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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M. Night Shyamalan: He Who Must Not Be Named

| Fri May 31, 2013 5:07 PM EDT

If you're surprised to hear that M. Night Shyamalan has a new movie out this week and wonder why you hadn't heard about his return to the director's chair, it's because that was precisely the idea. His new film After Earth (released on Friday) is a soul-smushingly boring sci-fi flick about a monster-infested future Earth that stars Will and Jaden Smith. The fact that the marketing department of the project took great pains to downplay Shyamalan's role is the only interesting part about it. 

There was a time at the tail end of the '90s that gun-jumping critics and fans hailed Shyamalan as the "next Hitchcock." 1999's The Sixth Sense was borderline classic. Unbreakable and Signs also showed his promise as a director who could deliver thrills and dark drama. But beginning with 2004's The Village, Shyamalan embarked on a road to acute mediocrity, which then merged onto a highway of insipid aimlessness, which then plummeted off an unfinished overpass of "Why Are You Still Here?"

This rapid degeneration has made him into a critical and pop-cultural punchline, which was apparently not lost on the the people marketing his new film. The AP reports:

While Shyamalan's name is the first to pop up in the credits at the conclusion of the Sony Pictures film, it's been notably missing from trailers, TV commercials and marketing signage—a stark contrast to his previous films like Unbreakable and Lady in the Water, which were prominently billed as being "from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan."

Much in the same way that a marketing campaign will go out of its way not to use the word "gay" when promoting a film about two despondent gay cowboys, the marketing campaign for After Earth has gone out of its way not to mention the words "M. Night Shyamalan." That sort of tells you everything you need to know about how highly Sony thinks of the 42-year-old director and his current standing. Ditto the movie.

How Jesse Eisenberg Disappeared Into His Latest Role

| Fri May 31, 2013 1:47 PM EDT

Jesse Eisenberg prepares for his roles the same way just about any other responsible actor would: He does his research.

In 2007's The Hunting Party, Eisenberg played a TV news reporter and wannabe war correspondent. The film, also starring Richard Gere and Terrence Howard, is loosely based on an Esquire article from October 2000 that tells the true story of how three American and two European journalists accidentally set off an international incident after drunkenly deciding to hunt for a fugitive Serbian war criminal hiding out in Bosnia. To prepare for this role, Eisenberg hung out with members of the real-life "party," which included author and war correspondent Sebastian Junger (whom Eisenberg calls a "total badass").

In 2010's The Social Network, Eisenberg played Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a role that earned him his first Oscar nomination. To prepare, Eisenberg "read everything [he] possibly could" on Zuckerberg and activated a phony account on Facebook—a website he claims he had never seen before gearing up to play Zuckerberg.

His latest film, released on Friday, is action director Louis Leterrier's Now You See Me (Summit Entertainment, 116 minutes).  Eisenberg plays J. Daniel Atlas, a cocky Vegas illusionist who steals from the wealthy and wicked and then literally showers the money onto his working-class audiences. Eisenberg teams up with Woody HarrelsonIsla Fisher, and Dave Franco as a band of Robin Hood-like criminals who routinely outsmart and mystify an FBI agent played by Mark Ruffalo and an Interpol officer played by Mélanie Laurent.

To prep for this "intense character," as he put it, the 29-year-old actor became an amateur magician.

Meet Lucy Schwartz, The Artist Behind The Awesome Song at The End of "Arrested Development"

| Fri May 31, 2013 6:05 AM EDT

The new season of the critically acclaimed cult comedy Arrested Development finally happened (on Netflix in lieu of Fox). And for those who have already made it to the end of the fourth season's 15 episodes, you heard this new, and most likely unfamiliar, pop song play over the final episode's end credits:

The song, released as a single last week, is "Boomerang" by Lucy Schwartz, a 23-year-old Los-Angeles-based pianist and singer/songwriter. The tune will appear on her next album, Timekeeper, which comes out August 6.

Anti-Defamation League, Mayor of Culver City Respond to JCPenney's Hitler Teakettle Billboard

| Wed May 29, 2013 1:34 PM EDT

It's not quite summer, but the silly stories have started, and you may have heard about a certain JCPenney billboard located east of the 405 freeway in Culver City, California. It looks like this:

hitler tea kettle

And it reminded a lot of people of...

The kettle was designed by architect and New Jersey Hall of Famer Michael Graves, who has a long history of designing consumer products that do not resemble a saluting Hitler, including this teakettle from 1984. After the Hitler-kettle story went viral, JCPenney took to Twitter to reassure the public there was no intended connection between the product and the Nazi leader. Here's one of JCPenney's damage-controlling Tweets:

Hitler tea kettle jcpenney tweet
JCPenney/Twitter

JCPenney elected to stop selling the item on its website, and took down the billboard on Tuesday—but not before all the Hitler hoopla caused a sales spike in the now notorious kettles.

Still, Jeffrey Cooper, the Democratic mayor of Culver City, remains upset at JCPenney for not initially noticing the resemblance. "I am disappointed JCPenney actually put the billboard up in the first place and more outraged that they actually attempted to defend it," he says in an email. "As a Jew, I am offended, [and] as an elected official, I am mad that the city I represent is linked to this."

Others were more forgiving. "JCPenney did the right thing by responding to public concerns and removing the tea pot from their product line," the Anti-Defamation League, one of the major groups that monitors anti-Semitism, says in a statement sent to Mother Jones. "We take JCPenney at their word that any resemblance to the Nazi dictator was completely unintended."

Michael Graves did not respond to a request for comment.

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