So few movies detail the (apparently) angst-ridden lives of Welsh youth. Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade (who you may know better as Maurice on The IT Crowd and as the glorious co-writer of Garth Marenghi and The Mighty Boosh), however, does just that. Taking a helping hand from Joe Dunthorne's 2008 novel of the same name, this foreign amalgam of Juno, Thumbsucker, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind focuses on the humdrum existence of Oliver Tate. In Oliver's mind, he is objectively chic, intelligent, and alluringly aloof. In reality, his classmates think he's kind of a pretentious tool.

To distract himself from the drudgery of Wales, he hones in on a girl named Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Page), who he believes is his equal in terms of social status. Somewhat mean-spirited and not at all the sentimental type, Jordana is at first immune to Oliver's attempts at reeling her in (chiefly, bullying a fellow classmate named Zoe Preece, played by Lily McCann, who is often tormented based on her weight and her refusal to pass notes in class). But when Jordana stumbles upon Oliver stopping at Zoe's house to bequeath a handbook on how to evade further torture, she uses the information to blackmail Oliver into kissing her as she takes pictures of them with his Polaroid camera. She then instructs Oliver to put the photos in his journal and leave it at school for someone to find so that her ex-boyfriend (who cheated on her) will find them.

Her plan to make the silly berk jealous doesn't quite work out as she had hoped, and Oliver ends up getting the shit kicked out of him for refusing to call Jordana a slut. This unexpected defense of her honor is what changes Jordana's mind about Oliver. She kisses him under non-blackmailing circumstances as he walks her home after the fight is over, prompting him to ask immediately, "Does this mean you're my girlfriend?" She responds, "I'll think about it."

Oliver and Jordana quickly slip into a montage of contentment--literally. Oliver views their initial two weeks together as a Super 8 clip show of good times. It is at this point when Oliver's school friends (acquaintances really) start to goad him for not having slept with her yet. Jordana, who is no maudlin prude, is receptive to Oliver's proposition and agrees to go to his house on the night his parents, Jill (Sally Hawkins) and Lloyd (Noah Taylor), go to the cinema. This particular plotline provides an altogether different subset of problems for Oliver as his mother agrees to bring their next door neighbor, Graham (Paddy Considine, whose shiteous mullet makes him almost unrecognizable from the In America days), who also happens to be Jill's ex-boyfriend and first love. And thus, to quote Bridget Jones, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces."

This is why, after having sex with Jordana (the first time awkwardly and the second time successfully), Oliver fears his mother is teetering dangerously close to infidelity. It is also around this time that Jordana, now feeling comfortable enough to express emotion to Oliver, informs him that her mother has a potentially fatal brain tumor. Feeling her issue trumps his, Oliver keeps his own parental conundrum to himself. In taking on the burden of spying religiously on his mother, as well as routine searches of his parents' bedroom, Oliver begins to neglect Jordana in her time of need; this negligence includes not showing up to the hospital on the day of Jordana's mother's surgery after she specifically asks him to be there. As is often the case when shit gets too real, Oliver could not resist the inclination to bail.

Consequently, Jordana breaks up with him in a letter, leaving Oliver utterly heartbroken and full of regret. The issues between his parents having resolved themselves (though his mother "gave a hand job to a mystic"), Oliver can now only think of Jordana (who already has a new bloke. Bitch works it.) and all he has lost as a result of his waffling. His parents console him by telling him that none of this will matter when he's thirty-eight (I'm guessing that's the age they are, so that's why they pull that number out). Oliver allows this small comfort to placate him for a time, but then ultimately decides that this will matter when he's thirty-right. Because he genuinely and truly is in love with Jordana (what do you expect? Wales has a very minuscule population).

The romance of Submarine is accented by the scenery of a country that is often relegated to the role of being a poor substitute for England. I mean, fuck, if the U.S. had half as much picturesque coastline, there would be a new love story in theaters every week. But no, most of our backgrounds feature a Wal-Mart. Also adding to the romance factor is Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys comprising most of the film's soundtrack. So yeah, it's a double threat of romance. Be careful. You might get the idea that it could happen to you.

The awkward romance genre has really taken off since the twenty-first century began. In a world where marriage is less and less appealing and where the conventional has become increasingly more difficult to obtain (what with the whole unemployment pandemic), the desire twenty/thirty-somethings have to see a movie relationship (or lack thereof) that mirrors their own has clearly augmented in recent years. Mike Mills, whose first movie, Thumbsucker, was released in 2005 and followed the life of a seventeen year old with a thumbsucking problem, has waited six long years to come out with a sophomore effort--and let me tell you, after you see this film, you'll understand why.

Based on Mills' own experience with his father's impending death, as well as coming out to Mills at seventy-five years of age, Beginners follows Oliver's (Ewan McGregor) difficulty in coming to terms with Hal's (Christopher Plummer) newfound zeal for fucking dudes in the wake of his mother's death. Around the same time that Hal gets his groove back, he is soon after diagnosed with stage four cancer. Still, Hal insists they needn't tell anyone and that he actually feels like he is getting better (to which Oliver casually points out, "There is no stage five.").

After his father passes away, Oliver takes custody of his dog, Arthur, who becomes clingier and more attached to him than a battered housewife. With this canine, Mills' writing and directorial skills evidence a clearly altered style, one of the most notable characteristics being that Arthur is able to communicate with Arthur via subtitles. Such "indie" pandering was not present in Thumbsucker, but then, that material was based on another writer's work (Walter Kirn's 1999 novel of the same name).

Oliver fumbles through a mixture of treacle (big up to Arctic Monkeys for introducing me to that word) and silent anger until he meets Anna (Mélanie Laurent, who you recognize from Inglourious Basterds) at a Halloween party. He, dressed as Freud, unenthusiastically listens to other partygoers tell him their problems on the couch in the living room. It is then that Anna, who we later learn has laryngitis, lays down and writes the following question on a pad of paper: "Why are you at a party if you're sad?" From that point forward, it's a comfortable sort of love and admiration that they share for one another. And P.S. Why the fuck can't shit like that actually happen? Only in a Mike Mills/Wes Anderson/Charlie Kaufman/(insert other premier indie director here) can two socially stunted heterosexual people find one another and fall in love with the other's quirks.

Interweaving flashbacks of Oliver's past--including his flawed mama's boy upbringing--with his romantic present reveals an incisive juxtaposition for delineating why he has never been able to make a relationship endure. Based on one of Mills' more illustrious quotes on filmmaking,

Making a movie is so hard, you'd better make movies about something you really know about. And even more, it's really good to make movies about things you need to figure out for yourself, so you're driven the whole way through. It's going to make things more crucial for you.

I'd say this bastard knew quite a bit on the subject of love and all of its defects. Or maybe this movie is just a product of too much time spent with Miranda July.

 

Oliver does his best to navigate through the concept of a lasting love, finding ways to amuse himself in the interim (e.g. writing historically conscious graffiti like "1985 Bush Finds Jesus" or "2003 Britney Spears Most Googled" throughout the walls of Los Angeles). But somehow, he just can't comprehend the idea that things could really work out between him and Anna, which is why you might truly be surprised by the film's ending--mind you, all indie romances have to end on a semi-ambiguous note. Undoubtedly, it's a rule they'll soon be incorporating into "How to Write a Screenplay" books.

Of all the subjects/icons to explore in the multi-faceted world of pop culture, it is safe to say that John Lennon and all things The Beatles have been systematically and obsessively catalogued--whether the film in question is a documentary or a more stylized rendering, as is the case with Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy.

What separates this particular film from some of the rest of its ilk is the fact that it is based on a memoir by Julia Baird called Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon (a real subtle title, by the way). This memoir, incidentally, was not the first that Baird, who shared John's beloved mother Julia Lennon, has penned. The other was released in 1988 and called, in yet another bid for clinging to celebrity, John Lennon, My Brother (legitimized by a foreword from Paul McCartney). I suppose Baird didn't want to split hairs in this instance either by referring to Lennon as her half brother.

Another distinguishing factor regarding this film is just how heavily it focuses on Lennon's highly intense relationships with both his mother and his Aunt Mimi (who raised him as her own child from the time he was five years old). Along with Lennon's Uncle George (played by David Threlfall), Mimi ensured John's well-being in the face of Julia Lennon's erratic behavior and lack of self-control when it came to men. But, at around the age of 16, when Lennon's Uncle George died, Julia reintroduced herself into his life, an occurrence that was initially a source of elation for Lennon, but soon turned into yet another glaring familial disappointment. Once Lennon had grown deeply attached to Julia (especially after she had shared her deep love of American music with him), she, true to form, caved into the demands of the man in her life (her second husband Bobby Dykins), who insisted that Julia already had two other daughters to raise that needed her more than Lennon.

This sudden desire to distance her son from her life comes at a bit of an inopportune time for Lennon, recently suspended from school for carrying around "pornography" with him (a.k.a. a titty rag). Rather than tell Mimi about this indiscretion, he has instead been relying on Julia for a place to go during the day whilst he is supposed to be in school. Now that Mimi has been made aware of how willing John is to cast her off in favor of her sister, she seems to soften a bit more, even encouraging him in his quest to start a rock n' roll band.

While there are various events in Nowhere Boy that appear more than a little questionable, such as John saying, "Why couldn't God have made me Elvis?" and his mother responding sweetly, "Because he was saving you for John Lennon" or the manner in which John is first introduced to both Paul McCartney and George Harrison, screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh (the brilliant mind responsible for the Ian Curtis/Joy Division biopic Control) uses the source material to the utmost advantage, extrapolating from the memoir as much high drama as possible.

The primary fault with Nowhere Boy, however, is that, as a viewer, there really isn't any new information to be gleaned from the film (accentuated tenfold when taking into account the sort of Beatles enthusiast that would go into it with a considerable amount of foreknowledge). Yes, John Lennon was deeply affected and emotionally damaged by how callous and often flighty his mother was. It more than likely shaped the rebellious rock star persona he so carefully cultivated. But we already knew that. What Nowhere Boy subconsciously reiterates, though, is how inconsequential Ringo Starr and Cynthia Powell are with respect to their total absence from the story.

Certain moments in history, particularly the repressed, scandalized era of the 1950s in the United States, appear to be more exciting than they actually are when translated to film. Good Night, and Good Luck, Far From Heaven, and Pleasantville are just a few examples of how a filmmaker is extremely hard-pressed to make the fifties appear noteworthy beyond the electrocution of the Rosenbergs, I Love Lucy, and the emergence of Elvis. The trial surrounding Allen Ginsberg's then controversial work of poetry, Howl and Other Poems, serves as the basis for Howl, another such example of a film set in the expurgative decade of Eisenhower that struggles to be compelling.

As the prologue of the film explains, Howl intermixes elements of illustrations from the poem itself with court transcripts from the case and interviews with Allen Ginsberg, leaving literally no room for any type of artistic license or creative interpretation. The film could have just as easily been billed as a documentary. Perhaps the sole benefit of the joint writing and directing efforts of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman is that it gave James Franco as Allen Ginsberg the opportunity to prove, once and for all, that he is capable of being more than just a Judd Apatow lackey.

It is no difficult feat to see how much Franco invested in embodying the persona of Ginsberg--from his speech to his physical mannerisms to his perpetually abstruse facial expression. In comparison to some of the other heavyweight actors in the film, like Jeff Daniels and Mary-Louise Parker, Franco unquestionably overshadows everyone else. This includes Jon Hamm, who I suppose is inclined to take any role where he can dress and act similarly to Don Draper.

The fundamental problem with Howl is that the premise for it is too broad. It tries simultaneously to focus on the trial that took place as a result of City Lights Bookstore publishing Ginsberg's poetry, but also Ginsberg's extremely storied personal life. In conjunction with these two incredibly dense subject matters, Howl also attempts to add the poem itself, "Howl," into the mix by incorporating it mainly unsuccessfully with scenes that the filmmakers felt were apropos.

Primarily, the only items one can really take away after seeing Howl is that notoriety often shrouds talent and that James Franco is actually quite adept at playing bisexual, sexually confused, or gay men from the past (I'm using Milk and James Dean as references).

For as vast a city as New York is, most people are nonetheless somewhat familiar with its various boroughs and neighboring cities, but still, City Island, a small fishing/seaport community in the Bronx is rarely mentioned within the context of New York. Enter writer-director Raymond De Felitta to remedy such pervasive anonymity. City Island is an atypical tale of family dysfunction and secrets, including a patriarch (Andy Garcia) who aspires to be the next Marlon Brando, a matriarch who lusts after the convicted felon her husband brings home (he is a prison guard, or corrections officer as he likes to distinguish) with the hidden motive that the parolee is his son, a daughter who strips at a local dive to hide the fact that she got kicked out of school, and a son who has a fetish for feeding extremely large women. So yeah, family wise, Father of the Bride it is not.

Andy Garcia as Vince Rizzo commences the film with "You asked me about my secret, my most personal secret, my secret of all secrets. Like most people, I guess I've got a few." One of those secrets is taking an acting class in the city, where he meets a somewhat over the hill British actress who has yet to catch her big break. This also furnishes Alan Arkin with a memorable role as their acting teacher, Michael, a man who has clearly been at the acting game for quite some time and who gives an impassioned diatribe about the pointlessness of pauses in acting dialogue, specifically singling out Marlon Brando, incidentally Vince's inspiration for wanting to pursue this career in the first place.

Michael throws Molly (Emily Mortimer) and Vince together in an acting exercise that involves telling each other their most personal secret. After they are given their assignment, the two strangers head over to Empire Diner (which I highly recommend going to if you happen to be in the vicinity of New York) to confess. Only Vince is the one who does most of the confessing, shocked by the recent discovery that the son he left behind twenty-four years ago, Tony Nardella (Steven Strait), has wound up in the very prison where he works. Molly counsels him on the importance of telling his wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), as a means to reconnect with her. But, in the meantime, she stays mum about her own secret.

Vince partially takes Molly's advice and brings Tony into his home as a courtesy to the memory of Tony's mother, who Tony sums up as a "drunk whore." All the while Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller), possibly the most demented of the family, lusts after his overweight neighbor, joining her online fetish group to gain a twenty-four hour glimpse into her kitchen while she cooks, eats, and turns a profit. Vince Jr.'s sister, Vivian (Dominik Garcia-Lorido, who looks a bit like a poor man's Jamie Lynn Sigler), also brings a whole bag of issues home with her on "spring break," though for her it's just a week she is forced to give up a panty full of bills in order to keep up the ruse that she is still in college.

The potential for drama in this hotbed of subterfuge, hidden truths, and fear of disapproval is what makes City Island the latest example of what a film about a family in turmoil should look like. And, apart from the extreme suspension of disbelief that goes with accepting the idea that Vince miraculously lands a part in a Martin Scorsese movie and the opening titles that look like they were made using iMovie, this film sets a new standard for the tragicomic nature of families.

A few months back, the Aero Theater had a Rosanna Arquette double bill. I, Desperately Seeking Susan fanatic that I am, absolutely had to attend. But, to my distemper, they were showing After Hours first. Instead of enduring the first film of this brief Arquette retrospective like a good little ducky, I fucked about on the deserted sidewalks of Montana Avenue (why the fuck does Peet's have to close at an hour that an even an octogenarian would consider early?). Out of ways to pass the time before DSS started, I finally went into the theater to see the last twenty minutes of After Hours. That's all it took to fascinate and addict me.

I could barely concentrate through the Q&A with Rosanna Arquette (who was wearing a Love Saves the Day worthy leopard coat) or through my beloved Desperately Seeking Susan. All I could think about was the necessity of renting After Hours. When I did, mere hours later, I think my obsession augmented tenfold and left me to wonder: Why is this Scorsese film so rarely acknowledged? It seems to be known only as the art project that helped him pass the time while he waited for financing to come through for The Last Temptation of Christ. It is also a film that, while portraying New York in its usual Scorsese-like, gritty fashion, is too campy in comparison to the rest of his work. Which is probably why Tim Burton (and don't even get me started on how much I can't stand that he is the go-to director for camp) was originally slated to helm the directorial role. When Burton learned of Scorsese's interest in the project, however, he modestly stepped down.

The source material for After Hours was grafted from radio personality Joe Frank's "Lies" (the excerpt of which can be heard on panopticist.com). Screenwriter Joseph Minion extracts practically everything from this radio segment, including the bagel and cream cheese paperweights, Marcy's weird confession about being raped for six hours by an old boyfriend, and her admission that she is married and writes her husband everyday. Luckily, the legal system was there to help Joe Frank receive a tidy settlement in exchange for remaining mum about the whole "let me steal your idea without giving you even the slightest bit of credit" thing.

Apart from being considered an overblown homage to the visual paranoia elicited by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, After Hours is not just under appreciated for its place in Scorsese's body of work, but for the artful and insidious implications of 80s life, centered in the oh so chic Soho area of New York, while still denotive of the  collective American work force and lifestyle at that time. For one, Paul is a word processor who has to bear the excruciating tedium of his job and help train others in the process, as in the beginning scene when he is explaining something to his trainee and then has to pretend to listen to said trainee tell him that this isn't what he really wants to do and that someday he'll start a magazine for writers with a kitschy sensibility. The monotony of Paul's life is elucidated with pitch perfect clarity when he is so bored with watching TV (using a bitchin' channel changer, I might add) that he resorts to going to a coffee shop to read Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, leading to his demented romance with Marcy, a pursuit that, by the end of the night, prompts him to scream at the universe: "What do you want from me? What have I done? I'm just a word processor for Chrissakes!"

For me, the appeal of After Hours is in its guileful thematic meaning, not its dramatic illustration of downtown New York and the madness that goes with it. What After Hours reveals is something altogether different. It is hard to imagine now, but most people were not grateful to have a job in 1985. The prosperity of the country at the time left the job market rife with opportunities, keeping the sentiment of gratefulness out of the picture and catapulting the desire to just let loose to the forefront, synopsized in Paul's single line: "I just wanted to leave my apartment, maybe meet a nice girl and now I've gotta die for it!?"

New York is a lovely place. In spite of being, let’s admit it, just a hair overrated, it is a city with the charm and multitudinousness of a Fritz Lang film. That being said, the creators of Paris, Je T’aime, Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carne, seem determined to further their film series on cities to love with the concisely and repetitively titled New York, I Love You. Just like Paris, Je T’aime, it has a cast list that reads like a sighting at The Brown Derby (if, of course, this assortment of famous people were alive during the restaurant’s glory years) and follows the same pattern of intertwining stories to cover as much ground as possible. Promotional poster for New York, I Love You

The film starts out comically enough, with Gus (Bradley Cooper) getting in a debate with a cab driver and another passenger (Justin Bartha, the groom and Bradley Cooper's co-star in The Hangover) over which way they should take to get to Williamsburg. The cab driver insists Bleecker is the best, but clearly, it's only a ploy to sit in traffic longer so he can make more money (ah, the New York cab driver is such a slimy breed). When no one can agree, the cab driver exiles both of them from his car. This opening would seem to set the tone for a light-hearted glance at living in the city of dreams (or is that what they call L.A.?), but no, shockingly, it does not, and we are led down a twisty path of pathos ultimately stating, "Do not come to New York unless you want your spirit broken and your emotions extracted." Maybe that's the secret intention of the film: Staving people off for the benefit of population control in New York.

Bradley Cooper as Gus, a man who spends most of his time in cabs

Where Paris, Je T'aime at least gives one a sense of being in the city, of what it might be like to live there, New York, I Love You does not bestow the city with any sort of colorful identity. It could be any grey metropolis really: Chicago, Berlin, Seattle, take your pick. Even the actors seem lost amid the banal plotlines of the script. Natalie Portman, always eager to show off a bald head, plays Rifka, a young Hassid who must be married to a man she does not really love. Mira Nair, who directed this segment and can usually be counted on for quality, turns the story into a trite forbidden romance, where Rifka knows she cannot be with Mansuhkhbai (Irrfan Khan), the Indian she negotiates prices with in the diamond trade.

Natalie Portman as Rifka, walking with the husband she doesn't really feel a spark with

Another disappointing segment is the one directed by Shunji Iwai, centering around a music composer (Orlando Bloom) and the assistant to the man he is comosing the music for (Christina Ricci). The only interesting elements of which are deferential references to John Lennon and Dostoyevsky.

A behind the scenes shot of Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci

Amid the melancholic anecdotes are a painter who dies before he can paint the woman he considers to be his muse, a woman (Julie Christie) who must resist the urge to hurl herself from a hotel building, and an old couple (Cloris Leachman and Eli Wallach) celebrating their sixty-third anniversary. The combination makes for an altogether grim portrait of New York City living. Maybe the only truly blithe segment of the film is the one directed by Jiang Wen featuring Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson, and it's really only tolerable because there are pretty people to look at.

New York: Not just for haggard, poverty strick people

Still, there is no stopping the creative team behind the "Insert City Here, I Love You" series. Apparently, there is a Jerusalem, I Love You and a Rio, Eu Te Amo in the works. Maybe if they make something called Los Angeles, I Fucking Hate You it won't come across nearly as cheesy.

It took about ten seconds for Steven Soderbergh to gain a foothold in the world of film with his low-budget, but meaningful and slightly perverse debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape. The themes and style of this film were seemingly forgotten by Soderbergh once he began to make the Ocean's Eleven trilogy. But in 2002, something pulled Soderbergh back into the dark, seedy underbelly type genre when he pitched Full Frontal to Miramax (rest in peace). Promotional poster for Full Frontal

This is not to say that Soderbergh ever really abandoned his roots in depicting subtle human decay: Traffic, The Good German, and, more recently, The Girlfriend Experience all maintained the integrity and tongue in cheek gravity that has become associated with Soderbergh's pastiche. In all of the abovementioned, he is sardonically pointing out, "Yeah, life is absurdly unjust, but why not have George Clooney, Brad Pitt, or Matt Damon endure some sort of plight to make the human experience more palatable."  What sets Full Frontal apart is that it is an unquestionable reconsideration of Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Soderbergh probably sold it so unabashedly that way to the Weinsteins just so he could get it made. Like Arty (played by Just Shoot Me's Enrico Colantoni), one of the characters in the film, says, "It's all marketplace bullshit." 

Don't be fooled by the demure appearance: Soderbergh knows how to get shit done

The other most notable characteristic shared between Sex, Lies... and Full Frontal is the absolutely voyeuristic quality one feels in observing either film. In Sex, Lies..., the reasons for this sentiment are understandable: You've got James Spader (never one to pass up a role as an asshole or pervert) taping various women sharing their intensely private sexual history. But in Full Frontal, there is something more indirect about the voyeurism. The film seems to go along as any narrative normally would up until the middle, when all of the sudden the viewer is alerted to the fact that this entire film is just that--a film. None of the other events up until this point were actually real. Julia Roberts is not a reporter named Catherine, but an actress named Francesca playing her. Her interview subject, Nicholas, is not really that person either, but an actor named Calvin (played by Blair Underwood). The quagmiric character entanglements persist as the film progresses, particularly between Lee (Catherine Keener), Carl (David Hyde Pierce), and Nicholas.

Catherine Keener plays the dysfunctional, adultering wife of David Hyde Pierce in Full Frontal

While the majority of Soderbergh's movies possess a despairing air, Full Frontal is again the bastard film child in that it sticks rather firmly to its general disconsolateness. Even some of the more obscure subplots, like Nicky Katt as Hitler in one of Arty's plays, do not provide very much in the way of comic relief. Yet, there is one piece of dialogue that threads the entire string of misery together, making sense of it in a way. It comes from Carl, well after he's been fired from his job at Los Angeles magazine and his dog has nearly died from overdosing on pot brownies, in the simple, but incisively written: "You just have to keep hoping that...there's more."

The political satire has been underground for a time, maybe as a result of fear or maybe as a result of contempt and apathy for the current state of government on any continent. But the silence of this film genre has finally been broken by Armando Iannucci's In The Loop.

Promotional poster for In The Loop

The non-specifics of the film are part of what makes it so accessible. No particular president and no particular prime minister is targeted because, at this point, it's fairly safe to say that, no matter who is in office, every administration seems to have an inevitable brush with incompetency, a fact embodied by one of the leading characters in the film, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), the Secretary of State for International Development (what a bull shit title) in Britain.

Actor Peter Capaldi in a spoof of the ever so popular Obama bumper sticker

When Simon Foster makes the comment on a radio program that he feels war is "unforeseeable," everyone starts to fucking panic. Malcolm Tucker, the chief of communications, immediately hunts Foster down to verbally lynch him for his stupidity. Obviously, saying that war is unforeseeable is a direct threat to both Britain and America's bread and butter of an industry. Threatening peace, in a way, is almost the same as threatening poverty (for arms traders and world leaders with a stake in companies like Unocal).

Head of communications bitching out Simon Foster for being mildly retarded in his comment about war

Damage control is sought by banning Foster from any upcoming public appearances, a punishment quickly cast aside when his new assistant, Toby Wright (Chris Addison) gets him a seat at the powwow with U.S. senator Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy). Not realizing that he is only there as "meat in the room," a political body to fill the space, Foster begins blabbering incoherently when personally asked by Karen Clarke whether or not he is against war in the Middle East. Foster tries, ineffectively, to give a dual answer, but only ends up looking more foolish and indecisive than ever.

Another victim of Malcolm's (left) verbal lashings is assistant to Simon Foster, Toby Wright

Feeling vulnerable and confused after the political gathering, Simon is approached by a slew of reporters outside the building, where he further backs himself into a corner by saying, "In order to obtain peace, you have to climb the mountain of conflict." This statement is instantly interpreted to mean Foster is now in favor of a war and sends Malcolm into a berserk state of fury. Instead of sacking Foster, however, Malcolm sends him, per the request of the PM, to D.C. where he will be insignificant enough as a political figure to stay out of trouble. This, of course, is not how the plan works out as there is another senator, Karen Clarke's rival, you might say, named Linton Barwick who wants to use Foster for his own ends to encourage a war in much the same way that Karen Clarke and Lieutenant General George Miller (James Gandolfini) wish to use him as a buttress to support their argument against going to war.

The British chief of communications and the American general go head to head

With interminable conflict and frenzied confusion on both sides of the Atlantic, it seems that, for all of the intricate deception, nothing is actually getting accomplished and no one is really getting what they want. This reality, presented so acutely on film by Iannucci, is a reality that occurs daily on the international political front. In The Loop serves as a farcical mirror to be held up to the world powers at the forefront of decision making.