Federal lies inspire audience suspicion

Everyone knows that two people cannot build a marriage out of lies, so when it comes to the marriage between the United States federal government and the American citizens, the public better hope the government upholds the values of truth and transparency.

The film “Fair Game” presents how truth and transparency took the backseat concerning the Iraq War during George W. Bush’s presidency. Based on two memoirs by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband Ambassador Joe Wilson, the movie tells how Plame’s (Naomi Watts) identity as a Central Intelligence Agent was leaked to the press after her husband (Sean Penn) wrote an editorial presenting the lies in Bush’s State of the Union address.

Directed by Doug Liman, who also produced series like “The Bourne Identity” and “The O.C.,” the film does a superb job in recreating the intensity of real-life events and highlights the eeriness and secrecy surrounding a job in the CIA, especially Plame’s withholding of information on her whereabouts from loved ones. When traveling in the Middle East, it was unsettling to see Plame approach interview subjects with detailed profiles of their backgrounds, which she had gathered prior to questioning them.

Meanwhile, Liman’s direction and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth’s screenplay shed insight on the effects of a career based on lying. Plame’s job put a strain on her marriage and friendships after her true identity as an agent was leaked in the press. In an Academy Award-worthy scene between Plame and Wilson, Plame complains about changing her phone number multiple times after getting death threats from neighbors and anonymous callers while Wilson argues he cannot let this injustice pass without a fight. Through Watts’ reluctance and Penn’s stubbornness, viewers get a deep sense of how secrets can dissemble a vow of “in sickness and health.” The scene evokes strong pathos, pulling at the audience’s heartstrings.

For Watts, who is known for starring in roles such as “The Ring” and “King Kong,” “Fair Game” holds a tougher challenge, which Watts confronts with poise. As Watts’ character relays her love for the CIA and faces her rejection from the force, viewers sympathize with her plight. She maintains the perfect balance of strength and emotion. In one scene she breaks down crying in front of a mirror and in another scene she tries to hold her marriage with Wilson together.

While both the plot and the acting are strong and compelling, the true stars of the film are Liman’s cinematography and Christopher Tellefsen’s editing. Every cut shows movement, including pans, rack focuses and sequencing. The fast cuts set the tone of the movie, brewing uneasiness among viewers in the drama of an unethical move by a few powerful men controlling the White House.

Real clips from news outlets such as CNN and C-Span add to the mass fear and paranoia created when discussing nuclear energy obtained in Iraq. Bush and the real Valerie Plame Wilson make cameos in the film through news clips, grounding this drama in reality.

“Fair Game” succeeded in leaving a message of democracy: It’s up to the people to take a part in government and demand truth and answers.

“Fair Game” was written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and directed by Doug Liman.

To see this posted in The Ithacan, click here.


A ‘Gleeful’ Christmas

We have seen them belt out chorus after chorus in honor of artists from Lady Gaga to Brittany Spears to CeLo Green to Journey to Kanye West. We have seen them do musical numbers, such as Wicked’s “Defying Gravity,” and “Singing in the Rain,” complete with water and umbrellas, as well as mash-ups, such as “Halo/Walking on Sunshine.” We have seen them week after week on Fox’s hit show, Glee. Yet this season, Gleeks can celebrate the festivities a little bit early with the release of “Glee: The Christmas Album” on Nov. 16.

Like when the McKinley High glee club, New Directions, covered the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” releasing a Halloween CD before the episode aired, the Christmas CD follows in the same tradition, exciting fans for the future broadcast.

Once again, the cast of Glee proves their versatility as singers, sounding ‘gleeful’ to pop-y to soulful to angelic with a dozen of holiday hits. Beginning with a happy little ditty called “We Need a Little Christmas,” which features solos from Mercedes (Amber Riley), Rachel (Lea Michelle), and Kurt (Chris Colfer), the cheerful song sounds like it could have come from My Fair Lady or a similar Broadway musical. Colfer’s vocal abilities are astounding as he sings and harmonizes with the females in the glee club.

“Deck the Rooftop” — a Glee-style mash-up of “Deck the Halls” and “Up in the Rooftop” — follows, remixed with a little pizzazz. A strong steady percussion beat accompanies the glee club’s vocals, giving the song more hop than hip. Lea Michelle shines in “Merry Christmas Darling” and “O Holy Night” — slow, beautiful, and tender songs featuring her angelic voice and sounding like a chorus of angels.

However, the true gem hidden in this stocking-stuffer of holiday must-haves is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a fun and flirty duet between the budding gay couple Kurt (Chris Colfer) and the heartthrob from the rival boy’s academy Blaine (Darren Criss). The song is classy, exuding enough sexiness to rival Madonna’s Christmas classic “Santa Baby.” Again, Colfer is stunning, nailing the female vocals. Criss’s voice is smooth and suave. Combined, their voices soothe one like a warm mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter day, making one feel warm when “It’s Cold Outside.”

Yet, if there were a song that would ring true to who the McKinley High glee club are, it would be “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year.” The song echoes the glee club’s plight as outcasts of McKinley High, often getting bullied or slushied in the face for not being popular. First featured in 1964 animated movie Rudolph: the Red-Nosed Reindeer, “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” deals with a similar band of outcasts: misfit toys. The highlight of the glee club’s rendition is the outlandish quirky comments from cheerleader Brittany (Heather Morris), Artie (Kevin McHale), and Kurt (Chris Colfer). “How would you like to be a spotted elephant,” Morris says during the song in a manner much like how her character would often blurt out outrageous, yet hilarious lines.

However, if there were a pop single that could rival Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s fun and perfect Christmas duo, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Last Christmas” would put up a fair fight. The song features solos between the lead male and female couple, Rachel (Lea Michelle) and Finn (Corey Monteinth). Their voices compliment each other in this pop-style duet on love.

Meanwhile, “Jingle Bells” becomes a Marco Polo game, featuring the boys, Finn (Cory Monteith), Puck (Mark Salling), and Artie (Kevin McHale). With the musical accompaniment, one can envision the trio serenading at a jazz club, wearing suits and top hats. “Jingle Bells” is a refreshing burst of energy among some of the more somber songs celebrating Christmas.

The CD ends on a soulful and spiritual note with “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “O Holy Night,” getting at the true meaning of Christmas. Sung by Mercedes (Amber Riley), “Angels We Have Heard On High” sounds like a chorus of Halleluiahs on Easter Sunday, or perhaps a scene from Sister Act. Riley’s voice would fill any church, with her praise reaching the heavens above. Meanwhile, “O Holy Night” is what one expects to hear at midnight mass, just hours before St. Nick comes knocking down your chimney. Listening to Michelle’s voice, one expects to be able to close one’s eyes and see the star of Bethlehem and remember baby Jesus’s humble beginnings.

The Glee Christmas episode airs at 8 p.m. on Dec. 6 on Fox, featuring some of the songs from “Glee: The Christmas Album.”