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.

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Short Takes: "High Tech, Low Life"

| Wed Jun. 26, 2013 6:00 AM EDT

High Tech, Low Life

MUD HORSE PICTURES

"I live in an environment where most of the news is good news," writes Zhou "Zola" Shuguang, a gangly 27-year-old blogger from the Hunan province. "In my opinion, this news is crap." High Tech, Low Life filmmaker Stephen Maing tails two of China's best-known citizen reporters, weaving a restrained and quietly compelling narrative about getting scoops under the threat of brutal state reprisal. Zola alternates between his mundane day job and traveling in rural areas to expose shady land developers. "I used to be a nobody...until I discovered the internet," he says. The other rebel, Zhang "Tiger Temple" Shihe, is a 57-year-old Monet-loving, harmonica-playing, cat-owning retired ad man. "Just remember," he reminds a pal, "this old geezer's going to tell the truth until he dies."

This review originally appeared in our July/August issue of Mother Jones. 

Rick Santorum Named CEO of a Christian Film Studio. Here's What He Actually Knows About Movies.

| Tue Jun. 25, 2013 7:48 PM EDT

Is Rick Santorum the next Jeffrey Katzenberg?

Well, no, probably not. But like the DreamWorks mogul, Santorum will soon be the CEO of a movie studio. Over the weekend, failed Republican presidential candidate/former senator/gross-out internet obsession Santorum announced that he had been named CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Dallas-based, "family-friendly" film company catering to Christian audiences. "This is the right place and right time, and I've jumped in with both feet," Santorum said on Monday. "Dallas can become the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market...We're in a position with potential to transform the industry." (Santorum and a representative for EchoLight Studios did not respond to Mother Jones' requests for comment regarding his new gig.)

"The Bling Ring": An Artful, Fun Examination of Why Hating America Is Often Completely Justified

| Fri Jun. 21, 2013 2:05 PM EDT

Blang Rang.

The Bling Ring
A24
87 minutes

Emma Watson is developing a habit of robbing the homes of Hollywood celebrities. Earlier this month, ensemble comedy This Is the End (sort of a Left Behind for potheads) hit theaters. That film, set in Los Angeles during the Rapture, features Watson brandishing a gigantic ax and angrily stealing food from James Franco's house. In The Bling Ring, Watson assumes a similar role, burglarizing the homes of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Rachel Bilson, and Audrina Patridge.

Watson plays Nicki, one-fifth of the "Bling Ring," a group of disaffected, bored, fashionista teenagers who decide to rob the houses of famous people. (The rest of the crew is played—with commendable Valspeak dedication—by Katie ChangClaire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, and Israel Broussard.) Their months-long crime spree snags them a small fortune in jewels, clothing, booze, and designer bags.

As you might have heard, this film is based on actual events. Writer/director Sofia Coppola adapted journalist Nancy Jo Sales' amazing 2010 Vanity Fair article (now a 268-page book) profiling the Bling Ring, a.k.a. the "Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch." And Coppola did so in a way that emphasizes blunt sentiment and sly commentary over exploitative cinematic impulses. "Sofia and I met several times over the year she was writing the script," Sales writes in an email. "I was a fan of the director's and knowing her work there's no way it could have turned into an exploitation flick...It's a dark story, a cautionary tale."

A predictable avalanche of infamy and giddy public fascination followed the arrests of the real-life Bling Ringers. "Think of a major news organization and they were [at the Bling Ring hearings]," Sales says. "The New York Times put it on the cover of the Sunday Styles section." What followed the requisite press coverage was a cyclone of ill-gotten, reality-TV-abetted fame that wasn't so much a train wreck as it was a heaving paroxysm of America's worst voyeuristic and material tendencies. (To understand exactly what I mean, watch this psychotic slice of television.)

Sofia Coppola wanted to do everything she could to avoid further fueling the stardom of the real-life Bling Ring—hence her script's heavy fictionalization and the name changes. For the same reason, I'm declining to print the Bling Ring members' real names, and will not delve into their post-arraignment exploits. Instead, I will direct you to Sales' riveting Vanity Fair story and encourage you to watch the film's insane trailer here:

The movie is artful and wickedly fun, and pulled off with a welcome maturity. To get her cast in character, Coppola had them stage a mock home invasion. "I believe it was her sister-in-law's house," The Bling Ring star Israel Broussard tells me. "She gave us a detailed list, by brand name, color, designer of the cloths we needed to get in the closet, shoes, handbags...[Sofia] gave us an address, the list, and told us to hop in the minivan and go!" The scene in which the Bling Ring raids Paris Hilton's house was filmed on-site—the socialite opened up her Beverly Hills mansion for the cast and crew to recreate the robbery. Hilton's home is located in a mega-wealthy gated community where film crews aren't permitted. So Coppola and company had to sneak in, shoot the sequences, and get the hell out of Dodge. "[Paris] was very gracious," Broussard says. They then made their swift getaway—an exit befitting the story of the adolescent gang they unlovingly portray.

The Bling Ring gets released on Friday, June 21. The film is rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references. Click here for local showtimes and tickets.

Click here for more movie and TV coverage from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To listen to the movie and pop-culture podcast that Asawin cohosts with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg, click here.

How Brad Pitt's "World War Z" Resolves the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

| Fri Jun. 21, 2013 10:42 AM EDT

Zombies taking on the IDF, featuring Brad Pitt

World War Z
Paramount Pictures
116 minutes

This post contains minor spoilers.

World War Z, also known as Run, Brad Pitt, Run, is a thoughtful and hugely exciting culmination of producer Brad Pitt's campaign to create his very own Bourne-type action franchise starring zombies and Brad Pitt. The film, directed by Marc Forster and based on Max Brooks' beloved 2006 oral history (a novel in which Howard Dean and Colin Powell analogs are the leaders of the post-apocalyptic free world), is set at the dawn of a worldwide zombie takeover. The president of the United States is dead, major cities fall within hours, and a single bite from one of those ravenous creatures can turn you into one in a little more than 10 seconds. At the behest of surviving politicians and military commanders, retired UN inspector Gerry Lane (played by Pitt) bolts around the globe in search of a cure for the rapidly spreading zombie virus.

Beyond that I enjoyed World War Z's big-screen adaptation (I will leave the griping about the movie being a faithless adaptation of the novel to others), there are a few factors that stood out to me. First of all, World War Z: The Brad Pitt Saga is by far the best free advertising the United Nations has gotten in years: A courageous, loving, sex-appeal-gushing family man/UN employee—who has seen action in Liberia and Bosnia—is quite possibly humanity's only hope for survival.

But the aspect of the film I found most interesting is that World War Z completely resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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