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.

"Killing Them Softly": A Hitman Movie—That's Actually About the Financial Crash

| Fri Nov. 30, 2012 10:44 AM EST

Killing Them Softly
The Weinstein Company
97 minutes

Along with Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, Killing Them Softly is so far the best Great Recession movie to emerge out of the film industry. (Sorry, Margin Call.)

The story is set in a decayed corner of New Orleans in 2008, at the dawn of the financial crisis. Toward the beginning of the movie, two amateur crooks—both wearing yellow dishwashing gloves, one brandishing a sawed-off shotgun—knock over a small mob-operated casino. As the pair raid the safe and force gamblers to empty their pockets and shoes, a televised address by George W. Bush echoes in the background. The president speaks calmly but deliberately about public panic and market meltdown, as hardened gangsters sit quietly while their wallets are emptied at gunpoint. The thieves then abscond with their bag stuffed with grime-smeared cash. And just like that, they trigger a total "economic collapse" of the local illicit-gambling/mobster economy.

Get it?

If the parallel isn't coming into astoundingly clear focus just yet, here's Aussie writer/director Andrew Dominik, talking about adapting George V. Higgins' 1974 novel Cogan's Trade into the screenplay for Killing Them Softly:

As I started adapting [the novel], it was the story of an economic crisis, and it was an economic crisis in an economy that was funded by gambling—and the crisis occurred due to a failure in regulation. It just seemed to have something that you couldn’t ignore. I always feel that crime films are about capitalism...

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Short Takes: "Inventing David Geffen"

| Tue Nov. 27, 2012 7:08 AM EST

Inventing David Geffen

PBS

114 minutes

If nothing else, this film reminds us just how ubiquitous David Geffen is. "The music culture, a show-biz culture, the motion picture culture," says Tom Hanks. "He built it." This funny, fast-paced documentary uses interviews with old friends, A-list stars, and Geffen, 69, to chart how a Jewish kid from a modest Brooklyn household became a media magnate adored and reviled for his relentless cultivation of talent from Dylan to Nirvana—a man who produced films like Beetlejuice and Risky Business, helped launch Broadway's Dreamgirls, and still found time to schmooze with presidents, date Cher (even though he's gay), and sue Neil Young. Highlight: Geffen describing his early career at the William Morris talent agency, where he honed his talent for spewing "bullshit on the phone" and essentially conned and lied his way to the top.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

No, Andrew W.K. is Not the State Department's Cultural Ambassador to the Middle East

| Mon Nov. 26, 2012 3:00 PM EST

Over Thanksgiving weekend, hard-rock performing artist and self-declared "King of Partying" Andrew W.K. announced that he had just landed a new gig: America's "cultural ambassador of partying" to Bahrain. Here's an excerpt from his press release:

The US Department of State in partnership with the US Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, has invited Andrew to visit the Middle East to promote partying and positive power. In the tradition of the American Jazz Ambassadors who traveled the world in the mid 20th century as examples of American culture and spirit, Andrew has been invited by the State Department to travel to the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain and share his music and partying with the people there. Andrew will begin his journey sometime in December, 2012 and will visit elementary schools, the University of Bahrain, music venues, and more, all while promoting partying and world peace... For security reasons, the exact travel dates, details, and other specifics are being kept top secret at this time.

The US government appointing a rocker-diplomat—known for partying til he pukes, covering himself in blood, dabbling in the My Little Pony-based subculture of "bronies," and sing-screaming about the McLaughlin Group—to represent American interests in the Kingdom of Bahrain? That sounds totally plausible! Nevertheless, a host of media outlets ran with the news without bothering to check with State Department, including UPI, the Huffington Post, New York magazine's culture blog "Vulture," Pitchfork Media, Breitbart.com, Mediaite, DCist, NME, Gawker, and Russia Today.

A State Department spokesman confirmed to Mother Jones Monday that the man behind the 2001 party-rock album I Get Wet will not in fact be partying 'til he pukes in Bahrain—at least, not in any official capacity. While Andrew W.K. was invited by a US embassy "cultural speakers program" for a possible overseas trip to Bahrain, the embassy in Manama later determined that the program was "not appropriate" and canceled it promptly "some time ago." (As for why the recording artist is still hyping up his imaginary position online is anybody's guess.)

To anyone familiar with Andrew W.K.'s exploits, the singer-songwriter's story strained credulity from the get-go (Brooklyn web magazine Brokelyn expressed its doubts early on). If Hillary Clinton were to send a B-list celebrity on a goodwill mission to children's schools in a Persian Gulf Muslim country with a lousy human rights record, why would she send the guy who sang "Party Hard" or "Party Party Party" for Aqua Teen Hunger Force?

For the uninitiated, here's a clip of Andrew W.K. appearing on Fox News:

And here he is dancing on Conan O'Brien's old show:

So, no, this man will not be going to the Kingdom of Bahrain on the US government's dime in order to promote rock-star-style hedonism. That is a thing that is not happening.

 

UPDATE:

Tweeted at 2:37 p.m. EST on Monday:

And shortly after...

In response to this post, Andrew W.K. sent Mother Jones the following message:

I'm not legally allowed at this exact moment to go into too many details, but they invited me a year ago and then canceled this morning. They said they had changed their mind and decided I wasn't appropriate. I was scheduled to go there this weekend...The trip had been confirmed and developed over the past year—their cancellation only happened today, which is why it's so important to make that clear that after all the planning, they canceled it THIS MORNING, not 'some time ago.'"

Holiday Movies That Don't Suck

| Thu Nov. 22, 2012 7:08 AM EST
"OMG, honey, I'm so glad we rented 'Die Hard!'"

We're officially in the holiday season—which means there's secular Christmas pop music on every radio station, families hugging, good food being made (hopefully), weeping elf-slaves meeting the demands of online shopping, and, of course, holiday movies on every TV channel.

For family viewing, there are the obvious staples: Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life basically gets all the airtime in the world as Christmas approaches. Animated Disney and Pixar movies do well on TV this time of year. Charlie Brown, Kevin McCallister, and National Lampoon are also ubiquitous options.

Here are six family movies for the holidays that you might have overlooked—and another five holiday-ready flicks that you might want to watch without the kids:

Fantastic Mr. Fox: In 2009, director Wes Anderson took a critically acclaimed stab at stop-motion animation, and adapted Roald Dahl's (Scarlett Johansson-endorsed) children's book from 1970. George Clooney and Meryl Streep voice a married fox couple who go up against three mean-spirited farmers. The film's soundtrack also includes the Bobby Fuller Four, the Beach Boys, and "Street Fighting Man" by The Rolling Stones:

Meet Me in St. Louis: The 1944 classic, with Judy Garland being Judy Garland:

The Muppets: This came out last year, and featured a bunch of new original songs by Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie. It is arguably the best Muppet movie ever. The film also provoked a depressingly hilarious conservative backlash. (Muppets have a long-running left-wing bias.)

Bolt: This 2008 computer-animated film is easy to write off as a Pixar knock-off. But it's actually got a lot of heart and visual oomph. Also, one of the main characters is a lovably delusional and insane hamster named Rhino, who does things like suggest snapping a security guard's neck:

The Last Waltz: It's never too early to introduce your small children to amazing music. Martin Scorsese's documentary captures The Band's star-studded farewell concert, which took place on Thanksgiving 1976. The film is rated PG and it's family-friendly, mostly because all the cocaine involved in the concert was edited-out. Here's a clip, this one of Eric Clapton jamming with The Band before a giddy audience:

The Absent-Minded Professor: This 1961 Disney picture provided the basis for the 1997 Robin Williams comedy Flubber. Here's the film in its entirety:

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