No other December release has been as eagerly anticipated or hotly debated as the Osama bin Laden confession. We could call it No Sex, Lies and Videotape. Despite poor production values and repetitive dialogue, the misogynist, all-male cast comes across as a sort of Murder, Incorporated for the new millennium. Unlike that Depression-era American crime syndicate, however, the Islamic jihad boys dreamed big: Thousands, instead of mere dozens, killed.
And speaking of dreams, this home movie also works as a supernatural thriller. The Evil One to borrow some George W. parlance and a fawning Saudi sheik discuss people who experienced prophetic visions and nocturnal reveries prior to September 11. The creepy sheik cites four examples and Osama recounts one, before some guy off-camera chimes in with his own, probably hastily devised, incubus tall tale.
Has the entire Arab world tuned into the Psychic Hotline? This part of the conversation might spawn a call-in show on Al Jazeera TV, perhaps extrapolating a name from the CNN program with a similar format: Cave Talkback Live.
If the repulsive Al Qaeda gabfest ever becomes a theatrical feature or television movie-of-the-week, bin Laden could be portrayed by the tall actor who was Michael J. Foxs father on Family Ties. Donald Sutherland might be another good choice, with a white turban, camouflage jacket, long beard and slimy smirk on his face.
Previous Osama tapes are ripe for Hollywood exploitation, as well. Remember the terrorist training-camp footage, with virile young masked assassins in black pantaloons swinging from monkey bars? Although the Taliban outlawed music for ordinary Afghan citizens, this radical Muslim exercise video had a catchy soundtrack guaranteed to entice men stupid or vicious enough to prepare for martyrdom. John Walker, the California nitwit who joined the cause, comes right to mind. Baby-faced Matt Damon is a shoo-in for that role.
Another chilling image that cries out to be replicated is the crisply shot interview with Osama and his accomplices sitting near their mountain hideout, with what appears to be a silver samovar perched on a rock ledge behind them. High tea? How quaint. Maybe they had just noshed on little crustless, quartered cucumber sandwiches. (If so, perhaps the various Mrs. bin Ladens, all in head-to-toe burkas, served up those vittles.) At any rate, that Al Jazeera scene deserves to be included in a big-screen epic called Tora! Bora! Tora! Tora! a slight reconfiguration of the title of a 1970 dramatization about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The attacks on New York and Washington bring out the inner militant in me, a pacifist from way back. If I had any doubts before now, watching the gleeful holy-war honchos brag about their blood lust makes even warmonger Donald Rumsfeld seem virtuous by comparison. But, since Im not a flag-waver, my contrarian approach to patriotism can best be expressed by imagining the cinematic downfall of evildoers.
So, I have a holiday-themed idea for depicting bin Laden, the 19 hijackers and however many of his psychotic followers that happen to die in Operation Enduring Freedom. They try to enter Paradise, but Clarence, the wingless angel from Its a Wonderful Life, takes each of them on a tour of his own past. These encounters become the exact opposite of Jimmy Stewarts self-assessment: The world would have been so much better if theyd never been born.
And those 72 virgins? In your dreams, Osama.
SHORT TAKES: The Savoy Theater in Montpelier has booked eight selections for its winter series of foreign films by directors representing a range of cultures Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Australia: The Princess and the Warrior, January 12-13; Innocence, January 19-20; Va Savoir, January 26-27; Liam, February 2-3; The Town Is Quiet, February 9-10; Sobibor, February 16-17; Aberdeen, February 23-24; and The Way We Laughed, March 3-4.
The lineup sounds heavenly one of my favorite actors, Ian Hart, appears in both Liam and Aberdeen . . . Oscar winner Faith Hubley sometimes attended the Vermont International Film Festival, where her animations were always a popular draw. Last week, the acclaimed New York artist died at age 77. After creating 21 films with her husband John, who predeceased her almost 25 years ago, she went on to an equally successful solo career. A New York Times obituary explained that Hubleys work combined elements of myth, jazz and a deeply felt humanism.