Mixed Media

What Does North Korea Have to Say About Seth Rogen and James Franco Trying To Kill Kim Jong Un in "The Interview"?

| Fri Jun. 13, 2014 5:00 PM EDT

UPDATE, June 22, 2014, 12:07 p.m. ET: A North Korean official has weighed in. "However, Kim Myong-chol, who is often described as an 'unofficial' spokesperson for the communist nation's 'supreme leader,' said the dictator would probably watch the movie anyway," the Guardian reports. (And here's Seth Rogen responding to that.)

"I am incredibly proud and a little bit frightened to present the first teaser for our next movie, [The Interview]," actor/director Seth Rogen tweeted on Wednesday. The reason he might have been a bit frightened was because of the film's plot. Here's the official synopsis of the movie, which is set for theatrical release on October 10:

In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show "Skylark Tonight." When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong Un.

In The Interview, the binge-drinking, Kobe Bryant-loving, human-rights-allergic ruler is played by Korean-American comedian Randall Park. Here's the trailer:

"We read as much as we could that was available on the subject," Rogen told Yahoo Movies. "We talked to the guys from Vice who actually went to North Korea and met Kim Jong Un. We talked to people in the government whose job it is to associate with North Korea, or be experts on it." Rogen also said that he and co-director Evan Goldberg asked North Korea experts to check the script for authenticity, because Rogen thought the truth about the dictatorship is "so crazy you don't need to make anything up." There is a joke in the trailer about how the regime once claimed that Kim Jong Un doesn't urinate or defecate; this is based on actual propaganda about his father Kim Jong Il.

North Korean officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the upcoming Rogen-Franco comedy that involves the pair trying to kill their leader. (It's really hard to get in touch with them.)

But as the film's release approaches, don't be too surprised if someone issues an angry statement. In 2005, shortly after the release of Team America: World Police, North Korea's embassy in Prague demanded that movie be banned in the Czech Republic, insisting that it harmed their country's reputation. Team America was made by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and uses a cast of puppets to satirize the war on terror, as well as liberal Hollywood. A Kim Jong Il puppet is the main villain.

Now, here is the new poster for The Interview:

The Interview film
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

UPDATE 2, July 11, 2014, 4:29 p.m. ET: The North Korean government filed a complaint with the United Nations over The Interview. Read the letter, which labels the film as an act of war by the Obama administration, below. The State Department did not respond to my request for comment regarding North Korea's view that the upcoming Seth Rogen / James Franco comedy is an American act of war.

 

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Watch: Is the NRA So Different From a Jihadi Terrorist Group? [Fiore Cartoon]

| Thu Jun. 12, 2014 8:16 PM EDT

Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

Ruby Dee Was a Badass

| Thu Jun. 12, 2014 5:51 PM EDT

On Wednesday, actress Ruby Dee passed away at the age of 91. Her long career brought her much acclaim and many honors, including an Academy Award nomination for her work in Ridley Scott's American Gangster. She, along with her late husband and fellow actor Ossie Davis, was also famous for her civil rights activism, which dated back to the 1950s.

Dee began attending protests as a child, joining picket lines to campaign against hiring discrimination. She and Davis emceed the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his landmark "I Have a Dream" speech. They rallied against apartheid in South Africa. In 1999, they were arrested while protesting the death of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from Guinea, who was gunned down by four NYPD officers. And the list goes on.

"I never remember, like, saying, 'I'm gonna join the civil rights movement'—that's all I knew all my life, some aspect of it, even before it was called the civil rights movement," Dee once told an interviewer from the Archive of American Television. "When I first, years ago, saw my first picture of black men hanging from trees, well, I could scarcely know the meaning of things. Or, I remember things that stuck in my head, this family strung up and the woman was pregnant and they opened the belly up, the baby had fallen out...So I can't say that I joined [the civil rights movement]; I was born into it. Racism is a disease of democracy. Our country could be one of the greatest countries that god ever imagined, were it not for this thing of racism...This grand experiment that is America is tainted by racism and bigotry, and these kinds of hatreds...This ridiculous thing of racism."

Via New York's PIX11 News, here is footage of Dee in 1969 reading the names of young black men killed by police officers:

"Ruby Dee was…a woman who believed deeply in fairness, a conviction that motivated her lifelong efforts to advance civil rights," SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard said in a statement. "The acting community—and the world—is a poorer place for her loss."

 

Are the Director and Star of "Obvious Child" Concerned About Anti-Abortion Backlash?

| Thu Jun. 12, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Obvious Child is being widely described as an "abortion comedy"—a catchy, if inadequate, designation. The movie (directed and co-written by Gillian Robespierre, and starring Saturday Night Live alum Jenny Slate) does involve abortion and funny jokes, many of which are about abortion and farting, among other topics. But Obvious Child is much more than the "abortion comedy" designation might lead you to believe.

"We were confident that our take on this story was thoughtful, and heartfelt, and that the comedy was funny and not for shock value," Slate tells Mother Jones.

The film follows New York-based comedian Donna Stern (played by Slate) who, after losing both her day job and her unfaithful boyfriend, engages in what she thinks is just a one-night stand—which leads to an unwanted pregnancy. She decides to have an abortion at Planned Parenthood, and she schedules it for Valentine's Day. The result is a witty, honest, and affecting romantic comedy that addresses a charged issue with unexpected clarity. The Huffington Post called it, "the year's most revolutionary film."

Obvious Child does not push a political agenda, but there is little chance of that stopping anyone who is paid to be upset by this sort of thing from, well, being upset by it. "Has Hollywood hit a new low?" the Daily Caller asked. "Here's a new oxymoron, even for the liberal media: abortion comedy," NewsBusters decried. "Apparently nothing sounds funnier than an unplanned one-night stand and a courageous destruction of God's most beautiful and most innocent creation," Brent Bozell wrote at Townhall.com.

"[Conservatives bashing Obvious Child] haven't seen the movie; they're basing it on articles and trailers."

The film premiered in New York last week, and is getting a slow theatrical roll-out elsewhere starting this Friday. As it garners more attention, it'll likely piss off more people. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be much of a concern for Robespierre or Slate. "Whatever other conversation occurs, we're really excited," Robespierre says. "[Conservatives bashing Obvious Child] haven't seen the movie; they're basing it on articles and trailers."

"You know, we just set out to make this story. We weren't thinking about anything but making this story," Slate says. When I asked them if they were looking forward to the moment when Rush Limbaugh gets ahold of the movie, Slate replied, "We're looking forward to people seeing our movie, and enjoying it."

On the other side of the reproductive-rights debate, people are certainly enjoying, and endorsing, the film. "Honest portrayals about abortion in film and television are extremely rare, and that's part of a much bigger lack of honest depictions of women's lives, health, and sexuality," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This film is a major breakthrough—not just because it shows a woman deciding to have an abortion but because it shows her as a full and complete person making the serious decision to end a pregnancy and still having a full and fun life."

Planned Parenthood also consulted on the development and production of Obvious Child, vetting the script and allowing them to shoot in a clinic in New Rochelle, New York. "They were so supportive, a real friend of the film," Robespierre says. "They read a draft of the script, they loved it, and they were so enthusiastic that we were making a movie that sort of takes away the stigma of the choice. The character is not hard on herself, and she's not ashamed, and not judgmental. And it's a positive, safe procedure." Planned Parenthood then offered a few notes on the screenplay (what a nurse at one of their clinics would say to a patient, for instance). A few Planned Parenthood employees can be seen in the film as extras. "They were big fans of Jenny," Robespierre recalls.

"We don't describe our film as an 'abortion comedy'; I don't think that's a thing, you know?"

Robespierre became a big fan of Jenny after she saw her perform stand-up in Brooklyn in 2009, at a bar behind a record store. "We finished the script but hadn't cast the role of Donna yet, and there she was, blowing us away with this confessional style of comedy," Robespierre says. "She was talking about when she was a little girl she would hump furniture in her house." The pair then made a 2009 short film, also called Obvious Child, which then became the feature they're promoting today.

"We don't describe our film as an 'abortion comedy'; I don't think that's a thing, you know?" Slate says. "I understand that it's something that might draw readers. But for us, it's the funny, and heartwarming, and new story of one woman at this time in her life."

"Yeah, we don't like boring shit," Slate continues, summing things up.

"Yeah, fuck that!" Robespierre says.

Right Said Fred Discuss Their Anti-Assad Version of "I'm Too Sexy"

| Tue Jun. 10, 2014 1:05 PM EDT

On Sunday, HBO's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver invited English dance-pop group Right Said Fred onto the set to perform a special, anti-mass-murder version of their 1991 hit song "I'm Too Sexy."

Host John Oliver ended his latest episode with a segment on the brutality of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's regime. Oliver also pointed out that the the dictator's iTunes downloads includes pop music by artists such as LMFAO and Right Said Fred. "So we're dealing with someone with the political instincts of a young Joseph Stalin, and the music tastes of a 14-year-old girl from Orange County named Tiffany," Oliver said.

In the interest of finding something Assad enjoys and turning it against him—as something of a protest song—Oliver brought out Right Said Fred (formed by brothers Fred and Richard Fairbrass) to play an anti-Assad cover of their hit track. Instead of the lyric, "I'm too sexy for my shirt," Assad gets, "You're too awful for this Earth," and lyrics asking him to "stop downloading our tracks." Richard, the lead vocalist, is also critical of Assad's appearance, and sings that he should be tried as a war criminal.

"We loved [this] idea," guitarist Fred Fairbrass tells Mother Jones. "They approached us about two weeks ago. It's actually very old-school to take a popular song and re-write the lyrics for a current subject matter. Blues artists and folk artists used to do that a lot. I think the result was very effective and a lot of fun."

Last Week Tonight's team of writers penned the new lyrics, which they then sent to the Brothers Fairbrass for approval. Here's the clip from Sunday's show:

As for Fred and Richard Fairbrass' interest in the humanitarian crisis, civil war, and mass slaughter in Syria, the brothers don't consider themselves experts on the topic, but have been following the news for the past three years. "The Assad regime is inhumane and tyrannical—the problem of course is the opposition don't seem much better," Fred says.

I asked Fred to further elaborate on Right Said Fred's politics. Here's his response:

We marched in London against the Iraq War. Last week we were in Copenhagen and joined the anti-Bilderberg protesters. We tend to get most of our news info from the alternative media like James Corbett, Media Monarchy, Democracy Now!, etc. etc. We are pro-privacy and pro-minimal state intervention.

Furthermore, Right Said Fred showed up at a gay rights march in Moscow in 2007 (where Richard was physically assaulted by an anti-gay counter-protester), and their official Twitter account recently issued a brief critique of President Obama and the Bowe Bergdahl deal.

And now, here's the original "I'm Too Sexy":

Jack White's Angsty, Exuberant "Lazaretto"

| Mon Jun. 9, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Jack White
Lazaretto
Third Man/Columbia

He may be in his late thirties, but Jack White continues to display a callow, almost cartoonish exuberance on his second solo album. The same giddy energy that informed his tenure leading the White Stripes, when he often evoked the buoyant excesses of Led Zeppelin in a smaller format, is still present here, but the textures are more varied and satisfying. Flavored by tasty dollops of pedal steel, Hammond B3 organ, fiddle, synth and the like, the consistently engaging Lazaretto hopscotches eagerly from blues to country to hard rock, with White's arresting man-on-fire vocals always front and center. For all his obvious pleasure at being able to make a racket, however, there's also a strain of existential angst: "All the creatures have it hard now. Nothing but God is left to know. And why he left us all here hanging. With an illusion of a home," White sings on "Temporary Ground," suggesting bad times to come.

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There's a Shailene Woodley Holocaust Make-Out Session in "The Fault in Our Stars"

| Fri Jun. 6, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
The scene set in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

The post contains some spoilers.

The Fault in Our Stars is a smartly crafted, touching film about teenage love and teenage cancer. The movie has been widely described as this year's ultimate tearjerker: "Total emotional carnage—like having your head chopped off by a sword made of tears," GQ staff writer Zach Baron said. "The Fault in Our Stars is an industrial-strength teen romance that will make you question everything you think you know about life, appreciate everything you have but didn't appreciate before, and, unless you have no soul, cry like nobody's watching," ABC News' David Blaustein declared. "The film sets out to make you weep—not just sniffle or choke up a little, but sob until your nose runs and your face turns blotchy," the New York Times' A. O. Scott wrote. "It succeeds."

So, yeah, there appears to be a consensus that the film will make you cry while you're seated in a movie theater, surrounded by fellow sniffling patrons. Along with its various assaults on the tear ducts, The Fault in Our Stars also contains a bafflingly awkward (and arguably inappropriate) scene in which the two main characters make out in the same attic where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis.

Let's back up for a minute. The film, based on John Green's young-adult bestseller, tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters (played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, both excellent), two lovebirds who found each other at a Jesus-heavy cancer support group. After their relationship starts to get serious, they travel to Amsterdam to meet Hazel's favorite author. The trip includes a visit to the Anne Frank House, the world-famous museum that preserves the building where Anne Frank, the young Jewish wartime diarist, hid with her family during the Holocaust. Shortly after Hazel and Augustus reach the House's attic (which features photos of the Jewish family members murdered by Nazi occupiers), they share their first kiss. A crowd of smiling tourists emphatically applaud the brief make-out session. Happy-sounding music plays.

Again, this scene is set in the attic where the Frank family would often go to get fresh air while trying to not get mass-murdered by Hitler.

Here's Shailene Woodley describing the kiss to the Daily Beast (emphasis mine):

Anne's story and Hazel's story are so synchronistic, in a way—the theme of how you don't have to live a long life to have a powerful and meaningful one—and Anne Frank had her first kiss in that house, and Hazel did, too. And then having the ability to film there and the history of what those walls held was powerful in those scenes. Hazel's thinking, "This might be the last time in my life I'm here, and if I have to die going up these stairs, I'll die going up these stairs." She's also thinking, "If Anne Frank did it, I can do it."

Fair enough. Maybe. But they're still making out in the Anne Frank House, which is at least a couple notches more problematic than making out during a screening of Schindler's List. The scene has already weirded-out some in the press. "The Anne Frank House? Are you kidding me?" GQ associate editor Mark Byrne said. LA Weekly's Stephanie Zacharek called the kiss, "highly dubious."

At the very least, it doesn't seem as though the folks at the real-life Anne Frank House are offended by this. In the special-thanks section of the film's end credits, the Anne Frank House gets the first shout-out for their cooperation. And though the cast and crew were on-location in the summer of 2013 for shots of the museum's exterior and entrance, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House told me that the parts of the sequence set inside the building were filmed at a replica elsewhere. "We have not seen the film, so we cannot express any opinion on it," Annemarie Bekker, at the House's communications department, said. "In the book [the kiss in the attic] is a moving and sensitively handled scene." Bekker also said that the Anne Frank House was not involved in the production, but that they did give the cast and writer a guided tour, and allowed them to film outside.

Anyway, it's not like the kiss tanks the rest of the movie. The Fault in Our Stars is a well-acted, genuinely moving experience that also happens to include a strange moment of Holocaust-associated lip-locking.

Now here's the trailer:

This post has been updated.

Lana Del Rey Cares Way More About "Intergalactic Possibilities" Than Boring, Old Feminism

| Wed Jun. 4, 2014 3:46 PM EDT

Famous singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey has a weird quote about "feminism" (and space exploration, I think) in the latest Fader cover story. Digest it here:

For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I'm more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what's going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I'm like, god. I'm just not really that interested…My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.

Okay.

The 27-year-old singer joins a chorus of female celebrities, including actress Shailene Woodley, who distance themselves from feminism, or from describing themselves as feminists. This is strange to hear (whether the famous person is female or male), simply because your average dictionary is very straightforward about the definition of the term "feminism." It is as follows:

The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

It's really that simple: Words have meanings. Maybe too many of us have, over the years, conflated the word "feminist" with "extreme, radical, militant, War-On-Men-waging individual?" I dunno. Anyway, Ann Friedman explains this general topic better than I ever could, and you should read her piece here.

(H/t Matt Zeitlin)

Watch Jon Stewart Explain the Insanity of America's Acceptance of Mass Shootings

| Tue Jun. 3, 2014 11:47 AM EDT

This is funny and sad and awful and true. We have accepted that occasional mass murder is the cost of America.

Watch:

For more of Mother Jones' award-winning investigative reporting on guns in America, see all of our latest coverage here, and our special reports.

Silicon Valley's Gender Problem, Explained in 2 Photos

| Mon Jun. 2, 2014 4:02 PM EDT

Last year, CNET's Dan Ackerman tweeted a photo of the restroom lines at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.

 

The message: Silicon Valley is mostly men.

Today was the WWDC 2014 keynote and Ackerman revisited the scene.

Behold: Some ladies! Not many though. In fact, basically none. Silicon Valley's very real woman problem remains.

We will not be happy until these lines are equal in length.