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I enjoyed reading Jared’s analysis of the Sorkin leading male roles – constructive criticism of the uneven screenwriter is always welcome. But you missed the key character flaw of all Alpha Sorkin Males: drug use. I’m rather agnostic on drug policy, but I find Sorkin’s whitewashing of the inherent dangers in drug use to be a silly façade for him to say that his drug use isn’t that big a deal. The fact that Charlie Wilson actually did use drugs and drive drunk gives Sorkin a pass in my book…this time.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Sports Night, loved West Wing, hated Studio 60, and will always stop to watch The American President whenever it’s on TV. And I have to say that Charlie Wilson’s War was Sorkin at his best. Witty exposition and breezy conversation thrown in from beginning to end with political romanticism included. The scene with the pin-up aides and Philip Seymour Hoffman running in and out of Wilson’s office was the highlight of the film, in my mind. Sorkin excels at soaring rhetoric, and in Charlie Wilson’s War, strangely enough, the toned down subtlety worked just as well. I would have supported an Oscar nom for him in this, definitely over Atonement.

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Well, everyone else agreed on a little bit lower score for Charlie Wilson’s War than I did. I guess that just means I have a little bit better taste. In the interest of full disclosure, I’d put Sports Night in my top five television shows of all time, and I’ll defend Studio 60 to the death. Theoretically, a movie written by him, and starring a bunch of people in stuff I really like: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams (with Emily Blunt!) (and, OK, I’m a bit of a Shiri Appleby fan) should have been just about my favorite movie ever. And yes, it did score very highly with me. It made my Top 5 of the year (version 2), and while I’m not sure it will stay there, it will certainly be close.

I don’t agree with how the movie fared, in terms of Oscar nominations. Well, box office either, but that’s a different story. I heart Philip Seymour Hoffman, but wouldn’t have given him a nod for this role (explanation after the jump). I’m pretty sure I would have given Sorkin a screenplay nomination. And not just because A Few Good Men didn’t get one. If I had to choose between this and Knocked Up, because I only got to usher one pick in, I guess I’d go with the latter. But, to me, Charlie Wilson’s War was far superior to No Country. Maybe my most controversial pick from this movie, though, is that I’d suggest Amy Adams for Supporting Actress. Certainly over Ruby Dee or Amy Ryan. Even though I respect to no end that they only have seven letters in each of their names. After the jump, a bit of a Sorkin tangent.

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Remember the heady days when this was anointed the front-runner by the Oscar blogosphere? It was about the time when everyone realized Reservation Road was going to blow so they turned to the Aaron Sorkin/ Tom Hanks/ Julia Roberts film about war and terrorism and thought, “Hey, that looks good.” Then they all saw it and were all, “n/m back to No Country.” Good times.

I liked Charlie’s, didn’t love it. It’s genuinely funny and very clever. The characters are fairly well fleshed out and the plot is engaging. It never really congealed into something special, however. I’ve never been much of a Sorkin fanboy, though I’ve liked a lot of his work. The dialogue here feels very forced at times. Not necessarily unnatural, but more ill-fitting. Incidentally I watched a bunch of Sorkin’s Sports Night over New Years weekend and sort of found the same thing (and SN is a show I used to adore).

But if you look past that, there’s a lot to enjoy. Even if it sometimes hits the wrong notes, the script is smart and clever. There are a lot of funny moments and the characters are fun to watch, from Hanks’s playboy-Congressman to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sharp-tongued CIA analyst. I enjoyed the DC scenes and all the back room political wrangling. And it’s simply a great story, full of relevance for today’s times with a pretty powerful ending, giving a hint about what we hath wrought.

Charlie Wilson’s War managed a bunch of Golden Globe nominations but just one from the Academy: Best Supporting Actor for Philip Seymour Hoffman. That’s probably about right and Hoffman is terrific as always, stealing a lot of the focus and laughs in every scene he’s in.

February 2020
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