Sunday, March 29, 2015

Killing the Message and the Messenger

Killing The Messenger is now available on home video.

We streamed it off Amazon with trepidation having already heard that it was 'problematic' at best.

For those who don't know, Gary Webb was a journalist.  Working for The San Jose Mercury News he didn't juts break a major story, he also demonstrated the power of the then-still-new internet.

The News was seen as a regional paper with limited scope.

When Gary Webb exposed the CIA's backing of drug runners in their operation to illegally arm the Contras (fighters attempting to overthrow the government in Nicaragua), it was a major story and one that many, including the CIA, hoped would stay in the Bay Area.

But the internet proved its power in 1996 and a scoop from a regional paper -- due to the internet -- became a scoop throughout the US and around the world.

While Web's explosive Dark Alliance series found supporters in its immediate run (including US House Rep. Maxine Waters and Pacifica Radio), it also found detractors.

The original trolls were those working for the CIA or indebted to the CIA.

'Journalists' like David Corn attacked Webb in order to defend the CIA.  The CIA worked 'friendlies' at various outlets -- including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post -- to discredit the series.

They destroyed Webb.

They managed to thwart the truth -- briefly, but they did manage that. The CIA Inspector-General's findings would back up the larger points of Webb's Dark Alliance series.

People like Corn who had attacked Webb -- on behalf of the CIA -- thought they could simply ignore the IG's findings.  But the same internet that allowed Webb's reporting to read a wide audience allowed the cover up and attacks to be rebutted.

So powerful was the internet that when Webb died in 2004, losers and liars like David Corn were forced to spin their attacks as something other than attacks while they attempted to pretend that they didn't have blood on their hands.

The David Corns destroyed Webb's career.

This was important because they couldn't disprove the story sot hey had to destroy Webb -- to harm the story and to send a message to others not to step out of line and do real reporting.

Corn continued to do the work of the CIA when Valerie Plame was outed, he plays his work there as ground breaking when it was little more than the work of a gossip columnist.  Also true of his take down of Mitt Romney.  Corn doesn't investigate, he's fed information like the fat little pig that he is.

What was done to Webb was appalling and there was so much hope when Focus Features announced a film would be made.

The hope only increased when top talent like Jeremy Renner, Ray Liotta, Paz Bega, Barry Pepper and Andy Garcia signed on for the film.

The hope dimmed when Peter Landesman's pedestrian script began making the rounds.

Then TV director Michael Cuesta was hired to pretend to be a film director and the project died.

Renner still gives the basics of a strong performance as Gary Webb.

It's just that his acting and the story itself are repeatedly undermined.

Cuesta apparently showed up for every day of shooting, he just didn't have anything to bring.

So the film is lifeless.  It's like watching dailies.

Scenes are never shaped.

Moments are never created.

The film doesn't deserve to be called a film.

A re-enactment on an episode of Forensic Files has more life.

Alan J. Pakula or Francis Ford Coppola could have built a mood and suspense.

Cuesta can't even add tension in a basic and standard parking garage scene where the main character feels they're being followed.

Though out the film, the camera is pressed in too close -- as though Cuesta thought he was directing an episode of Homeland and not making a project for the big screen, not projecting on a large canvas.

Gary Webb deserved better.

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