Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Runaway casting call

So, how did the new Doctor Who do on its first year final exam? As discussed last week, it really seemed to me that the 13th and final episode of the series was crucial in evaluating the series as a whole. So what’s the verdict?

Well, it’s not quite as definitive as I had hoped and expected. (By the way, what follows has to be considered fairly spoiler-ish, so be advised.) For one thing, we still don’t know who or what has been causing the cracks in time that have been a persistent feature and theme of pretty much of all 13 episodes. That has to be considered something of a letdown. On the other hand, those who predicted a reset probably feel vindicated by an ending that had history (particularly Amy Pond’s personal history) re-written or, more accurately, restored to its rightful path. But I feel that I am also vindicated for having predicted that there would be a fair amount of revisiting previous moments during the series by the time-hopping Doctor. And this did happen, with the Doctor showing up out of chronological sequence through use of a wrist time-travel gadget in lieu of his usual TARDIS (once to give himself a message from just a few minutes into the future), so much that it nearly became a running gag. Usually, the Doctor cites specific “rules” that prevent him from solving problems too easily by simply traveling to a key point in time. But sometimes, as in this episode, “The Big Bang,” that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Indeed, there was so much playful manipulation of cosmic properties of space and time that it reminds us that, before he wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams was already penning (under a pseudonym) episodes of Doctor Who in the Tom Baker era.

Anyway, I find it’s best not to take the logic of Doctor Who too seriously. You just have to go along for the ride. And, in that spirit, I am happy enough with the new team. While not as powerful or as satisfying as the endings of the any of the Russell T. Davies/David Tennant season-enders (there was something strangely Peter Pan about Saturday’s Matt Smith finale), it was good enough. And, in fairness, it took RTD more than a year to build up to those great finales. The debut Matt Smith finale compares quite favorably in quality to the Christopher Eccleston one, which ended the first year of the rebooted series. And we have the traditional Christmas episode to look forward to, in which presumably the Doctor will be traveling with (as far as I know anyway) his first married companion. And there’s still some major, seemingly omnipotent menace out there that puts cracks in time and takes control of the TARDIS when it wants. And there’s the promise that we will be getting an explanation of who the mysterious River Song actually is “soon.” It’s all very promising. And isn’t that exactly why we keep watching an exercise in imagination like Doctor Who?

I really didn’t really mean to spend so much time talking (more) about Doctor Who. What’s really been going through my mind for the past week is: who will direct the movie about General Stanley McChrystal? Surely, there will be one at some point, won’t there? There should be. The portrait painted by the now-famous Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings pretty much begs to be made into a screenplay. The scene opens in Paris which makes the general very uncomfortable. One of his famously chatty advisers notes that it is “the most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine.” Later, when asked who the general is going to dinner with, an aide replies, “Some French minister. It’s f*****g gay.” Any Hollywood writer who can’t see the comedy potential in mining this situation should go back fulltime to finishing his novel. I mean, we’re talking about a central character who “prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux, Talladega Nights (his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard.” The screenplay writes itself.

After I read the article, I tweeted (yes, I’m tweeting now—sometimes) that this could make an entertaining follow-up to Mike Nichols’s 2007 look at American involvement in Afghanistan, Charlie Wilson’s War. The story of McChrystal as a snapshot of American re-involvement in that country three decades later could make a dandy sequel. And that suggests that Nichols might even be the guy to direct it. Oliver Stone also comes to mind, since he has the personal military experience and his own unique sensibility when it comes to taking on recent American history. But I’m not sure he would find the dark humor in the situation the way Nichols would. Barry Levinson showed he could find the absurdity in public figures in his 1997 satire Wag the Dog, so he might be a possibility.

As for casting, there are plenty of vacuous-seeming young actors in Hollywood who could adequately play the frat boy mentality aides surrounding the general. But you would need a seasoned actor with ample amounts of machismo and self-confidence to play McChrystal. Scott Glenn comes to mind, although at 69 he might be a bit long in the tooth to play the 55-year-old general. Same is true of veteran movie he-man Chuck Norris. A couple of long shots might be guys like Eric Roberts or English action star Jason Statham, who will be injecting a fair amount of testosterone into their screen personas by appearing alongside warhorses like Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren (and cameos by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis) in Stallone’s upcoming exploitribute to 1980s action movies The Expendables. If we’re going for dark horses, let me throw in the name of Scotland’s Kevin McKidd, who made an impression a decade and a half ago in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting and who has been sporting a quite convincing American accent as a war-scarred former battle medic the past couple of years on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy.

And then we get into the question of whether roles should be cast for President Obama and Joe “Bite Me” Biden. Somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both of those two wouldn’t jump at the chance to contribute their own cameo performance.

But enough summer musing over TV shows and movies that may never exist. In less than a week the Galway Film Fleadh kicks off. And not a moment too soon.

-S.L., 1 July 2010

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