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My Movie Year–Day 3: Standard Operating Procedure

Day 3. You all were right, this is hard. No more after this, I quit.


I feel like watching Bio-Dome now.


standard-operating-procedure-movie-poster-500wWhat’s a (insert name of film here)?: Actually, I have a good answer this time. In military terminology it is used to describe a procedure or set of procedures to perform a given operation or evolution or in reaction to a given event.  It’s also a documentary about the infamous photos taken in Abu Ghraib.

Who did this to you?: Errol Morris directed, Danny Elfman scored, Robert Chappell shot, Lynndie England, Charles Graner, Javel Davis and “Gilligan” star.

Why now?: I’m playing catch up on some of the stuff I missed in 2008 and this came pretty highly recommended.

Did you like it?: Oh my yes!

How come?: I like the idea of examining these photographs and focusing on what happened just outside of the frame, but the real draw for me ended up being the re-enacted bits and stylistic flourishes that Morris uses.  Particularly, there’s a scene describing the capture of Saddam—how he wandered into a random family’s home, announced himself as the president of Iraq and therefore the theoretical owner of every home in the land, walked into the kitchen, made himself a single egg and left—that, when coupled with Morris’ slow motion re-enactments, reached a level of prosaic or poetic beauty unlike anything I’ve seen in years.

And the scene mainly consists of yoke dripping down the screen!

It’s also interesting to see and hear people like Lynndie England all these years later discuss what led her to point at a masturbating Iraqi on the eve of her 21st birthday.  It was love, apparently, although one can’t underestimate the power of naivety either.  Watching her now, it’s clear that she’s learned a lot from the mistakes she’s made, but there are moments (some of the best in the film) where you see her struggling for the right words—anything that might acquit her—and you see her regress ever further, like a teenage kid trying to explain where she’s been all night to her silent parents.

It’s hard to imagine what we’re meant to make of these scenes.  I know that Morris believes that while these soldiers aren’t blameless, they were used as scapegoats to cover up larger systemic problems and I want to believe that, but there’s something about that scene that just makes me dislike Lynndie England even more.

Maybe it’s her face.  I don’t know.

What else?: Umm, it’s really good?  However, I can see that this film isn’t the way that most people would want to spend nearly two hours of their lives.

What’s the moral?: The Man is always trying to fuck us…by forcing us to stack nude prisoners in a pyramid.

Are you sure you want this to be your written record of how you feel about this movie?: I’m sure there’s a lot more to be said about this film, but not by me and in this forum. I’m not nearly as politically minded as I’d like to be (actually, I’m pretty content not knowing what goes on these days, thanks) and so I’m not going to get into that shit. I will say that it makes you think about the nature of culpability (yay!) and that whole Stanford Prison Experiment thing (double yay!).

Best Scene: I think I’ve already mentioned them: England’s wobbly excuse as Morris sits on the other side of the camera, silent.  Also, those eggs looked pretty delicious.

Breast Scene?: Do nude pyramids count?

Death Scene?: Yikes.  Yes, actually.  One of the prisoners was discovered dead while still handcuffed to the bars of his cell.

Weirdest Scene: You know, the weirdest scene also goes to the eggs, because it really shouldn’t work as well as it does.

Worst Scene: I’m hard pressed to think of one.  Even the talking head moments (which can be boring) are well edited and shot.

What’s next?: I’m actually watching Snow Angels as I write this and liking it a lot, but that’s not what I’m gonna write about (maybe in some other forum later).  Instead, I’m leaning towards something really fucked up.  Addio Zio Tom, anyone?


Please don’t watch this video at work.  Please.

362 Days Left.


One Response

  1. any excuse to get that photo printed in more locations–feel free to keep psyching. by the way, at three days, you’re totally over the hump. totally smooth sailing for the next 362 days (363 if you were stupid enough to do a once-a-day project during a leap year).

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