Monday, December 15, 2008
The Return of the SUS Premium Cableologist
Have you people seen House of Saddam yet? For those out of the loop, it's the BBC/HBO 4 part, 4 hour miniseries based on the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein Al-Tikriti. A few thoughts:
-The best way to describe the quality of this mini-series, like any good piece of art, is to compare it to its contemporaries. Along those lines, it's not The Wire, it's not first 3 seasons of Sopranos, but it's probably better than the John Adams miniseries. So the big question on your mind is, "Premium Cableologist, where does it rate in comparison to the greatest war miniseries ever created, Band of Brothers?" And that's the main weakness of this miniseries-Band of Brothers was thirteen one-hour episodes, which gave the viewer the feeling that they were watching everything that Easy Company did in Europe. The main problem with this miniseries is that it's 4 hours, not 13. Some of the notable things that aren't covered include all of Saddam's life before coming to power, much of the Iran-Iraq war, the assassination attempt of Uday, and much of the gassing of the Kurds. It instead picks and chooses among a handful of pivotal moments from 1979 when he came to power until his hanging in 12/06. The selected scenes are fantastic, but one gets the feeling that there is much more to the story not being told.
-That said, the best thing about this miniseries is that every time someone befriends Saddam, you know they're going to die, the question is simply when. Not for nothing, but this could lead to some fantastic gambling. For example, my dad and I guessed the over/under of the first televised death. Like i said, fantastic gambling opportunities for the addicted.
-A lot of Godfather parallels. 3 that come to mind:
1. The opening scene involves Saddam and his underlings plotting a coup in one room while his daughter has one of the more insane birthday parties of any 7 year old.
2. There's a scene where Saddam and Chemical Ali are walking in a hallway and Saddam is explaining how he gave his word to his daughters that he would not kill his traitor sons-in-law. So while walking in the hallway, Saddam gives a historic reference in which the main gist is that Chemical Ali must kill Saddam's in-laws for the good of the country. Very similar to Robert Duvall's scene where he insinuates that Frank Pantangelli should kill himself and his family would be justly compensated. (Godfather scene is here, but it's also in Spanish. Sorry.)
3. There's a scene in which Uday, Qusay, await Saddam for his birthday and gather around the dinner table to discuss the recent attack on Pearl Harb-er, ok, that may not have happened.
-And speaking of the sons, let's get to the most interesting aspect of the Hussein regime, shall we? So ok, these fellas first came to my attention in a Maxim article that I can't find a link to, but it basically compared the Hussein boys, Uday and Qusay, to Sonny and Michael Corleone. Uday, the older child, was seen as the successor, but with a penchant for violence and women that was sure to get him in trouble. Qusay was the younger, quieter, smarter son who became the heir apparent when his father realized that he was smart and his older brother was near retarted.
-Now, I don't know how much of this is poetic license and how much of this is accurate, but I'm just going to compare the sons as portrayed in this movie to the Corleones. First, Uday, aka Santino, was made to look a lot more like Fredo, only if Fredo had a penchant for cocktail waitresses AND guns. I'm not saying that this portrayal is or isn't accurate, but Uday seemed somewhat retarted, especially during peacetime Iraq.
-Now, as far as offspring as dictators go, Qusay, or at least the idea of Qusay, was always my favorite. The Maxim article portrayed him as being Saddam's bodyguard, doing EVERYTHING necessary to keep the empire alive. But in the movie, Qusay was basically portrayed as a scared pussy. He was introduced during the second of the four episodes, during the buildup to the first Gulf War, and he had a scared look on his face. Remember when you were told there was no Santa Claus? Now imagine discovering this truth over the course of a 30 minute drama, and that sums up my disillusionment with the artist formerly idolized as Qusay. Over the final two episodes, Qusay clearly gained power and lost the scared look on his face, but his utter ruthlessness was never shown in a way that I was hoping for.
-The best way to describe Qusay is by referencing the Simpsons. And since Fox apparently took down all of the Simpsons youtube clips, you'll have to make do with my description. Remember when the Japanese Yakuza gets into a fight with Fat Tony and the Italian Mafia on the Simpsons' front lawn? There's a Yakuza guy standing off to the side and Homer basically says something along the lines of "I want to see what that guy's gonna do! He's gonna do something cool and we're gonna miss it if we go inside!" And Homer goes inside and you hear the Yakuza boss take down most of the Italians in one fell swoop. Let's just say I expected Qusay to be like the Yakuza boss, and I was thoroughly disappointed this time around.
-And lastly, Saddam had two daughters that were never talked about. I've never seen actual photos of them, but if they're as hot in real life as they are in the mini-series, well, you can accuse Saddam of many things, but you can't accuse him of bad genes.