Syriana open thread

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Previous discussions here.

Saw it Friday, after leafletting a flyer from our local Portland Peak Oil (dot org.) organization in front of the theater (which most people took). It was wellacted, interesting and as complex as life. But one thing really disappointed me: the analysis stopped right when it came down to showing the connection between what's in our driveways and the pulling out of fingernails. The wars will go on until we can learn to live without oil, which we'll have to face anyway. We can at least change our own lives. Sooner rather than later is easier.
I saw it last night also.  There were a lot of interesting subtleties; I particularly appreciated the depiction of the young Pakistani grunt oil-worker turned Islamic radical.  But the various sub-plots were not easy to follow, and I was rather puzzled about how exactly they all tied into each other.
I am going to decline to see it, much like I have declined to see 99% of what is put out by Hollywood. Without getting into THAT rant whatsoever, let me outline my reasons for not bothering with Syriana:

  • I am convinced we are in an energy pickle. How much of a pickle? We'll see. I don't need convincing.

  • America's energy predicament is a complex thing, not captured in any three-hour film

  • Nobody is going to change their consumer behavior based on seeing this film

  • Nobody is going to change their consumer behavior until it hits them right smack dab in the wallet and they simply can not purchase the items they wish to consume.

And finally, until population growth is slowed and reversed, any and all conservation, kyoto, down-scaling and what-not is irrelevant. An exponential growth curve will obliterate all measures.

Stop breeding. Thanks, carry on!

Nobody is going to change their consumer behavior based on seeing this film

Maybe they will. After seeing Oliver Stone's "Salvador" in the mid-80's, I researched the situation to find out how much of the movie was true. I ended up visiting El Salvador and a neighbouring refugee camp (during the civil war). My political views changed almost beyond recognition. Cinema can be powerful.

My (non-PO) epiphany came not with a film, but with a play. Same thing, though. In this case it was "Guantanamo: Honor Bound To Defend Freedom", a play about how the detainees at Guantanamo are being treated. It was the most shocking and affecting piece of art I've ever experienced. I couldn't stop crying for 15 minutes after the show was over.

There's not much we can do about this situation as individuals, but we donated money to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is trying to provide legal aid to the prisoners. I wish everyone could see this play so the whole country would all know what this administration is doing in Guantanamo.

I would wish that a similar piece of art could have the same effect for peak oil, although I'm with Super G—unfortunately, I don't think Syriana is going to be it.

Thought it was a good movie with an entertaining story about the human element of all this. Certainly a better than average Hollywood affair.

Bringing in LNG at the end was fairly intelligent, as in fact natural gas might be for the United States the most immediate fossil fuel problem.

Also found the clip showing the old wraith J.D Rockefeller singing a nice christian hymn amusing, all in all well worth seeing.

Observation: Chevron's "Will You Join Us" campaign has bought Google ads on every TOD page that mentions Syriana.
Have any TOD reader joined the chevron discussion?  If so, What is it like?
What do they talk about?
It was #2 for the weekend, ahead of Harry Potter and behind the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  They have to be pleased with that showing.  
Copperweaver: Will you join us, is an excellent demonstration of the ignorance of the average American, that's ignorance not stupidity, however any discussion can only help to educate.  I found too much chatter, and too much reading, before I found something I did not already know. That's not a very nice statment, that was just my feeling.
It [Syriana]was #2 for the weekend, [just] behind The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The fact that such a downer movie can make it so high up on the charts right before the Everything-is-Happy Holiday celebrations tells you something.

There is a growing juaggernat (sp?) of malcontents out there.

Something is afoot. Can you sense it?

One movie reviewer is troubled by the "plausility" of Syriana --Gee, what if it is too close to reality?

Another site sees Syriana as the counter-culture message to Christmas and the "Magic" spells of Wardrobe and Potter. Interesting. An adult reality movie sticking its bright red nailed nose between the childrens' wish upon a star stories? How dare they? Have they no shame?

I haven't seen it yet, but I happened to catch a show on A&E called "MovieReal" that was all about Syrianna.  It had many interviews with cast & production, as well as with a small  handful of ex-CIA agents.

That TV show sent a strong "peak oil" message, and used those words maybe a dozen times.

The most damning message from the ex-CIA agents was that their "customers" in Washington did not ask for the truth, they asked for support for their agendas.  They way they told it, the current war's pre-intelligence was business as usual rather than some atypical breakdown.

Given that people involved in the movie were peak oil-aware, I am even more disappointed that movie makes hardly any references to oil depletion.
That was disappointing but the movie is about geopolitics and the fight over the remaining oil. What was it the Matt Damon character says? "This is a fight to the death. We're running out and 90% of what's left is in the Middle East".
Anybody see Stephen Gaghan on Charlie Rose last week?...he was the only interview for the entire hour.  Fascinating!  He talked about hanging out with Oil Execs in a Park Avenue apartment where they were trying to guess which country would be next to have a coup for its energy assets.  Gaghan said he was just taking it all down in his little notebook.

Also, Gaghan and the CIA agent who helped him with the film were on Wall Street Journal's weekend news TV show, and it was also VERY enlightening.  They claim that White House officials are very candid (off the record) about Iraq.

to comment on what you all are saying...I think that although the film itself doesn't educate on Peak Oil, it still will help us greatly.  It is a greeat film, serious and complete in its intentions...the fact that it is THIS good, will only increase the media's interest in the writer, and he is wonderful to listen to - a true realist!

Check this interview  with screenwriter and director on NPR, you just need realplayer.

I just noticed there are about four other stories about movie on this link, including one about Robert Baer.

BoxOfficeMojo(who are usually right on the money) is predicting Syriana's weekend take to be about $13 million, which is semi-lame, especially since I know it probably cost at least $50 million to make.

some quotes from the writer Gaghan:

Well, they think we're at peak production this year and next year, something like that, for global energy production, the most that we can ever can really get out; that we've hit the crest and oddly, I think everybody had this feeling - although not a one-to-one relationship -  I think that what we were seeing, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it felt like the trailer of coming attractions, it felt like a preview. Like, holy cow - we are looking into Mad Max. Like, God, that is what it's going to look like. It's going to be racial; 'Us fat White people, we got all the shit we need; fuck you, poor people who happen to be Black or Mexican'; it really felt like you were looking at this Hobbsean future; it was just like he laid out. I don't know; people have been making predictions; oddly, everybody I talked to in 2001, 2002, would have said for sure that Saudi Arabia was going to topple by now, that it was going to go down in flames to the Wahhabists. And weirdly, us going into Iraq, energy prices tripled; it tripled the price of a barrel of crude, which has poured so much money into the coffers of these regimes that they've been able to sustain themselves a little bit longer. They were going down; they were running out of money. And now, they're like so loaded. Imagine if you could triple your Gross National Product overnight. They're like `Go Bush! Go baby! Go Iraq, go Syria, go Iran! Keep it rollin! Let's see if we can quintuple it, sextuple it!'

It's astonishing how good war is for oil companies and oil traders. Anyone in the energy business (will tell you): Chaos is good for the energy business. And that's the first thing they'll tell you. They don't feel good about it; but it's true. I think we will hit a tipping point ... but I also think we're so industrious, so creative ... that there really will be a Manhattan Project-style ... I mean, we're very close to having the writing on the wall for global warming, I believe; we've passed a tipping point and shit is going to start going haywire, and I think we'll start talking in terms of carbon wedges and changing our lifestyles is going to happen very quickly. I don't know if it's going to be five years, 10 years 15 years ... It's definitely in our lifetime; our children are going to have very different lives. The carbon economy is going to shift; I don't know if it's a hydrogen economy, a sunlight economy; you're not going to be flying around on jet planes the way you are now, probably; there are going to be changes. ... I don't know; I'm not a futurist. But I did enough research into human nature, figuring out this one, that I'm absolutely certain that until it's really dire, nothing's going to change.

(The energy crisis of the '70s comes up; specifically, how we didn't seem to learn anything from that.)

It's the same fuckers, man! It's all the same Nixon guys; they got tossed out of office for a while with Carter. They came back with Reagan; they had a bad couple years under Poppy (George H. W. Bush), who wasn't really hip to these guys, and then Clinton ... and they're all back! Just look at them! They're all like a hundred and ten years old, they cut their teeth under the first Nixon administration ... they hang upside down like vampire bats when they're out of power and they wait around. It's the same guys: `Hey, don't conserve energy! There's no problem! Party on!'

Well, it sounds like Gaghan "gets it". Maybe he will parlay his success and make Syriana II: The Shit Hits the Fan, which will address peak oil head-on.

I would like to see the slick movie version before I have to live it in real life.

Sadly, most Americans don't seem to be ready for the harsh, none-too-bubbly truth. Syriana made $12 million USD domestically this weekend, compared to $80 million USD for the fantasy films "Narnia" and "Harry Potter" IV.  
Not many people want to hear the truth, they bury their head in the sand, like an ostrich. (figuretivly speaking).  Hollywood, or hollywierd, however you want to call it, has not been outspoken on peak oil either. It gets a mention here and there, but thats a BP commercial. And they mention oil is running out, yet mention that natural gas will save the day. But NG prices have pushed past $15 and are predicted to be headed for $20. Not a CERA prediction either.

And now we have Syriana, but i don't hear any chatter amongst the TV mainstream media or talk shows about peak oil. Clooney and Damon are the 2 big stars in Syriana, but they are not out talking about it. Not that i will ever ever need their persuasion, but many people still pay attn to them. The  financial channels like Bloomberg and CNBC will address oil and gas prices all day long. Complete with energy reports on reserves status, up or down. etc. But it's boring if your always broke and living from one payday to the next, unless you have money to invest or are a stock trader. Most people ignore it, i watch people at work, they can't be interested. But they can tell you who just scored a touchdown, which teams are ahead, etc.

So i experimented today a little and i happen to print a 4 page article about peak oil today, layed it down in plain view for passerby's (co workers) to review. It barely moved, by the end of the 8 hr shift not one person mentioned it at any time of the day.

If i had layed a People Magazine or a Sports illustrated down in the same place it would have been stolen!  

When they can't eat or keep warm, they might start paying attn. But by then they just want the problem to go away, so they can resume their lifestyle. I think the mayhem seen on TV during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans will play out again to an even bigger scale. I don't mean to be gloom and doom, but i think it's the cold hard truth. Thats the way i see it.

As someone mentioned earlier somewhere: Problem? what problem? spin, spin, spin. There is no problem.

To me, this was the most relevating statement. Said by Prince Nasir Al-Subaai (The prince who wants to bring democracy to his kingdom), "Any Country who has to station its troops here  in order to secure oil, is a country in decline both militarily and economically". This was said in response to a friends statement that America would never let him democratise his kingdom.

Is it a sign of our governments desparation for oil? That we would have to militarily take over countries if they plan to democratise or sell oil in euros?

Hmmm, the premise that an Arab prince wants to democratize himself out of a job sounds a bit far-fetched.

Still, nice to see that Alexander Siddig, formerly Siddig El-Fadil, is working again.  He was also in a Poirot episode I saw last weekend.  

As I recall he also said, "A country that spends 50% of the world's military expenditures is a country that has lost its persuasive powers."  Touche!
I saw this movie last Friday (opening day in our area).  I went with my wife who is smart and aware of Peak Oil, but not as steeped in it as I am.  She fell asleep through part of it, and I found it to be a little disjointed to send a strong message.

The thing I found most interesting about it came from reading reviews of the movie on Yahoo Movies.  It was listed as having an average review from viewers of B-; however, when I started looking at all the individual reviews, they were either F or A.  Their were very few B's or C's (personally I would have rated the movie about a B).  The people who rated it F usually started their review with "Another America-bashing (hating, etc.) movie from Hollywood."  Clearly the political right does not like this movie, and they have their minions out with their "message points" trying to sway public opinion.

I noticed that with the latest WalMart movie, and even with the Kinsey movie.
my wife who is smart and aware of Peak Oil, but ... She fell asleep through part of it,

my wife fell asleep also

let's face it, "oil" is not one of those topics for which you can cast Brad Pitt and ask him to bare his chest for the women in the audience

I think they tried to engage the female mind with those fight scenes between Damon & his wife, but that ended up sending mixed messages. My wife did not see Damon as a victim but rather as a villian: it's his fault the first child died, he shouldn't have gone to an unsafe place to begin with, and when Damon's wife said she was leaving, he should have gone with her, he chose the prince over his own family, he got what he deserved, he didn't deserve to have her take him back!

and the message about oil? Doh!

Ah, chicktacular. Gods forbid any man should ever choose to pay attention to anything but his wife's feelings.
I think there was a mention of oil in "Pride and Prejudice"

Maybe it was oil of ole

I notice that Rotten Tomatoes gives it 76 which is a good rating.

The minority of critics who didn't like it normally found it confusing.