East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Gunner Palace: Freestyle album

Filmmakers Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein have been accused of not supporting the troops - now really, is there anyone in America who doesn't support the troops? And isn't not wanting the troops to fight unnecessary wars part of supporting them? Ken Tucker raises a more substantial charge - that the filmmakers were making the soldiers look like fools. I think he's wrong, because fooling around is what everyone does for five or ten years after high school, and to think that to point this out is insulting is in itself insulting to young people - something a critic of Ken Tucker's stature shouldn't stoop to until he's another five or ten years older.

Though it's not hard to guess Tucker and Epperlein's stance on their war, there's little explicit geopolitics - there's the ironic use of pro-Rumsfeld armed forces radio propaganda on the soundtrack, and the occasional intimation of doubt, and that's about it. It's about soldiers at war; in particular, young men from the Creed and Jay-Z generations. Unsurprisingly, Hov's fans describe their circumstances more eloquently, but only when rhyming. What both camps have in common is what they value most, in the absence of available women, is realness. They, hopefully, will get to come back and tell everyone they're combat vets; they feel the realness makes their present situation valid. Compare Spc. Richmond Shaw's "For y'all this is just a show, we live in this movie" to Marshall Mathers' "And it's no movie, there's no Mehki Phifer, this is my life."

Others find it redundant to state any of this and just get on with clowning - not because they're from the Blink-182 and Busta Rhymes generations, but because this is what young men do. Spc. Stuart Wilf wears a mop on his head and declares a Presidential campaign (not at the same time though.) Although he's intermittently funny, he mainly serves to remind the audience just how young these soldiers are. It's asking too much for Richmond Shaw to decide he's being used like Raymond Shaw - but if he ever does, he could make a great album out of it.

The movie lets an opportunity slip by failing to give us insight into how the Iraqis feel about all of this. I know this is outside the film's brief, but if you're going to spend months as a journalist in Iraq, shouldn't talking to the Iraqis be at the top of your list of priorities? The only Iraqis who get to talk are the interpreters, who turn out to be tragic heroes and villains, and a self-proclaimed journalist who gets a few words in as the Gunners arrest him. And we get fascinating glimpses into the homes the soldiers bust into - with TVs and cellphones and everything. But there's no follow-up. I'm glad to know how the troops feel, but they're not the ones who will decide the fate of Iraq.


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