Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

"Noah" Film Inspires Flood of Religious Freak-Outs

| Thu Mar. 27, 2014 6:01 AM EDT

The new Darren Aronofsky movie Noah is pissing off quite a lot of people. The outrage over the film—which retells that famous biblical tale of Noah, his ark, and God's wrathful flood—is international and diverse in its stupidity. And it goes without saying that the majority of the people saying mean things about the film haven't yet seen it (Noah hits theaters on Friday, and stars Russell Crowe and Emma Watson). "It's always kind of silly that somebody puts their voice and opinion to something when they haven't seen it, based on an assumption," Crowe said in an interview with Access Hollywood. (Crowe has been trying to get Pope Francis to endorse Noah. That won't be happening.)

Aronofsky has dubbed his $160 million epic the "least biblical biblical film ever made." (Word on the street is that it promotes some pretty "aggressive environmentalism.") Here are some lowlights in the ongoing permutations of Noah hate:

1. Noah is actually banned in some countries because it depicts Noah. Censorship bodies in United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Indonesia have banned national releases of the film. This prerelease backlash stems primarily from a conservative Islamic prohibition on representing holy figures in art and entertainment. (Al-Azhar, a top Sunni Muslim institute in Egypt, also objected to the film and released a statement declaring that it would hurt the feelings of believers.) Also, there's a sense among certain government officials that Aronofsky's film doesn't play it straight: "There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it," Juma al-Leem, director of media content at UAE's National Media Center, said.

"If there is a fear that the film will cause unrest and protest from some groups then the government should create a situation conducive to people growing up instead of always limiting them to a narrow-minded condition," Joko Anwar, an award-winning Indonesian filmmaker, told the Jakarta Globe.

Noah
Paramount

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"Anchorman" Director Adam McKay Is Taking On the Financial Crisis. But What About His Lee Atwater Film?

| Tue Mar. 25, 2014 3:30 PM EDT
Will Ferrell (left) and Adam McKay.

Writer/director Adam McKay is signed on to helm a film adaptation of journalist Michael Lewis' book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine for Paramount Pictures. The nonfiction best-seller examines the housing and credit bubble of the 2000s. "Michael Lewis has the amazing ability to take complex formulas and concepts and turn them into page-turners," McKay said in a statement.

The 45-year-old director is best known for directing comedies such as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and the Anchorman movies. The idea of him doing a housing bubble film might strike Ron Burgundy devotees as odd. But if you take more than just a quick glance at his career, it shouldn't. "Adam McKay to Film 'The Big Short,' Which Makes More Sense Than You Think," the Wire writes. Sure, his films have plenty of crude jokes and improvisational and (sometimes surreal) humor. But also he's an intensely political person.

Stop Trying To Make "Muppets Most Wanted" About Putin

| Fri Mar. 21, 2014 6:29 PM EDT

As you probably heard, Russia invaded Ukraine. This has been big international news for the past few weeks, and now it is even affecting how people cover and review the new Muppets movie.

In Muppets Most Wanted (released on Friday), the antagonist is Constantine the Frog, a notorious criminal with a thick Russian accent. He also looks an awful lot like Kermit the Frog. Early in the film, Constantine escapes from a gulag in Siberia, tracks down Kermit, steals his identity, and gets the good-natured Kermit thrown in the Russian labor camp in his place. (Tina Fey plays Nadya, the officer who runs the song-and-dance-obsessed gulag.)

The Russia content in Muppets Most Wanted grew out of the filmmakers' desire to create a "classic cold-war musical comedy," and to give a lighthearted nod to the Russian bad guys of 1980s movies. Director James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller of course had no idea that their new Muppet movie would hit theaters right around the time Russia annexed Crimea. Constantine is a world-infamous thief, not a stand-in for Putin or any Russian politician (not that the Muppets haven't dabbled in politics—or been accused of partisan bias—before). Regardless, critics and writers found a way to make their coverage of Muppets Most Wanted more topical!

Here's a sample:

  • "The newest Muppet is Russian, prefers to go shirtless and is intent on evil domination. Sound familiar?" — USA Today.
  • "The one discordant note comes by way of the gulag gags: With Russian President Vladi­mir Putin enthusiastically reviving that country's most oppressive totalitarian past, making light of what now seems all too real may strike adult viewers as, if not tasteless, then at least unfortunately timed. (The backfire also serves as a cautionary reminder to studio executives eager to exploit the newly all-powerful international market.)" — The Washington Post.
  • "The United States government today called on Walt Disney Pictures to delay or cancel the release of Muppets Most Wanted on national security grounds. Or at least, it should have. Not only might this movie annoy Russia, with whom the American government is already nose-to-nose over Crimea, but it could also cause any European allies being courted by President Obama to unfriend him and the rest of the country. The film, a music-filled follow-up to the 2011 hit The Muppets, lands poor Kermit in a gulag in Siberia, which is depicted just as unflatteringly as gulags in Siberia always are. Vladimir V. Putin is unlikely to be amused." — The New York Times.
  • "The film's female lead, Miss Piggy, arguably bears some resemblance to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose stance on Russia has toughened considerably as the Crimean crisis unfolds." — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  • "He's kidnapped and replaced by evil frog Constantine, Kermit's exact double apart from a facial mole and an accent that sounds like Vladimir Putin trying to invade his space." — The Toronto Star.

...Ugh.

Now, for something better, listen to Muppets Most Wanted's fun, self-referential musical number "We're Doing a Sequel" below:

Kate Winslet's "Divergent" Character Is Like a Brainy, Science-Driven Hitler

| Fri Mar. 21, 2014 2:45 PM EDT

The people who made Divergent desperately want it to be the next The Hunger Games, with all the piles of money that come with a franchise of the kind. The new sci-fi movie (released on Friday) is based on the Veronica Roth young-adult novel of the same name, set in an isolated, dystopian Chicago. Much like The Hunger Games books and movies, Divergent depicts young, good-looking people fighting totalitarianism in a war-ravaged future. (In Divergent, the youthful heroine is Beatrice "Tris" Prior, played by the talented Shailene Woodley.)

There is plenty wrong with Divergent, including that it's a drowsy action flick (first in a planned trilogy) that reeks of studio executives' cynical attempts to cash in on the international commercial success of a similarly themed series. Whereas the villains in The Hunger Games make up a totalitarian regime that resembles North Korea but with superior reality TV, the bad guys in Divergent resemble grown-up college nerds who are black-out drunk on political power.

The Story Behind That Radio Station Heroically Playing Nelly's "Hot in Herre" for 3 Days Straight

| Tue Mar. 18, 2014 4:50 PM EDT

Over the weekend, Latino Mix 105.7, a Univision-owned radio station in San Francisco, captured the hearts and lazy imagination of the internet. "There once was a film called Life is Beautiful about Nelly's 'Hot in Herre' being looped on a radio station for 24 straight hours [and now] that movie has come to life," gushed Gawker. (Life is Beautiful is actually a movie about the Holocaust and the enduring love of family.) In the widely covered stunt, the station started playing "Hot in Herre" [sic] around 3 p.m. PST on Friday and then just... kept going. The song wasn't taken off repeat until Monday evening, shortly after 5 p.m. PST. "San Francisco radio station Latino Mix FM 105.7 has been doing its best to torture Bay Area listeners," the San Jose Mercury News reported on Monday.

"Hot in Herre" (click here for lyrics) was a smash-hit song for St. Louis rapper Nelly in 2002. It was described as "the perfect summer jam" by People. It's a song so inextricably tied to the early Bush era that you can read about US Marines singing it as they moved into combat in Iraq. (This moment, from journalist Evan Wright's book Generation Kill, was recreated in the HBO miniseries of the same name.) The song was featured in a 2012 Super Bowl ad starring Elton John as a tyrannical but violently overthrown king.

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