Monday, December 22, 2014


The Original Fat Bastard

So SONY has capitulated to a remarkably thin-skinned fat guy.  Score One for Democracy!

The entire brouhaha over The Interview has reached Monty Python-esque proportions as SONY has decided to pull The Interview from theaters over threats to the public should any theater screen dare show it.  This was after "The Guardians of Peace" or GOP (where's Sarah Palin when you need her?!) hacked SONY and released all sorts of material; some of the leaked information proved embarrassing to the writers (such as when company executives mocked President Obama, strange given they all voted for him).  Some of it was amusing (from now on, loveable All-American Tom Hanks will be henceforth be known as "Johnny Madrid". Better than "Johnny Football" I figure).  Some of it was curious (pseudo-intellectual Aaron Sorkin having no idea who Michael Fassbender was, despite Fassbender being an Oscar-nominated actor and part of the lucrative X-Men franchise) and even flat-out bizarre (a 21 Jump Street/Men in Black crossover?  Makes SuperWhoLock sound downright Shakespearean).  However, while it is good to see that certain things have been confirmed (such as that Channing Tatum, apart from being a stripper who blundered into acting, is a genuine idiot), there are deeper questions that The Interview fallout  raises.

They are questions of security and intellectual freedom, of how dangerous the Hermit Kingdom really is to the world, and on how to respond to all these matters.  For the moment, I'll give my own reflections on how The Interview turned from another dreadful Seth Rogen project into a rallying cry for freedom.

The first mistake was in the film being made, but not for the reasons one might think.  One of the greatest political satires was Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator, where the Little Tramp spoofed Adolf Hitler.  The Interview was no Great Dictator.  The latter had a true comedic genius behind it.  The former had Seth Rogen, a man who is nowhere near either 'comedic' or 'genius', and James Franco, who veers from being a great actor to being a deliberate spoof of himself.  Chaplin had a few things going for him. 

One, no one in 1940 fully realized how dangerous and demonic Hitler was. Two, Chaplin was clever enough to mock Hitler without actually USING the name.  The character may have been called "Adenoid Hynkel", but we all knew who he REALLY was.  Rogen, his writing/directing partner Evan Goldberg, Franco, opted for the more direct approach. 

They COULD have gone a more clever route (one that would also have allowed 'plausible deniability') by making it a North Korean-TYPE dictatorship, but let's face it, clever is not something that Seth Rogen is known for (and seriously, Rogen was paid $8.4 MILLION?!  Is this the same guy that sunk The Green Hornet? How can he make more than all those unfortunate souls who paid to see that thing?  SONY thinks Seth Rogen is worth $8.4 MILLION?!  Talk about failure to return your investment). 

Here is where Rogen/Franco/SONY botched it.  They all collectively showed how uninformed they were (insert 'liberal Hollywood joke' here).  I'm a man of average intelligence, but even I would figure that North Korea, which is not a real country but a massive cult writ large, a virtual mega-Jonestown, would not be amused by having their Outstanding Leader not just mocked, but shown as being assassinated. 

The thing is I figure The Interview, which has been receiving generally bad reviews (something the $8.4 Million Dollar Man should be used to by now), is not truly centered around Kim Jong-Un.  It's centered on the two idiots who are hired to 'assassinate' him (the Franco and Rogen characters).  Just by the trailers we see them being remarkably uncreative and unoriginal in how they make their characters into total Tatums.   The North Koreans, who are not known for their sense of humor, might not have actually have heard of James Franco and Seth Rogen, and thus their screen personas may have eluded them prior to them thinking The Interview truly was about a plot to assassinate Lil' Kim.

Maybe Pascal is right.  Jolie isn't talented enough
to not fake being angry at the person who ridiculed her.

Of course, here is the difficulty and the second mistake in this whole nutty situation.  We won't get to see The Interview, at least in theaters, because SONY has gone beyond being hacked and into being cracked.  Threats were issued to create "9/11" style attacks in theaters that dared showed The Interview, so theater chains began dropping The Interview, in the words of Dorothy Zbornak, faster than CBS dumped Jimmy the Greek.  With chains deciding it was too hot to handle (and probably fearful that an Aurora-type, rather than September 11th, incident could occur), SONY really had nowhere else to go with The Interview...except for Video on Demand and DVD.  However, those are still up in the air. 

Seriously, do major corporate heads expect Pyongyang to be so unhinged that they'll blow up some Wal-Mart that puts The Interview in their bargain bin?  Bet you wish you still had Blockbuster Video now, don't you? 

We have two overreactions: one from North Korea (which again, isn't a country so much as it is a suicide cult that makes the Branch Davidians at Waco look like Mayberry), and one from SONY.  I find it bizarre that a multi-billion dollar corporation (and American theater owners) seriously think there are large fifth columns of Kim-sters waiting for the signal to storm some megaplex with bombs and guns a'blazin'.  I feel pretty safe here in The EP: I've got the whole of Fort Bliss that has my back.  Do the North Koreans really want to take on the men and women at one of the largest military bases in America?  If there were such an attack, I think Pyongyang would see their clean capital turned into ashes within 24 hours. 

Just a thought.

Theater chains, I think, feared litigation SHOULD something happen at a screening.  However, the idea of having police standing inside a theater to protect the audience from foreign agents seems beyond surreal and slips into theater of the absurd.  We really need protection to watch something as lowbrow as The Interview?

We seriously need protection to stop Seth Rogen from making more movies, but that's another matter.

We now have a very bizarre but ironically thought-provoking situation.  The North Korean regime has forced a major studio to drop not just something as patently foolish as The Interview, but also for Pyongyang, a drama about North Korea which would have been a vehicle for Steve Carell (who looks like an also-ran for Best Actor for Foxcatcher, which so far hasn't caught on). 

This really isn't new.  The remake of Red Dawn had the Chinese invaders changed to North Koreans (ironically because the filmmakers didn't perceive North Korea as a threat and they wanted to cull favor with the large Chinese market).  Hollywood has recently made these big-budget films not for Americans, but for foreign markets.  This is why we had films like Pacific Rim and Godzilla, things that sell outside America.  The insanity of The Interview is a rather extreme example of how Hollywood has been kow-towing to Communists for years.  Now they find themselves shocked, SHOCKED that you really can't make dictators happy.  Rogen and Franco were just dumb enough to stumble into this situation, but somehow their idiocy may be the catalyst for a serious examination of Hollywood itself. 

How The Mighty Dumb Have Fallen...

Now that with a few keystrokes a powerful industry is thrown into chaos, one wonders what will happen if there were to be an Islamic State comedy, or a nonfiction film about the Myanmar/Burma regime of terror.  Will Hollywood resort to instituting a Hays Office in Beijing, Pyongyang, Havana, and/or Damascus?

My personal view is that Pyongyang should not have been cancelled.  Say what you will about Richard Gere's intellectual prowess, but at least he stood by his convictions that Communist China was dangerous when he made Red Corner.  It might have been a lousy movie (like The Interview) but at least he stood for his convictions rather than run off.

My personal view is that The Interview should be released through video on demand and DVD.  I'd gladly pay $3.99 to stick it to Fat Bastard.  I think that most Americans don't see this as an effort to praise Franco and Rogen for being Tatums.  I think we see this as an affront, that we can be held hostage by a regime that totally controls every aspect of people's lives. Now we are in a situation where the United States is being dictated to, told what we can and cannot see by people who don't shrink from killing their own people for the thinnest of reasons.

For many years Hollywood insisted the greatest threat to American democracy came from crazed Christians (as if there were any other kind).  Now they've found themselves taken aback that those who thought Noah was insulting to their faith were remarkably tame compared to a despotic regime that starves its own people while the leaders drink cognac and caviar.
This industry and the country has a chance to think about what The Interview really is.  It's gone beyond being a bad, dumb movie.  It's now whether the film industry and filmgoers will now have to stifle themselves in order not to cause 'offense'.  Being offended is part of a true democracy.  Cody Decker offended me when he referred to Gone With the Wind as a 'KKK recruitment film'.  I offended him for daring to criticize him about it to his face.  He's not used to being contradicted, though perhaps shouting "Scarlett's Revenge" or "Scarlett Strikes Back" whenever he strikes out might be a tad much.

Pseudo-intellectual jock.  Yet I digress.

Will Hollywood grow a backbone and defy the Dear Leader?  Certainly Americans would flock to The Interview if only as a form of protest.  Americans don't like being told what to do, especially when it comes to movies.  North Korea attacked us via cyberspace.  Dress it up any way you want, but this was an act of war.  It was the act of a tyranny that brooks no opposition, no matter how inane, even from something that would have been forgotten in two weeks if not for North Korea's lunacy.  If they had just ignored it, The Interview would have flopped and they could go back to their gulags and torture chambers.

Instead, they made things worse by attacking a corporation and threatening anyone who saw the film.  SONY and the theater chains made things worse by giving in to threats and bullying.  I'm not going to say Americans are the losers because we may never see The Interview.  Americans would be the losers though, if we continue to give in to crackpots and tyrannies by having them act as de facto censors.   

We may never see The Interview.  We may see it next year.  We may see it when the Kim Dynasty finally falls.   This is a dangerous precedent, to have a film virtually banned by order of another country.  We as Americans, and filmgoers, need to support our freedoms.  The Interview may be lousy, but Rogen, Goldberg, Franco have the right to make it.  The Book of Mormon may be deliberately insulting to LDS members, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have the right to present it in the same way the LDS Church can present screenings of Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration in Temple Square.  The Last Temptation of Christ may be blasphemous, but Martin Scorsese has the right to make it.  I wouldn't see any of them, but that is my right.  It is no one's right to tell me that I am forbidden to see, to read, to hear, or speak something merely because it causes offense to another.  If this were to incite violence, that is another matter (hence my support to ban a film like The Eternal Jew). 

Appeasement never works.  We tried to have 'peace in our time' and that gave us World War II and the Holocaust.  Giving in on The Interview only emboldens not just Fat Bastard and his Court, but anyone else who thinks he/she can bully the nation on all matters large and small.   We cannot give in to Kim Jong-Un.  We cannot give in to fear. 

I was told at church that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.  It is false evidence that North Korea will launch massive attacks on theaters that host The Interview screenings.  It is false fear that has made Hollywood cower and Washington buckle to a group of crazies.  If we keep retreating, eventually we will be to our backs against the wall, and that wall might be in front of a firing squad.

I'm not ready to submit freedom for security.

However, I am willing to welcome any chance to sabotage Magic Mike XXL.  Kim Jong-Un, how about a trade: I'll give you Channing Tatum for your nukes.  You know, one bomb for another...

Which is scarier: President Channing Tatum or Academy-Award winner Channing Tatum?

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