Posts Tagged ‘Catch-22’

Metro Canada: The Taliban Shuffle made into movie starring Tina Fey

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.06.05 AMBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

“To be a good journalist you have to be a bit of a chameleon,” says Kim Barker. “You have to be accepting of different cultures, different languages and different situations. I have always been the kind of person who feels like they can go into any situation and fit in.”

In real life, Barker is a journalist who worked at the Chicago Tribune as a reporter and volunteered to become a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In reel life, she’s played by Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot as an expatriate television journalist addicted to the rush of living and working in a war zone.

Whiskey Foxtrot Tango plays like Animal House with warlords, or maybe Fear and Loathing in Afghanistan, but Barker describes the reality of her time there in more poetic terms.

“In Afghanistan everything looks like a picture,” says Barker. “Everything is so beautiful. The people are beautiful. The landscape is beautiful. You are surrounded by mountains when you’re in Kabul. (The people) are very friendly, very direct with very good sense of humour. Also Afghanistan has men with long beards and pick up trucks and guns who hate the government. That is familiar to me. I grew up in Montana.”

At the beginning of her time abroad Barker was a fish out of water but soon learned to culturally adapt and love the country.

“I remember on my second trip there meeting a guy who asked if I wanted to go fishing with him. I grew up fishing but fishing in Afghanistan is a little bit different because it usually involved throwing a grenade into the lake and stunning the fish or blowing them out of the water or using generator wires to electrocute them. That just doesn’t seem very sporting to me.”

Barker’s book, The Taliban Shuffle came to Tina Fey shortly after a New York Times review mentioned Barker’s similarity to the comedic actress.

“Tina Fey saw it,” Barker says. “I think her people probably showed it to her or my people. I don’t really have people but my agent sent it over to her people. She read the book and within two weeks of that review coming out she pushed Paramount and Lorne Michaels (who produced the movie) to option the book and make it into a movie.

“(People) said, ‘Who’s going to play you?’ I said, ‘A smart funny woman in Hollywood,’ and everybody was like, ‘Tina Fey?’ It was everybody’s first answer.”

Barker describes having her life turned into a film as surreal.

“It’s hard to even think about,” she says, “people seeing this in a theatre. They are going to equate me with Kim Barker even though (that) Kim Barker is a version of me. It’s fictionalized.”

She says the film screenwriter Robert Carlock told her early on that they would have to “Hollywood this up.” Changes to the basic story were made, and when they sent her a final copy of the script in 2014 she couldn’t bring herself to read it. Finally her best friend read the script “to make sure it is not going to embarrass you.”

“She read it and said, ‘It’s fine. It’s good. It’s really good. You’re probably not going to like parts of it because it makes you seem more heroic than you think of yourself.’ She was absolutely right. I’m not that brave.”


WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT: 3 ½ STARS. “kind of like ‘Fear and Loathing in Afghanistan.’”

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.05.16 AMKim Baker (Tina Fey playing the real life Kim Barker) needed to turn her life upside down. “I wanted out of my job,” she says in the new black comedy “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. “I wanted out of my mildly depressive boyfriend. I wanted to blow everything up.” And blow everything up she did… as bombs blew up around her.

When we first meet Baker she’s a New York City based cable-news journalist tiring of “writing copy for pretty people.” Eager for a change, both personally and professionally, she agrees to a three-month stint as a war correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. The “Ka-bubble,” the alcohol-fuelled world populated by expatriate journos and media types, soon seduces her and she becomes addicted to the rush of living and working in a war zone. Her three-month assignment stretches to four years as she begins a relationship with a charming Scottish photographer (Martin Freeman) and chases that elusive one big story.

Question is, when will she go home? Answer: When it all starts to feel normal.

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” breathes the same satiric air as “M*A*S*H” and “Catch 22,” but never rises to the level of social commentary attained in either of those films. There are as many jokes about Baker’s appearance—she is, apparently “Kabul Cute”—as there are about the war. It sidesteps any direct political stance. Instead it’s simply content to make the point that outsiders will never have a bead on how to fix the problems in this part of the world. “This war is like [making love to] a gorilla,” says US Marine Corps Col. Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton). “You keep on going until the gorilla wants to stop.” It’s not a revolutionary idea but it is brought to vivid life as seen through Barker’s eyes.

The film is being billed as a comedy but it’s not always laugh-out-loud-funny. The jokes are styled to add to the atmosphere—Kabul international Airport, for instance, is referred to as K.I.A., which is also an acronym for “Killed In Action.”—which sits squarely in Tina Fey’s wheelhouse. She plays Baker as a mostly bemused—and frequently hung over—presence, able to keep the funny bits believable while bringing enough emotional heft to sell the serious parts.

“Whiskey Foxtrot Tango” is kind of like “Animal House” with warlords, or maybe, “Fear and Loathing in Afghanistan.” When it is firing on all cylinders, it hits its satirical mark—“Hearts and minds,” says one soldier, “the two best places to shoot somebody.”—but spends most of its running time elsewhere on Barker’s personal journey.

Canada AM: Loss of a comedy legend: Mike Nichols dies at 83

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.45.39 PMRichard’s “Canada AM” look at the life and career of Mike Nichols.

Watch the whole thing HERE!