Manchurian Candidate

“Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.” That is the line, recited word-for-word by each man who served with Shaw, which piqued Frank Sinatra’s curiosity in the original Manchurian Candidate. The fact that they all said it, while still remembering Shaw was totally unlikeable, was only part of their subconscious conflict.

Today, my curiosity piqued, I went to see the new version (not a remake, as much of the detail of the story has been changed) with Helaine. It’s a great movie. That not withstanding, I’m sorry I brought Helaine along. It is violent, suspenseful, very intense and not what she wanted to see.

In the original movie, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) is captured along with members of his unit, fighting in Korea. It is the Chinese (hence the title) who brainwash them all, sending Raymond home to assassinate a presidential candidate, allowing his stepfather to run in his place.

Angela Lansbury, as Raymond’s mother, plays one of the most evil and believable villains I’ve ever seen on the screen. The sexual tension between mother and son makes the whole thing even more disturbing.

Having this much respect for the original I went today expecting to be disappointed. I was wrong. The movie scores on nearly every level.

Liev Schreiber as Shaw brings the same distant, cold, aloof feel as Laurence Harvey’s original portrayal. He was brought up with privilege and power and no connection to the common man. He is devoid of warmth or compassion.

Denzel Washington is Major Ben Marco, the Frank Sinatra role from the original movie. You’ve seen Denzel playing this part before; the honorable man in a troubling situation. It works here.

Meryl Streep is not Angela Lansbury. I guess it’s unfair to even make the comparison because Lansbury’s original portrayal was so amazing – something I’ve never seen her come close to replicating.

Still, the role is intense and evil. And, the scene where she and her son come perilously close to a passionate kiss is as unnerving as similar imagery from the original.

I’ve heard a lot of people (including my wife) say that Streep’s role was modeled on Hillary Clinton. I actually didn’t see that – though I wasn’t particularly watching for it.

The interesting twist here is the center of the evil, originally Communist China, is now replaced by a multinational company which looks very much like Halliburton. There is no doubt that director Jonathan Demme went out of his way to make a number of analogies to our current administration. We’re not at the Oliver Stone level here, but approaching it.

The end of the movie, the portion past the actual climax, confused me. But, by then, the movie had made its points. Without it, Denzel Washington’s character would be dead, and I don’t think the producers wanted that.

The bottom line is, I recommend this movie… but with a huge proviso. There were a number of intense, sometimes gory scenes that I looked away from. If that kind of movie troubles you, stay away.

My Presidential Prediction

This blog is non-partisan. I don’t favor one ideology or candidate over another. I work in a newsroom, which is supposed to be balanced and objective. So, even as the weatherman, this seems like a reasonable policy.

On the other hand, I am not blind. I am watching the ‘dance of the candidates’ as the 2004 presidential campaign gets under way – long before either convention. I can’t remember as early a start. With the insatiable appetite of cable TV news, we’ll soon be sick of it all and anxious for November 2nd, so we can just put all the petty sniping behind us.

I’ve been thinking about the candidates and watching poll numbers over the past few days. Who is vulnerable? Why are they vulnerable? Why is Kerry already head and shoulders ahead of the president (though it is so early that poll any numbers are meaningless)?

It won’t be long before President Bush starts looking to work around his negatives. It is my opinion that he will see Vice President Dick Cheney as a liability.

Again, this doesn’t represent my opinion of Vice President Cheney or President Bush. But, I see the vice president’s association with Halliburton as a huge target for the Democrats. They will try and paint Halliburton as representative of everything bad with this Republican administration and use Cheney’s prior association (he was its president) to drive their points home.

Here’s my prediction. When November comes around, the Republican ticket won’t be Bush/Cheney. The Vice President could find any number of reasons, from health on down, to graciously bow out.

There are a number of Republicans with squeaky clean reputations that come to mind… like Colin Powell or Rudolph Guiliani. Either of those two would more benefit the president’s re-election bid.

I mentioned this tonight to a number of people I work with, and most said it sounded reasonable, though not likely. I called my dad in Florida and he said it was an idea he had thought about, and accepted, a few weeks ago.

If it happens, remember today is March 10, 2004. If it doesn’t happen, it was my dad’s idea.