair. He's too spineless to confront her while she's alive. But once she's dead, he discovers the corruption she's uncovered and has to act out of respect for her and her mission. The crime is that big British pharmaceuticals are testing experimental drugs on the African poor, and killing far more than they admit.

What makes the Constant Gardener so damn good is that it never simplifies or talks down. The story isn't spelled out as through we're fucking morons; it's told in the margins and in the small gestures, like the way Weisz takes a Kenyan doctor's hand, or how Fiennes thinks to read Weisz's private e-mail but is too scared to actually do it. Just like in his last movie City of God, director Fernando Meirelles shows respect for both the audience and his story. He also shows a bit too much flash, but it's not obnoxious.

Africa looks horrible and amazing; filthy, brackish and expansive. I haven't been there, but the movie feels honest in how it captures the poverty and filth, as well as the natural beauty, diversity and innocence. Just like in City of God, Meirelles sneaks his cameras into the ghettos and captures what most of us would otherwise never see. And this isn't poverty like someone living in a dumpster by the railroad tracks. Hell, bums here live like kings compared to the disease, famine and squalor of Africa. It's truly horrifying, and something that is almost never shown or discussed.

The story is as knotty as a warty dick, full of red herrings, missed opportunities and my favorite, mistakes. Fuck, it's so much harder to write a story where the good guys make mistakes and sometimes guess wrong. It's also much more enjoyable to watch because what happens is less predictable. As I watched the Constant Gardener I thought of the slicker and crappier Sahara, which also took place in Africa, but a far prettier section, and starring a smug asshole of a hero who never is wrong. This movie is full of far more interesting characters and dilemmas.

The politics of the Constant Gardener can be heavy-handed. It starts with Weisz making a screed against the Iraq war. The scene is somewhat anachronistic to the story's time line (she couldn't make that speech, move to Africa, get pregnant, lose the child, investigate corruption and be murdered all since March of 03). It's more the point of a screenwriter or director being shoehorned in, and it shows. The pharmaceutical heavies are portrayed a bit too villainous, too. In real life, bad guys rarely sit in cabals around cackling about how awful they are. The ones around here, anyway, spend their free time stealing my God damn newspaper. But, it raises a valid point about the role of drug companies, which are for-profit exercises, but also have the ability to save lives. I imagine the conflict between satisfying the stockholders who fund the company and satisfying the public is hard to resolve. It's something I don't know enough about to have a strong opinion one way or another (and I don't want yours). The Constant Gardener is a little simplistic on this point, but that's okay because it's a fucking top-notch thriller anyway. You don't have to agree with the politics to enjoy it.

Which is the way political movies should be. Hell, make your point and let people agree or disagree. But, for fuck's sake, make the movie good along the way. Which Meirelles does. Four Fingers for The Constant Gardener.

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Roger Ailes, CEO of FOX "News"

The Great Raid is "OutrThe best war movie to be produced in years. It's wrapped in courage, patriotism and honor. In these troubled times, young and old alike should see this film. It's a reason to go back to movie theaters

Filthy's Reading
Michael Lewis - Moneyball

Listening to
Smog - The Doctor Came at Dawn


Crimes and Misdemeanors