Friday, December 26, 2014

Is It Your Patriotic Duty To See A Movie This Holiday?

I took the family to see The Interview yesterday. I bought my tickets the day before, just to make sure we got in. All of us wanted to go, so why take a chance on something like that? Who knows what the consequences could have been if we didn't get seats. Disappointed kids being one of the things parents live in fear of at Christmas. While this isn't the real reason for the season, it does move business along. Some think that is more important.

When I did get there a day early they'd already sold out half of the theater for a first showing at 11:00 in the morning. It probably wasn't the worst idea I've had this Christmas season. That would have been the Water Pik toothbrushes for the kids. The joy and happiness of good dental hygiene is apparently lost on some people.

The theater where I bought the tickets was The Regency in Azusa. Which, I'll admit now, was a good place to see a movie. Part of a small independent cinema chain, they feature lots of leg room, free refills on soft drinks, and ticket prices that are a couple of bucks less than the big time outfits. They're kind of like what movie houses were before the advent of the Cinema 50 MegaPlex. Or whatever those other places are called. They have one at Santa Anita Mall. I wouldn't go there at gunpoint.

I don't go this far out of my way to see movies often, but the distribution of The Interview was a little different than with most films. That was determined by North Korea, who had taken some special pains to try and discourage people from seeing it. They apparently hacked their way into the computer systems at Sony Pictures, and then posted what they'd stolen all over the Internet. And while the embarrassing e-mails from company executives talking smack about spoiled and overpaid movie actors were amusing, the North Koreans probably should have stopped there. I'm not certain that making social security numbers and health records of employees available to the world won them much sympathy.

Then there was also the threat of terrorism, which caused some of the big movie chains to flee. This also led to Sony Pictures pulling the film altogether, at least for a little while. The President of the United States got involved, corporate arms were twisted, the Internet of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea was mysteriously yanked down, stuff like that.

As far as movie prerelease publicity goes, this was some pretty heady stuff. I do marketing for a fairly large music entertainment company, and I must confess we have never been able to pull off something quite like that. One of our artists did perform at the White House recently. Seems like small potatoes now.

Kim Jong Un and movie critics agree, The Interview stinks
'I hear the critics said it is not very good.'
Let me say this straight out, I thought the movie was hilarious. So did my family. I can also tell you that we're going back to see it again. We'll do things like that once in a while. Why not? As I recall we saw Borat three times. We try to make certain that we don't miss any of the more subtle and finer points of the cinematic comedies we enjoy.

Like I said, the show we went to yesterday was sold out, and once the movie was over everybody there stood up and cheered. Loudly. And from all of the articles I've been reading this evening, that has pretty much been the case everywhere. People are lining up early, tickets have become hard to come by, and the folks in the street are telling anyone who will listen just how much fun they had. Here is how CBS Los Angeles describes the excitement (link):

Enthusiastic Crowds Lining Up For ‘The Interview’ In Theaters Across LA - The highly anticipated release of Sony Pictures Entertainment's “The Interview” opened in theaters Thursday in Los Angeles County. 

Sony originally announced the cancellation of the controversial film last week, which stars James Franco and Seth Rogen, after several of the largest movie theater chains refused to show it. The fictional story focuses around plans to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, which sparked the controversial attack.

While critics generally lambasted the film, KCAL9’s political reporter Dave Bryan found enthusiastic fans on Christmas day and evening. He reported from outside the Crest Theater where he said a long line stretched down the block on a blustery night in Westwood.

“I wasn’t planning to see it,” said one woman, “but no tinhorn dictator is going to tell me what second-rate comedy I can’t go and see!”

The on-line movie information service, IMDb (Internet Movie Database), which bases its numbers on the votes of people just like you and I, rates this film very highly. Here is a screen shot.

That shows us some fairly strong popular support. And as you can see, after much careful thought and consultation with experts in the art form, I decided to give it a 10.

However, the movie critics are decidedly in disagreement with me. Bob Strauss, who writes for local dailies such as the Los Angeles Daily News and Pasadena Star News, panned the hell out of The Interview. And both of these papers actually ran that review on the front page of their Christmas editions. So yes, you do get the feeling they felt it was very important to express some umbrage over this film.

In a review titled "The Interview not funny enough for all the drama," here is a portion of the awful things Film Critic Strauss has to say (link):

Unfortunately, it grieves me to report that “The Interview” just ain’t very funny.

Since I have often defended Rogen’s limited but amusing acting talents and stoner bromance sensibilities, I’m sad to say that the movie lacks the kind of laughs you’d (now) expect from such a hard-fought film. It’s not real clever, either; for a guy who’s last two star vehicles were semi-inspired takes on the Apocalypse (“This Is the End”) and frat farces (“Neighbors”), “The Interview” is a lazy, poorly targeted disappointment.

By poorly targeted, I don’t mean the concept was irresponsible. I’m firmly in favor of free expression no matter how much trouble it makes. What’s not lined up right here is what little satirical success the film can claim. It’s better when it’s making fun of American media than it is at undermining repression.

There is one thing that Bob Strauss and I differ on for sure. I'm not certain that any comedy film's responsibility is "undermining repression." Or saving the world, for that matter. If entertainment was a cure for the world's ills, wouldn't all of that protest music back in the 1960s halted the Vietnam War a decade or so earlier? Has Neil Young saved the family farm yet? Or convinced you to run your car on bacon grease?

And shouldn't Bob Geldof and Michael Jackson have finally ended world hunger by now? We are the world, as they say. We are the people, too.

I'm wondering if maybe Bob Strauss did go to Woodstock after all.

Is it your Patriotic Duty to see a Certain Movie this Holiday?
That is something the San Francisco Chronicle is asking their readers right now. Here is how they decided to put it (link):

Bay Area moviegoers see 'Interview’ as 'patriotic duty’ - World harmony came on Christmas when the great peoples of America and North Korea decided they both were being made to look like idiots in equal measure on the big screen.

“The Interview,” the movie comedy that sparked an international kerfuffle, opened for business and did a lot of it. Many ticket buyers said they probably would have skipped the picture but for the fuss over it raised in recent days by such unlikely publicists as the State Department, the North Korean government and President Obama.

“This is the greatest publicity stunt ever promulgated in the history of advertising,” said Allen Leggett of Berkeley, who was standing in line in south Berkeley for the noon screening. Like his fellow popcorn buyers, he said he wasn’t scared by threats.

At the Rialto there were no incidents, except when a Chronicle reporter accidentally knocked over a wooden “no parking” sign and the resulting bang echoed down College Avenue and made a handful of patrons jump and gaze around.

“Sounded like a gunshot to me,” said Carrie Joy, from San Pablo. “Wow.” After calming down, she said it was an honor to “stand up for our rights” for the price of a movie ticket. She said she was more scared of the next earthquake than an anti-stoner-movie terrorist plot.

David Hanks of Oakland said freedom of speech was “sacred” and that Christmas was a “good day to defend sacred things.”

So is it really your patriotic duty to see The Interview? Are you going to end the international war on free speech by heading on over to Azusa and buying yourself a movie ticket? Are YOU the world? Are YOU the people?

Nah. Your movie choices this weekend won't make much of a difference. No more than Bob Dylan did when he laid down his weary tune about the Vietnam War over the course of 10 or so albums.

Go and see The Interview because you'll get to laugh loud and long at one of the strangest and most brutal despots on the planet today.

That should be enough for anyone.


  1. My friend paid with his Master Card to watch the Interview on Chromecast. His credit card was immediately max'd out and he died a pauper.

    1. He should be proud. He bought a new tank for the Peoples Republic.

  2. Good for you Mod. If we do not protect our freedoms we will lose them.

  3. This movie makes fun of Katy Perry a lot, and many movie critics identify with that singer. Her sensitive songs about being lonely and misunderstood strike a chord with them, and they are taking out their anger on this film.

  4. Spend your money watching the story of a man that ACTUALLY fought to defend our freedom, Louis Zamperini, the movie is "Unbroken", instead off $issing your money away on "The Interview"

    1. Better yet, stop living your patriotism through other people. Join the Marines.

  5. This kinda reminds me of when 9/11 happened the government told people to go shopping. Freedom to refill your soft drink is more the motivating factor here than free speech. Let's get real - hollywood already self-censors itself. They even have a rating system to prevent some citizens access. Also your radio, your TV. This blog even censors posts considered offensive. Enjoy the movie if it's any good to ya and enjoy the holidays friends.

    1. Thanks Katy. And yes, obscene posts and repetitive trolling does get dumped here. If you don't like it you have the freedom to go read other blogs. Here's one you might like:

    2. Katy might want to give this one a "like."

    3. Well actually you have edited posts, as in change words and sentence structure.....validity out the window.

    4. Well, you do get boring. You never have anything of interest to say, with your basic post being to whine about how I am not fair to you. Which you do over and over and over again. At least I should be able to get some fun out of it. But here is my question - why do you keep coming back? Maybe I should do you a favor and just leave you out? Perhaps that would be a kindness.

  6. 'Interview,' 'Unbroken' impress at holiday box office

  7. I have a foot in both places. First, I usually give the movies a kick in the butt cuz I dislike their politics. On the other hand I don't like an idiot dictator dictating to me. I will wait till Netflix because I really don't want Sony to have even a small part of my money. To me, that's patriotic.

  8. High praise from the Atlantic Magazine


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