Holiday press deadlines prevent me from being totally up to date, but the big news really is how Sony Pictures canned their big holiday comedy The Interview due to threats of terrorism and general mayhem caused by computer hackers.
The Interview is a farcical comedy, wherein Seth Rogen and James Franco travel to North Korea as tabloid talk show journalists on a secret mission to assassinate fearless leader Kim Jong-un. Early reviews claim The Interview is heavy on dick, anus and fart jokes with a bit of decent absurdist comedy and just as much really dumb shit — no one seems to consider it a political tour de force.
But then Sony Pictures was hacked a few weeks ago, high-level emails containing embarrassing and damaging information was leaked. Somewhere along the line the media mentioned North Korea and after that the narrative essentially wrote itself.
More than a week after their initial correspondence, the hackers, now calling themselves Guardians of Peace, promised "9/11 style attacks" on any movie theatre that dared play The Interview this holiday season. Worried this was an open invitation for crazies of any kind, theatre owners got nervous, lawyers started touting liability damages and the house of cards fell pretty fast. Now everyone thinks Sony Pictures is a bunch of pansies and even U.S. President Obama has said cancelling the movie was a mistake.
On the surface, it looks like the greatest marketing campaign ever but it's probably not, it's just weird. Despite FBI assurances, no one is absolutely sure the hacker attacks even originated in North Korea, Wired Magazine calls the evidence flimsy at best. North Korea itself says it wasn't them, calls the accusations slanderous, and is asking for a joint inquiry working with the U.S. to prove their innocence. Sony is actually Japanese-owned and more than one conspiracy theorist is looking at this all as a false flag attack to provoke global conflict and keep the U.S. military-industrial complex rolling.
What is certain is that Hollywood has a pretty solid history of bold political satire — from Chaplin's The Great Dictator to Team America: World Police to everything Sacha Baron Cohen does. In 1985, Dan Ackroyd and Chevy Chase invaded Russia in Spies Like Us during the Cold War's final hurrah! To so easily lose a film due to (probably fake) political pressure sets a dangerous precedent in the realm of censorship and freedom. It remains to be seen if our entertainment will continue to get watered down as a result of this debacle but for now, the hackers are winning and somewhere in a darkroom full of cables and computers, a couple dorks are high-fiving and laughing at us all.
The irony is that Hollywood has long glorified computer hackers. Matthew Broderick kicked the genre off back in 1983, playing a kid who accidentally hacks into the U.S. military with a dial-up modem in WarGames. Hacker films peaked in 1995, with Angelina Jolie, Johnny Lee Miller and Fisher Stevens in Hackers and the idea of cyber criminals and heroes has been splashed across the silver screen ever since. From Sandra Bullock (The Net), to Ryan Phillipe (Antitrust), to Halle Berry (Swordfish), to Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Hollywood has certainly inspired a generation of hackers and, like the parents of snotty teenagers around the world, they're now paying the price.
Angelina Jolie is safe, though. She's the hottest and most epic on-screen hacker of all time so Unbroken, her second film as a director, will open with no problems at all. Unbroken is based on the true-life of story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian-turned-WWII-airman who survived childhood discrimination, a gnarly plane crash and 47 days in a life raft only to be captured by the Japanese and subjected to some of the most inhumane treatment imaginable (not counting the proven, documented and thus far unpunished acts of utter war-crime savagery in the latest CIA torture scandal).
Jolie's Unbroken looks depressing, but it's also a film about the strength of the human spirit. And as a special envoy of the UN High Commission of Refugees Angelina brings a more empathetic and worldly take to a war film than most American directors would. Actor Jack O'Connell shines as well. It's worth seeing.
The Christmas Downloads of the week are Treevenge, Gremlins and Die Hard.
Yippee Kai Aye, Hack the Planet.