Archive for category Entertainment
It’s the height of irony that after the CIA illegally destroyed nearly 100 video recordings of torture sessions to avoid being held accountable, the number one movie in American theaters this weekend devotes most of its first hour to a Hollywood re-creation. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty” [Full disclosure: I haven't seen the film and don't intend to] turns torture into entertainment:
Those scenes …show terrified, disoriented and bloodied detainees kept awake for days on end by having their arms painfully suspended from the ceilings of secret jails; stuffed into tiny wooden boxes when they don’t cooperate with their inquisitors; and waterboarded on soiled mattresses while interrogators bark questions.
Bigelow ignores both the illegality and immorality of using torture. As if that’s not bad enough, “Zero Dark Thirty” delivers the message that it was CIA torture that led to finding Osama bin Laden’s hiding place in Pakistan. This is factually wrong. The statement “based on first-hand accounts of actual events” is deceptive because it causes the viewer to think the story is accurate, when what it really means is “based on CIA propaganda.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program concluded that the CIA did not first learn about the existence of the bin Laden courier from CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and that the CIA detainee who provided the most accurate information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.
Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin have requested information and documents related to the CIA’s cooperation in the making of this film, which lies to the American people about one of the most critical issues of the Bush administration: the criminal use of torture by the CIA, for which no one has ever been prosecuted. We know that on many occasions, detainees were tortured to death in secret CIA prisons.
Sony Chairman Amy Pascal tried to refute criticism of “Zero Dark Thirty” by a member of the Oscar voting academy on Friday, saying her studio’s movie “does not advocate torture.” No one has claimed that it does – only that it lies about torture.
UPDATE: Kevin Gosztola on FDL:
[I]t is impossible not to conclude that this film is the kind of production that greatly pleases the national security state especially because it does not question what they do.
…This is the hunt for Bin Laden told with information from officials in government, who have no objection to America’s increased reliance on secret war or covert operations. Bigelow and Boal wanted the information necessary to tell the version of the story that they believed to be true in a way that would garner them high praise. The CIA gave them that while at the same time manipulating them into presenting torture tactics used to create learned helplessness in prisoners as part of the timeline of events that eventually led to Bin Laden. They showed the NSA intercepting communications and the dolly shot past hardware with wires and cords popping out is made completely innocuous and acceptable. A scene shows a video screen with imagery from a drone striking a target and Maya looks on coldly, completely numbed by the lethal use of force.
The filmmakers played their part. They were given access and what Americans are flocking to this weekend is nothing that would alienate the officials they collaborated with and nothing less than a conventional story of revenge on an American enemy.
The future is here, in the form of 20 upcoming sci-fi films. Including long-awaited adaptations of the classic stories Ender’s Game and The Forever War. The list begins with a 2012 release that I missed – maybe it will turn up somewhere.
“Robot and Frank” (2012)
Starring: A robot (Rachael Ma) and Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon and Liv Tyler
Director: Jake Schrier (first feature film)
Frank is an aging ex-convict living alone. To help, Frank’s son (played by James Marsden) buys a robot (with the voice of Peter Sarsgaard) to help around the house and keep the old man company. Frank’s initial suspicion gradually gives way to delight when he discovers that the robot may be able to help him with his criminal exploits.
“Oz The Great And Powerful” (March 8, 2013)
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz
Director: Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man 3”)
A stage magician is hurled into a fantasy world, and must use his wits to stay ahead of three enchantresses who have plans for him. Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum.
“Oblivion” (April 19)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Olga Kurylenko
Director: Joseph Kosinski (“Tron Legacy”)
Jak Harper is a drone repairman whose longstanding battle with alien invaders is drawing to an end. But when his aircraft lands on a barren Earth one day, his encounter with a mysterious woman named Julia throws everything he thinks he knows about the war into doubt. Based on a graphic novel the director wrote back in 2005.
Read the rest of this entry »
Here is my critique on the film adaptation of Les Misérables and answer the criticism some are making of the film. First of all it was by far better than the adaptation of Phantom of the Opera and was much better cast and the emotional resonance was so powerful it would require a stone cold heart for it not to affect you on some level. I don’t always tear up in movies, especially where my family is present with a penchant to tease, but this overwhelmed even the risk of some ribbing and the tears flowed freely throughout the movie. I don’t know why the music and themes affect me so much but they always have from the first time I heard the music and the many times I have seen the stage play.
This was an unbelievably difficult task by director Tom Hooper to adapt a stage musical to the screen and not make the movie seem like a stage musical itself but he did it beautifully while remaining faithful to the source material.
The vocals were not perfect but that was the point of the producers to have the actors sing as they acted rather than prerecord the music. It worked with the screen adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera because that music is supposed to be grandiose but with Les Miz the music is supposed to carry an emotional punch that would have been difficult with canned music and probably come across too polished and overly produced.
Hugh Jackman was excellent and gave the needed gravitas and emotional grounding of the movie and masterfully presented the themes such as anger, hate, forgiveness, pain, forgiveness, redemption, and saintliness and gave it a gripping realism. Jackman is Jean Valjean.
Anne Hathaway stole the show and if she does not win an Oscar for her portrayal of Fantine it will be the biggest Oscar travesty since Annie Hall beat out Star Wars for Best Picture. Her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” carried the emotional weight of Susan Boyle on Britains Got Talent.
Samantha Barks made you root for her to get Marius and her rendition of “On My Own” was nearly as good and heart wrenching as Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed a Dream.
The two Children who played the young Cossette and Gavroche were outstanding. Some complain about giving Gavroche a Cockney accent but of all the times I have watched the stage version he had a strong British accent and it was probably by design. It is not unusual for Hollywood to give the French British accents. The Gavroche character reminded me a lot of the Artful Dodger in Oliver.
As for the Thénardiers I thought they were perfectly cast and gave the movie its much needed comedy relief. I can’t think of anyone else who fit the roles better than Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. It appeared to me the director gave them a lot of leeway.
Russel Crowe did much better than I thought he would so he exceeded my expectations. He brought to the part a coldness but also demonstrated the internal conflict Javert felt when Jean Valjean defied his skeptical view of redemption and his absolutist view of justice.
This is one of those few movies I will be able to see over and over again and never tire of it. Once it is out on Blueray it will be a permanent part of my movie collection up there with my favorites such as The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars (originals), Harry Potter and the Hobbit Movies.
The setting for “Les Misérables” is Occupy Paris – in the 1800s. The heroes of the musical are the 99 percent – idealistic but poor students, orphans, the unemployed and hungry, exploited workers railing against abuses by the obscenely wealthy. The villain of the musical is Javert, a policeman dedicated to crushing a revolt by working Parisians. As a mediocre musical, the show has broken box office records. Now director Tobe Hooper has made the long-awaited film. But the whole “Les Mis” phenomenon has had zero political resonance. I think it’s because the protagonist doesn’t know whose side he’s on.
Marshall Fine summarizes the plot, such as it is:
The story – distilled from Victor Hugo’s five-section, 1,200-plus-page historical novel (full disclosure: Never read it, don’t intend to) – focuses on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), about to be released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. On his way out of prison, his jailer, Javert (Russell Crowe), warns Valjean that he will be dogging him, just waiting for him to violate his parole so he can send Valjean back to the clink.
Instead, Valjean disappears, popping up a dozen years later as the rich owner of a factory and mayor of a small town; these kind of story twists were so much easier in the days before mass media. But he’s still looking in his rearview mirror for Javert. So he’s understandably distracted when his factory foreman sexually harasses and then fires a poor single mother named Fantine (Anne Hathaway). Her life goes so far off the tracks that she’s become a dying, tubercular prostitute when her path next crosses Valjean’s – whose guilt at Fantine’s fate leads to his vow at her deathbed to find and take care of her daughter, Cosette.
Valjean stays one step ahead of Javert, even as Cosette grows from a tot into Amanda Seyfried, who later falls in love with a student revolutionary named Marius (Eddie Redmayne). Marius is involved with an uprising against the return of the French monarchy in 1832 (not to be confused with the French revolution of 1789, which most people assume this work is about). On the barricades, as the students hold off the government forces, Valjean finally confronts Javert for the final time.
The short-lived Paris Uprising of June 5-6 1832 (aka the June Rebellion) was motivated by a reactionary move to replace King Charles X, deposed in 1830, with another king supported by an unrepresentative government. France at the time was suffering a severe economic crisis, and in 1832 the poor neighborhoods of Paris were ravaged by a cholera epidemic. Troops were called in, the insurrectionists were surrounded in the center of the city, and the uprising was defeated.
The problem I have with Jean Valjean is not that he becomes rich, but that he seems resigned to the various injustices meted out to him by the misguided Javert. For Valjean, nothing is political; it’s all personal. Then at the end he saves Javert’s life, which leads Javert (this guy is seriously screwed up) to commit suicide. Valjean only goes to the barricades to save the life of Marius, not to uphold democracy. He is indifferent to the uprising itself and everything else that’s going on in France.
Perhaps worst of all is a commenter on a blog that said the fictional Valjean was a hero because he “was a Taker who decided to become a Maker.” As if we could all just wake up one day and decide to join the 1 Percent if we wanted to. Valjean got the money to start his factory by robbing a church.
No, the true message of Victor Hugo’s story is captured in this quote from another novelist, Anatole France (Inspector Javert would not see the irony):
“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
It’s like House Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal: Every American can get a tax cut on their first $1 million in income. What could be more fair?
Larry Hagman may have played television’s most famous evil oil baron, J.R. Ewing, but in real life the “Dallas” actor was a fierce proponent of solar energy. You might recall his SolarWorld TV commercial from 2010, where “J.R.” turned the oil industry slogan upside down, looking up at the sky and his rooftop solar panels and saying, “Shine, baby, shine.”
Tood Woody, Forbes:
Hagman told me the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico energized him to go public with what had been a private passion.
The actor had already installed the world’s largest residential solar array, a 94-kilowatt system, on his estate in Ojai, Calif., and served on the board of the Solar Electric Light Fund, a non-profit that brings solar systems to the developing world.
He struck a deal with German solar manufacturer SolarWorld to shoot the commercial in exchange for a donation of photovoltaic panels to the Haiti relief effort following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Peacefully grant the State of Utah to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.
We the people of the great state of Utah, do see that in today’s world the Federal Government has not led our citizens justly and with honor. We therefore as free men and women of our great state do believe that it is time to take matter upon ourselves to ensure our continued freedom, and to enact our own laws and here buy govern ourselves without the federal government’s involvement in our internal matters from this day forward.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin: 1775
Created: Nov 11, 2012
[Typos in the original]
As of today, people from 40 states have filed petitions on whitehouse.gov asking to secede from the Union. Four of the petitions have already garnered the 25,000 signatures required for a presidential response, including Louisiana, Texas, and Florida — all members of the old Confederacy.
Next time a right-winger calls me a traitor, I’ll be sure to ask if they signed a secession petition!
UPDATE: Jon Stewart Mocks Secessionists: ‘Stop. Wait. Don’t Go.’ (VIDEO)
UPDATE: Twenty five percent of registered Republicans want their state to secede from the United States, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling.
Especially when you’ve been exposed to unbridled capitalism for most of your life. Love of money has always been instilled in me as an American since I can remember, but the time comes when you have to decide between life and death.
Capitalism may have a place here, but when it has become immune to any oversight whatsoever by the people it effects, there’s a problem.
The thing I have defined as the strength of America, is that we haven’t been afraid to see ourselves as others would. Our movies have traditionally examined our weaknesses, in an attempt to make us better.
Our songs have attempted to make us better also. This is one of them:
I’ve seen the promos, and wondered out loud if this is an actual show or just a clever satire of corporate-sponsored “reality” TV. Turns out that NBC is truly going to air “Stars Earn Stripes,” an incredibly stupid faux-war celebrity contest co-hosted by retired U.S. general Wesley Clark. Bear in mind that NBC is owned by defense contractor GE, which profits from the normalization of permanent war.
Dean Cain, Dolvett Quince, Eve Torres, Laila Ali, Nick Lachey, Picabo Street, Terry Crews, and Todd Palin will compete in allegedly dangerous warlike activities — in which no one gets hurt. None of them have ever served in the real military.
RootsAction.org and Just Foreign Policy have set up a petition at StarsEarnStripes.org challenging NBC to tell the truth about war.
Your entertainment show “Stars Earn Stripes” treats war as sport. This does us all a disservice. We ask that you air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars, on any program, any time in the coming months. (StarsEarnStripes.org has provided a few resources to help you with your research.)
It’s not a revelation that American corporate media don’t tell the truth about war. However, this is ridiculous. “Reality” TV has never departed this much from actual reality. General Clark ought to be ashamed of himself — being a tool of the military-industrial complex is bad enough, but he’s gone too far now.
More info: NBC Invents War-o-tainment
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald weighs in:
It’s actually necessary that America have a network reality show that pairs big, muscular soldiers with adoring D-list celebrities — hosted by a former Army General along with someone who used to be on Dancing with the Stars – as they play sanitized war games for the amusement of viewers, all in between commercials from the nation’s largest corporations. That’s way too perfect of a symbol of American culture and politics for us not to have.
It’s been a long wait, especially since myself and around 70 other people from the Salt Lake area hoped to be in it. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the cut. Matt is promising an outtakes video later, including scenes from our effort which I documented in my Post “Matt Dances in Salt Lake: Literally“.
I was going to wait until the outtakes video was complete, but when I went to one of my favorite web sites today – Astronomy Picture of the Day – and saw it featured, I decided to jump on the bandwagon now. This is unusual content for an astronomy site, but I guess Matt makes such feel-good videos, they couldn’t resist.
Note: If you want to read the astronomy site’s take on the video after today, you’ll have to go to their archive at the bottom of the page and load it in, using today’s date.
The video is only a couple of weeks old and already has almost 3 million hits. I love what Matt does because he’s an American who inspires people from all over the world to just come out and have some fun. We definitely need more like him!
I’ll never be sorry I showed up at the Great Salt Lake that day!
“Falling Skies” isn’t “Battlestar Galactica.” The first season often got too bogged down with the characters’ personal problems, at the expense of the battle to save what’s left of the human race. After invading aliens wipe out Earth’s organized military resistance and kill over 90% of the population, a loosely-organized band of guerrilla fighters called the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment (2nd Mass) is carrying on the fight and trying to protect survivors– especially the children that the aliens want to use as slaves.
The show stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, a former Boston University history professor who becomes executive officer of the 2nd Mass. Probably the most interesting character in Season 1 was John Pope (Colin Cunningham), a murderous psychopath who is the first person to figure out how to systematically kill the aliens.
The heaviest weapons available are one .50 caliber machine gun and some antitank rockets. The 2nd Mass is up against heavily armored mechanical attack drones (“mechs”) and six-legged “skitters” on the ground, plus flying saucers (of course). The counter-attack on Boston at the end of last season didn’t go very well, and ended with Tom being captured.
Tonight’s 2-hour season premiere picks up the story three months later (or nine months after the invasion began). What we’ve seen so far looks like the show is getting better this time around. Tom comes back, and hopefully we’ll find out what (if anything) he learned while he was a prisoner.
Making the protagonist a history prof turned warrior gives the series a moral compass, and a tough-minded progressive to root for. If our side is going to win, the only way will be to out-think the enemy.
There will probably be moral dilemmas along the way. Last season, some people actually cut a deal with the aliens– handing over children in exchange for a truce. But in the final analysis, it’s us or them. There is no possibility of sharing the Earth. They have another planet to go back to, presumably. This one is ours!
I got tired of watching MSNBC cover the Republican presidential contenders and spent my evenings last week watching the DVD set of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” an epic medieval fantasy based on George R. R. Martin’s best-selling series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire. Luckily for those of us who aren’t big fantasy buffs, the show relies on solid characterization much more than magic. There are some strong female characters, too. Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss kept true to the story and made it seem real by filming on great locations in Northern Ireland and Malta. For Season 2, which begins April 1, they added Iceland and the historic city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The world of “Game of Thrones” consists of three continents, with most of the action taking place on Westeros, which is made up of the Seven Kingdoms. At the start, these are united under the latest occupant of the Iron Throne at King’s Landing, King Robert Baratheon. The north of Westeros is ruled from the castle at Winterfell by House Stark (headed by Eddard (Ned) Stark, played by Sean Bean). The land the Starks call home is the largest and least prosperous region, known for its cruel winter weather. In the far north stands The Wall, a 700-foot-tall ice structure 300 miles long. It is guarded by an austere military order, the Night’s Watch, whose mission is to defend against uncivilized tribes (“wildlings”) and a mysterious ancient enemy known as the White Walkers.
There are other potential threats to the peace of Westeros. In exile across the sea, the remaining members of the Targaryen family are plotting to regain the Iron Throne (possibly with the aid of dragons, which are thought to be extinct). And there may be a problem with the legitimacy of King Robert’s own heir. Clearly there’s going to be a fight over the succession. As Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) tells Ned Stark, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
The story is… complex, with a few surprises. Rather than try to summarize, I’ll refer to HBO’s viewer’s guide.
One pet peeve of mine is the way the biggest battles mostly take place off screen, like they often did in HBO’s “Rome.” We are given a scene with the commanders planning their tactics for the upcoming fight, and getting their assigned missions. Then practically the next scene we have somebody riding over to tell us, in essence, “Wow, that was some battle! You should have seen it!” Yeah, we would have liked to.
While so far we haven’t seen much of the war, when the nobility are making love HBO never skimps on the details. It’s a bit much sometimes (Rick Santorum would have a heart attack). And I’m beginning to think that prostitution is the leading civilian occupation in Westeros.
The events of the first ten episodes were just the beginning of what promises to be a fascinating journey. The tag line for Season 2 is “War Is Coming.” Specifically, the War of the Five Kings is coming to tear Westeros apart.
UPDATE: According to Wikipedia, the Season 2 budget was increased by 15% to pay for staging the climactic Battle of the Blackwater in episode 9.
UPDATE: HBO apologizes for depicting George W. Bush’s head impaled on a pike
HBO Game of Thrones
BeyondHollywood.com Game of Thrones (Videos)
Television Without Pity Game of Thrones (Episode recaps)