Dudes who stare at goats

Just caught a preview of The Men Who Stare At Goats, it’s a movie I recommend highly if you’re into screwball comedies with tenuous links to journalism, war and reality. Did I mention the cast? George Clooney, for all the mums out there (though, I must admit I’m coming around to this one). Ewan MacGregor, for all the younger ladies who like their heartthrobs to have done their time in drag, musicals and Star Wars. Anonymous hippie boobs in hot tubs, in a cameo role, for one-track-minded dudes. And, for those who just can’t let go of The Dude, my newest burning old man crush, Jeff Bridges.

Popcorn Taxi put on a great event and staged a transcontinental skype Q&A with Jon Ronson, author of the book the film is based on. Ronson said he felt disconnected from the film overall – there’s a tendency for those making Hollywood films not to want the author around “making them feel guilty” – but liked it and likened it to “Little Miss Sunshine goes to Iraq”.

Synopsis: Ewan MacGregor plays Bob, a cuckolded Michigan journalist who decides to go to Iraq to prove to his wife (and her one-handed suitor) that he’s not a wuss. There he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney), a guy who claims to be a former member of the U.S. Army’s New Earth Army, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions. For mine the best scenes are the flashbacks to the New Earth Army’s creation by Bridges’ character.

I was suprised to hear Ronson say that most of the crazier stuff in the film was actually the factual stuff; the outlandish interrogation tactics, the military’s research into super powers. Apparently the real person Bridges’ character was based on was brought in to consult on the film from its earliest stages, totally bonded with Bridges and was blissfully happy with his performance.

It’s a beautifully shot film – all the sweeping panoramas of the Iraqi desert were so immaculately sculptured it was hard to believe they were real. The use of music was ostentatious and joyful. Supergrass’ “Alright” intercut with real news footage over the opening credits was a little jarring, but the use of my favourite bike-riding song, Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” (Clooney’s character found it easiest to tap into his Jedi powers through “drinking, and soft rock”) was fantastic.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the film was a sweet, sweet irony that according to Ronson didn’t occur to the filmmakers when they were casting. When Clooney’s character is teaching MacGregor about the New Earth Army he repeatedly refers to them as “Jedis”. Considering MacGregor has played Obi Wan Kenobi it must have been hard for him to keep a straight face while asking what Jedis are and do.

So does Ronson believe it’s possible to stop a goat’s heart simply by staring at it? Or even a hamster??

“I guess if you stare at any animal long enough, it’ll die.”

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