Mr. wOw’s Love Affair With George Clooney

Image: Michael Vlasaty/CC/Flickr

‘Men Who Stare at Goats’ leaves Mr. wOw unimpressed. But Clooney on the other hand …

Some years ago Mr. wOw was visiting the Hollywood set of “Batman and Robin.” We ran into the adorable Chris O’Donnell, who was decked out in his infamous nipple-sculpted Robin getup. He was very nice and has beautiful blue eyes. But no sign of Batman himself, Mr. George Clooney. And believe me, Mr. wOw looked high and low. So high at one point, he was in the rafters of the huge set, asking busy crew members where Mr. Clooney was. It is a tribute to their great professionalism nobody dropped a camera on my head, or gave me a “playful” push.

Finally, it was decided Mr. wOw had bothered people enough. It was time to end my tour. No, really, buster. Get out!

As Mr. wOw stepped into the high noon L.A. sunshine, which had finally broken through the early smog, he walked past a series of large trailers toward the car that had been put at his service (Mr. wOw cannot drive). Right before Mr. W climbed in and was spirited away – “and don’t let the door hit you in the ass!” – he looked to the left, toward the most impressive trailer.

There, stripped to the waist, wearing half his Batman costume was George Clooney, stretched out in one of those little director chairs, head back, eyes closed, catching a few ultraviolet rays. His skin was the color of caramel, his hair still black (the grays had only just begun to appear). An assistant scurried in and out of the trailer, with libations and (I hope) sunscreen. He was in what was probably the best shape of his life.

Readers, let me assure you: This was one of the most beautiful, glamorous Old-Hollywood moments Mr. wOw has ever experienced. It was perfect. The star was motionless and divine. And despite the fact Mr. W had been relentless in his pursuit, this classic tableaux was too terrif to spoil with a banal introduction. Mere words would break the spell. One last glance, then into the car and off, back to my West Hollywood hotel, totally satisfied.

I think of this moment whenever I go to a George Clooney film. Probably because it was, to me, the epitome of a certain Hollywood matinee idol sensibility/image. A sensibility and image that is nothing at all like the real-life actor and person.

Clooney is a regular guy – as regular as the rich and famous and determined-to-stay-single can be. He seems free of vanity; apparently he has no problem with his hair more salty than peppery. He’s not a gym rat. He looks more mature than his years. Clooney plays suave for the big bucks in the big-budget movies, but his heart is in the quirky, the daring, the funny, the serious-with-a-message. Like Nicole Kidman, he’s not afraid to take chances.

This brings us to “The Men Who Stare at Goats.” Mr. wOw saw this last weekend. It’s one of those movies some people will love, others will hate and others will go “WTF?!” not knowing quite how they feel.

The plot, boiled down, is this – disaffected reporter (Ewan McGregor) is given a lead on a story in Iraq, about a secret band of “psychic militia men” who can (or believe they can) walk through walls and perform other semi-supernatural deeds – including staring at goats till they keel over dead. (I’m not quite sure why killing cute little goats is something for a military operation, but maybe I missed the explanation.)

Jeff Bridges is on hand as a burnt-out Vietnam vet. Kevin Spacey, a particular non-favorite of Mr. wOw’s, is also around. Mr. wOw doesn’t know what to make of “Goats.” It seems to be trying to be all things to many genres – black comedy, satire, social commentary, slapstick, a bit of action adventure and a few attempts to be truly serious. It’s fascinating, but frustrating, and all over the place with a lack of cohesion. It’s “Catch 22″ and “M*A*S*H” hung over. The film is based on Grant Heslov’s novel of the same title. The author has insisted, “There’s more truth in it than you’d imagine.” Hmm, well I’d put nothing past governments or military machines. Even to mind-killing those poor goats.

Sometimes, “Goats” bogs down, and gets rather boring – which is amazing, because there’s a lot going on. Perhaps too much to absorb. However, all performances, with the exception of Mr. Spacey (a personal dislike), are very good. Clooney continues to go down the character actor road and he’s laugh-out-loud funny a lot of the time. Big kudos to Jeff Bridges, who might even nab a best supporting Oscar nod out of his brief but pivotal appearance. (Can you believe Jeff has never won an Oscar? Mr. wOw feels this is a grave injustice. He should have won an Oscar for his abs alone in “Against All Odds.”)

Mr. wOw can recommend “The Men Who Stare at Goats” because it had enough humor and ambition to be worth ten bucks. This despite the fact that the movie is utterly devoid of glamour; it’s not at all Mr.wOw’s kind of movie. But, he has come to accept that the MGM gloss of lore bit the dust many years ago. Norma Shearer in “Marie Antoinette” – now, that’s a movie. Still, one must move ahead.

I won’t see “Goats” again on the big screen. I will, however, look it over when it gets to cable – in about six months. It’s one of those that’s going to take several viewings. I’ll either come to love it, or hate it.

But I’ll always love Mr. Clooney.

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