Monday, December 22, 2014

Dear Leader, it's only - boring - frat house humour

I really didn’t have much interest in seeing Seth Rogen’s The Interview. Sure I’m into politics and the idea of a gag political film targeting the infamous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un makes for a good laugh (though would a typical Rogen audience even know who Dear Leader is?). But the trailer didn’t look that great. And with stars like Rogen and James Franco, well, it’s simply more frat humour. Still it’s astonishing that the studio-theatre industrial complex fell to their knees in acquiescing to a group of hackers known as Guardians of Peace (the FBI has since confirmed a link to the North Korean government) and pulled the movie in the wake of threats of terrorism. It’s doubtful such threats would have come to pass. This is the North Koreans, folks, not Islamists. Fictitious or not theatre owners didn’t want their “employees and theatregoers” (I like how employees are mentioned first) put at risk. This is a precedent alright. Think who may in the future threaten Hollywood - anyone with an axe to grind. Jihadists might not like the upcoming American Sniper (Clint Eastwood). Japanese nationalists may despise Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. People with deformities might loathe Tim Burton’s Big Eyes…..BTW this isn’t the first time the bizarre North Korean state has come in for lampooning. A few might remember the hilarious 2004 puppet comedy Team America: World Police (Trey Parker of South Park) in which Kim’s dad Kim Jong-il, as sponsor of worldwide terrorism, is unceremoniously impaled. Guess the movie came late to North Korea because it certainly didn’t raise the Hermit Kingdom’s collective scolding finger.

Speaking of slime balls, I did manage to catch Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. The film features Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a petty thief who, on one of his heists, discovers the excitement of freelance video (tabloid) journalism, roaming the overnight shift capturing on his camera all manner of crime and mayhem, selling footage to the highest paying local TV station so as to make the morning news. Bloom finds he’s good at the job. He’s a sociopath and has no moral qualms about filming extremely gory scenes and even rearranging evidence for better camera angles. His career in the “if it bleeds it leads” news shows takes off. The film is an obvious indictment of the crime-infested local TV news (just turn on one of several Detroit stations) though it struck me as a little over the top in terms of how far someone like Bloom would push the envelope. Gyllenhaal as an intense singly-focused individual, who couldn’t tell a joke if he fell into it, is superb.

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