This Is a Movie Review: Vice

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CREDIT: Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures

This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Justin Kirk, Tyler Perry, LisaGay Hamilton, Eddie Marsan

Director: Adam McKay

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Profanity in the Halls of Power and Images of War and Torture

Release Date: December 25, 2018

If I’m understanding Vice correctly, then Adam McKay believes that Dick Cheney (here embodied by Christian Bale) is directly or indirectly responsible for everything that is wrong with the current state of American politics. That actually is not as much of a stretch as it sounds. During his eight years as vice president, Cheney wielded a degree of influence that was profoundly unprecedented for the position. The conventional wisdom is that his views on executive power and surveillance now represent the status quo for whoever is occupying the White House. Thus, McKay is not so far off the reservation to imply all that he is implying. But he may have bitten off a little more than he can chew with the expansiveness of his argument. He was similarly ambitious with The Big Short, but that earlier effort is more durable to scrutiny because there he laid the responsibility on forces that were perpetrated both actively and passively by many people. It may very well turn out to be true that Cheney’s influence is as wide-ranging as McKay claims – it’s just tricky to say so about a person who is still living.

Interestingly enough, that tenuousness is baked right into the script. If not for a few key decisions, the life of Dick Cheney, and ergo America, could have played out very differently. Without the presence of his wife Lynne (Amy Adams conjuring Lady Macbeth), he could have ended up a drunk nobody. And if not for his propensity to see life like a chess match in which he is ten moves ahead of everyone else, there might be no Patriot Act, ISIS, or extreme income inequality.

The thesis of Vice is that it was all so close to going differently. Through fourth-wall breaking and formal experimentation (like playing the end credits halfway through), the message is that all that we have been living through was not foreordained. Some may find that frightening, as it indicates that we are always on the precipice of disaster. And McKay’s propensity to cut to random footage of pop culture ephemera may come off as a lamentation that we are too distracted to do anything about it. But I actually see encouragement. You don’t have to like Cheney for him to be an inspiration. If you have a problem with the way things are in the country right now, maybe you can see an opportunity where everyone else sees the masses placated by “Wassup!” commercials. I’m not sure how well Vice works as a movie, but I choose to see it as an exhortation to make things right.

Vice is Recommended If You Like: The Big Short, Oliver Stone’s political thrillers, The Daily Show, Fourth-wall breaking

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Unitary Executive Theories

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What Won TV? – September 24-September 30, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Scoot McNairy as Gordon Clark – Halt and Catch Fire _ Season 4, Episode 7 – Photo Credit: Tina Rowden/AMC

Sunday – Rick and Morty
Monday – Young Sheldon
Tuesday – Difficult People
Wednesday – You’re the Worst, and the title is back to being so true.
Thursday – The Good Place, The Good Place, The Good Place
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire, and I keep watching the saddest parts again and again.

What Won TV? – September 17-September 23, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Rick and Morty was probably the best, but I can’t get that voice of an angel (Tim and Eric’s Bedtime Stories) out of my head.
Monday – People of Earth
Tuesday – Difficult People
Wednesday – Broad City
Thursday – Nathan for You: A Celebration
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire

What Won TV? – August 20-August 26, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Rick and Morty (and Jerry and the tiny customer service reps)
Monday – American Dad!
Tuesday – Difficult People
Wednesday – Jeopardy! (tournament rerun)
Thursday – The Chris Gethard Show: Extra Sweaty Edition
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Halt and Catch Fire, thanks to genius teenagers

What Won TV? – August 13-August 19, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Rick and Morty
Monday – People of Earth
Tuesday – Difficult People
Wednesday – Jeopardy! (But Honorable Mention to Marlon‘s theme song)
Thursday – Whose Line is it Anyway?
Friday – VICE
Saturday – I’m so ready to Halt and Catch Fire all the time.

What Won TV? – August 6-August 12, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Rick and Morty
Monday – People of Earth
Tuesday – Difficult People and Danny Aiello have me surprisingly relaxed.
Wednesday – The Carmichael Show finishes up like it’s no big deal.
Thursday – The Chris Gethard Show
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Orphan Black (a great title by the way, even if they’re not black)

What Won TV? – July 30-August 5, 2017

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In this feature, I look back at each day of the past week and determine what shows “won TV” for the night. That is, I consider every episode of television I watched that aired on a particular day and declare which was the best.

Sunday – Last Week Tonight is turning the frogs gay, and making a buck off it.
Monday – American Dad!
Tuesday – Jeopardy!
Wednesday – The Carmichael Show
Thursday – The Gong Show, thanks to the variety
Friday – VICE
Saturday – Orphan Black

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