A fabulous day, yesterday. I persuaded my wife to quit work early so we could get our Christmas shopping done (while her parents picked up the girlies from school - heh!). This we did, without exceeding our budget, (we saved on the baby-sitting fees, of course) leaving us just enough coin and time to scramble into the multiplex for a last-minute movie: Syriana. I'm happy to report George Clooney's acting chops are something of a revelation in this flick. I knew he had range -- heart-throb in scrubs in ER, loud-mouthed, penniless fop in O Brother, Where Art Thou, cynical bounty (and booty) hunter in Three Kings. Those roles, however, relied to no small degree on the man's considerable charm and good looks.
This time, he's reached into The Actor's Studio bag of tricks -- or donuts. Clooney has packed on the pounds and grown a grotty beard that could retain soup-drippings for weeks. His shoulders are slumped, and his every step groans not just from the extra lard around his belt, but from the weight of several lives' worth of guilt. He is convincingly pathetic and dangerous at the same time.
Of course, Clooney's performance is not the only stand-out feature in this movie; the other is writer-director Stephen Gaghan's insistence that his audience pay attention. The effect is a bit jarring at first -- Yuh mean I gotta work while I watch?! -- but when the shock of the new wears off, the pleasure sets in. And the viewer is duly rewarded for the effort, though perhaps not quite to the degree hoped for. Syriana is, however, a measurable improvement on Traffic (another Gaghan writing credit, directed by Soderbergh (who takes his writers seriously)), which took a similar multiple storyline approach to a similar topic of geopolitical complexity. We had a good time, and I'm looking forward to the next big thing from this guy.
So yes: all this, and a crokinole board, too! "Knipps-spratt" as we called it in the mother-tongue. Nothing but fun, you'd be justified in thinking -- especially once the Sugo al Burro e Pomodoro was prepared and the bottle of red uncorked.
Fun, indeed. Until the TV got turned on, and the once-happy couple tuned in to the "Leaders" Debate. Short response: I was grateful for the wine, though it (or possibly the debate) left me with a foggy brain this morning. When it comes to the three national leaders (four, if you live in Quebec), the Canadian voter faces a truly sorry lot. Even so, I'd like to see Martin's Liberals removed. I opined to my wife (and certainly the wine had some influence in my thinking) that were Harper to get a minority, I could envision him and Layton doing good work together. Alas, they don't work so well in the debate format, either together or alone, and Martin carried himself with a confidence that didn't reek of arrogance. This doesn't look good for the others. But then, my wife and I were two of ... what? ... possibly eight people watching?