2013 - %3, December

David O. Russell: Political Corruption in "American Hustle" Is Nothing Compared to Citizens United

| Wed Dec. 18, 2013 4:56 PM EST

On Tuesday, the famously mercurial writer/director David O. Russell was in Washington, DC, for a special screening and Q&A session for his critically acclaimed, award-winning new film American Hustle. MSNBC host Chris Matthews moderated the Q&A, and Chris Dodd (the former Democratic senator and current chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, the de facto censorship board for cinema in the United States) introduced Russell.

American Hustle—starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence—is loosely based on events surrounding Abscam, a sting operation the FBI launched in the late '70s to target trafficking in stolen property. The bureau recruited con artist Melvin Weinberg to help craft and execute the operation, which involved setting up Abdul Enterprises, a fake company funded by fictitious Arab sheiks who offered to bribe people to pave the way for a new casino in Atlantic City. The operation morphed into an investigation of political corruption when politicians started approaching Abdul Enterprises for money. By the early '80s, Abscam had led to the conviction of one senator and six congressmen, among other political figures and officials. (The late Democratic congressman and Vietnam War vet John Murtha was also embroiled in the scandal, but escaped indictment and prosecution.)

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2015 in Film, as Predicted by the 2013 Black List

| Tue Dec. 17, 2013 4:03 PM EST

The 2013 Black List was announced Monday. No, it has nothing to do with communism (we think). Instead it is a collection of the top unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, according to various studio executive and readers who make up the judges. Making the Black List is a big deal! Loads of Oscar winners and box office triumphs have begun there. In two years, you'll probably be seeing many of these scripts in theaters. We thought we’d give you a preview of those films. However, since we know nothing about these screenplays except for their titles, we had to get creative.

Here are the imagined plots of the 72 screenplays on the 2013 Black List:

1. Time and Temperature, Nick Santora
“All it takes is a little time and temperature,” Helena’s grandmother always said as they waited for their victims to roast in the cauldron.

2. Pure O, Kate Trefry
College sophomore Annie reads a New York Times article that says women aren’t having as many orgasms as men. Outraged, she sets about teaching every man, lesbian, and bi-curious woman at Oberlin how to give oral sex. Written with Evan Rachel Wood in mind.

3. The Company Man, Andrew Cypiot
Corporate lawyer gets subpoenaed by the SEC to testify against his shady company, refuses to rat, goes to prison for 18 months, is rewarded by the CEO with a secret Cayman account worth millions, lives a long and happy life, dies serenely with his family by his side, and burns in hell for all eternity.

4. Burn Site, Doug Simon
It’s 1997 and a Tower Records is haunted by the ghost of a witch who was burned at the stake in that very same location 300 years earlier. “Napster is coming,” she howls nightly.

5. Capsule, Ian Shorr
Sad 40-year-old man finds a time capsule from 30 years ago containing his hopes and dreams, goes looking for his best friends who also dreamed big. Surprise! None of them made it, so they band together to finally make their dreams come true.

6. Extinction, Spenser Cohen
The human race is basically extinct. All that is left are one man and one woman…and boy they can't stand each other!

7. Bury the Lead, Justin Kremer
A newspaper staff facing big cuts gets together one night and kills the belt-tightening owner, burying him in coverage from Syria. No one notices.

8. Line of Duty, Cory Miller
Three unpopular undergraduates are dispatched by jocks to hold their place in line at the coolest club in Ohio. Over the course of a “wild and crazy night” they learn self-worth.

9. A Boy and His Tiger, Dan Dollar
Based loosely on the Allen Ginsburg poem "The Lion for Real", this is the harrowing tale of a boy dealing with the shame of masturbation.

10. Inquest, Josh Simon
Who took the cookie from the cookie jar? A child’s introduction to the judiciary system (looking for a home at Pixar; would accept PBS).

11. Sweetheart, Jack Stanley
Man and woman in love are driving through the French Riviera. “Sweetheart,” they say to each other. Car crashes off a cliff and both die instantly. Their respective spouses come to retrieve the bodies, fall in love. Tagline: Sometimes it takes death to find your true sweetheart.

12. Shovel Buddies, Jason Mark Hellerman
“Usually, I can’t stand to look at your ugly face, but out here, in the quiet? Digging graves? You’re like the only person who understands me.” Two competitive hitmen exchange ribald barbs in this quirky buddy flick about killing people who don’t deserve it for money.

13. Fully Wrecked, Jake Morse, Scott Wolman
You’ve seen snowboarding movies. You’ve seen Jackass. You’ve seen the cat dressed as a shark riding a Roomba. But have you seen a man high on marijuana cigarettes, dressed as a vacuum, and holding a cat, wipe out on a black diamond while riding an unwaxed snowboard? And then find the strength of character to do it again? Not until now.

14. The End of the Tour, Donald Margulies
In this unauthorized sequel to Almost Famous, Henry goes to New York to make it as a journalist…just as the newspaper industry is imploding. Watch the sad decline of one of America’s most important institutions through the eyes of a boy who once held so much promise. Bonus: killer soundtrack (rights pending).

15. The Mayor of Shark City, Nick Creature, Michael Sweeney
Child prodigy Ethan Klein could have been anything and gone anywhere, but did he want a PhD at Oxford or the presidency of the United States? No. He wanted to run the drug trade in San Jose. And he’s doing an incredible job, an incredibly bloody job.

16. Spotlight, Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Good Samaritan saves old lady from oncoming subway train, becomes a hero, is given the key to the city, goes on the Today show, where his past DUIs are revealed. He later loses his government job. Moral: Never do anything for anybody.

17. Gay Kid and Fat Chick, Bo Burnham
We’re not touching this one.

18. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Alexis C. Jolly
A stirring portrait of Mr. Rogers’ clinical depression.

19. Ink and Bone, Zak Olkewicz
Oh, so you want to open an “artifacts shoppe” in San Francisco’s uber-hip Mission District? Welcome to the club. The real-life story of hipsters applying for building permits.

20. Dogfight, Nicole Riegel
Man who owns pit bulls that fight other pit bulls falls in love with woman who owns another pit bull his pit bull is supposed to fight.

21. Sovereign, Geoff Tock, Greg Weidman
Do you have ownership over your own thoughts, or is some unknown entity ruling your soul? I mean, like, when you really think about it, man, like think think? This movie follows four Sarah Lawrence undergraduates on a metaphysical journey.

22. I'm Proud of You, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Two estranged, emotionally stunted brothers reunite to drive across the country, dig up their recently deceased father’s corpse, and “get some closure.”

23. The Special Program, Debora Cahn
Area special snowflake applies for MacArthur Fellowship, waits patiently to hear back while his life passes him by.

24. Faults, Riley Stearns
Who's to blame for the Westing family’s hard luck? Jack the alcoholic dad, Gemma the cheating mom, Bertie the psychopathic son, or Joan, the daughter who cooks dinner every night and cries into her teddy bear. OK, clearly not Joan.

25. The Independent, Evan Parter
In a world gone mad, where depravity and sin fill the streets, only one man is brave enough to make unnecessary cuts to social security.

26. The Shark Is Not Working, Richard Cordiner
Behind-the-scenes look at “fish slavery” at SeaWorld, brought to you by the Defenders of Wildlife. “When you think about it, no one asked that shark to delight that horde of children, you know?” says co-creator Angela Sim.

27. Autopsy of Jane Doe, Richard Naing, Ian Goldberg
When it’s discovered that Jane Doe is in fact the beloved film actress Gwnyeth Paltrow—thought to be at a yoga retreat lo these many weeks—the vegan food lobby funds a massive manhunt to find the poor, pitiful, murderous soul who couldn’t stand seeing perfection exist in the world.

28. The Civilian, Rachel Long, Brian Pittman
Internet detective with no particular expertise investigates crime with no particular significance. First of a trilogy.

29. The Crown, Max Hurwitz
Dentist with a drug problem is cash poor but crown rich. Tries to unload $800,000 in dental prosthetics in Costa Rica.

30. Revelation, Hernany Perla
Man has a revelation: Buy gold.

31. The Killing Floor, Bac Delorme, Stephen Clarke
A young girl is traumatized when she wanders into a meat factory after a bouncy ball. The pools of blood haunt her dreams. She tries vegetarianism. She tries activism. But only revenge makes her feel better. The story of how sometimes murder is the only option.

32. Elsewhere, Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
In this claustrophobic tale of obese twins working in a laundromat in Wyoming, we finally understand the meaning of hell.

33. Clarity, Ryan Belenzon, Jeffrey Gelber
Everyone starts taking Adderall all the time, and it’s really great for a while—until people lose too much weight and stop making sense.

34. 1969: A Space Odyssey or How Kubrick Learned to Stop Worrying and Land on the Moon, Stephany Folsom
Two people sit on a bench and talk about Stanley Kubrick movies with their mouths…but their eyes are saying, “Kiss me.” Will they or won’t they? Tensions run high in this talky. Run time: 2:26. (Mother Jones' Asawin Suebsaeng spoke to Stephany Folsom about what her script is actually about. That interview is here.)

35. From Here to Albion, Rory Haines, Sohrab Noshirvani
American importer/exporter Henry Roth works hard to bring blue jeans to Britain.

36. Nicholas, Leo Sardarian
Nicholas is handsome, young, and has his whole life ahead of him, but when he impregnates Mrs. Claus, his future is set in stone. Adorable elf children make this a must-see.

37. The Golden Record, Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell
Everything in Scott Willard’s life comes easy to him—grades, girls, money—but one day at Harvard he takes mushrooms and realizes that despite his sterling credentials, his life is meaningless. He sets out to make it right. Conveniently, he’s rich, so he can do whatever he likes.

38. Man of Sorrow, Neville Kiser
The biography of Joe, who felt like a fraud even though really he worked pretty hard.

39. Dig, Adam Barker
One man’s journey of self-discovery while digging a hole, a really deep hole (based on the real-life blog).

40. Free Byrd, Jon Boyer
Unjustly convicted inmates escape from prison, are illiterate.

41. Reminiscence, Lisa Joy Nolan
A 27-year-old moves to the big city to pursue his dreams, gets an internship, has awkward sex with a lady in his office, lands a full-time gig at an art gallery, but can’t stop thinking of this one summer when he had sex with men back in Nevada.

42. Beauty Queen, Annie Neal
At 33, Miss America 1994 goes back to small-town Nebraska and opens a dry-goods store, dates a local contractor, gets pregnant, married, divorced, then makes her daughter enter pageants.

43. The Politician, Matthew Bass, Theodore Bressman
The President is forced to shoot down a hijacked transatlantic flight headed towards Washington, killing 211 Americans. Impeached by the House, he begins lobbying for support in the Senate. In the end, he is acquitted after agreeing to support increased ethanol subsidies in the farm bill.

44. American Sniper, Jason Dean Hall
We’re pretty sure this is based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History.

45. Tchaikovsky's Requiem, Jonathan Stokes
It’s about hockey.

46. The Remains, Meaghan Oppenheimer
Elizabeth has a secret she’s never told anyone. But when a book is discovered on a park bench full of codes and high-level math, Berlin’s top code-breaker starts solving a riddle that leads straight to her.

47. Beast, Zach Dean
Sexy male underwear model Junot Grant has everything he’s ever wanted—his penis 50-feet tall on a billboard in Times Square, a gorgeous girlfriend—but he leaves the glamorous life behind to journey to his home village in Brazil and confront is oldest foe, Dad.

48. The Line, Sang Kyu Kim
Old dying theater director blames his failing heart on stress from years of being unable to mount a successful version of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy. With only days to live, he resolves to hunt down and kill every former cast member who ever uttered the word "Macbeth” backstage.

49. Half Heard in the Stillness, David Weil
The pretentious love story for the holidays. Poetry is whispered, sex is hinted at, and professors get tenure in “Half Heard in the Stillness.”

50. The Fixer, Bill Kennedy
The long-awaited sequel to Pulp Fiction starring an aging Harvey Keitel, a ranch house in the valley, and old cars. And brain pieces, of course.

51. Pox Americana, Frank John Hughes
This searing, multi-story Crash-like drama tells the tale of 17 interwoven lives over the course of 36 hours. The thesis: chicken pox parties are gross.

52. Broken Cove, Declan O’Dwyer
It was July and everyone was beautiful—Jacquelin, Janey, James, and Ralph. They frolicked when they wanted to frolic, they drank when they wanted to drink, they swam when the water was warm. Then summer ended and they lost touch and got jobs and their hair thinned, and now, when the light is just right, they think of that night they had that orgy in the cove, and they smile.

53. Last Minute Maids, Leo Nichols
When down-on-their luck duchesses are forced to be their own housekeepers, high jinks and mistaken identity ensue. Can the elder duchess catch a rich man before their mansion is seized?

54. Section 6, Aaron Berg
A soccer team that sucks and shouldn’t win somehow wins and the people who live in its vicinity are happy for a while.

55. Sugar in My Veins, Barbara Stepansky
From the flophouse to the boardroom: meet the heroin addict who taught Big Soda how to hook a nation on sugar.

56. Where Angels Die, Alexander Felix
Anaheim. It's Anaheim. That's where they die. This is about Anaheim.

57. Frisco, Simon Stephenson
Beautiful, smart Jessica is from New Jersey, but she really wants to fit in here in her new home of San Francisco so she calls it Frisco all the time. The mystery at the heart of this film: why can’t Jessica make friends?

58. Sea of Trees, Chris Sparling
This is a movie about a bunch of really pretentious people who live in a forest but insist on calling it a sea of trees.

59. Diablo Run,  Shea Mirzai, Evan Mirzai
It’s about dogs.

60. Cake, Patrick Tobin
A man is addicted to cake, dies.

61. Seed, Christina Hodson
Jane and Jane were married in one of San Francisco's first same-sex marriages at City Hall. Now they are ready to be parents. Join them on a journey of finding the right progenitor for their child, as they go from sperm bank to friend to sperm bank, and fall more in love along the way.

62. Superbrat, Eric Slovin, Leo Allen
The story of a former child reality TV star who learns to be a real person in middle age.

63. Pan, Jason Fuchs
A mysterious film critic who looks a bit like a goat teaches Hollywood to value art over profit but also, separately, and due to personal problems, hits a bunch of people in the face with frying pans.

64. Dude, Olivia Milch
“I warned you not to call me that. You knew I was capable of this,” opens this bro-tastic movie that starts at the end with a heinous crime and works its way backward.

65. Hot Summer Nights, Elijah Bynum
Seven friends think they’re going on a sun-filled summer vacation to Brazil. Little do they know that July is actually winter in the southern hemisphere. Four die immediately. The other 3 must make it through brutal terrain. A story of survival.

66. Holland, Michigan, Andrew Sodroski
Elon Musk creates a brilliant space colony on the moon, a one way ticket to which costs $500,000. Jealous, Richard Branson invades. The 99 percent watch the bloodshed from a small town in Michigan.

67. Mississippi Mud, Elijah Bynum
The artisanal Brooklyn-distilled moonshine one grad student turned into a household name.

68. A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
*ring ring*
“Hello?”
“Hi. My name’s Jeff. I’m an ad rep from Monster.com...”
*click*

69. Randle is Benign, Damien Ober
What if you thought you were dying of cancer, so you spent your savings, cheated on your wife, quit your job, and did everything on your bucket list you ever wanted to do—then found out the lump was benign? This is the story of Randle putting his life back together after cancer takes it away and then gives it back, broken in pieces.

70. Make a Wish, Zach Frankel
Sophie is about to turn 30 but she swears she isn’t freaking out that much. It’s normal to cry on the subway every night and booty-call her ex-boyfriend. He may be horrible, but he’s better than being alone, right? But then a funny thing happens: She makes a wish, blows out the candles, and her life begins to change. Coincidence?

71. Patient Z, Michael Le
Everyone on Earth has been turned into a zombie except Janet. She’s the last one left. She kills a bunch of them, but then they catch her and there are a lot of moral questions about who is in the right here. Also: Gore and explosions. Have you seen the Walking Dead?

72. Queen of Hearts, Stephanie Shannon
Callooh! Callay! O frabjous day! Lewis Carroll was probably a child rapist.

See you at the movies!

One of the Films on This Year's Black List is an Alternate History of Stanley Kubrick Faking the Moon Landing

| Mon Dec. 16, 2013 6:48 PM EST

On Monday, this year's Black List—the annual list of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood as voted on by over 250 studio executives—was announced via Twitter. This list features 72 titles, six fewer than last year's. Previous Black Lists have included what would become three of the last five Best Picture Academy Award winners: Argo, The King's Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire. Being on the list means your script has roughly up to a 120 times greater chance of getting made into a feature film by a studio than if it were an average unproduced script.

One of the screenplays inducted onto this year's Black List (check out the complete list here) is by self-described "newbie" Stephany Folsom, and is intriguingly titled, 1969: A Space Odyssey or How Kubrick Learned to Stop Worrying and Land on the Moon (an obvious reference to both the title of Stanley Kubrick's classic black-comedy satire from 1964, and to the director's 2001: A Space Odyssey from 1968).

Folsom's 108-page script (a drama) focuses on "Barbara," a lone wolf working in the publicity department at NASA's office in Washington, DC, in 1969. The story is an alternate history of how, as the Cold War rages, Barbara reaches out to and convinces acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick to work with NASA to fake the moon landing and one-up the Soviets.

"Hijinks ensue," Folsom says.

10 Queer Artists You Should Be Listening To

| Mon Dec. 16, 2013 7:00 AM EST

From left: CocoRosie, Le1f, Angel Haze, Austra, Zebra Katz.

Turn on any commercial radio station or check out the popular music videos on YouTube, and even today the odds are slim that the music you will hear relates to a non-heterosexual relationship. Mainstream music, by and large, is all about straight love and sexuality, and representation of musicians who don't identify publicly as straight is meager at best. To counter that trend, I put together this list of 10 queer artists worth checking out, talented musicians who aren't afraid to be open about their sexuality in their music and in their public life.

1. Angel Haze

Born in 1991, Angel Haze has been on every up-and-coming-rapper list since she released the EP Reservation in 2012. Her song "Werkin' Girls" was named one of Pitchfork Media's 100 Best Tracks of 2012. This year, Haze released a poignant cover of Macklemore's "Same Love," in which she raps about her own experiences with love and homophobia. Haze is direct about her sexuality, telling the Guardian that she identifies as "pansexual... If you can make me feel, if you can make me laugh—and that's hard—then I can be with you. I don't care if you have a vagina or if you're a hermaphrodite or whatever." The 22-year-old rapper's debut album, "Dirty Gold" is set to drop in January 2014. She gave us a peek with the song "Echelon (It's My Way)," released this past October.

2. Austra

In 2011, Austra released its debut album, Feel it Break, to critical acclaim. This past June, the Toronto band, fronted by Katie Stelmanis (whose middle name is the band's namesake), dropped its second studio album, Olympia, featuring the operatic single, "Home." In a 2011 interview with 'Sup Magazine, Stelmanis said that she identifies as queer because "it encompasses gay, lesbian, trans..." She told the website After Ellen that she'd always wanted to be in a gay band. "I'd like to say being gay means being gay and being in a band, but most of my bandmates are gay and we've never really had that classification...it probably has to do with the fact there are a lot of stereotypes of what a gay band—particularly lesbian-identified band—should sound like, and we don't really fit in with those stereotypes, which is confusing."

3. Le1f

Le1f (pronounced leaf) is the stage name of Khalif Diouf, who gained recognition for producing tracks for Das Racist, including the hit "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." He broke out as a solo artist last year, and immediately got noticed for the song "Wut." This year, Le1f took to Twitter to call out Macklemore over "Same Love," tweeting: "News just in: Gay people don't care about your video about gay people." He released two mixtapes in 2013: Tree House and Spa Day, and his EP Hey is expected to drop in 2014. His rap is subversive, playful, and great.

4. CocoRosie

The sister duo has been around since 2004, and Tales of a GrassWidow, released this year, is their fifth studio album. CocoRosie's music has gotten mixed reviews from the start, and many critics are turned off by what they see as its "repellence" and "perversity." For others, it's exactly this alterity that's so attractive. Their first album, La Maison de Mon Rêve, used children's toys for sound effects. Bianca (Coco), often performs in drag, and her childlike voice raps eerily over her sister's operatic melodies. The New York Times wrote that CocoRosie's "waifishness is an extreme political stance, a way of countering everything from consumer capitalism to the war in Iraq to environmental collapse."

5. Cakes Da Killa

New Jersey-based rapper Cakes Da Killa, who released his second mixtape, The Eulogy, this past January, has been widely recognized as an emerging artist in the genre of LGBT hip-hop. According to Pitchfork, "Cakes is maybe the closest thing hip-hop has right now to a Lil Kim figure, a raunchy-ass bitch who absolutely owns being a raunchy-ass bitch." He told Interview Magazine that if he had it his way "I'd change people's priorities. They're worried about gay marriage...It's all about the white gay prerogative...I'm not queer. I hate that word. It's not in the black community. I like 'cunt.'"

6. Mykki Blanco

Mykki Blanco, the female side of Michael Quattlebaum, released her first mixtape, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss last year, and the media attention has never stopped. Her iconic song, "Wavvy," released last year, put her at the forefront of New York's transgender music scene, and she continues to be outspoken about her identity and her art. Her dark, Marilyn Manson-inspired rapping is exemplified in her second EP, Betty Rubble: The Initiation, which dropped in June 2013.

7. THEESatisfaction

THEESatisfaction is a Seattle-based duo composed of rapper Stasia "Stas" Iron and singer Catherine "Cat" Harris-White. Partners in both their personal and professional lives, Stas and Cat met at the University of Washington in 2008 and have been creating what they describe as "funk-psychedelic feminista sci-fi epics with the warmth and depth of Black Jazz and Sunday morning soul, frosted with icy raps that evoke equal parts Elaine Brown, Ursula Rucker and Q-Tip." They released two mixtapes this year, And That's Your Time and THEESatisfaction Loves Erykah Badu, after dropping their first studio album, awE naturalE, last year.

8. The Knife

This past April, after a seven year hiatus, the Knife, a Swedish sibling duo with their own record label, released their fourth studio album, Shaking the Habitual. Amoeba Music put it at the top of its "50 Essential Albums Released in 2013" list, calling it "sprawling, conceptual, yet immensely thrilling." "I guess the feminist and queer theory that we've been reading and studying over the last few years," they told Spin magazine, "has helped us understand what we formerly felt, and find the words to understand political structures."

9. Zebra Katz

It's fair to say that before 2012, Zebra Katz was on no one's register. But after the fashion designer Rick Owens played Katz's song "Ima Read" on repeat at a show in Paris, the rapper jumped to near-instant fame. Katz is the stage name of Ojay Morgan, who left his job at a catering company after recording "Ima Read" to try his luck in the music business. He told the Guardian he identifies as "black, queer and 'other,'" and that "creating a strong, black, other, queer male is something that really needed to happen because you don't see that that often, especially not in hip-hop." This year he released the mixtape DRKLNG, featuring several music videos and Katz's characteristically minimalist raps.

10. Tegan and Sara

Last but not least, Tegan and Sara, the most senior of all the musicians in this list, having been an act since 1995. The identical twin duo released their first studio album in 1999, and their seventh, Heartthrob, this past January. They've won countless awards and transitioned from alternative indie rock to full-fledged pop, epitomized by the single "Closer." The sisters are openly lesbian, and are active in the fight for marriage equality.

How the Royal Navy Helped the Late Peter O'Toole Become an Acting Legend

| Sun Dec. 15, 2013 6:49 PM EST

Peter O'Toole, the phenomenally talented Irish-English actor famous for his roles in such films as Lawrence of Arabia and Becket, died on Saturday at the age of 81. He was being treated at the Wellington Hospital in London after a long illness, according to his agent.

"My thoughts are with Peter O'Toole's family and friends," British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted. "His performance in my favourite film, Lawrence of Arabia, was stunning." President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins added: "Ireland, and the world, has lost one of the giants of film and theatre...I was privileged to know him as a friend since 1969...He was unsurpassed for the grace he brought to every performance on and off the stage."

O'Toole leaves behind a towering legacy in theater and cinema. In his earlier days, he was also a notorious party boy who lost much of his sizeable Lawrence of Arabia paycheck in a two-night gambling spree with co-star Omar Sharif at casinos in Casablanca and Beirut. "I was happy to grab the hand of misfortune, dissipation, riotous living, and violence," O'Toole told the Sunday Express in 1995.

His epic carousing, however, turned to cautionary tale when in the mid-1970s he was diagnosed with pancreatitis, and subsequently had chunks of intestinal tubing removed; he then gave up the bottle, having gone to the brink of death. He would later say of his unexpected recovery, "It proved inconvenient to a few people, but there you go."

O'Toole earned eight Academy Award nominations without bagging a single win (a record), but was presented with an Honorary Oscar in 2003. In a way, O'Toole, a former journalist-in-training, owed his entire career in acting to a conversation he had with a skipper while serving in the Royal Navy. As he told NPR:

I served with men who'd been blown up in the Atlantic, who'd seen their friends drinking icy bubbles in oil and being machine gunned in the water. And I mentioned that I wasn't particularly satisfied with what I was doing in civilian life, which was working for a newspaper. And the skipper said to me one night, have you any unanswered calls inside you that you don't understand or can't qualify? I said, well, yes, I do. I quite fancy myself either as a poet or an actor. He said, well, if you don't at least give it a try, you'll regret it for the rest of your life.

In honor of his passing, here are a few great clips of the actor when he wasn't acting on stage or in a big movie: O'Toole's classic entrance on Late Show with David Letterman:

O'Toole and Orson Welles debating Hamlet on the BBC in 1963:

...and, finally, O'Toole reciting the Spice Girls:

How Will Ferrell, Patton Oswalt, and Others Are Trying to Free an American Jailed in UAE

| Fri Dec. 13, 2013 6:30 PM EST

UPDATE, January 10, 2014, 11:26 a.m. EST: On Thursday, Shezanne "Shez" Cassim landed in Minnesota a free man. Early this week, news broke that he was being released early due to time served and good behavior. Cassim came back to the US with his father, who had been in the United Arab Emirates for several months. Cassim spent nine months behind bars. Here is Funny or Die's brief statement on his release:

We are so happy for Shezanne and his family. We couldn't be more thrilled with the news of his early release.

"We are planning on meeting Shez once things settle down for him," Patrick Starzan, head of marketing at Funny or Die, says in an email to Mother Jones. "No firm plans have been made because we just want to give Shez time to be back with his family."

UPDATE, December 23, 2013, 11:21 a.m. EST: On Monday, a UAE judge sentenced Shezanne "Shez" Cassim to one year in prison for posting a comedy video online. Four other men were jailed for their involvement with the parody video. Cassim's family is trying to confirm whether the one-year imprisonment includes time served or requires additional jail time. "Shez is coming up on nine months incarceration for making a parody," Shervon Cassim, Shez's brother, said in a statement. "This isn't justice." Authorities say they plan on deporting Cassim once he completes his sentence. Cassim's sentencing is "an appalling attack on intellectual freedom and basic human rights," Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) said.

This week, Funny or Die—Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's comedy website—posted the video (above) in support of Shezanne "Shez" Cassim, an American citizen, former Minnesota resident, and consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Dubai office, who has been jailed in the United Arab Emirates since April. His crime? Posting his comedy video to YouTube in 2012. The 19-minute video parodies a clique of wannabe-gangster teens in Dubai who take their cues from hip-hop. This earned the 29-year-old amateur comedian a stay at a maximum-security prison in Abu Dhabi, where he awaits his next hearing on December 16. He and eight friends are accused of endangering the Arab country's security under a newly enacted federal cyber-crimes law. (Here's where the UAE government stands on other human rights issues, by the way.)

Funny or Die's video compiles cell phone videos recorded by Ferrell, McKay, Bob Odenkirk, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and other celebrities. "If you start putting people in jail for making videos that you don't like, then you're going to have to lock up the The Polyphonic Spree, and that's no fun for anybody," says comedian and actor Patton Oswalt. "I'm in a show about politics, and some of our stories are pretty crazy, but even we wouldn't do a story about a guy being put in jail for eight months because he expressed himself through comedy," says Tony Hale, of HBO political satire Veep. "It's one thing to have a bad sense of humor," says McKay. "It's another thing to lock people up because of it."

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No, Megyn Kelly, Santa Is Not White

| Thu Dec. 12, 2013 2:34 PM EST

On Tuesday, Fox News discussed a recent Slate article by Aisha Harris that argued that depictions of Santa as a white man are a relic of a time long since passed and that, in our multicultural world, such depictions can make non-white children feel like outsiders. The piece, "Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore," makes a lot of good points. In response, Fox anchor Megyn Kelly made a couple of less-good points:

1) "Santa is just white."

"When I saw this headline I kinda laughed and I said, "Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it's racist to have a white Santa." And by the way, for all you kids watching at home (Ed. note: If you are a child who is watching Fox News on your own time, your parents have failed you), Santa is just white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids."

Santa is not white, because Santa is not real. Santa is fake. Santa exists in Coca Cola commercials and the hearts and minds of misled children. Santa is often depicted as white because That's The Way It's Always Been. But Santa is not white, again, because Santa is not real.

2) "Jesus was a white man, too."

"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man too. He was a historical figure; that's a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: how do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?"

The historical Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew. Scholars overwhelmingly agree that he did not look like a white European. He is so often depicted that way because white Europeans—and their similarly pasty American descendants—are so often the ones doing the depicting.

Everyone involved in this story can learn something today.

Children: Stop watching cable news. Go outside and play in the park. You'll be happier.

Megyn Kelly: Jesus was not white. Santa is not real.

America's Best Hate-Reads, 2013

| Thu Dec. 12, 2013 7:00 AM EST

The year is almost over. Thank God. If you're anything like us, you spent a good portion of the last year tearing your hair out over something you read on the internet. (Did you know millennials have a sense of entitlement? It's true!)

Here are 46 stories we couldn't stop complaining about in 2013:

Modern Times

"Eric devoured the sandwich as if it were a five-star meal, diving in with large, eager bites. 'Babes, this is delicious!' he exclaimed."

New York and Not-New-York

"The brunch is all the same."

Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen

"Miley Cyrus twerked. I had to look up the word since my indefatigable spell checker had no idea what I meant."

Money

"The preferred terms, he said, are 'hackers,' 'makers' or 'coders.'"

Politics

"Now, let me be clear. I love the gays. I have gay friends, gay mentors, gay acquaintances and associates."

"Women, How Do They Work?"

"When you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia..."

Love Actually

"Love Actually says, yes, you're crazy, but other people are crazy, too, and you should find out if maybe they're crazy about you."

No, "Her" Director Spike Jonze Does Not Look at Siri in a Sexual Light

| Tue Dec. 10, 2013 11:38 AM EST

Spike Jonze's Her (Warner Bros., 126 min.) is being hailed as one of the funniest, most delightful, and best films you'll see all year. It's also the only one in which you'll get to see Joaquin Phoenix have sex with a computer.

The sci-fi romance is set in futuristic Los Angeles and tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a heartbroken man who falls in love with Samantha, the disembodied voice and personality of his computer and smartphone operating system. The "OS" (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) engages in a lot of playful, affectionate, and human conversation with Theodore, and you can listen to some of it here:

Samantha and Theodore do all the serious-relationship-y stuff that comes standard: They go on double dates, embark on mild adventures, argue from time to time, and, yes, make glorious love. (Theodore has something of an out-of-body experience when they consummate their relationship.)

Understandably, the fictional Samantha has attracted comparisons to the real-life Siri, which is the artificially intelligent, often female-voiced personal assistant that is supported on many of Apple's iPhones and iPads. You can ask Siri to do things for you and you can have conversations with Siri. Siri is also known for its love of libertarian icon Ron Paul, and for advising a befuddled Zooey Deschanel.

So, yeah, Samantha is like a super-advanced Siri, voiced by ScarJo. (Jonze's story was actually first inspired by instant-messaging technology that he discovered years before Siri came along.) "Some filmmakers create art that reflects the world [while] Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) creates movies that make us see the world in startling new ways," gushed Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers. Fair enough. But did all his years of bringing Her to life lead Jonze to view the world—specifically, technology like Siri and Samantha—in a new light? Jonze was nice enough to humor me about this subject when he was in Washington, DC, last week for a Q&A session. Our conversation is posted below.

Me: After spending so much time making this movie, do you now look at, say, Siri any differently, whether sexually, emotionally, or intellectually?

Jonze: All the above! (Chuckles.) Actually, no, not at all. I mean, it's such a different thing [from what's in Her]. And Siri, it doesn't really do all that much. So… no.

Me: So no new urges, then?

Jonze: No.

There you have it, in case you were dying to know.

Study: Watching Wall-to-Wall Coverage of Boston Marathon Bombings Was More Stressful Than Being There

| Mon Dec. 9, 2013 4:12 PM EST

Just how stressful is it to glue yourself to media coverage of a horrific event like the Sandy Hook massacre, the 9/11 attacks, or last year's Boston Marathon bombings? In some cases, it may be more stressful than direct exposure to the event.

That's according to a new study from the University of California-Irvine, which focused on the Boston attacks this past April. In the wake of the bombings, researchers measured symptoms of acute stress reported by people who were either at the event or who had loved ones there. They compared these responses to the responses of people with no connection to the event, but who were exposed to repeated media reports on the bombing. The media junkies were the more stressed-out group, because, the team concluded, the extended exposure kept the acute stressor "active and alive" in their minds.

"We underestimate the role of media exposure to graphic images," says Alison Holman, the study's lead author. "It's not just seeing it once; my concern is the repetitive viewing. If seeing those images over and over produces more rumination or habitual worrying, even at a subconscious level, it could be contributing to mental or physical ailments."