Censorship And Safety

Who is responsible for pulling the film The Interview from its planned Christmas Day release in the face of threats from terrorist hackers?  Was Sony craven, as many have suggested, or was it the theater chain owners who triggered the decision to pull The Interview because of liability concerns, as Sony responds?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this:  Totally removing a movie, or any other form of expression, from widespread public distribution because of threats is censorship and sets a terrible precedent.  Does anyone really dispute the conclusion that somewhere in Pyongyang or some other rathole the terrorist hackers are high-fiving over their success in this instance, and that terrorist groups elsewhere haven’t taken note of the new weapon that has now been added their arsenal?  What movie, book, play, or TV show is going to be the next target of this technique?

The Interview isn’t the kind of movie I would ever go to a theater to see, but that’s obviously not the point.  The next time it might be  controversial biography I’ve been eagerly anticipating, or the next installment of the Game of Thrones series because the terrorists disagree with how religion is depicted by George R. R. Martin. Regardless of the subject, a free society cannot tolerate a world in which terrorists dictate who gets to see, read, or consider what.

One other point: if I were an author, actor, or historian, I would be thinking long and hard about who brings my work to market and whether they have the courage to do it in the face of threats.  I don’t think I’d want to entrust my creative work product to a company, or a theater chain, that crumbled and caved in the face of threats.  Are actors, directors, and producers going to shy away from Sony projects?

The Real-Life Death Star

Saturn has 62 moons.  One of them, called Mimas, looks familiar to anyone who’s ever watched the original Star Wars:  it’s a dead ringer for the Death Star.

Mimas is weird in other ways, too.  It’s the smallest round moon ever discovered.  It has an apparent impact crater so large that it looks like it should have shattered the moon into tiny pieces.  And Mimas accountably wobbles, too.  In fact, it wobbles so dramatically that scientists are stumped about how the pronounced wobble could possibly be caused.  The competing theories range from some large stone under the surface of the impact crater, to a core that is unaccountable shaped like a rugby ball, to an underground ocean that is sloshing back and forth even though Mimas is so cold that it’s hard to see how liquid water can exist.  And so, the scientists argue.

Let’s see — the smallest round moon known to anyone that looks exactly like the Death Star.  Isn’t the real answer obvious?  Help us, Obi-Wan Kenobi!  You’re our only hope!

 

Vince Vaughn On True Detective?

HBO has confirmed two of the four leads for the next season of True Detective.  They are Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn.

Wait . . . Vince Vaughn?

Is this the same True Detective that featured tough, riveting, two-fisted portrayals of Louisiana cops by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson?  You know, the one that followed two radically different personalities over a number of years and believably depicted how they became close friends while they were trying to track down a terrible, twisted serial killer?

The same True Detective that Kish and I concluded was one of the very best TV shows we’d ever seen, period?

I thought Vince Vaughn only made stupid, cookie-cutter comedies with Owen Wilson that people stopped going to about five years ago.

HBO is pretty good at casting against type.  Maybe Vince Vaughn is tired of portraying an oily, bloated, fast-talker and wants to get into a serious role that allows him to show he can actually act.  I’m not sure it will work, but it’s certainly an intriguing casting choice.

As for Colin Farrell, if he shows the same acting ability he showed in In Bruges, I’ll buy it.

Lady Liberty

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Ghostbusters II was a pretty lame movie, but it’s hard to argue with the film’s choice of the Statue of Liberty as the symbol angry New Yorkers could rally around. It’s such a wonderful, and apt, symbol of America that even a silhouette view is enough to make you feel good about our country and its meaning for the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free..

It’s Why He’s Han Solo

Harrison Ford is 71 years old.  In June, his ankle was broken by a door on the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ship.

There’s some bittersweet humor in Ford’s injury, because in the original Star Wars trilogy the Millennium Falcon was viewed by everyone except Han Solo as a piece of intergalactic junk.  There was always a question about whether the light drive or the shields would work, and Solo and Chewbacca and R2D2 spent hours working on the ship and trying to tie down some loose circuit or faulty system.  The fact that a malfunctioning door in the Millennium Falcon broke the ankle of the actor who plays Han Solo therefore is ironic indeed.

But here’s the thing:  Ford is back on the set after only two months, and filming has resumed.  Ford was recently seen on the red carpet at some event and was walking without a limp or any assistance.

Speaking as a 50-something guy who is still somewhat gimpy after toe surgery six months ago, I’m stunned at what Ford has done.  For a 71-year-old guy to bounce back so quickly from a broken ankle is nothing short of amazing.  It just shows why Harrison Ford was the perfect Han Solo — and also the perfect Indiana Jones, for that matter.

The new Star Wars movie, featuring all three of the actors who created the iconic characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker, is set for release on December 18, 2015.  Mark your calendars!

 

Keeping Track Of Uncle Mack

10502429_944538671533_2387090454819837848_nFacebook obviously has its faults, but it’s got one huge virtue — it makes it so much easier to keep track of what your friends and family members are doing.  Take Uncle Mack, for example.  What’s the lawyer/saxophonist/actor/occasional Webner House contributor in the family up to?  It turns out he’s been working on a film called The Orangeburg Massacre.  Calhoun ‘da Creator’ Cornwell is the motivating force behind the movie, and his Facebook page has lots of information about it, including the photo above in which Uncle Mack is prominently featured.  A trailer for the film is due in the near future, and I’ll post it when I see it.

The Orangeburg Massacre is the name given to the incident in which South Carolina Highway Patrolmen opened fire on students at South Carolina State College, who had been protesting in an effort to achieve desegregation of a bowling alley.  Three African-American students were killed and and 27 people were wounded in the shooting, which occurred on February 8, 1968 — more than three years before the much more well known Kent State shootings.  Does anyone doubt that the relative notoriety of the two incidents has at least some relationship to the race of the students who were victims?  It is wonderful that a film is being made about the Orangeburg Massacre, 45 years later.

Some people retire and do nothing except work on their tans and frequent Early Bird specials at local restaurants; others use their newfound free time to explore new interests and expand their horizons.  Uncle Mack is squarely in the latter camp, and I think what he is doing is pretty cool. I don’t know anything about the movie or his role, but I am proud of his willingness to tackle it and, we can hope, contribute to greater awareness of a shameful, racist chapter in American history.

Goodbye To Robin

News outlets are reporting that Robin Williams has died, of an apparent suicide.  The actor and comedian, who was only 63, evidently had been battling severe depression.

Williams became a big star on the TV show Mork and Mindy, and over the next four decades he had a busy career in stand-up comedy, in movies, and as the voice for animated characters.  Although many lauded his movie roles, both comic and serious, I always thought that Williams’ true medium was in his stand-up routines — his riff on Scotland and golf, below, is a classic — and he was absolutely brilliant as the voice and motivating spirit behind the manic genie in Disney’s Aladdin.

We tend to idolize Hollywood stars, musicians, and other cultural figures, and think that because they are rich and successful they must have wonderful lives.  Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case — they are human like the rest of us, and they also often wrestle with their inner demons.  It’s tragic that someone like Robin Williams, who brought joy and laughter to millions, had to struggle with his own issues of depression, and it’s sadder still that he apparently lost that battle.  Although we no doubt will hear about how the world has lost a titanic talent over the next few days, the real loss is that experienced by Williams’ family, who now have a gigantic hole in their lives that can never be filled.