2013 - %3, November

The Cause That Paul Walker Remained Dedicated to Until the Moment of His Death

| Sun Dec. 1, 2013 8:43 AM EST

Paul Walker, best known for starring in the popular Fast and Furious franchise, died Saturday in a car accident in Valencia, California. He was 40.

It would be difficult to make the case that Walker was a particularly influential or exceptional actor. But he was a fine action star and was decent in his heavier dramatic fare. But beyond his on-screen credentials, all available evidence suggests that Walker was, up until the moment he died, a celebrity who genuinely cared about the world around him—someone who used his celebrity for worthy causes.

According to a statement posted to the actor's Facebook fan page, Walker died "in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide."

Reach Out Worldwide, formed by Walker in 2010, is a 501(c)(3) that provides rescue and recovery aid in the wake of major natural disasters. The group supplements rescue efforts with its own team of paramedics, doctors, and search-and-rescue professionals. Reach Out Worldwide has lent its services to disaster-relief efforts in the Philippines, Alabama, Indonesia, Chile, and Haiti. "I'd made a few runs into Port-au-Prince and was negotiating with the army to give me baby formula, tents, extension cords," Walker told the Daily Telegraph, an Australian tabloid newspaper, in 2011. "I was hustling for everything."

Here's his explanation for why he started Reach Out Worldwide:

Because of my travels with work and pleasure, a lot of the times disasters would strike in areas that I'd been. You think of the faces—they might not be people you're in contact with but you can't help but wonder how that family was you had dinner with. That stuff starts crossing your mind and you feel so helpless. I would be consumed with anger, like, "Fuck! I wanna be there, I wanna do whatever I can." One of my best friends had heard it too many times and ultimately he just held me accountable. He punked me out: "So you gonna pack your bags and go to Haiti and help out or what?"

"When the shit hits the fan," Walker continued, "that's when you actually see the best in people."

Hours, one of the last films Walker starred in, is scheduled for a mid-December release. It's a fitting send-off for Walker: The film is set in a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, with Walker playing a father desperately trying to protect his newborn daughter.

Here's a clip of Walker and the Fast & Furious 7 cast encouraging fans to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan:

 

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Will Spike Lee's Original Three-Hour Cut of "Oldboy" Ever See the Light of Day?

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 3:02 PM EST

"Tough fucking business."

Those are the three words director Spike Lee used to explain the studio-led mangling of his latest film, Oldboy (FilmDistrict, 104 minutes).

The movie, which hits theaters on Wednesday, is a remake of Park Chan-wook's acclaimed 2003 South Korean revenge film of the same name. Lee's version stars Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett, an alcoholic ad man and deadbeat father who is mysteriously abducted in 1993. He is held in a privately run detention facility (managed by a warden played by Samuel L. Jackson), where he learns he's been framed for the rape and murder of his ex-wife. The authorities are hunting him, and his young daughter is placed into foster care. Twenty years later (a passage of time that Lee marks with clips of Clinton, Bush, 9/11, Iraq, Katrina, Obama, and more), Joe is suddenly released, and embarks on a gore-filled mission to find his daughter, make his captors suffer, and discover why he was detained for two decades.

Report: Actually, Animals May Have Been Harmed in the Making of That Film

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 6:00 AM EST

"A Husky dog was punched repeatedly in its diaphragm on Disney's 2006 Antarctic sledding movie Eight Below, starring Paul Walker, and a chipmunk was fatally squashed in Paramount's 2006 Matthew McConaughey-Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy Failure to Launch."

Those are just two of the many incidents cited in the Hollywood Reporter's investigation into how the American Humane Association (AHA) has been dropping the ball on protecting animals featured in major film and TV productions. When you go see a movie in theaters, chances are you'll see the words "no animals were harmed" etched onto the closing credits (other times, you might see a film listed as "acceptable" or "outstanding" in its treatment of animals). That famous disclaimer is awarded by the AHA, the nonprofit charged with ensuring animal safety in American film and television. According to THR, the organization has too often signed off on a film in which animals were harmed during production—and has justified doing so on grounds that animals weren't intentionally injured (or that incidents occurred when cameras weren't rolling).

"In 2003, the AHA chose not to publicly speak of the dozens of dead fish and squid that washed up on shore over four days during the filming of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," the report continues. "Crewmembers had taken no precautions to protect marine life when they set off special-effects explosions in the ocean, according to the AHA rep on set."

Another incident of animal death or injury on-set involves the Bengal tiger in Ang Lee's Oscar-winning 2012 drama Life of Pi. "This one take with him just went really bad and he got lost trying to swim to the side," the assigned AHA monitor wrote in an email. "Damn near drowned." Still, Life of Pi earned its "no animals were harmed" credit. Furthermore, during filming of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 27 animals reportedly died. According to the report, instead of investigating, the AHA crafted a carefully worded disclaimer that it had "monitored all of the significant animal action" and that "no animals were harmed during such action."

In response to THR's inquiries, the AHA offered several official explanations that, according to THR's review, often conflict with the organization's own internal records. Also, the AHA pointed to a bunch of technicalities. For example, their statement on the crushed rom-com chipmunk reads that the dead rodent wasn't a factor because the incident "occurred after filming and no intentional cruelty was involved." Dr. S. Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian and the national director of AHA's "No Animals Were Harmed" program, told THR, "This whole idea that we're cozy with the industry—it's simply not the case. We first and foremost want to keep the animals safe."

As The Hill notes, Congress has worked with Hollywood on legislation to protect animals. But in this Congress, none of the related legislation directly addresses animal safety in film productions, according to the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The offices of Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and John Campbell (R-Calif.), who co-chair the bipartisan organization, did not respond to Mother Jones' requests for comment regarding the new report.

"The moral compass of the entire place is off the hook," one AHA employee told THR. "It's not changing," another said. "It's getting worse."

Shelby Lynne Gives "Thanks"

| Mon Nov. 25, 2013 6:05 AM EST

Shelby Lynne
Thanks
EVERSO

Short and sweet, Thanks, Shelby Lynne's five-track, 16-minute EP, is proof that starting her own record label was a smart move. Her sultry, commanding voice has rarely been more effective than on these bracing country-soul tunes, which favor down-home immediacy over commercial polish. Looking back on hard times from a brighter place in the title track, Lynne sings, "I've been wrong, misguided / Made mistakes, been sick and frightened / Oh, what a waste," while "Walkin" closes the proceedings on an exuberant gospel note, casting a warm glow that invites instant replay.

Bottle Rockets Reissue Rocks with a Vengenace

| Mon Nov. 25, 2013 6:05 AM EST

Bottle Rockets
Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side
Bloodshot

Before Drive-By Truckers, there was Missouri's Bottle Rockets. Unlike the more-literary Truckers, who chronicle the underclass from the outside with the keen eye of a short-story writer, Brian Henneman and crew seem to inhabit their equally downtrodden characters, creating uproarious drama that rocks with a vengeance. This two-disc, bonus track-laden reissue of their first two albums, from 1993 and 1994, feels utterly familiar, yet entirely fresh, suggesting everything from ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd to John Prine to Chuck Berry and the Clash, sometimes all within a single song.

The tunes are uniformly fine, capturing vivid images of lives under stress with rowdy verve. Among the best are "Gas Girl," confessing a crush on the clerk at the filling station, the cautionary tale of a "1,000 Dollar Car" that "ain't worth shit," and "Sunday Sports," about obsessive fans—with Henneman's rueful, good-humored vocals adding zing. The 19 bonus tracks are well worth a listen, including six 1989 performances from Chicken Truck, the band that spawned the Rockets. While we’re awaiting new music from the boys, here's hoping 1999's Brand New Year, possibly their best album, gets a similar treatment.

How "Pawn Stars" Got Involved in Bob Dylan's Amazing Interactive Music Video

| Fri Nov. 22, 2013 8:06 PM EST

You've probably seen the video by now. (Even if you have, watch it again, above.) It's the year's most innovative music video—and it was made for Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," which was released 48 years ago. Vania Heymann, the music video's 27-year-old Israeli director, created sixteen different "channels," including a CNBC-type news channel, a movie channel, and a sports broadcast. On each one, the celebrities, actors, and hosts go about their daily business—but while lip-syncing to the lyrics of Dylan's landmark composition. It's an awesome interactive experience, and my  description doesn't really do it justice. (Like I said, watch it, flip through it.)

The music video, which was posted earlier this week, coincides with the release of The Complete Album Collection Vol. One, Dylan's 47-CD box set. The video includes TV channels featuring comedian Marc Maron, The Price Is Right host and ReasonTV darling Drew Carey, rapper Danny Brown, and History's Pawn Stars cast members Austin "Chumlee" Russell and Rick Harrison.

"The lyrics including 'pawn' was a happy coincidence from our end," Joel Patterson, a Pawn Stars producer, told me. "The fact that Bob Dylan had appeared on Pawn Stars in the past made it an easy 'yes.'" The video took just "a few hours" to shoot, he adds: "Rick and Chumlee both knew the song pretty well already."

According to Patterson, Russell and Harrison are huge Dylan fans; in the aforementioned Pawn Stars episode, Russell has a signed copy of Dylan's critically maligned album Self Portrait. As for Dylan, Patterson says, his manager "communicated a while back that...he likes the show. He also told us Dylan was extremely pleased with his appearance on Pawn Stars."

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Life Sucks in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" Because of Climate Change

| Fri Nov. 22, 2013 6:00 AM EST

You can blame a lot on man-made climate change. Worsened violence in Syria. Bigger wildfires. Bad health. The totalitarian hell and political repression in The Hunger Games franchise.

This weekend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (the sequel to the popular 2012 installment) arrives in theaters to critical acclaim and a practically guaranteed place in box-office history. This film is more thrilling, more emotionally intense, and much, much better than its predecessor. The new additions to the cast—particularly Jena Malone as the ax-swinging Johanna Mason—are solid.

The characters are older, but the basics are the same: The movie follows archery-proficient heroine and future revolutionary Katniss Everdeen (the Oscar-winning and irrepressibly likeable actress Jennifer Lawrence), a citizen of District 12 of Panem, the dystopian realm comprising a flourishing Capitol and an archipelago of oppressed and starving provinces. President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) commands an army of "peacekeepers" who regularly flog and gun down dissidents. And, as punishment for a past uprising, the Capitol annually seizes children from the districts and forces them to compete in a nationally televised death sport known as the Hunger Games—which is essentially a cross between Survivor and the New Mexico State Penitentiary riot.

Panem is North Korea, but with white people, better reality TV, and Jennifer Lawrence.

Catching Fire pushes the franchise closer to the eagerly anticipated all-out rebellion that's detailed in Suzanne Collins' book series on which this saga is based. But as the film series progresses, it's a good time to revisit exactly why things are so horrific in the Hunger Games universe. The explanation for this is glossed over in the films, but the first book offers some clarification in the early pages. The novel reads:

It's the same story every year. [The mayor] tells of the history of Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America. He lists the disasters, the droughts, the storms, the fires, the encroaching seas that swallowed up so much of the land, the brutal war for what little sustenance remained. The result was Panem...

So there you go: The democratic societies of the United States, Mexico, and Canada were destroyed by climate disasters caused by global warming, and this led to mass bloodshed over scarce resources. That's why everyone in Panem—except for the Capitol's affluent—is starving, poor, and subjugated. That's why the residents of District 12 are forced to slave away in dangerous coal mines to power the shimmering Capitol. And that's why peasant kids have to butcher each other in the wilderness to entertain a decadent and desensitized one percent.

Go ahead and blame the Hunger Games on climate change and pollution. You can already blame it for Kaiju, sharknados, and insignificant but terrifying global bacon shortages.

Here's a trailer for Catching Fire:

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How Our Soldiers Come Home From the Wars: Broken

| Fri Nov. 22, 2013 6:00 AM EST
Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan. In the years since, Jones worked throughout sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, and the Middle East, all the while questioning and documenting how people respond to and recover from violence.

 
 

Now, after more than a decade of continued reporting on civilians in war zones and post-conflict countries, Jones takes the civilians out of the equation all together, flipping the focus to the often-ignored effects of war on the troops. They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America's Wars is a heavy read in a deceptively small package. (You can read an adapted excerpt here.) Drawing from harrowing interviews and her time working and living in Afghanistan—including embedding with troops from 2010-2011—Jones categorically explains some of the darkest mental, physical, and procedural ailments now plaguing US troops and their families. Spanning topics of death, dismemberment, and psychological trauma, the result is often brutal—an uncompromisingly visceral depiction of modern war injuries told with all the precision of a surgical scalpel and the damning insights of a trained pen.

In the first few pages alone, Jones explains traumatic war injuries, introduces the reality of death by ambush or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) near forward operating bases and combat outposts, and tracks the remains of the dead as they move from Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base without subtlety. Interviews with Mortuary Affairs—the specialized unit tasked with retrieving, identifying, and shipping the dead—reveal how devastatingly busy they are. According to Jones, one officer routinely advises units to stock body bags for 10 to 30 percent of their personnel, in case anything needs to be double-bagged.

A body can "disintegrate into such tiny fragments that it returns to Earth in a snowfall of flesh."

Because of the increasing risk and power of the IEDs, Jones says some troops have begun "applying tourniquets before they go out on patrol" to prevent death from blood loss. But that may not always help. While IEDs are only designed to maim, if the blast is strong enough, a body can "disintegrate into such tiny fragments that it returns to Earth in a snowfall of flesh," she writes. For those that only lose limbs, cleaning the resulting wounds is then a laborious process of continual transportation, multiple doctors, surgeries, and sutures—and that's before the long rehab process and the common struggles with addictive opioids.

Traumatic brain injuries are a separate story. Because they're internal, they often go unseen, untreated, or misdiagnosed. If an injury is noticed, military hierarchy may encourage individuals to brush off the complaint until it becomes untreatable. According to Jones, this cultural dynamic is one reason military sexual assaults are particularly damaging.

When these traumatic events trigger drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness, the results can be catastrophic for soldiers and their families. In recent years, media accounts of military suicides and sexual assault have gained traction, prompting the military and Congress to pay attention to these issues. However, the facts speak for themselves: Nearly 240,000 troops have been diagnosed with PTSD since 2001, and 18 to 22 veterans have killed themselves daily each year since 1999, according to the VA. "Sooner or later almost every American soldier comes home," Jones writes, "on a stretcher, in a box, in an altered state of mind."

Even with the official end of combat in Iraq, and the looming drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, the war's consequences carry on. Just as we're leaving behind billions of dollars worth of equipment and infrastructure, Ann Jones argues, we're also leaving parts of the people we've sent there.

No, Emerson College Is Not Actually Renaming Its Communication School After Ron Burgundy

| Tue Nov. 19, 2013 6:00 AM EST

On December 4, Will Ferrell is scheduled to appear at Emerson—in character and in full Anchorman attire. The college, located in Boston, will hold a special ceremony to rename their communication studies and journalism school the "Ron Burgundy School of Communication." The campus event, where Ferrell/Burgundy is set to deliver remarks and receive an award from the college president, will be followed by a screening of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which hits theaters on December 20.

Before you get too excited, school administrators only plans to change the name for one day, after which Emerson's School of Communication will return to being the School of Communication.

"We have no plans to extend it beyond a day," Phillip Glenn, interim dean of the School of Communication, tells Mother Jones.

"A visit from Ron Burgundy is a chance to engage with someone who understands the power of media, as well as hairspray, first-hand," Emerson president Lee Pelton said in a statement. The idea for the temporary renaming came from an Emerson alumnus who works for Ferrell. Glenn was pitched the idea over the summer, and fell in love with it almost instantly. "I loved the first Anchorman movie," Glenn says. "We've never done anything like this before. There's plenty of excitement going around the college right now."

This is the latest creative round of publicity for the upcoming Anchorman sequel. Not only has Ron Burgundy gotten his own Dodge Durango commercial, memoir, and Ben & Jerry's flavor called "Scotchy Scotch Scotch"—he has his own recently opened exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, DC. ("Can Ron Burgundy save the Newseum?" the Washington Post headline read.)

Will Ferrell and Ron Burgundy (who does not exist) were not available for comment.

Soundtrack for Your Séance: Cate Le Bon's "Mug Museum"

| Mon Nov. 18, 2013 6:00 AM EST

Cate Le Bon
Mug Museum
Wichita Recordings

Languid Welsh chanteuse Cate Le Bon (no relation to Duran Duran's Simon) practices an eerie kind of pop magic, effortlessly mixing intimacy and unease with the entrancing grace of early, Nico-era Velvet Underground. From the spooky shuffle "Are You with Me Now" to a duet with Perfume Genius on the gorgeous ballad "I Think I Knew," the low-tech garage-folk of this hypnotic successor to 2012's habit-forming Cyrk often seems on the verge of collapse, but Le Bon's elegant melancholy holds everything together, barely. Occasional bursts of energy—the careening "Sisters," or the unholy shriek that caps "Duke"—only underscore her otherworldly charisma. Play Mug Museum at your next séance and see what happens.