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Peter T Chattaway

The Last King of Scotland

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An editor asked me yesterday if I could write a review of this film, which has already opened in certain American markets. As it happens, I was planning to see it tonight at the VIFF anyway -- so yeah, sure, I said.

As I ponder what to say in my review, I find myself thinking back to a quote that I found once in a book of quotes: "Jaws is the warmest, tenderest, lovingest movie of the year. I give it four coconuts. -- Idi Amin." I don't believe that book ever named a source for this quote, and a Google search turns up virtually nothing. So I am wondering if anybody here might happen to be familiar with it?

Incidentally, this is the first dramatic film by Kevin Macdonald, who is probably best known for his documentary features One Day in September (1999), about the Munich Olympics hostage crisis, and Touching the Void (2003), about the hiking incident that could have turned out much, much, much worse than it did.

FWIW, Forest Whitaker is superb as Amin. How many other actors have played him, I wonder? I know Yaphet Kotto did in the TV-movie Raid on Entebbe (1977), but beyond that, I don't recognize any of the other several names listed at the IMDB -- though I note that one of them, someone named Joseph Olita, is credited with playing "Idi Amin" in two films that were made ten years apart, Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981) and Mississippi Masala (1991)!


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Forest Whitaker really is superb. I would love to see him nominated for this role, though I'm afraid the low profile of this movie may preclude that. With Forest being the biggest "name," an almost complete lack of publicity, and an ending that's likely to make many people who otherwise really enjoyed the movie hesitant to recommend it to friends, I'm afraid this one may slip by completely unnoticed. Which is a shame...


"You guys don't really know who you're dealing with."

"Oh yeah, and who exactly are we dealing with?"

"I'm the mother flippin' rhymenoceros."

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FWIW, my review. I wrote this under a pretty tight time constraint, and I suspect this would look a little different if I'd had another hour or two. But anyhoo.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I just saw the 1974 documentary http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071544/' target="_blank">G


"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Yeah, I wouldn't have minded seeing that film before reviewing this one. Especially since I recently saw Koko: A Talking Gorilla, one of Schroeder's other 1970s documentaries.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Any date-able events in this one, for the calendar?


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I saw this this weekend. I liked it far more than I expected to. My friends chose the movie, and I went in expecting preachy Oscar-bait: an attempt to cash in on the current popularity of Africa as a political cause. But it was far more complex and affecting than that. Unfortunately, like Popechild, I can see the film's violence hurting its reception. (I covered my eyes through the aforementioned scene, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one--you could hear the entire audience sink down in their seats when the

meathooks

appear.)

Edited by ThePersistanceOfWaffles

Kent Brockman: Now, here are the results from our phone-in poll. 95% of the people think Homer Simpson is guilty. Of course, this is just a television poll, which is not legally binding. Unless Proposition 304 passes, and we all pray it will.

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I was very impressed by this film. Forrest Whittaker's performance was amazing, how he could turn from fierce rage to a charming smile at the turn of a dime. He deserves an Oscar nomination. I really liked the music too, 1970s Afro-rock. It added to the surreality of the setting.

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Whitaker is a great actor, and this is a great performance (although I don't understand why he has such a supposed "lock" on the Oscar. There are other great turns this year).

But when I saw this thread's subject line -- "The Last King of Scotland: ... naturally, it's about uganda..." -- I couldn't help but think, "A film about Idi Amin's barbarism: ... naturally, it's about a likeable white guy having an extramarital affair with the wife of a dangerous man." Man, that really left me with a bad feeling after this film.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

"Forget it, Jake. It's Funkytown."    

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Just saw this last night and my (brief) review will hopefully go up at some point today.

Just thought I'd comment on the lazy eye thing. I believe concentration can help to a small degree,and also that sometimes they are worse than others. But probably the most significant factor is the availability f multiple takes, short shots, a low requirement on eye movement etc.

Bizarrely I found myself speculating (in a jokey kind of way) prior to last nights film whether he would have a lazy eye in this film, or whether he was just such a good actor that he could play someone with one, and all his prior roles had just happened to be characters who have one.

I think that's what happens when I don't get enough sleep.

Matt

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FWIW, I wouldn't worry about it, Matt.

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: Whitaker is a great actor, and this is a great performance (although I don't

: understand why he has such a supposed "lock" on the Oscar. There are

: other great turns this year).

I also don't understand why he's in the leading-actor category. Yeah, the title is a reference to his character, but the film's protagonist -- with lots more screen time -- is the Scottish guy.

: But when I saw this thread's subject line -- "The Last King of Scotland: ...

: naturally, it's about uganda..." -- I couldn't help but think, "A film about Idi

: Amin's barbarism: ... naturally, it's about a likeable white guy having an

: extramarital affair with the wife of a dangerous man." Man, that really left

: me with a bad feeling after this film.

I am TOTALLY sympathetic to that, and I think my review even ends on that note:

The performances are universally strong, as well -- though the film's documentary-like realism is arguably hampered by the fact that the story revolves around a fictitious character like Garrigan, who not only witnesses Amin's historical deeds, but becomes actively, if unintentionally, involved in making them happen.

Yes, one of Amin's wives met the gruesome fate depicted here, but her reputed lover at the time was a doctor named Mbalu Mukasa. And yes, Amin's reputation (glossed over by foreign journalists who enjoyed his press-conference shtick) took a serious blow in the late 1970s, when an insider wrote a book about him -- but that insider was Henry Kyemba, a former health minister. In this film, on the other hand, a black colleague tells Garrigan he wants to help him escape the country so that he can tell the world what Amin is really like: "They will believe you, you are a white man." So for all the film's post-colonial subtext, it does little to challenge the idea that the stories that matter are the ones in which the white man takes centre stage.

It's for reasons like this that I much prefer, say, Blood Diamond, where the white man might be the bigger star -- and there's not much that can be done about that -- but it's the black man who gets to tell his story in the end.

That said, I wonder... This film is an adaptation of a novel, and one could argue that any criticisms to this effect should be focused on the novel, rather than the film. Then again, the filmmakers did choose to adapt that novel, instead of commissioning a new script that would have reflected the actual historical realities.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Whitaker is a great actor, and this is a great performance (although I don't understand why he has such a supposed "lock" on the Oscar. There are other great turns this year).
Agreed. Certainly doesn't change my pick for best performance this year. Will it be another win by impersonating someone famous?) Of course if he actually performed

the beer and Aspirin fart

I really have to applaud the performance. But I really think it was aided by foley artists.

Edited by Darrel Manson

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Beyond Whitaker's powerful performance, I didn't like this film much. I felt the exact same way about Full Metal Jacket... let's see if I can express it properly: The film tells a story in which I can find nothing to be happy about, and therefore I hate the film. However the fact that I hate the film seems to indicate that it told its story effectively.

So while I can't call it a good film... perhaps effective is a fitting label. But not as effective as it could have been... I found the ending kind of weak. Probably this can be blamed on the novel. (Edit: Nope, interesting review found here indicates that this was purely a fault of the film. That link is a good read, and fairly accurate, though.)

An interesting cinematic trick was used in this film. The camera would be focused on Whitaker, then would suddenly pan to his hands... as if the man was so intense in that moment that we had to look away. It was kind of gimmicky, but at least it was interesting.

Edited by theoddone33

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I just saw the 1974 documentary http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071544/' target="_blank">G

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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This film worked its way up to the top of the Netflix queue recently. I was in no hurry to see it, because I felt that I had sort of been there and done that, though not literally in Uganda myself. My uncle was teaching at Makerere University medical school while some of these events were going on, with his family. Fortunately, they left before things got completely out of control.

PTC wrote:

{Overstreet wrote}

: But when I saw this thread's subject line -- "The Last King of Scotland: ...

: naturally, it's about uganda..." -- I couldn't help but think, "A film about Idi

: Amin's barbarism: ... naturally, it's about a likeable white guy having an

: extramarital affair with the wife of a dangerous man." Man, that really left

: me with a bad feeling after this film.

I am TOTALLY sympathetic to that, and I think my review even ends on that note:

The performances are universally strong, as well -- though the film's documentary-like realism is arguably hampered by the fact that the story revolves around a fictitious character like Garrigan, who not only witnesses Amin's historical deeds, but becomes actively, if unintentionally, involved in making them happen.

Yes, one of Amin's wives met the gruesome fate depicted here, but her reputed lover at the time was a doctor named Mbalu Mukasa. And yes, Amin's reputation (glossed over by foreign journalists who enjoyed his press-conference shtick) took a serious blow in the late 1970s, when an insider wrote a book about him -- but that insider was Henry Kyemba, a former health minister. In this film, on the other hand, a black colleague tells Garrigan he wants to help him escape the country so that he can tell the world what Amin is really like: "They will believe you, you are a white man." So for all the film's post-colonial subtext, it does little to challenge the idea that the stories that matter are the ones in which the white man takes centre stage.

I didn't find the Garrigan character particularly likeable. From the beginning he seemed to me very much what Amin accuses him of, however insane the context: "You came to Africa to play the white man. But we aren't a game. We are real." He may have good intentions, but has no idea what he's getting into, which both enables him to achieve unexpected successes and to flail into impassable quagmires--if anything, the character is a metaphor for colonialism. Not that that excuses Amin or his regime in any way.

On the other hand, at least one megalomaniacal African dictator did have a white doctor whom he trusted greatly, so there is a sort of real-life parallel to this story. President Mobutu of Zaire's doctor during this period, William T. Close, MD (father of Glenn Close), who died last year. He wrote/co-wrote two books about his work in Congo: Ebola: Through the Eyes of the People, and Beyond the Storm: Treating the Powerless and the Powerful in Mobutu's Congo/Zaire.

Edited by BethR

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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BethR wrote:

: President Mobutu of Zaire's doctor during this period, William T. Close, MD (father of Glenn Close) . . .

:blink:


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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BethR wrote:

: President Mobutu of Zaire's doctor during this period, William T. Close, MD (father of Glenn Close) . . .

:blink:

You are surprised? The link goes to his obit, which mentions the fact. My father met & consulted with him a couple times. 6 degrees of separation...


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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BethR wrote:

: You are surprised? The link goes to his obit, which mentions the fact.

Well, yeah, but I had never seen that obit before.

: 6 degrees of separation...

I stood behind Glenn Close in an elevator once. That puts me three degrees from Mobutu, I guess. (Though I also interviewed the director of When We Were Kings back when that film came out; it's possible he met Mobutu personally, too, which would put me only two degrees away.)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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