Andy Garcia has been cast to play President Mikheil Saakashvili in the upcoming film Georgia. I just hope that Garcia’s audition required to see how he looked chewing on his tie.
The film, directed by Renny Harlin, will revolve around the last year’s war between the Caucasian nation and Russia. Though war remains extremely politically charged on both sides, the film promises to “not take sides” reports the Telegraph. I have no idea how that will be possible considering that its executive producer is Papuna Davitaia, a pro-Saakashvili MP. Nevertheless, Michael Flannigan, one of the film’s other executive producers, told Georgian TV: “Our main concern was to show war as a bad thing. We had an opportunity to make a really anti-war film.” We’ll see about that. My prediction is that war will be shown to be a “bad thing” only when the Russians are involved. But who knows? I do count on one thing, though. The film will have lots of explosions. Sadly, it hasn’t been announced who will play Medvedev or Putin. I’m with FP Passport and second Daniel Craig for the role of Putin. As for Medvedev, that’s a tough one. Unless they can somehow resurrect Nicholas II, I’m stumped.
According to the Telegraph, Georgia’s plot will involve an American journalist/do-gooder and his faithful cameraman who find themselves “caught in the thick of the conflict and are forced to make tough ethical choices.”
Well that’s interesting. This plot sounds similar to Russia’s drama/agitprop action film Olympus Inferno which was broadcast earlier this year. Olympus Inferno focused on an American insect hunter and a Russian journalist who stumble upon “damning evidence” that Georgia started the war and, surprise, surprise, tough ethical choices ensue.
Not much else has been said about the film, which is to be released next year. But from the little information available, it sounds like it’s going to be nothing short of total crap.
More dashing photos of Garcia as Saak can be found here.
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By Sean — 8 years ago
Back in late 2008, when Pajamas Media was still having me write articles on Russia (they’ve since stopped asking, I think, because I wasn’t anti-Russian enough), I noted that Americans and Russians long for the return of the Cold War. Those were the days when “new Cold War” books were all the rage and Russia and American were engaging in some good old proxy warfare in Georgia and Ukraine. In America, Russia was evil again and that was a good thing. In Russia, America was evil again and that was a good thing too. Americaphobes and Russophobes rejoiced in unison.
Enter Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev. Two “thaw” presidents in their respective countries looking to reform their respective kingdoms in the wake of economic calamity. The former called for a “new” America, the latter called for a “modernized” Russia. Both were simply mimicking what their forefathers had strove to do, albeit in their own rhetorical ways. On their respective domestic fronts the “new” America and the “modernized” Russia continue to look like the “old” America and the “backward” Russia.
While domestics alluded them, their tone vis-a-vis each other shifted. The “new Cold War” rhetoric of 2008 quickly went from nostalgia to melancholy with the Obama Administration’s aim to “reset” relations with Russia. The US was looking for some Russian acquiescence in dealing with Iran, and the Russians were looking for investment from the West. The lovefest, while lacking much by way of anything concrete, nevertheless provided the kindle for a warmer atmosphere. The moves made Neo-Cold Warriors look as if they were barking at the moon. Obama and Medvedev consummated their matrimony with a couple of burgers and fries.
Love was in the air. That was until 11 spies were uncovered on the Eastern seaboard. Ten were busted, one flew the coop. Their mission was to gather information that according to most could have been found in the press and on the internet. Most of all, it seemed that the scandal would set the stage for Russia and the US to return to their natural place as adversaries. The Cold War seemed to be on the verge of being back, baby. Career Russophobes like Ed Lucas were off to see how often the word “chekist” could be tweeted. The more zany clocked long hours trying to map the six degrees of separation between Anna Chapman’s Facebook friends as if they revealed some deeper conspiracy. After a brief respite, the Cold War seemed back. Bolsheviks were breeding once again, this time at our neighborhood barbecues.
Then Obama and Medvedev pissed on the parade. The spy scandal was much ado about nothing, the duo assured us; especially since the US Justice Department seemed to not have enough to even charge the ten with espionage. Even the often demonized spymaster Putin laughed off the affair as business as usual.
Nevertheless, though a Cold War redux was dashed, the two-week reality show proved once again that a cultural desire for it lingered. For most people the desire wasn’t for the real Cold War taste with all its accompanying political fats and calories, but a more processed, nay, produced version to titillate our imaginations. For the Cold War gives us something the dreaded Wahabbis never can: to quote Kramer, “The high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue.” Only other white people can do that, and the Russians are just “white” enough.
For a good week it was like old school James Bond all over again. Sexy spy chicks looking to infiltrate the rich and famous, deep cover agents posing a “normal” Americans, aliases, intrigue, disappearing ink, safe drops, secret cables, and spy vs. spy lingo. The American media was overjoyed. Between rerun reporting of the BP oil spill, another Lindsay Lohan meltdown, or the LeBronathon, the spy scandal was a breath of fresh air.
Even the British were eager to jump on the bandwagon. In a desperate move to appear relevant as a nation, the British struggled to worm its way into the performance. MI5 jumped into the fray with its own investigation into the extent Anna Chapman went to honey trap British officials and elites. The security agency even dropped hints that there were at least 500 spies snooping on British soil.
The real exploiters of the spy scandal were the tabloids. They immediately latched on to Chapman transforming her from a sweet Slavic cutie who lived on Facebook and hung out in Manhattan clubs to a genuine scarlet harlot. Former lovers were coming out of the woodwork with tales of hot sex spurred on by pantyless stripteases and the sensual sounds of her Russian accent. All of this quickly culminated in the money shot: Chapman nudie pics. The Russian redhead was now an international star. Even Jay Leno and VP Joe Biden couldn’t help but mention the sexpot. The reinstalled Tonight Show host, better known for bad sickly sweet vanilla jokes, asked the VP on a recent appearance: “Are our spies this hot?” “It was not my idea to send her back. I thought they’d take Rush Limbaugh,” Biden retorted. In all, the Culture Industry couldn’t have orchestrated a better PR campaign to generate interest in Angelina Jolie’s upcoming spy thriller, Salt. A sexy “deep cover” Russian spy plotting to kill the US President? I’m there. All of it showed that almost twenty years dead, the Cold War still packed some potential entertainment punch.
As for the rest of the spy crew, after a string of articles about how the enemy lives among us, interest in them quickly faded. It turns out living a suburban life is pretty damn boring. The only thing scandalous among the suburban spies was how messed up their kids were going to be now that they found out that mommy and daddy weren’t who they said they were. To make matters worse, the US government sent the kids back to Mother Russia, which one presumes would only redouble the trauma. How things have changed! If Russia was still Communist, the young-ins would have been paraded all over the media, igniting a movement not seen since Elian Gonzalez to keep them in the righteous US . They would have been the figureheads for this century’s equivalent to the John Birch Society. But alas, in these post-Cold War times, you’re left to rot unless you’re wearing a burka, and even then you only get your fifteen minutes if an invasion of your country is in the works or a Western friendly “movement” is looking to overthrow your despotic regime.
In the end, the spy scandal had a rather twisted, metatextual but ultimately anticlimactic narrative. It was Ian Fleming, Hustler‘s “Hot Letters,” and the Coneheads all rolled into one. The script didn’t work not because of the content–all the necessary subplots and cast were in place—but because of the drama’s principle producers–the US and Russia–just didn’t pull the trigger, at least not one that would generate a captivated audience over the long term.
The trigger that was pulled was not without a Cold War “echo,” however. The best way for the US and Russia to defuse the situation, put the incident in the past, and move on was to revive a Cold War mainstay: the spy swap. There were over a dozen known spy swaps during the Cold War: actual spies, turncoats, dissidents, and missionaries were traded like baseball cards. Back then espionage was a serious and respected business with a strong code of honor and pride. The practitioners of spy trades conducted themselves cordially with a high sense of decorum, mutual respect, and even affection for each other. Former spy swapper Jeremy Smith told NPR that the negotiations between him and Wolfgang Vogel, his East German counterpart, was like a “dance of two pens” as they tapped the names on their lists of desired agents to get around the bugs in Volker’s office. Smith and Vogel developed a warm relationship despite their adversary positions. They exchanged gifts and for one Christmas, Smith even brought the tryptophan deficient Vogel Butterball turkeys because the bird was scarce in East Germany.
These echoes quickly go faint in the our world of cost-cutting, productivity and profit. There is just no time for the finesse of the past. James Bond would have been downsized a long time ago. If not, his expense account would have surely been drastically cut. Also, this week’s spy swap just had nothing substantive at stake. The integrity of both our respective civilizations was not questioned simply because we are now all part of the capitalist brotherhood. Our differences are mere quibbles compared the world historical duel of the past. The current spy scandal, therefore, was no substitute for the “real” ones of the past even if in our media laden present we are accustomed to mistaking the copy for the real.
Indeed, when it came down to it, the performance of the swap was more important than those being swapped. Just take two of the most publicly recognized figures: Anna Chapman and Igor Sutyagin, the Russian nuclear scientist convicted of spying for the US in 2004. The former turned out to be a very bad spy, while the latter was most likely not a spy at all. Nor did the exchange come amid any secrecy or setting reminiscent of the Cold War. There was no equivalent to the Glienicke Bridge. The world knew the swap was happening before it even happened. Sutyagin’s people went straight to the press when it was announced that he would be exchanged. Someone claiming to represent Chapman announced her impending release on Twitter.
It was no Cold War, though the public seemed happy to relish in the possibility. But like most media sensations the buzz was a far cry for the real thing. I even doubt that Americans and Russians really wanted the real thing. They just like the idea of Cold War. It was exciting and it made our culture, our values, and our nations more important. The world was split between us, our own personal chessboard on a global scale. So what to make of this spy scandal on a cultural level? Was there even a scandal at all? I think the answer to these questions can be surmised from what will surely become one of its iconic phrases: “99 Fake Street.”Post Views: 124
By Sean — 9 years ago
“Regime change” may be an American term, as Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained to reporters, but it sounds like Russia is going to force their own version. “Sometimes there are cases,” Churkin explained, “when leaders become obstacles to a people’s way out of a situation. In those situations, some leaders make the brave decision in regards to their political future.” Cynical? Maybe. Opportunistic? Certainly. Don’t count on the Russians to pass up a good opportunity to get rid of their Georgian irritant. As Kommersant notes, “Moscow considers the removal of Saakashvili a matter of principle.”
The Russians are claiming that they want a cease fire with Georgia but there just isn’t anyone to talk to. After all, as Chunkin stressed, “What decent person will talk to him now?” Clearly not the decent Russians, who have essentially cut Georgia into two. Russian forces have taken Gori and other strategic towns and are said to be converging on Tbilisi, which Saakashvilli vows his troops will defend to the death. The real question is whether Saak will go down with his ship.
How quickly the South Ossetian War has become more about Russia and the United States, East and West, George Bush and Vladimir Putin, than about the poor South Ossetians caught in the middle. Today was just another example of the sheer cynical chest beating of it all. You had the American dyarchy standing up condemning Russia’s war machine. “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century,” Bush said. Cheney declared that Russia’s actions “must not go unanswered.” Presidential Candidates McCain and Obama, always ready to look Presidential, also weighed in. McCain called for NATO intervention and reminded Russia that to be part of the civilized world means to respect its values. Obama condemned Russia’s military push saying that “There is no possible justification for these attacks.” I don’t know. When you think of it, Russia is kind of showing a bit of restraint, as horrific as that might sound. They could have easily turned Georgia into a parking lot.
The dyarchy in Russia was of course not without rebuttal. Putin lashed out at the US for its backing of Georgia and especially for airlifting some 2000 Georgian troops out of Iraq. “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing,” he said, “the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.” Dmitri Medvedev even has his own Hitler moment by comparing Western support of Georgia with appeasing Hitler in 1938. He then went on to accuse Georgia of trying to commit genocide in South Ossetia. “The form this aggression took is nothing less than genocide because Georgia committed heaviest crimes — civilians were torched, sawed to pieces and rolled over by tanks,” he said. You see, fascism really is the gift that keeps on giving.
And what about the people caught in the middle? South Ossetians are finally beginning to bury their dead. Hundreds of volunteers are flooding into the war zone from neighboring Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. Murat Dryaev was one such volunteer. He met his demise before he was able to put his hand on a rifle. As Tom Parfitt writes in the Guardian:
Murat Dryaev, 29, a construction worker, left for the war on Thursday and was brought home in a coffin two days later. He lived with his parents at the end of a stony track in Novy Batakayur, a village 10 miles from the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz. Yesterday his relatives sat in vigil around his open coffin, adorned with roses and his photograph.
“He went to defend his sister and her children who live in South Ossetia,” said his wife, Ira, weeping over her husband’s pallid face. “But he never reached the place where they hand out weapons.”
Dryaev and his group of volunteers were hit by Georgian artillery fire. It is not known how many others died.
“His three-year-old daughter still thinks he’s coming home,” said his sister, Larisa. The dead man’s mother, Teresa, sat at the head of the coffin. “She’s been speechless, like a living corpse,” said Larisa. “She begged him not to go but she couldn’t stop him.”
The volunteer factor, though currently small, will certainly be a nagging problem once the smoke clears.
I think its about time for Georgia and the world to face it. South Ossetia is now Russia’s and it was Saakashvilli that gave it to them.
Estimates of refuges from South Ossetia are about 30,000 many of which were taken into North Ossetia by Russian buses. Other Russian supplied aid–food, medicine, mobile hospitals, search teams, and water–is said to be pouring into South Ossetia.
As for the Georgians, the number of civilian casualties as a result of Russia’s armor assault and aerial bombing is unknown. Two days ago Georgia reported about 130 dead, 37 of which were civilians. Suffice to say that they most certainly are mounting. The UNHCR is beginning to send humanitarian relief to Georgia where an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced. About 56,000 people are said to have fled Gori alone.
Let’s all hope that the dick swinging will end tomorrow and some kind of cease fire will be brokered.Post Views: 61
By Sean — 9 years ago
The New York Times has published the transcripts of Georgia’s “evidence” that Russia started the war. You can even get your own .pdf version to share with your friends! As for the whether this transcript amounts to any evidence at all, I leave that to you.
What these recordings say to me is that this so-called “Russian invasion” was a sorry example for one that was supposedly planned for months. Having a South Ossetian officer say “Who do you want me to shoot? It’s impossible to go outside. I’m standing in the toilet on one leg” during fighting only to get ” Well then fart them out of there. O.K., talk to you later.” in response should go down in the annals of wartime’s greatest outtakes. Clearly, the Ossetians had no clue who was where, what they were doing, and when they were supposed to do it. Much of it is pure comedy. Almost like Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” bit.
I have two favorite moments. The first is between the Military Observer and Peacekeeper from Aug. 8, 2008, [03:02].10.
MILITARY OBSERVER: How are you?
PK: (Aside) Hook up your radios or else we’re all going to be [expletive deleted].
MO: What did you turn on?
PK: No, I’m not talking to you. (Aside): Yes, otherwise we’ll be [expletive deleted]…
MO: Hey, listen, I’m asking, how are you?
PK: Well, [expletive deleted], [expletive deleted]. But we’ll come up with something.
I don’t know why the NY Times doesn’t think we’re old enough to read expletives. I guess we can play Mad Libs.
I also like this one I alluded to above between an Ossetian Border Guard and a South Ossetian Official from Aug. 8, 2008, 03:12.32:
OSSETIAN BORDER GUARD: Hello
SOUTH OSSETIAN OFFICIAL: Who is this?
OBG: Who am I?
SOO: Ahh, Edik.
SOO: Well, what’s going on? Has anyone finally gotten down there?
OBG: Gotten down where?
SOO: Has anyone gotten down there to our side with equipment?
OBG: Yes, yes, don’t speak about this over the phone?
SOO: Is anything moving? Is the armor there?
OBG: Yes, yes, yes, everything is there?
SOO: How long is it going to take them? What? Are they going to arrive when the city is
already [expletive deleted] destroyed?
OBG: Don’t be afraid. Keep firing.
SOO: Who do you want me to shoot? It’s impossible to go outside. I’m standing in the
toilet on one leg.
OBG: (Laughing) Well then fart them out of there. (Phone rings) O.K., talk to you later.
SOO: You call us for God’s sake.
OBG: They’ve left already.
OBG: They are heading there.
SOO: Many of them?
I’m assuming that the crux of Georgia’s evidence is this conversation between a border guard at headquarters in Tskhinvali, and the duty officer at the Roki Tunnel, intercepted Aug. 7, 2008, [03:52].13:
DUTY OFFICER: I’m listening?
BORDER GUARD: Hello.
BG: Did you just call?
BG: What is your surname?
BG: Listen, has the armor arrived or what?
DO: The armor and people.
BG: They’ve gone through?
DO: Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.
BG: Was there a lot of armor?
DO: Yes. Tanks, BMPs and BDR(m)s. Everything.
BG: And that guy who came up to you, who was that?
DO: When? [INAUDIBLE] The surname is Kazachenko. He’s a colonel.
DO: Kazachenko is his surname. He’s a colonel.
BG: Good, good. O.K. Call the 103rd; he’s saying something different. I mean the 102nd.
You are saying one thing, and he is telling us something else. Call the 102nd and tell him.
DO: He just called me, and I told him everything.
BG: Well, call him anyway, and after that have him call me.
DO: O.K., understood.
Is this all the Georgians have? This is their smoking gun? This evidence is hardly an endorsement for the Columbia Law program.Post Views: 47