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“CHAPPAQUIDDICK” or, WOOF reviews another film it hasn’t seen!

In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on May 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Our guarantee of freshness:

Seasoned readers are by now familiar with WOOF’s habit of reviewing films while adhering to our iron-clad rule that no film will be reviewed on our website unless our reviewers have scrupulously avoided seeing it. We believe our strict adherence to this standard ensures that ours are the fairest, most impartial cinema critiques anywhere in cyberspace. Limiting ourselves to movies we haven’t seen obviously frees our analyses of those partialities that would inevitably accrue during any actual exposure to the works under consideration. Apparently quite a few of you agree, as our movie reviews are always among our most popular posts, and among the most visited after time has swept them from our ‘front page’ to our archives. It is therefore with considerable pleasure, and not a little reportorial pride, that we present our latest film review of a movie we haven’t seen, namely “CHAPPAQUIDDICK,” Directed by John Curran, Screenwriters: Taylor Allen; Andrew Logan; cinematography by Maryse Alberti; edited by Keith Fraase.


In his Cooper Union speech, Abraham Lincoln offered a timeless condemnation of those who, then as now, proffer compromise as though it were an Aristotelian master stroke. All right, we admit it–some occasions require a little give and take. In certain situations, trade-offs prove the beneficial fruits of what an author once called “the art of the deal.” But far more often they are smarmy abandonments of principle disguised as statesmanship—or what Lincoln denounced as “contrivances…groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong,” which contrivances he proceeded to denounce as “vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man.” Of course, Lincoln was unfamiliar with Schrodinger’s cat, but we digress.

Neither living nor dead.

Ted Kennedy is dead, or, as the Munchkin coroner described the Wicked Witch of the East, “Really most sincerely dead.” And yet, in the interest of even-handedness, (or perhaps less lofty–if completely understandable–considerations) the film Chappaquiddick portrays him as what Lincoln might have called “neither a living man nor a dead man” in the sense that screenwriters Allen and Logan repeatedly subject the Senator to withering fusillades of biographic divulgement, but in each instance demur at administering the coup de gras.

Director Curran–funny, he doesn’t look unhinged.

Why, you may ask, is a temperate, fair-minded organization like WOOF suddenly driven to envenom a film review with so vulgar an instinct as vindictiveness; especially when critics as diverse as Glenn Beck and the Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers agree that Chappaquiddick’s excellence is due largely to its dramatic restraint? Why, when even New York Times film critic A. O. Scott, (though admitting trepidation at the film’s release), is able to offer a complimentary review based on the film’s “forsaking sensationalism for sober, procedural storytelling,” should WOOF take pains to stake out the low ground, and fault Chappaquiddick for the very qualities extolled by so many of its admirers?  We think Barry Goldwater best explained our position during his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican convention. Conservatives will recall his averral that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” but the Arizonan most precisely summarized our case against John Curran’s new film when he added that “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” And that’s what Lincoln was trying to tell us, too. And that’s what we are trying to tell you.  In other words, our disappointment stems less from what Chappaquiddick is, than from what it might have been.

“You’re all we’ve got!”

A young Al Lowenstein, around the time he realized there was nothing left but Teddy.

So, imagine for a moment that our film opens in the immediate wake of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, or put another way, at the dawn of the popular jape: “They’re like the Kennedys, all the good ones have been taken!” And as if by way of demonstration, we find ourselves inside the elevator at Good Samaritan Hospital where a shaken, ghostly-pale Teddy (as the press affectionately dubbed Edward Moore Kennedy) is accompanying his slain brother’s body to the basement morgue. Suddenly, the door slides open and a nearly hysterical Al Lowenstein, (Kennedy adviser, anti-war icon, occasional office seeker) rushes aboard. Looking up to glimpse Ted, Lowenstein grabs him by the shoulders, shakes him frantically, and shouts, “Now that Bobby’s gone, you’re all we’ve got!” We zoom in on Ted’s face—he gapes speechlessly at Lowenstein, open-mouthed, petrified, incapable of verbalizing a response. We fade to black and superimpose the words: “One year later…”

Cut to an interior shot aboard an airliner returning from a 1969 congressional trip billed as a fact-finding mission to investigate Inuit poverty in Alaska. Ted Kennedy, (who earlier stumbled drunkenly into the airport at Anchorage shouting “ESKIMO POWAH!”), is now shown surrounded by aids and flight attendants trying to restrain him as he stumbles and reels down the aisle, bellowing, “They’re going to shoot my ass off the way they shot off Bobby’s!” An aide grabs the senator’s spastically waving hand and presses a hot cup of coffee into it. Kennedy grasps the cup, but lurches wildly when a stewardess attempts to guide him toward his seat. He nearly scalds a mother and her infant in the adjacent row. Insensible of the offense, Kennedy continues ranting about his impending doom as his attendants coax him back to his seat. He shouts “ESKIMO POWAHHH!!” a few more times, contenting himself, finally, with tossing dinner rolls at reporters while his team scrambles to pacify the offended passengers.

Next, we watch Teddy’s airliner land in Seattle. Reporters who witnessed the incident dash into the terminal to file their scoops, but we watch in shocked disbelief as the screen shifts to a mélange of newspaper editors and network news producers ordering the story “spiked”—killed—forgotten. It’s 1969, and no writers apart from a handful of vile, shadow-dwelling right-wing misanthropic scribblers of unreviewed, fringe-marketed books (who probably voted for Goldwater and almost certainly for Nixon), report dirt on the Kennedys.

Cut to an exterior shot of Newsweek’s Manhattan headquarters, identifiable by the magazine’s logo blazoned across the building’s top story. We zoom in through a window high above Hanover Square into an office in which a seasoned reporter urgently dials a phone. The screen inserts his name, John Lindsay, and identifies him as “Senate reporter for Newsweek magazine.” This saves confusion among audience members old enough to otherwise mistake him for the contemporaneous mayor of New York City. No, this is John J. Lindsay, accomplished journalist. His appearance raises the prospect of integrity triumphing over sycophancy. And look! Lindsay’s deeply furrowed brow bespeaks grave concern. Perhaps he is laying his job on the line. Perhaps he is phoning his editor, demanding the Kennedy story be told and told truthfully. After all, Lindsay fits a specific Hollywood stereotype geared to resonate with the American psyche–the hardened newshound defending the people’s right to know. Surely, his infectious ardor, his rhetorical passion, will rekindle long-dormant convictions in his veteran editor—Ed Asner, maybe–a crotchety-but-noble industry pro who after a few efforts at dissuasion leans back, pours himself a jigger of rye, and rasps, “Why not? Why not one last crusade!?”

“Why not one last crusade?” Well, Asner probably wouldn’t have done the picture, for one thing!

Disaster waiting to happen!

“That’s right–disaster waiting to happen! No, no, even worse than getting kicked out of Harvard!”

But no, that isn’t what happens. The phone isn’t answered by Lindsay’s editor, it is answered by a mysterious female. Is it—could it be—Joan Kennedy? Jackie, even? Whoever it is, Lindsay begins telling her about the airplane debacle, entreating her to take a hand, to do something “before something really terrible happens!”  “Ted is out of control,” Lindsay insists, and then, in a voice lowered almost to a whisper, he adds, “Ted is under terrible stress—and I’m telling you, if he doesn’t get help, he’s a disaster waiting to happen!

Is that you, Jackie?

Okay, not what we were hoping for, perhaps, but this can still work. We simply cut away from Lindsay’s close up with one of those abruptly jarring Thelonious Monk chords used nowadays to punctuate dramatic movie moments, and we “smash cut” from Lindsay’s under lit office to our main locale–a bucolic, riparian setting in somnolent New England. We find ourselves juxtapositionally tranquilized—but look out! To the nail-biting clang of another Thelonious Monk chord we INSERT TITLE CARD (that’s movie talk) and the screen is suddenly ablaze with a single, momentous word:  Chappaquiddick!

Our story so far….

So, beloved readers, how do you like the movie so far? We think it’s pretty impressive. And historically faithful? Absolutely!  Okay, except for that part about the woman on the other end of Lindsay’s phone call. We made her up, or rather we hypothesized her, because even though almost everyone agrees on the language Lindsay employed, nobody seems certain to whom he spoke it. And there’s one other problem—namely, none of what we just described is actually in the movie. File it under what MAD magazine used to call “scenes we’d like to see.” Historically verifiable, but consigned to the cutting room floor of our imaginations. Chappaquiddick, after all, made it past the New York Times by “forsaking sensationalism,” possibly because Curran knew his biopic, were it sensational even in a manner befitting Edward Kennedy’s depraved life and career, would die aborning—insufficiently immunized against a bilious media, not to mention the wrath of Hyannisport…a malignant force ruinous to the careers of more than a few entertainers, journalists, and biographers, even today.

The post-unassailable plunge….

Teddy, 2004, calling school vouchers “racist handouts to the wealthy!”

Ted Kennedy, however, is what we might call post-unassailable—although he is probably less annoyed by that fact than the family, having died of brain cancer in 2009.  He was the last of the golden Kennedys–the sons of Joseph and Rose–and his passing was prelude to the waning of the family’s mystique.  A measure of karmic justice is detectable in this, and not a little irony, because the Kennedy legacy fell victim to the very educational policies for which Ted fought tooth and nail—in other words, a single-option, federally regulated archipelago of public schools from which students are routinely graduated despite a conspicuous lack of reading, writing, or ciphering skills, or the merest grasp of science apart from an alertness to global warming.

More significant from the Kennedys’ standpoint, however, is the absence in recent generations of even a glancing acquaintance with American history, apart from an ingrained certitude that Columbus was a genocidal maniac, the Pilgrims were deluded religionists bent on ravaging the environment, that the Founders invented slavery–which was accidentally ended by the Civil War, which was not about slavery—and that Ronald Reagan almost bankrupted the economy with his crazy supply-side economic boom. But Liberalism’s rush to erase any taint of Americanism from our schools came with a hefty side order of blowback. Canons of faith fanatically nurtured by the Left for generations vanished into the same memory hole as George Washington and Sam Adams, a design flaw that left younger Americans untutored in such articles of faith as the saintliness of the Kennedys, the demonic evil of Joe McCarthy, or even such recent taradiddle as the incomparable brilliance of Hillary Clinton.

“Very little, I’m afraid…”

Professor Czitrom –searching for Camelot in the age of Absurdistan.

kind of brutal egalitarianism inhered in public education’s great leap forward: a purification that expunged our past from the lesson plans without regard to any given item’s significance on the political spectrum. Thus, the Kennedys aren’t simply diminished by an educational system grown neglectful of burnishing the family’s mystique. The progressive effort to divorce recent generations from their heritage means the Kennedys are barely mentioned–no more dwelt upon than Ike, Coolidge, or the Teapot Dome Scandal. In 2015, in recognition of 50 years gone by since the assassination of JFK, Professor of History Daniel Czitrom of Mount Holyoke College gave an interview during which he was asked to describe what modern college students know about our 35th president. “Very little, I’m afraid,” was his frank assessment. Small wonder, then, that they know and care even less about his vacuous little brother.

There are, it seems, opinions to the contrary. A review by Susan Wloszczyna suggests Chappaquiddick will do well owing to the presence of the “in-vogue-again Kennedy clan at the center.” On the off-chance that Wloszczyna isn’t nuts, isn’t a resurgence of Kennedymania all the more reason for Chappaquiddick to ‘speak truth to power’ unequivocally? But instead we are treated to a barrage of softballs, like dorky Ted vowing to win a regatta, but slamming his sailboat into a marker buoy and catapulting both his passengers into the brine.  Okay, a dramatic foreshadowing of events to come, (and a sailing career littered with rammed obstacles, capsized catamarans, and other madcap feats of incompetence) but nevertheless…?

The “in-vogue-again Kennedy clan,” okay, that blew right past us!

The details, where most dramatically requisite, seem softened to implications. The six “Boiler Room Girls,” as the winsome young staffers formerly employed by Bobby’s campaign were jovially known, are partying in the wake of their boss’s untimely death with a bunch of married guys, one of them being Ted (whose wife Joan is home bedridden with a failing pregnancy soon to end in miscarriage, though the film makes no mention of the fact). Ted is hosting the wingding at the cottage of his chum, lawyer Sidney Lawrence. The cottage is located on Chappaquiddick Island, accessible by ferry from Martha’s Vineyard. So, what really went on at that party?

In the film, we witness a relatively demure replication of nineteen-sixties-style drinking and dancing–demurrer by far than any such festivities featuring Teddy and friends were ever known to be. Indeed, what the Guardian’s reviewer rather inferentially pronounced “a tawdry, boozy weekend” seems more like a scene from a Troy Donahue film of the same era—a bit jazzy and raucous, perhaps, but in an artfully understated Warner Brothers kind of way.

Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne in the party scene from “Chappaquiddick,” or is she auditioning for a remake of “A Summer Place”?

And what’s going on between Teddy and Mary Jo? Enquiring minds want to know, and a scenario presenting the most probable interpretation based on the evidence might seem a legitimate obligation for filmmakers recreating that evening’s events—but again, we are offered nuances. The party scene lasts until nearly midnight when the 37-year old Teddy and his 28-year old passenger are shown leaving in Teddy’s Oldsmobile and blundering onto a dirt road leading toward Dike Bridge. The notion that Kennedy, no matter how drunk, negotiated the substantial turn necessary to leave the island’s one paved thoroughfare (a straight shot to Mary Jo’s hotel) and proceed down the jarringly distinct gravel road, seems implausible. Almost certainly, the plan was to seek a secluded spot, but no such thought is imputed to Ted in the film. Indeed, in the crucial moments between the inexplicable turn and the infamous result, Curran’s penchant for “sober, procedural story telling” deprives us of any hint of explication. No dialogue, no exchange of glances, no telling expressions, impinge upon the camera’s exterior depictions. In other words, if you are not an oblivious millennial, you are shown a visually dramatic reproduction of what you already knew, or at least more or less suspected.

“Desirous of leaving…”

“Maybe if we’d put up a ‘no U-turn’ sign?”

One thing everyone knows (conspiracy theorists and millennials excepted) was that Kennedy was driving, having demanded the keys from Crimmins, his chauffeur (WOOF did not make that name up).  Kennedy later testified that Mary Jo told him “she was desirous of leaving, and [asked] if I would be kind enough to drop her back at her hotel.” Asked why he didn’t have his chauffeur drive them, Kennedy explained that the aforesaid Crimmins and some other guests “were concluding their meal, enjoying the fellowship and it didn’t appear to be necessary to require him to bring me back to Edgartown.” So how was Crimmins getting back? Oh, never mind. More piquantly, Kopechne (played on screen by Olivia Thirlby) told no one at the party she was leaving with Kennedy and left her purse and hotel key behind, suggesting a plan qualitatively distinct from the one Kennedy later described. But who knows? Evidently not screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, because a more-than-casual relationship between Mary Jo and Kennedy is barely—ever so lambently—implied.

Apart from a scene in which Ted begs her to return to Washington despite her trauma in the aftermath of Bobby’s assassination, Mary Jo’s character is never established. The writers’ determination to avoid any hint of creative license—perhaps in the belief that a mechanistic adherence to the available facts is the best way to escape accusations of right-wing bias–deprives viewers of any connection with Kopechne’s humanity, reducing her to a prop–the first victim of Director Curran’s emphatic commitment to naturalism.

Mary Jo–deserving of a lot more than “sober, procedural restraint.”

Nobody living, of course, knows exactly what went on in Ted’s Oldsmobile that night, and nobody in his right mind supposes Kennedy ever gave a truthful account. It is moments like these that lend themselves to artistic license, and one can argue that Curran’s film exercises some, but not enough to raise any hackles. We are shown Teddy slurping whiskey from a bottle—a fact that not even the staunchest Kennedy fan can take rational issue with, especially given a a subsequent career during which, as George Will once observed, Teddy proved incapable of sounding authentically commanding “except when in hailing distance of a bar.”

Not guilty! And he didn’t even show up in a neck brace!

We are next shown Teddy at the wheel, casting what we take to be a semi-lascivious glance at Mary Jo. Will he pounce on her, the way his nephew William Kennedy Smith pounced on Patricia Bowman at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach while Teddy and cousin Patrick watched with besotted indifference? [Editor’s note: WOOF refrains here from using the verb “raped,” inasmuch as William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of rape despite the victim’s testimony, not to mention the testimony of three other young ladies accusing Smith of sexual assault, which the judge refused to allow. It ended happily for Smith’s attorney, however, who married one of the jurors after the verdict came in.]

At any rate, just as we prepare ourselves for some bare-knuckled artistic license, splash! Teddy no sooner casts his arguably lascivious gaze upon the fair Mary Jo than he drives his car off the bridge–a timely lesson in the dangers of distracted driving, we suppose; but otherwise a bit of a blow to the narrative—and a peculiarly nonchalant means of arriving at a climax. Anyway, we cut to the dramatic underwater footage, obviously shot in a tank, because it’s really hard to see anything underwater in Poucha Pond, particularly around midnight. True to events, the car capsizes and settles to the bottom.

Not exactly the PT 109, but at least it’s in one piece!

“An act of killing”

Owen Gleiberman of VARIETY. “even worse than we think!”

Apparently, Owen Gleiberman of Variety has spent decades in some sort of self-imposed Kennedy oblivion. He declares his shock at discovering that “what the film says [sic]… happened at Chappaquiddick was even worse than we think. Kopechne’s body was found in a position that implied that she was struggling to keep her head out of the water. And what the film suggests is that once the car turned upside down, she didn’t die; she was alive and then drowned, after a period of time, as the water seeped in.” Suggests? Heck, Owen, she didn’t drown at all. John Farrar, the captain of the Edgartown Fire Rescue unit–the diver who recovered Kopechne’s body–reported decades ago that she died from asphyxiation, not drowning.

Damore’s book is now re-titled “Chappaquiddick.” The author reportedly committed suicide after its publication. He’s with Marilyn now.

But we forgive Mr. Gleiberman’s abysmal ignorance of what every non-sanitized chronicler of the event since the publication of Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore has described as a slow, horrifying suffocation, and we even forgive his assumption that the rest of us share his ignorance, because he is taken sufficiently off guard by the film’s accurate depiction of the matter to exclaim, “This makes Edward Kennedy’s decision not to report the crime a clear-cut act of criminal negligence — but in spirit (if not legally), it renders it something closer to an act of killing.” Good thinking, Owen, you’re now better informed than several other major reviewers, including the ones on Rotten Tomatoes, where Kopechne’s death is still described as a “tragic drowning.”  Funny how infrequently “an act of killing” seems to come to up, by contrast.

A fact everybody agrees on,  albeit with greater or lesser degrees of thanksgiving, is that Ted survived.  We next glimpse him fighting free of the submerged sedan, battling toward the surface of the water tank in a maze of bubbles, breaking the surface of an actual body of water (shot elsewhere and tidily edited into the sequence by Keith Fraase) whereupon he struggles onto the marshy embankment.

We must admit we like this part, or rather, we’re sure we would like it, if we actually went to see the movie. Writers Allen and Logan laudably avoid any impulse to “go Hollywood,” despite what must have been considerable temptation.  All that is needed at this point to indue Teddy with a salvific hint of pathos is a bit of creative license–a manufactured moment or two, confected as a peace offering to the Left. Let’s say, an extenuatively conflicted Teddy, torn by ambivalence, perhaps filmed at a disorienting “Dutch tilt” to better connote our hero’s dazed confusion, arcing into a dramatic close-up as the Senator writhes in the throes of moral vacillation only to succumb, like Orestes, to his murderous hamartia.  But no such mitigative pretense blunts the starkness of Chappaquiddick. Rather, from the moment he climbs ashore, Teddy concerns himself exclusively with self-preservation and the ignoble politics of damage control.  He may be a drunk and a skunk, but even soaked and soused he rallies his reserves in the cause of solipsism, and begins his trek back to the party. As he does so, the film clearly depicts him trudging past an immediately adjacent fire-and-rescue station, as in fact he did, without a moment’s thought given to reporting Mary Jo’s plight.

Well, there’s your problem!

The real Joe Gargan. Note the shifty, beady eyes! Actor Helms looks like James Bond by comparison.

Back at the cottage, Kennedy pulls aside Joe Gargan, his cousin, confidant, drinking buddy, and lawyer (played by Ed Helms). “We’ve got a problem,” Ted glurps, and then, sensing Gargan’s incomprehension, he explains, “I’m not going to be president.” That Mary Jo might also have a problem, or that her thoughts, huddled in her air pocket, might not exclusively involve Teddy’s presidential aspirations, seems to creep into Kennedy’s consciousness by sluggish increments– and even then, as a problem of collateral damage. The main crisis involves the threat to the Kennedy legacy.

Gargan, on hearing the details, implores Ted to report the incident—and Massachusetts Attorney General Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), re-emphasizes the point. But Teddy demurs. He agrees he should make a report, of course, but all in good time. To report the matter precipitately—or  in other words, to report it while he is blatantly sozzled—invites the risk of being charged with driving under the influence….and how would that look? That Kennedy floats (sorry!) a concern so insanely remote from the situation’s blatant exigencies, in itself boggles the mind– yet, as the film demonstrates, a crew of grown, legally trained, supposedly intelligent adults, waits complicity through the wee hours and into the morning while their golden boy sobers up—and, of course, while Mary Jo Kopechne suffocates.  Why? Mainly because, as Al Lowenstein would make plain at the beginning of the film (if they’d shot our version, that is), Edward Moore Kennedy is all they’ve got left!

Sometimes, the coverup doesn’t get you!

Bruce Dern, (actually from “The Hateful Eight,” but imagine him saying: “Alibiiii!!!”)

The band-aiding of Teddy’s image is the film’s next subject. An obsequious Ted fesses up to his father, Joe, by telephone. Joseph Kennedy is masterfully recreated by veteran actor Bruce Dern (whom we hereby forgive for killing John Wayne in The Cowboys). The Kennedy patriarch was virtually invalided by 1969, the victim of a debilitating stroke. This datum leaves writers Allen and Logan with little creative leeway if they mean to preserve historical plausibility.  Joe’s dialogue, therefore, is limited to a few gurgles, some monosyllabic blurtings, and a final, almost Satanic growl that rumbles, swells, and rises to a guttural crescendo, as old Joe manages to articulate the word, “Alibiiii!!!”  If there is an academy award for best performance as a barely verbal, ruthlessly Machiavellian, patriarchal stroke victim, Dern is a shoo in.

The real Robert McNamara–all the grim magnetism of a toadstool.

Next, we meet two former JFK all-stars dispatched by Old Joe with orders to rescue his nitwit son. Theodore Sorensen (who actually wrote Jack’s bestseller Profiles in Courage–don’t tell anyone) is played with an appropriate hint of well-tailored effeteness by Taylor Nichols. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara is portrayed by Clancy Brown, whom Variety praises as “grimly magnetic,” which, if true, surely bespeaks poor casting by Marisol Rincali and Mary Vernieu, given that Robert Strange McNamara, even at his least inhuman, possessed all the grim magnetism of a toad stool.

Never mind the neck brace, can’t the man knot a tie properly?

The two Camelot veterans set to work immediately, constructing an artifice of spin, misdirection, legal loopholes and sheer skullduggery to buoy (sorry!) Teddy’s political career. The alibi, given such strident priority by Joe, works well on paper but assumes comedic dimensions once its intricacies are entrusted to Ted, who, being Ted, flummoxes the fine points repeatedly. Like it or not, the contrast between the coolly reptilian “fixers,” and their stumbling, self-pitying, barely lucid protectee, is inescapably funny. Comic relief in a film about Kopechne’s abandonment and torturous death might seem offensively tone-deaf were it manufactured–but in Chappaquiddick, a touch of slapstick is inherent in events.

Without shifting the timber of their narrative, the filmmakers allow the record to elicit laughter as Teddy bollixes item after item, revealing belatedly that, on top of everything else, his driver’s license is expired.  It slipped his mind. Such minutiae seemed immaterial in Ted’s world– a world in which no sentient organism would dream of troubling a Kennedy over such formalities–unless—unless—well, unless he abandoned some women at the bottom of a pond. Instructed to recite an artfully crafted compendium of legal elusions and self-serving mendacities to the press, Ted repeatedly bumbles the script, adlibbing a series of unhelpful contradictions. He shows up at Mary Jo’s funeral, wife Joan traipsing forlornly at his side, his neck trussed up in a supportive brace–a prop calculated to evoke sympathy. But the Senator can’t resist swiveling his head frantically in a compulsive effort to assess the crowd, and the neck brace becomes an object of ridicule.

Go fly a kite!

Finally, while his fixers work with febrile avidity to save him from any hint of personal responsibility, we are treated to a wonderful cross-cut shot of Ted, standing in a grassy field, flying a kite. We push in for a close up of his face and behold a perfect study in puerile detachment.  Magnificent cinema—did it really happen?  Given the filmmakers’ widely heralded scrupulosity, we prefer to suppose it did—but if Curran and his writers invented it, we exhort them to indulge their creative juices more often. In any case, Teddy’s eyes are rightly cast skyward, whence comes his salvation–albeit from NASA, not Jehovah.  As the film reminds us, the Apollo 11 moon mission reached the lunar surface concurrently with the Senator’s less auspicious landing, diverting public attention almost entirely from the murky depths of Poucha Pond to the ashen lunarscape of Mare Tranquillitatis.

The first men on the moon–Buzz Aldrin and Neal Armstrong. Collins remained on the orbiter, and everybody else was so uplifted by news of the crew’s safe return, no one felt mean enough to make any “splashdown” jokes.

Back on earth, if Martha’s Vineyard qualifies, Ted’s extraction by the passionless Camelot crew from the ruins of his immediate past unfolds in infuriating detail. The  movie gets it mostly right, from the local physician summoned to verify Teddy’s non-existent concussion (without examining him) to the deal cut with Ted’s good friend, the local prosecutor, who agrees to charge Kennedy with nothing more serious than leaving the scene of an accident (which in turn sets the scene for suspending his sentence entirely). The film grinds matter-of-factly through the assortment of slimy deeds and distortions requisite to salvaging the Senator’s political future.

Multidimensional Ted….

Our complaints about them aside,, Chappaquiddick’s many gentlemanly forbearances seem insufficient to account for its generally felicitous reception by the liberal establishment.  We confess surprise at the degree to which progressive reviewers seem agreeably disposed toward director Curran’s experiment in cinematic abstemiousness.  That said, reviewers seem uniformly incapable of referring to the incident as anything other than a tragedy, by which is slyly, even unconsciously, implied a tragedy for poor Teddy, and for America itself, of course, which supposedly lost all hope of reestablishing Camelot inside the Beltway when Teddy forfeited his heirdom.  In this vein, CNN initially reviewed the film as recounting “one of Ted Kennedy’s darkest hours,” before enough reminders poured in that Mary Jo’s experience was a bit darker, and the headline was quietly revised. Still, the tendency, often implicit, to equate Kennedy at Chappaquiddick with Oedipus at the crossroads, seems irresistible. And as we mentioned earlier, establishment critics seem unanimously resolved to emphasize Kopechne’s “death by drowning,” as if beset by some peculiar manifestation of perceptual blindness.

An extreme example is Neil Gabler, one of only a few liberal commentators who utterly despised the film.  Gabler vented his anguish in a shrilly denunciatory op-ed for the New York Times, berating Chappaquiddick’s “outright character assassination,” without offering a single evidentiary example. Gabler argues that a fair account would depict the real Ted, about whom Gabler says–in syntax muddled a bit, one supposes, by emotion–“His was a large-life, tragic and multidimensional figure.”

Of course, before he moved to PBS, Gabler worked as a Fox News host, meaning liberals won’t believe anything he says anyway!

Those of us who remember the late Senator more as a large, drunken, two-dimensional, boorishly amoral, serial sex offender, may shrug off Gabler’s hysterics as reflexive caterwauling, but we mustn’t dismiss his characterization of Kennedy so glibly. The recasting of Ted as a figure of near-lyrical tragicality is a fixation on the Left.  Almost in cadence, critics praise Chappaquiddick’s “naturalism” only to veer into lamentations of  Teddy’s ill-starred destiny.  In this regard, the media begin to function as a kind of addlepated Greek chorus bemoaning their hero’s mistreatment by the jealous gods. The establishment impulse to reframe Ted’s abhorrent actions as inescapably imposed upon him by the Fates—some ineluctable decree of Moira—forms the basis of yet another liberal trope, rehearsed ad nauseam by all the usual cretins.

Don’t you get the eerie feeling you’re watching CNN?

The Greek connection….

And Bobby made his comparison before anyone knew how much his little brother’s future would have in common wiith the punishment of Tantalus!

The Greek angle is hardly a recent impulse. Biographer Edward Klein is on record insisting, “I’ve looked high and low and cannot find another family since the ancient Greek House of Atreus that has suffered more calamities and misfortunes than the Kennedys.” Stifle, for the moment, any effort to imagine Ed Klein looking “high and low,” and consider instead: Bobby jumpstarted this image shortly before his death, comparing his family’s misfortunes to Greek drama, and specifically to the myth of Atreus.  Bobby called his ilk “noble and doomed.” Sorry, Bobby, but no human quality more conspicuously eluded Ted Kennedy than nobility, a fact that has never restrained his admirers from contriving to bestow it on him, even more so in death.

Avi Selk, general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, psychic channeler.

Examples abound. Avio Selk matter-of-factly reports in the Washington Post that “among the scrambled thoughts that came to a young Ted Kennedy as he stumbled from the water…was a sort of existential question, if not a supernatural one.”  That’s right. Selk knows what Ted was thinking, and it seems that he was at that very moment preoccupied with the notion that “some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.” This must explain why he plodded past the fire station without a sideward glance– he was precognitively obsessed with the exact verbiage Ted Sorensen would later create for his television address, a major objective of which was to distract viewers from Kopechne’s fate, focusing them instead on poor, tragic, possibly cursed, Teddy.  Is it possible that Selk actually believes himself?

Teddy Kennedy an “archetypal hero?” If Sophocles wasn’t dead, that’d kill him!

Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service must be in concert with her classical muse. She tells us the film “grapples with the impossible question of doing the ‘right’ thing.” Is she serious? Would notifying the immediately proximal first responders and rescuing Mary Jo, have been an “impossible choice?” Impossible choices turn up in Sophocles, Katie—they have nothing to do with Ted Kennedy’s craven disregard for a young women’s survival while he focused on constructing his “Alibi!

And yet, David Usborne, writing in the UK Independent reminds his readers that “Edward Moore Kennedy was also an archetypal…hero, buffeted equally by tragic happenstance beyond his control and by the shortcomings of his own character.”  In the Santa Monica Mirror, Kathy Whitney Boole insists that “Kennedy’s personality flaws led him to make tragically bad choices as the Chappaquiddick incident played out,” which dutifully invites the Euripidean paradigm. But Ted’s “bad choices” in the wake of Chappaquiddick are more remindful of Plautus, the Roman playwriter who said, “a wise man creates his own destiny.” Plautus never saw Chappaquiddick, of course, or he might have expanded his point to include foolish men, who also create their own destinies–but are less inclined to accept them.

A flabby denouement 

Curran employs flashbacks, mainly of the flooding car, throughout the film’s last reel. The future, however, is less well represented. There is mention of Kennedy’s subsequent reelections to office, and of his iconic status on the Left, which restyled him the “Lion of the Senate” –an epithet only liberals can recite without giggling.

But we began this review by admitting we are more bloodthirsty than Curran and Company, and we maintain that a proper treatment of the manipulations and deceptions that kept Kennedy above water (sorry), demands further elucidation. Would it really “politicize” the film were it to epilogically review how effectively such tactics served Kennedy going forward? We suspect Curran’s widely voiced assertions to this effect dissemble an unwillingness to be eaten alive for his troubles. And we sympathize—we really do–but we at WOOF enjoy the luxury of media inattention (not that we’d care in any case), and we demand a re-shoot!

The Honorable Chris Dodd displaying a sandwich of the non-waitress variety.

In an age when moviegoers are shocked to learn Chappaquiddick is even “a thing,” why not a series of vignettes covering only a smattering of instances from The Lion’s unbroken history of  manhandling, assaulting, subjugating, and–when necessary–paying off vulnerable women, including his wife Joan, whom he drove (sorry again!) first to drink, then to despair, and, finally, to divorce?  Ted’s appetence for making “waitress sandwiches” out of female serving staff when dining at La Brasserie, The Monocle, or other favorite D.C. eateries, would make compelling cinema. In these debaucheries Ted counted on the assistance of Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) because waitress sandwiches require two slices of extremely toasted, powerfully enriched white bread.

Brevity (and propriety) are best served by detailing only one such instance. We could watch Teddy invite waitress Carla Gaviglio  back for a few words in 1985, seize hold of her, hoist her aloft and slam her five-foot, three-inch frame onto his table top in an explosion of china and crystal–(the optics are irresistible!) We watch as Teddy flings his obscenely obese body atop Gaviglio. He gropes her, ravages her, rips her outfit, but suddenly, in mid-spoiliation, he pauses. Why? Of course! Teddy has recalled his drinking buddy, Dodd, who is watching from a chair. Yielding to one of his famously magnanimous impulses, Teddy staggers upright, grabs the terrified waitress by her wrist, slings her into Dodd’s waiting lap, and heaves himself into the mix from the rear. The sandwich is underway!

By the late ’80s, the Lion had bloated to such proportions that surviving a waitress sandwich was no mean feat.

We picked this particular instance because the producers could replicate it without hazarding their PG-13 rating.  Teddy and Chris, of course, are intent on an X-rated outcome,  but their designs are frustrated by the restaurant’s dishwashing crew. Unlettered commoners too benighted to comprehend senatorial privilege or liberal entitlement, they intervene physically on the  waitress’s behalf. Ted and Chris beat a retreat to their waiting limo and decide to cruise for underage girls street side.  In the interest of verisimilitude, we run a screen insert from the Hartford Courant, reading: “Dodd and Kennedy were…reported to have made a ‘human sandwich’ with a waitress at La Brasserie, [a] Capitol Hill restaurant. The report had it that Kennedy threw the woman on Dodd, who was slumped in a chair, and then jumped on top of her. She was said to have run screaming from the room.” 

Relative to the beard….

But enough salacity, let’s cut to Ted (eagerly abetted in this instance by Joe Biden)  pioneering previously unplumbed depths in the politics of personal destruction. We watch Ted  bloviating sanctimoniously, jowls aquiver, against the evils of Judge Robert Bork, one of the best qualified Supreme Court nominees ever presented for congressional review, and whose appointment Kennedy torpedoed with a mélange of nearly psychotic falsehoods, defamations, and unfounded charges.

Robert Bork, beset by Kennedy and Biden who were briefly upstaged by Howell Heflin (D., Ala.) who challenged Bork with: “Would you like to give us an explanation relative to the beard?””

But that’s nothing. What about collaborating with the North Vietnamese Communists during the Vietnam War? But never mind that, if time won’t permit we can cut straight to Ted colluding with the Russians–and how topical is that?–yes, we can trace in a quick succession of atmospherically compelling black-and-white images the Senator’s treasonable interactions with the leaders of the former U.S.S.R., including his meetings with the implacably anti-American Yuri Andropov with whom Teddy secretly conspired to rig an election in order to unseat Ronald Reagan. (Andropov died before the plan could be launched, and his successors were less pathologically inclined.)

Who killed Teddy?

One indelible axiom that Chappaquiddick services unabashedly, is that Ted Kennedy’s presidential aspirations were crushed that fateful night in 1969 when he attempted a left turn on a one-lane bridge. Believe us when we tell you, gentle readers, this is simply not the case. Here is what really happened:

Chilling, even today!

So efficiently did the Kennedy machine and the press conspire to flush Mary Jo Kopechne down the memory hole, wiping any trace of stain from the Kennedy escutcheon, that Teddy very nearly seized the Democratic nomination from the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, in 1979. A labor-backed “draft Teddy” movement suddenly mushroomed to seemingly unstoppable proportions. A Boston Globe poll showed Carter trailing Kennedy in a hypothetical match-up by a jarring 22 points. Might Kennedy have grabbed the nomination and gone on to defeat Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election? Admittedly, the thought is too horrific to contemplate—but fortunately, the horror never reified. Kennedy’s momentum was not broken, however, by remembrances of Chappaquiddick—no, the press of that era denounced any allusion to Ted’s “tragedy” as an unforgivable lapse of journalistic principle, just as in 2008 they declared any reference to Barack Obama’s radical affiliations (or middle name) racist.

Teddy upstaging Jimmy in 1979–the Lion’s path to the West Wing seemed wide open.

The hapless Roger Mudd, circa 1980–no more lunches in Hyannisport for YOU, Roger!

Ironically, (and this is the part that really is almost authentically Greek) it was the liberal media, in the person of longtime Kennedy associate, Hyannisport invitee, (and–lest we forget to mention– unassailably objective and highly respected network journalist) Roger Mudd, who accidentally destroyed Ted’s bid for the White house on November 4, 1979. The implosion came during a widely viewed CBS network program aired in those bygone days when everybody watched one of the three major networks, or nothing at all.

The cakewalk that failed…

It was supposed to be a cakewalk, of course—an almost prototypical example of liberal media playing patty cake with a liberal politico and calling it journalism. But halfway into the lovefest, Mudd asked Teddy a seemingly innocuous question—a gentle lob over the net—a cream puff that surely the Lion of the Senate would finesse with such polished verve, such eloquent orotundity, that hearts across America would be magnetized and drawn once again to the loadstone of the Kennedy mystique.

What could possibly go wrong?

The fatal question was: “Why do you want to be president?” And for asking that question, Mudd saw his career nosedive even as he was officially excommunicated from the Kennedy compound as a traitor to the cause. The problem—of course—was not the question. Poor Mudd could never have supposed it would give Ted a moment’s pause, let alone discomfit his candidacy. The problem, as always, was Ted.

Former LIFE magazine reporter, Chris Whipple, put it best when he wrote, “what followed [Mudd’s question] was stunning: a hesitant, rambling and incoherent nonanswer; it seemed to go on forever without arriving anywhere.” Alarmed, Mudd tried to steer the conversation elsewhere, but Ted was too dazed to follow, mumbling still more inaccessible gibberish. Thus, with his shot at the presidency hovering nearly within grasp, Teddy self-destructed once again, this time before a mass audience of Americans suddenly cognizant that, as Whipple put it. “on the simple question that would define him and his political destiny, Kennedy had no clue.”

“Ummmm….” Ted, live on CBS.

Samuel Johnson’s Dog….

So, time now to justify our new rating system, zero to four “paws up.” We feel obliged to award three out of four upraised paws to Chappaquiddick, despite all our complaints, with the understanding that two of those paws are for cinematic achievement, the third being more in keeping with those participation trophies handed out nowadays in kids’ sports where no score is kept and children are rewarded for just showing up. After all, from a purely pragmatic point of view, the selling, casting, filming, and marketing, even in 2018, of a film about Chappaquiddick, cannot have been easy.

Our resolute artistic standards would normally prohibit us from tempering our criticisms of any film based on whatever generative necessities obliged its deficiencies. Undoubtedly, many creative disputes broke out in pursuit of a finished product that could run the gamut of axes poised to silence film projects offensive to the establishment. Byron Allen, the CEO of Entertainment Studios and the executive producer of Chappaquiddick, is on record declaring that “some very powerful people…tried to put pressure on me not to release this movie,” and we have no difficulty believing him.  So, what emerged was a compromised exposition, hobbled in ways that earned our displeasure, even if necessary to the film’s survival.  On this account, we awarded Chappaquiddick one extra dog paw for the same reason that Samuel Johnson praised a performing dog taught to walk on its hind legs. It’s not that the thing is done particularly well, Johnson told Boswell, but rather that it is done at all. 

“THE INTERVIEW” (or) WOOF reviews the most controversial film of 2015 without bothering to go see it!

In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on January 3, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Our guarantee of freshness:

Seasoned readers are by now familiar with WOOF’s habit of reviewing films from time to time, and equally aware, we presume, of our iron-clad rule that no film will be reviewed on our website unless our reviewers have scrupulously avoided seeing it. We believe our strict adherence to this standard ensures that ours are the fairest, most impartial cinema critiques anywhere in cyberspace inasmuch as limiting ourselves to movies we haven’t seen frees our analyses of those partialities that would inevitably accrue during any actual exposure to the works under consideration. Apparently quite a few of you agree, as our movie reviews are always among our most popular posts, and among the most visited after time has swept them from our ‘front page’ to our archives. It is therefore with considerable pleasure, and not a little reportorial pride, that we present our fifth film review of a movie we haven’t seen, and focus our critical faculties on: The Interview. (And we admit it here bluntly, gentle readers: it would annoy us not a wit were the North Koreans to hack our site, as the publicity would be primo!)

The Innocence of Comedians

this is the end

Rogen and Franco also starred in “The “End,” a film that asks  the question, what would happen if a bunch of stoned idiots were at a Hollywood party and the apocalypse happened? Apparently Kim Jong-un was not offended.

Once upon a time there were two funny fellows—and given this description it will surprise no one to learn that they lived in Hollywood.  They also made movies—but you saw that one coming, too, didn’t you! In years past, the two fellows appeared in many successful films such as Pineapple Express, Knocked Up, Spring Breakers, and Superbad.  Perhaps you never saw any of these movies—perhaps you never even heard of them; but they all contained lots of fart jokes and poop jokes and made money and the funny fellows were encouraged to continue making movies. And for a time, all seemed well…

And then, one day these fellows, whose names were (and continue to be) Seth Rogen and James Franco, got together with two more fellows (also funny) named Dan Sterling and Evan Goldberg and decided to make an especially funny movie in which reporters interact amusingly with actor Randall Park in the role of Kim Jong-un, the endlessly amusing communist dictator of North Korea. And when the four friends told Sony, a major media corporation, about their idea, Sony thought it seemed very funny indeed, and said, “Here’s 44 million dollars, go make your movie, and be sure to include lots of fart and poop jokes!”

funny fellows

Left to right, funny fellows Sterling, Goldberg, Rogen, and Franco; girded for the brutal work ahead!

Those were innocent, carefree days indeed, gentle readers, but ominous skies began to gather and soon threatened the formerly tranquil and serene sound stages at Columbia pictures with a new and unanticipated evil— the wrath of Kim Jong-un, meaning the real Kim Jong-un, not the character in the four fellows’ especially funny movie. And in real North Korea, the real Kim Jong-un was not amused—so unamused was he that in June the North Koreans issued vociferous threats of “merciless retaliation” against Columbia Pictures (a subsidiary of Sony) if the film were released in October, as scheduled. Nobody took this very seriously, however.

Maybe Kim's Dad wasn't upset about "Team America" because everyone was a marionette?

Maybe Kim’s Dad wasn’t upset about “Team America” because everyone was a marionette?

First, consider the source–and secondly, had not the world been treated only recently to the cinematic spectacle of Kim’s venerable father, Kim Il Sung, being impaled on the spike of a Prussian helmet and  revealed to be an alien cockroach from the planet Gyron in the highly successful Hollywood romp World Police?   And nary a murmur out of North Korea over that one, right? But let us not get ahead of ourselves, gentle readers- let us begin where the Red Queen directed Alice to make a habit of beginning: At the beginning. So roll film!

In the beginning:


“…and may you  drown in your own blood and feces!”

As The Interview opens we are treated to an unforgettable musical number rendered by a small Korean girl who sweetly sings “Die, America, Die” (only in Korean, of course) while phalanxes of communist soldiers stand rigidly at grim attention. The lyrics are offered in English subtitles, and include such sentiments as “may the United States be starved and ravaged by disease; may your women be raped by beasts of the jungle,”  and so on. The number concludes with a thoroughly menacing missile launch. Otherwise, this  frolicsome action-comedy seems inoffensive enough at the outset as we are swept to a television studio where a verasimiltudenously moronic TV journalist, Dave Skylark (James Franco), and his less imbecilic but equally amusing producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), are plodding along at the helm of a pathetically third-rate celebrity tabloid program called “Skylark Tonight.” Skylark has just wrapped up an episode in which Eminem reveals that his entire corpus of work amounts to an encrypted anthem to homosexuality (which, frankly, we thought everyone already realized), when the host and his producer receive the news that changes everything: Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s infamous Pillsbury dough-tyrant, turns out to be a huge fan of the program…perhaps the only huge fan of the program… but Kim’s admiration is good for a ticket to the top, they reason, if they can just bag an interview with the elusive potentate. A request is politely issued, and when Kim responds favorably our heroes rejoice in the certainty that, for Skylark Tonight, the road to TV immortality runs straight through Pyongyang.

“Only you, Dick Daring!”the-interview-movie-screenshot-lizzy-caplan

So why might the actual Kim Jong-un take so dim a view of a film that humanizes him and arguably renders him worthy of sympathy and affection? Isn’t that what those useful idiots in Hollywood are supposed to do? It is, we submit, a tribute to the almost paranormal tendency of life to emulate art that Rogen’s and Franco’s vexations in vivo began almost simultaneously with their characters’ difficulties in The Interview. We venture to infer that this otherwise unremarkable buddy film first caught the unfavorable eye of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, about the time Lizzy Caplan (who previously starred in Masters of Sex, which we never reviewed despite never having seen it) shows up at our heroes’ doorstep. Skylark and Rapoport are about to set out for North Korea with nothing but the fluffiest of pop-journalistic intentions, when fate takes a particularly ruthless hand.  Miss Caplan, looking drop-dead gorgeous in what can best be described as a blue, form-fitting, low-cut trenchcoat–perhaps the only one of its kind– flashes her credentials and informs the bush-league newscasters that the CIA needs them, and needs them badly. She proceeds to show Skylark and Rapoport a mound of evidence that North Korea has developed an intercontinental ballistic missile (presumably the one we saw launched at the film’s opening) that can hit California. The communists, she says, have fitted this missile out with a nuclear warhead and are preparing to destroy the West Coast. Further, she assures the bollixed entertainers, only the assassination of Kim Jong-un can prevent the impending holocaust, making our heroes indispensable because of their forthcoming interview with the target, especially since the CIA’s  every previous attempt to insert an agent into Kim’s inner circle has (gulp!) failed and our heroes are the only game in town.

Premises, premises!

Film goers might have to be more divorced from reality than the filmmakers to believe that contemporary TV journalists would walk through the fire for the CIA.

Film goers may have to be more divorced from reality than the filmmakers to believe that contemporary TV journalists would walk through the fire for the CIA.

The perspicacious reader (which we assume describes everyone at this site) may be forgiven for hiking an eyebrow at this juncture, and opining that Rogen’s, Sterling’s and Evans’s script just hung a “crazy Ivan,” veering into the realm of implausibility–not because the CIA might be in earnest of recruiting two losers like Skylark and Rapoport, but rather because they succeed in doing so. What contemporary media personality would dream  of consenting to become a conscious operative of the Central Intelligence Agency, let alone to killing a foreign head of state, and most particularly, a communist one? The liberal entertainment industry may find it temporarily expedient to portray the liberal media establishment (however tackily represented) as willing to abandon its internationalist affectations (read: pompous anti-Americanism) long enough to perform an exigent patriotic duty, but no thinking viewer will believe it could really happen. Here, however, WOOF feels obliged to defend the film’s writers who seem–at least dimly– to cognize this objection and deflect it by playing up Dan Skylark’s (Franco’s) monumental idiocy in tandem with his unbridled salacity. (We mentioned that Miss Caplan looks hot, right?)

Hope and Crosby in a "Road Picture"...somehow a more plausible friendship, but no poop jokes!

Hope and Crosby in a “Road Picture”…somehow a more plausible friendship, and funny even before the development of poop jokes!

In the first instance we are willing to suppose that Skylark may be too stupid  to have absorbed even basic liberalism, 101 . In the second, he is vividly shown to be instantly smitten by the curvaceous Caplan (as CIA agent Lacey), under whose spell he manages to confect the distortedly feminist premise (which he enthusiastically shares with Rapoport) that Agent Lacy just might be making sense because “This is 2014, women are smart now!”  If it seems difficult to believe that Rapoport (who is nowhere nearly as moronic as Skylark) doesn’t cite an article or two of liberal protocol and scotch the sordid proposal in the nub, we are at least tempted to suppose his affection for and professional depence on Skylark might prevent him from objecting. For that matter,  the writers never give us a particularly good reason to believe Rapoport would be friends with a jackass like Skylark to begin with, let alone entangled with a him in the kind of slobbering, fashionably homoerotic histrionics depicted on screen; but even Hope and Crosby knew, you can’t have a buddy flick without buddies, and as the last two presidential elections serve to remind us, there’s no accounting for taste!

Frank Lengella takes direction from Ron Howard during the making of "Frosty Nixon"

Frank Langella takes direction from Ron Howard during the making of “Frosty Nixon”

Even at this juncture, as our show-bizzy chums board their flight to destiny encumbered only by any ethical dubieties they may entertain, their professional equipment, and a foil-covered strip of deadly ricin poison to be transferred by handshake to the targeted tyrant, Skylark remains ebullient. He waxes euphoric over the kudos his one-on-one with Kim is bound to win him, the darker aspect of the meeting notwithstanding. He exclaims, “In ten years, Ron Howard’s going to make a movie out of this,” and then, just in case you’ve forgotten he’s a complete idiot, he waxes adulatory in his remembrance of Howards’s direction of “Frosty Nixon” by which he means Frost /Nixon, get it? Well, they can’t all be gems.

Rumblings from the East

Kim Jong-un, unamused.

Kim Jong-unamused

Meanwhile, back in the real world,  ( it will be occasionally important to maintain this distinction) , we have already noted that the real Kim Jong-un, over in the real Pyongyang, continued to receive real intelligence to the effect that Hollywood, and more specifically the Sony Corporation, was making a movie that portrayed his assassination by American journalists. As we also mentioned, North Korea responded by issuing a variety of angry threats. As the nastiness and vociferousness of these threats grew, Sony began get the wobblies, as Mrs. Thatcher would say, and postponed the release date of The Interview. But North Korea was not pacified by such panderings–nor are communists ever pacified by such concessions. Ever. We could have explained this to Sony, but they didn’t ask. And thus, as December drew closer, along with The Interview’s  rescheduled Christmas release date, North Korea ramped up its campaign and began threatening “another 9-11” if the imperialist running dogs at Sony did not yank the film from distribution.

galtAnd  if this were an Ayn Rand novel, some self-made zillionaire—some objectivist demigod astride the international mega-billion-dollar motion picture industry would at this point roll up his sleeves, thrust out his chin, and make the bold declaration that even if he had to bankrupt himself financing its completion and renting out the theatres in which to screen it all across America, The Interview would be released on schedule, and no two-bit tin-horned third-world collectivist pixie was going to stop it. But as we mention from time to time in these pages, most captains of industry (and almost every Hollywood mover and shaker) are too busy attending Democratic fund raisers and popping champagne corks with the liberal establishment to read much. So, in the real world, when Sony heard about the threats from North Korea, they postponed the release until Christmas. Randian Objectivism doesn’t crop up too often in the real world of high finance, sad to say.

Civil libertarian  Dan Sterling. ready for his close up at ground zero.

Civil libertarian
Dan Sterling. ready for his close up at ground zero.

At least Dan Sterling (who co-wrote the film with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg) was irate. “If they want to bomb somebody for their free speech,” he told reporters, “I would like to be at ground zero, because I don’t want to live in that kind of world.”

It doesn’t seem to have hit home with Mr. Sterling that most of the planet he inhabits is covered with nations whose leaders want to wipe out “free speech,” and who don’t mind a bit if Mr. Sterling or any other mouthy hooligan wants to be at ground zero—in fact, the more the merrier so far as they’re concerned. But it is precisely here that we, the reviewers, feel obligated to pause and clarify for our readers what in Messrs Rogen’s, Franco’s, Sterling’s and Goldberg’s little movie could have so horribly and simultaneously infuriated the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, the First Secretary of the Workers Party of North Korea, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Chairman of the National Defense Commission for North Korea, the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, and the head of North Korea’s politburo—all of whom happen to be Kim Jong-un.

Obviously, Kim's duties require the wearing of many hats.

Obviously, (the real)  Kim’s vast array of duties requires the wearing of many hats.

The “friendly riot” paradigm

Long before the now-infamous Sony hacks took place, and in fact as early as September of 2014,  enormous pressure was exerted on Director (and star) Seth Rogen to reduce the intensity of Kim’s death scene (yes, gentle readers, Kim dies in the movie, so if you didn’t know that–sorry–but you would have found out sooner or later anyhow). Anyway, it seems to be a peculiarity endemic to entertainment moguls that they believe the essence of an event portrayed on screen can be substantively altered by simply portraying less of it, or portraying it less graphically, and Sony’s American motion picture division obviously shares this unaccountable conviction.

indexDoubters would do well to examine Merle Miller’s hilariously instructive memoire, Only You, Dick Daring!  The book recounts Millers adventures at NBC in the early ’60s after a TV producer reveals a “vision” for a weekly drama and hires Miller to flesh out the concept and write some scripts. In due course Miller is called on the carpet for a script in which a riot occurs. The producer tells him that sponsors won’t appreciate the riot because it casts the rural townsfolk to whom advertisements may be pitched in a bad light. Miller is told to get rid of the riot, but he is adamant: the riot is essential to the plot and cannot be removed. The producer ponders this for a moment  and then snaps, “All right, but make it a friendly riot!” We digress in this regard because no better means exist (so far as we know) to characterize Sony’s bizarre obsession with de-emphasizing the climax of Rogen’s film. Surely the friendly-riot paradigm exemplifies the dialogue between Rogen and the studio as revealed in an almost endless procession of subsequently leaked emails in which Rogen accedes to a succession of demands from Sony  to soften the dictator’s  final moments:

In this shot, Randall Parks ans Kim looks outsude his helicipter-- scouting angrily for our herores--no death secen yet...wait for it!

In this shot, Randall Parks as Kim looks outside his command helicopter– scouting angrily for our herores–no death scene yet…just agnst.

Rogen emails, “We will make it less gory. There are currently four burn marks on his face. We will take out three of them, leaving only one. We reduce the flaming hair by 50%. The head explosion can’t be more obscured than it is because we honestly feel that if it’s any more obscured you won’t be able to tell its exploding and the joke won’t work. Do you think this will help?”

(And after further demands are made): “We will play with the color of the head chunks to try to make them less gross. Should we not take out the burning parts on his face if you don’t think that is his issue? We’d rather keep them. Let us know. Thanks. Seth.”

(And after much more haggling) “In shot #337 there is no face melting, less fire in the hair, fewer embers on the face, and the head explosion has been considerably obscured by the fire, as well as darkened to look less like flesh.”

Finally, after a seemingly interminable amount of additional quibbling during which Sony’s Japanese CEO (and grandest of all Sony panjandra), Kazuo Hirai, involved himself in ways that leave no doubt he is also not an Ayn Rand enthusiast, Rogen is finally able to email:

This is it!!! We removed the fire from the hair and the entire secondary wave of head chunks. Please tell us this is over now. Thanks so much!! Seth.”

Over, Seth Rogen?? Pardon us a cruel chuckle!

Kazuo Hirai, Godzilla survivor, film censor, non-Objectivist.

Kazuo Hirai– Corporate CEO, Godzilla survivor, film censor, non-Objectivist.

WOOF knows (because we have awesome connections) that Sony’s anxieties were so great, even before a single file had been pinched by hackers, that Hollywood’s and Tokyo’s motion picture divisions planned at one point to placate Rogen by temporarily accepting his final cut even as extensive further modifications were discussed up to and including a complete revision of the picture’s climax in which Kim was spared assassination owing to a crisis of conscience on the part of Skylark and Rapoport. But organizations are habitually bovine, and for all it’s craven intentions, Sony could not remove enough head chunks or re-write climaxes quickly enough to mollify its tormentors. That North Korea might object to the principle of Kim Jong-un’s on-screen death per se rather than how the particulars of its depiction were arranged must have dawned on even the dimmest of Sony’s appeasers as their corporate ramparts were breached by a force whose magnitude exceeded even Kazuo Hirai’s greatest fears–and that guy survived Godzilla!

The Guardians of Peace attack!

Sony's new screensaver was immediately unpopular.

t Sony’s new screensaver was immediately unpopular.

On November 24th employees of the Culver City-based operations of Sony studios logged onto their computers and found their data completely gone. Nothing remained but a big, grinning, crimson  skull and the words “Hacked by #GOP” (a group of hackers styling themselves the Guardians of Peace, as well as enjoying an obvious slap at the Republican Party). Even at this early stage the loss of secure data was shocking, but as days went by Sony became achingly aware that the hack had been far more extensive than initially feared.  It had, in fact, been a clean sweep. On the 9th of December the “GOP” posted an online message demanding that Sony “Stop immediately showing the movie of terrorism which can break the regional peace and cause the War.” And at the same time, the Internet was flooded with embarrassing, costly, or personally sensitive material hacked from Sony’s corporate computer systems. This prompted a spate of disjointed spasms at Sony– defensive jerks and writhings of the sort one might expect from a tormented beast with no instinctual repertoire of counterattacks beyond the occasional, feckless lashing out devoid of any definable purpose. Among these random reflexes, we particularly enjoyed a magnificently sanguine statement to the press from Sony attorney David Boies, who denounced the Sony leaks (accurately enough) as “stolen information” and called on “all media outlets” to destroy any emails from the Sony hack that came into their possession. It was a game effort, all right, and a magnificent gesture on Boies part–but of course it fell on deaf ears. Sony had no institutional vocabulary for courage, it was rudderless in a sea of abuses.

After all, if this bozo could bring down Batman, what might the Democratic Republic of North Korea be able to do to "Th Interview?"

After all, if this bozo could bring down Batman, what might the Democratic  People’s Republic of North Korea be able to do to “The Interview?”

On December 16th the hackers released a new threat.  Avoid seeing The Interview on Christmas Day, they warned, adding, “how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.”  That was enough for America’s theatre owners, who vividly remembered the demise of The Dark Knight Rises after “the Batman shootings” of  2012. They began dropping the scheduled film in droves, making distribution impossible. At that point, even had Sony grown testes of steel, no option was available. The producers scrapped the The Interview, and for a while it seemed the film was destined for the darkest, most closely guarded vault since Howard Hughes bought up and locked away every print of his laughably stupid movie Jet Pilot after reading its terrible reviews…which for some reason surprised him.

The real villain exposed!


Often called the Alan Turing of North Korean computer hacking, this secret spymaster prefers to work exclusively with his abacus.

As everyone is now aware, the Sony hack represented something greater than a good joke on a major corporate entity– its scope and expertness were such that a wider threat to America’s corporate data bases and yes, to the very matrices of our highly computerized defense networks and related military systems could not be ignored. But the Sony hackers were more than techno terrorists of the first order, they were also adept at counter-forensic measures, and it was quickly obvious to experts that their trail was blurry and in many respects deceptive–possibly right down to the laughable English syntax that fit the image of some motley squad of dorky North Korean provincials, but seemed suspiciously inconsistent with the caliber of high-tech sophistication requisite to pulling off the “GOP” caper.  Overnight, politicians on both sides of the aisle began to wax shrill in their demands that the Sony leaks be investigated and the culprits exposed and punished.

So, let me understand this--if we say its North Korera they can't do anything bout, and they want us to think it's tyhem anyhow--

“So, let me understand this–if we say its North Korea they can’t really do anything about,it,  and they want us to think it’s them anyhow–so it’s a win win, we agree?”

In the confines of the Oval Office these developments began to take on the appearance of one of those pesky crisis thingies– the kind that make golfing difficult and necessitate executive action, or at least the appearance of executive action. Fortunately, President Obama is a man who has learned from his time in office, and matured in his handling of such  emergencies. The old Obama would have insisted he’d just learned about the Sony affair on the news, “the same as most of you!” and assured the press he was calling in his top people to bring him up to speed. Next he would have vowed to remain focused on the problem “like a laser” and sworn that he wouldn’t rest until he got to the bottom of it. And with any luck at all, he could avoid ever having to mention it again– but times have changed.  The schlock that worked for the first six years of his presidency is not sufficient to pacify the nation in years seven and eight. Reporters–though rarely–sometimes ask pointed questions these days, and the stubbornly ineradicable renegades at FOX News remain a major irritant  Then of course, there are the new media, unreliable allies at best, and damnable tea-baggers at worst! And even the president’s own pollsters are privately reporting that while he can still fool some of the people all of the time, the percentage of people whom he can fool all of the time is withering daily.

Target in sight! Obama's skeet-shooter's eye  ferrets out the true villain amid a sea of decoys!

Target in sight! Obama’s skeet-shooter’s eye  ferrets out the true villain amid a sea of decoys!

With these considerations in mind, one can easily envision the president convening an actual advisory group concerned not with the proper response to North Korea’s frantic protestations of guilt,  (which lack plausibility on the one hand, could get ugly on the other hand, would not be readily resolvable by drones, and which in any case conflict with Obama’s deep rooted feelings of solidarity with socialist regimes standing up to Western imperialism) Fortunately,by the time he and his most trusted advisers had finished noodling this one out, a mere scowl aimed in the direction of North Korea (enough to satisfy the yahoos) was all that was required of Our President as he zeroed in on the real culprit on the scene– a villainous scapegoat that fit the Obaman metanarrative perfectly—albeit the goat in question was pretty much innocent– but as comrade Lenin liked to say (okay, even though he was quoting Maximilien Robespierre), if you want to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs, right? So America’s slow rappin’ preezy sauntered up to his newly programmed teleprompter and bluntly placed the blame where it belonged: Yes, on the shoulders of the Sony corporation–because—well– they were the nearest proximal capitalist entity and besides …the bad guy was Michael Lynton, Sony’s number one CEO in America, major democrat contributor, loyal Obama supporter, fresh road kill on the highway to The People’s Socialist Republic of Obamamerica, and the obvious weak-kneed reprobate at the heart of the entire disaster! That’s right, Sony’s Michael Lynton had failed the nation at this crucial hour, and Obama was not afraid to say so!


Sony’s CEO Lynton–from noble, caring, Democratic contributor, to gutless,  fatcat,  scapegoat–just like that!

It was  was ingenuous, really. The president’s statement merely grazed the NORKs without mentioning them by name, thus giving the impression to the unexacting audient that Obama had given the commies a piece of his mind –instead of a furtive high five—-even as he actually rained all his moral condemnation on Sony, and Lynton, Not only had Sony completely screwed the proverbial pooch in the president’s view, they had done the entire nation a disservice and set a “dangerous precedent” in pulling the film. Slow Rappin’ Preezy then warmed to his teleprompter sufficiently to kick things up a notch, switching to that particularly sonorous  assortment of clipped tonalities intended to presage some especially statesmanshippy rhetoric. But as liberal egomaniacs will, whenever given the slightest provocation, Obama next launched  into one of  those  wholly unconscious exercises in Freudian projection in which liberal critics recite their own worst behaviors and malefactions  but attribute them to their opponents.

True, he was a leftist atheist, but liberals wouldn't be half a smuch fun without the insights Freud affords us!

True, he was a leftist atheist, but liberals wouldn’t be half as much fun without the insights Freud affords us!

“We cannot have a society in which some dictators someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” Obama said. (Take that, Kim jong-un!)  “Imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like.” Gosh, Mr. President, they would be acting like you, right? But Obama managed to drive these points quite a ways, and wax indignant about many an instant, real or imagined, in which some dictatorially-inclined power driver might take unfair control of events if not opposed by finer statesmen and brought to heel!  And this, he made plain, was exactly the sort of tyranny that weaklings  like poor Lynton and his dastardly corporation heads were guilty of caving into by allowing themselves to be coerced into pulling The Interview from theatres stateside!  And in closing, the president served up one last, and particularly massive slice of bologna. He may in fact have been having one of his skeet-shooting moments when he saw fit to add,”You know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was.” (NB: if the preceding statement strikes you as in any sense plausible, you would be well advised to stop reading this article right now—you really aren’t up to it!) Imagine, for instance,Obama urging various theatres to show some backbone and air The Interview–and even one violet incident occurring as a result!  No presidential adviser of any stripe would have permitted such folly-it was all complete nonsense, but so, of ocurse, so was the president’s criticism of Lynton.


McLuhan–tuned in ahead of his time?

In response to his public humiliation. Lynton joined a lengthy procession of establishment liberals who, over the past seven years, have been cast blinking in disbelief beneath Obama’s political bus tires. Lynton protested, of course, and quite truthfully, that he had repeatedly attempted to talk to the president, but only got as far as discussing the problem with “a senior White House adviser, ” who in any case was not in the least critical of the theatre closings. Moreover, Lynton rather sensibly pointed out that Sony owns not a single theater in North America and has no control whatever over theatre managers who decide to cancel scheduled features. Obama blaming Lynton and Sony for pulling a film that no theater was willing to carry was remindful of Marshall McLuhan’s trenchant observation that America is a country that always beats up the peanut vender when its team loses.  True, as the pilfered emails make plain, Sony was steeped in its own culture of appeasement and accommodation, but with the eagle eye of a man who prefers to shoot skeet on a flat trajectory, the president managed to damn them for the one thing they couldn’t help, and avoid entirely the subject of who masterminded the actual  hacking.

Enter Little Kim 

Our heroes arrive in Pyongyang, where everyone is fat, friendly, and fake.

Our heroes arrive in Pyongyang, where everyone is fat, friendly, and fake.

But let us now rejoin our heroes, Skylark and Rapoport (Rogen and Franco), first because this is, after all, a review of their movie, and second because they are the only two players in the entire farce, on or off screen, who retain a shred of integrity (apart from Sook–and we haven’t gotten to her yet)!  Arriving at their hotel, the Americans are patted down by Kim’s security forces. One particularly alacritous guard ransacks their belongings and discovers the small packet of foil that contains the deadly strip of ricin. As instructed, the Americans explain that the substance is chewing gum, and to their great relief the guard nods approvingly—but relief turns to dismay as the guard pops the strip into his mouth and begins chewing appreciatively.  Ricin is slow acting, so the tragic ramifications of the guard’s impulse are not immediately apparent, but Team Skylark has now lost its means of dispatching its intended prey.  Their Korean welcomers are oblivious of any of this, of course, and the festivities continue.

kim-jong frat boy

Randall [right] as Kim jong-un, just a regular frat bro –with his own indoor basketball court, tank, and tiger!

Our stalwarts are thus allowed to proceed with their scheduled meeting, and within moments Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un himself (magnificently interpreted by Randall Park), bounds into the room and launches into a fulsome display of fan worship, fawning over his American guests as though they are royalty. Skylark, naturally, is captivated by Kim’s worshipfulness and begins to feel his celebrity deeply. In no time they are exchanging back slaps and nudges like frat boys while Kim proceeds to show off his pad, which features every sort of posh amenity  including liquor, drugs, available women, a basketball court, a huge collection of classic and current automobiles, and a tank, as in army tank. Those interested in sampling the level of wit that permeates The Interview may wish to examine this tidbit:

Kim (gesturing at the tank): “It was a gift to my father from Stalin!”

Skylark (nodding enthusiastically): “Ah! In my country, it’s pronounced Stallone!”


Say what one will of Katy Perry–whoever she is–she certainly plays her patriotic part in Rogen’s movie! A kind of bilaterally rhapsodized Lilly Marlene– a lietmotif of unity amid the skullduggery!

Kim Jong-un must die!

Are we still good?  If so, be advised: there ensues an unbridled episode of guy bonding including a rollicksome ride in the tank during which the Americans are shown how to swivel the turret, fire the cannon, and so forth. As their bro-mance intensifies, Kim and Skylark acknowledge their mutual adoration of, among other westerly delights, Katy Perry. When Skylark sings Perry’s hit tune “Firework” to Kim, the tyrant smiles in supernal transport, and tears stream down his cherubic cheeks. Suffice it that by the time our heroes return to their hotel, Skylark is happy to have lost the ricin and declares himself completely persuaded that Kim Jong-un is a wonderful dude, a misunderstood huggie bear, a benefactor to his people, and of course, a devoted fan of Skylark Tonight. Rapoport, to the contrary, has seen through the little dictator’s façade and contacted the CIA, who have scheduled delivery of a substitute ricin strip to be dropped from a drone hovering outside the boys’ hotel.

tigerIn a scene that would grace any of Crosby’s and Hope’s “Road” Pictures, Rapoport no sooner steals his way out of the hotel to retrieve the deadly air drop than he is confronted by a gigantic, growling tiger. Bob Hope, of course, would have monologued hilariously to the tiger, but as we believe we have made plain by now, those days are gone. Rogen, by contrast, freezes in fatalistic horror as the beast coils to spring, but fortunately, at that moment, thud! The tiger is knocked out cold by the ricin container dropped from the CIA’s drone. Rogen (Rapoport) grabs the phallic cylinder in which the ricin was dropped and –in one of those moments of unparalleled comic genius so familiar to Rogen’s and Franco’s admirers, realizes that he has no means of concealing it other than by shoving it where the proverbial moon don’t shine. Imagine the ensuing merriment as he waddles back to his room!  And as if this weren’t enough for any one movie, two more plot wrinkles materialize!

Janet Leigh as a cold, Godless commie in Howard Hughes's "Jet Pilot." John Wayne saves her, but nothing could save the film!

Janet Leigh as a cold, Godless commie in Howard Hughes’s “Jet Pilot.” John Wayne saves her, but nothing could save the film!

First, Kim’s sexy female security guard, Sook, (played by Diane Bang who does more for a communist uniform than anyone since Janet Leigh in Howard Hughes’s Golden Turkey Jet Pilot. which for some strange reason we have now mentioned twice in this article) is hot on the trail of the Americans and smells a rat. But before she can piece together the team’s real mission, she winds up in the sheets with Rapoport, and finds herself cocooperatively smitten. The other twist is easier to see coming. Danny Skylark has been crazy about his  halfpint host since their first meeting, and he has now reached a level of unalloyed admiration for Kim Jong-un that makes Dennis Rodman look like a pouty cynic. Skylark is therefore no longer willing to proceed with the CIA plan and determines, rather, to show the world that Kim Jong-un is really a prince among men. He goes so far as to thwart an early effort by Rapoport to slip Kim the ricin-infected handshake.

Sook--who makes quite the entrance!

Sook–who makes quite the entrance!

But Sook, the comely commie infatuated with Rapoport , turns out to be a leader of a secret anti-Kim cell within the government,and by various machinations she arranges for Skylark to discover that all the happy well-fed Korean citizens he’s been meeting are actors, and the fully stocked supermarkets are merely props lined with fake foods and packages. Skylark also manages to overhear Kim in conference with his military high command where the Supreme Leader reveals himself to be a killer at heart, spitting out pathological hatred for the west while cold-bloodedly conniving to reduce California to radioactive dust. Even Skylark agrees at this juncture– the interview will proceed as planned, the ricin will be administered by handshake, and no further delays or ethical qualms will be permitted because….Kim Jong-un must die!

Kim unmasked! A darker, more homicidal Supreme Leader emerges during the conference scene!

Kim unmasked: A darker, plainly homicidal Supreme Leader emerges during the conference scene–and America is on the bull’s eye!

The next day a fully committed Dan Skylark marches into his sit-down interview with the still unsuspecting and jovial Kim Jong-un and wastes not a moment delivering the ricin-infected handshake. The pleasantries exchchanged, the promised interview (which, however improbably, is being broadcast live) proceeds as scheduled, and, initially, as expected. At first it all seems familiarly bland; the back slapping, joke cracking, glad-handing Danny and his opening round of creampuff questions have the podgy archon feeling relaxed and validated.  Suddenly though, Skylark goes totally Mike Wallace on his startled interviewee, boring in with demands about why Kim won’t feed his people; why he won’t allow freedom in his country, why he won’t allow a free press. In the adjacent control room, Kim’s minions rush to kill the broadcast, but the prepossessing Sook is in charge of security, and she intercedes. The show must go on, she orders, and the interview proceeds. Danny Skylark is functioning as a real journalist at last, and he senses the  righteousness of it even as Kim squirms and stammers in confusion. It is a tribute to Randall Park’s portrayal that Kim is plausible in all his various personae–from bodacious party boy to sensitive aesthetician. From nationalist folk hero to reptilian mass murderer.  It is a tribute to Park that we hate him when he plays the malevolent sociopath and feel sorry for him when his chummy tete-a-tete with Skylark is shattered by betrayal. It is a sad comment that no such kudos can be offered anyone else in this sleeper gone viral, even the enigmatic Sook, but bear with us, gentle readers, as we shift our sights briefly to the havoc here at home that a very real Kim jong-un is charged with creating.

It helps that Randall Park in no sense actually resembles Kim Jonhg-un. A characture of Kim would run the gamut of bamboozlement as third rate slap stick, but here, as Clark (Kim) first senses Skylark's betrayal, his range of reactions is far more human

It helps that Randall Park in no sense actually resembles Kim Jong-un. A caricatured Kim would cope with Skylarks’s sharpening journalistic demands by running the gambit of slapstick reactions down to the slow burn–but  Park’s Kim senses Skylark’s betrayal by degrees that are far more human…and yes, tragic.

th.jpgparting thoughts

The President promises to think about a “conditional” response and heads for Hawaii.

Back in America, and what currently passes for reality here, and following the hacks and the serial release of slues of embarrassing data by the “GOP,” (Guardians of Peace, remember?) the real FBI announces (with that dutiful predictability it seems beset by since hitching its organizational reputation to Obama’s wagon) “the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” following which President Obama went so far as to declare that he was “considering a proportionate response,” possibly even going so far as “reviewing whether to put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” which of course will fizzle into nothingness, and which, in typical fashion, preceded Obama jumping aboard his jet for his latest vacation in Hawaii. North Korea evinced its disapproval of the president’s critique by threatening attacks on “the White House, the Pentagon and the whole U.S. mainland.”  The official Korean [read: North Korean] Central News Agency proclaimed: “The army and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are fully ready to stand in confrontation with the U.S. in all war spaces including cyber warfare space to blow up those citadels,” adding that North Korea’s intelligence networks had amassed “clear evidence” that the U.S. government was duplicitous in producing the problematic film. As precedent, Kim’s government could obviously have sited Barrack Obama’s lengthy history of presidential endeavors resulting in dark comedy, but they are not a mirthful lot, the NORKs, and such opportunities consequently elude them.

Jen hashtag data

WOOF is always trying to help, Jen!

Still, the presidential threat, however vapid,  baffled some Obama watchers by virtue of its very issuance.  What bestirred the best-known Casper Milquetoast in the history of the American presidency to wax suddenly snappish over a corporate espionage scheme when no provocation by any tyrant or band of international ruffians had, until that moment, inspired him to any action more belligerent than shoving the hapless Jen Psaki before the cameras brandishing her latest inane hashtag?hollywood

The answer is: Hollywood, of course—that storied bastion of ultra left-wing dementia, that vast array of gaping coffers pouring forth uninterrupted streams of treasure into Democratic war chests—that citadel of egotists whose narcissism is refined beyond any thought of modifying their own excesses in conformity with their unctuous preachments to the common folk and therefore tilt automatically to the socialist cause. Where but in Hollywood, after all, can a 20-something clam brain rocket to international fame pretending to be someone he isn’t while uttering words someone else wrote for him? And on what other basis than movie stardom might such a nincompoop expect to testify before congress or perhaps the UN on the sanctity of women’s vaginas, or the onrushing destruction presaged by “climate change,” and have his blatherings accorded something approaching solemnity?  And this time it was Hollywood that took a hit—not some ambassador and his crew in Benghazi or a bunch of Tea Party non-profits or the suckers who bought the Obamacare deception. Okay, Sony is a Japanese-based corporation, but Hollywood, the metonymy, was threatened and exposed by the hackers.

Speaking of race jokes and James Bond…

From a political standpoint, once one sets aside the considerable technical proficiency it bespoke, the most dangerous aspect of the Sony hacks was the damage to Hollywood’s image as a wonderland of progressive purity. Not only was a long list of glitzy celebrities rendered human, all too human, by having their often politically-incorrect viewpoints and e-blatherings exposed, but worse than that, the production elites who make and break those celebrities and who account for the lion’s share of political fund-raising and donations supportive of the Liberal Left were also hacked and hung out to dry. From these leaks it became obvious that when Hollywood’s top producers, CEOs and entertainment executives weren’t bad-mouthing their stables of stars, they were often busy exchanging sentiments worthy of Archie Bunker. This may not have interested John Q. Public nearly so much as how neurotically riven with self doubt George Clooney is, or whether Adam Sandler is a as detestable as his everyone at Sony clearly deems him. If you’re a Democrat Party Strategist, the production sector is the real concern because the moguls are the ones who contribute the mega-bucks to your candidates, and the ones whom you had better appear to be looking out for in return.

"Left and Lefter" aka Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin of Sony.

Left and Lefter” aka Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin of Sony.

Scott Rudin and Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal (both deeply involved with The Interview) emailed jokes back and forth about President Obama’s races shortly before attending a breakfast with President Obama hosted by DreamWorks Animation CEO and major Democratic donor Jeffrey Katzenberg. They have since apologized, of course, and we assume all is forgiven…although anotther leaked email complained that Denzel Washington’s film The Equalizer failed to earn sufficient profits internationally because “Blacks can’t fill theatres outside the U.S..” because, as the exec who authored the opinion explained, “The international motion picture audience is racist.” Maybe so, but The Equalizer managed to gross $191 million in box office receipts outside of the United States. ..so wow, how much more would it have earned if they’d stuck with Edward Woodward?

The name's Bond, suckah!

The name’s Bond, suckah!

And speaking of race jokes and James Bond, we are not kidding when we tell you that a very highly paid Sony Entertainment executive’s choice to replace Daniel Craig as 007 is none other than Idris Elba, who previously appeared as Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom. That’s right, Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal advanced in all sincerity the proposition that Mr. Elba “should be the next Bond.” Pascal’s idea of casting a Black guy to play the world’s most famous Scotsman is, of course, to be commended insofar as it courageously flouts the above-posited international race barrier, though it is certain to disappoint anyone clinging to some vestige of Ian Fleming’s original vision, as well as those of us in the WOOF cave who were holding out for Lucy Liu.

Lucy as Bond

WOOF contends that Lucy Liu would be a better James Bond than that  Elba dude, and she’s every bit as Scottish, too!  So what’s Amy Pascal thinking?

Scott Rudin, meanwhile,  complained that Angelina Jolie was “seriously out of her mind,” and called her a “minimally talented brat.” Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) described Leonardo DiCaprio as “horrible” while producer Mark Gorden preferred to think of him as “Actually despicable.” Sorkin next argued that Hollywood’s leading ladies experience “nothing close to the degree of difficulty” faced by leading men. This sort of attitude at Sony may account for the hacked revelation that female stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams of American Hustle, received a much smaller share of profits from their films than their male counterparts, despite receiving equal billing. But enough of this tinsel town flapdoodle, gentle readers, let us return to fictional North Koriea, where our fictional heroes are doing their damndest for Uncle Sam and, of course, journalistic immortality!

sook shootrs.like it

Sook escalates the level of discourse during the live broadcast.

The famous final scene…

So, back in imaginary North Korea, we return to Kim Jong-un (Randall Park), slowly melting down,( albeit only figuratively at this juncture) beneath a fusilade of hard-ball interrogatives from his erstwhile frat buddy, Skylark. Efforts to close down the broadcast have been thwarted by the commanding presence of Sook (Diana Bang), who has the uniform and braid to keep the show up and running, to say nothing of how impressively the uniform is stuffed. But the palace guard is increasingly frantic to curtail the transmission of what they now fully sense is a catastrophic misadventure in western-style journalism run wildly off the tracks and threatening the very heart of Kim Jong-un’s workers’ paradise. Aware that her dominance of the control room is fast eroding, Sook amplifies her authority by grabbing an RFD Soviet light machine gun and emptying it in the direction of everyone seeking admittance. She then leads the Americans over the resultant bodies and out of the palace where they make a break for freedom, though hotly pursued by irate units of the North Korean military.

Escape vehicle from Robot Men from the Moon--always a reliable device!

Escape vehicle from Radar Men from the Moon–always a reliable device!

Our boys’ chances seem slim indeed until Skylark gets the bright idea of escaping in the tank from Kim’s play room–which, you will recall,  Kim taught him to operate during  their male bonding romp. This throws the NORK’s command structure into disarray  given the  uncertain conditions and our heroes’ choice of Stalin’s tank as a getaway vehicle. (And the longstanding Hollywood tradition that you can almost always escape from anything if you have some sort of tank–a mythologem that reaches far back into the history of film, conjuring such classic imagery as the first known space-tank chase from 1952’s Radar Men from the Moon!) Things are looking hopeful when the sky to the south is darkened by a heavily-armed helicopter and not just any heavily armed helicopter, Wooketeers! Kim Jong -un himself has taken command of this chopper and he is in hot pursuit  of the meddlesome media team…boiling for vengeance and prepared to blast them with a theatre nuke, if necessary, to repay their treason (And at  this point, consider, he doesn’t even know he’s been ricin-ized)!  Things are getting pretty tense inside the targeted tank, when Franco realizes he’s been taught to operate the gun. With the redoubtable Sook shouting instructions and only seconds to spare, our Skylark finds his inner Rambo, rises to the event, slams home a round and pulls the trigger! The shot from the tank beat’s the helicopter’s missile launch by a nanosecond, but these elsapse in Peckinpah-esque slow motion we watch the shell pass through the air, pierce the helicopter’s hull, and explode, all too a particularly melancholy rendering of Katy Perry’s Firefly during which we watch Kim engulfed in a fiery cocoon of destruction. To Randall Parks’s credit, even as his face is thus blurred, burned, contorted, melted, and blazes away in fiery chunks, he manages to exhibit of a full range of authentic and emotionally affecting  bathos before–well–before his head explodes.  And that’s it, gentle readers–the Dear Leader is dead–one might even say dead before his time, the ricin never got a chance to kick in. One feels a twinge of loss at Kim’s immolation, and that, one feels obliged to concede, approaches art.

Dismounting their tank, our heroes choose different paths in parting. Our dragon lady, Sook, determines to stay behind to help shape the New North Korea, and  whereas Skylark and Rapoport await extraction by the CIA. Roll the credits, but as we do, let us ponder the ramifications of all that has transpired–accidental, as well as intended.

Our heroes, contemplating the future post-Kim---oh, and there's a cute puppy too, we forgot to mention that, sorry!

Our heroes, contemplating the future post-Kim—oh, and there’s a cute puppy too, we forgot to mention that, sorry!

The agony and the irony:


There are no actual photos of Seth Rogen directing a movie–but this is close.

In conclusion, Woofeteers, let us contemplate several ironies!  First, as we have mentioned already, the most aggressive exertions on the part of the North Korean government to keep this utterly unremarkable film from ever seeing the light of day ramified in its becoming the most talked about and sought after film in recent history. Because of the threats and the hacks, and the international clamoring to see the film released for viewing,, Kim Jong- Un is now the mosts widely and variously assassinated ruler in world history.His head has caught fire and exploded to greater and lesser degrees and under more intensive and greater international visibility than any other modern political leader, if you count fictional death. Surely his assassination, or rather its portrayal on celluloid, has garnered more press coverage than any other such depiction since the Zapruder film, which was, of course, tragically non-fictional. And because Rogen was put to work effectuating umpteen diverse treatments of Kim’s melting and exploding head, submitting each version for inspection by the niddering invertebrates of Sony’s high command, almost every version is now viewable somewhere online, awaiting perusal by anyone with a PC—although true to our purity pledge, the authors of this review have steadfastly eschewed them all! Meantime, Sony is frantically battling to take down as many of the pirated scenes as possible, while in a wondrous display of international cooperation the NORKs are equally committed to eliminating these sites, albeit for conspicuously different reasons. Still, a chorus of Kumbaya seems in order.

“A very damning story…”

But from a more artistic and meaningful standpoint, the greatest irony is certainly the artistic radiance which now encompasses Director Seth Rogen, who stood alone against Sony Studios in his valiant fight to retain the death scene he envisioned for his film, at one point even exploding, (you’ll forgive the expression) “This is now a story of Americans changing their movie to make North Koreans happy, and that is a very damning story.”  Yes, despite being just another leftist conformist hack, another show-biz toadie to the Hollywood socialist worldview throughout his career in pictures,  even the likes of Seth Rogen could find his inner Wolverine at such a moment– and place himself, however absurdly, in that pantheon of motion picture directors who have fought for their art against the depredations of the studio power structures. Men like Sam Peckinpah, and Orson Welles . And yes, dear readers, when sophomore cinema classes in our nation’s universities speak in hushed tones of those cinematic lions who fought for their art against all odds, let Seth Rogen’s name be murmured also!  For while we keep Seth’s name in our hearts, and his dream on our lips, moviegoers everywhere will be able to rest at night in the certainty that across the nation and around the world–wherever filmmaking is prized by men and women whose hearts beat free– Kim Jung-un’s  head is somewhere, even then, exploding in a fiery multiplicity of presentations the sum of which fills the creative universe with the brightness of a thousand suns! (Or, uns) But you get the picture!WOOF PRINT

Welles, Peckinpah, and Rogen

Welles, Peckinpah, and Rogen–the pantheon just got a little bigger, America!



In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on April 19, 2014 at 1:13 am


Time for another of our legendary WOOF film reviews, gentle readers! Yes, the world is falling apart so rapidly, we are ignoring it this week and focusing instead on the last time it fell apart this completely! (Only it was much wetter that time.) Faithful readers already know that WOOF maintains a tradition of reviewing films from time to time—films that strike us as comment-worthy from our unique sociopolitical perspective. Seasoned readers also know that we have a firm rule of limiting our reviews exclusively to films we have not seen. We believe that actually seeing a film before reviewing it might prejudice our remarks, and Lord knows none of us wants that, right? And what film is more important right now, meaning during this current nanosecond of pop-cultural disemboguement, than Noah? And, of course, Noah comes to us with an additional layer of significance because the story’s roots are manifestly biblical, thus going to see it might or might not constitute a kind of blasphemous complicity with the Godless glitterati who created it. Mindful of this, we took care to miss it for that reason also, anxious that our individual shots at salvation not be infringed by exposure to director Darren Aronofsky’s widely criticized and quite possibly heretical narrative eccentricities. But millions of our fellow Americans, seemingly unburdened by such pneumatological concerns, flocked to first-week showings of Noah, earning the film 44 million dollars in its first week. Subsequent box office has been markedly lower, but with competition out there like Mr. Peabody and Sherman, and Oculus (did they spell that right?) one has to expect some leveling off as April matures…and as word of mouth spreads!

Noah and the knowledge vacuum:

imagesCA19L07GMany Americans, even Christians who consider the Old Testament historically true as well as an inspired source of religious guidance, have scant walking-around knowledge of what scripture contains on the subject of Noah, the man, the prophet, the shipwright. In fact, even though confirmation of the Ark’s presence atop Mount Arafat in Turkey seemed forthcoming from the CIA in 1973 when Agency spokesman George Carver, a respected CIA official of the Colby era, responded to a question during a conference in Florida by acknowledging that satellite photos existed in which “there were clear indications that there was something up on Mount Ararat which was rather strange,”  the secular set has long specialized in flaunting Noah as exemplary evidence that the Old Testament is palpable bushwah. How, they ask, does one guy build a gigantic vessel in so short a time and get every animal on earth to file aboard? In fact, to be a scriptural literalist is to have been asked on innumerable occasions, “But—you can’t possibly believe Noah built an ark and saved all the animals, can you?” 

George Carver, CIA spokesman, Ark hunter.

George Carver, CIA spokesman, Ark hunter.

For the record, the CIA subsequently released photos under the freedom-of-information act (no, we are not making this up) but dialed back its enthusiasm for Ark spotting, suggesting instead that the enigmatic object depicted in their photos was probably just rock and ice.  Myriad private expeditions have attempted to reach the Ark, and most have either failed or based their claims of success on some discouragingly paltry representations. Then, too, some searchers have been kidnapped by Kurdish rebels who frequent the area, and whose hijinks recently caused Turkey to prohibit further exploration—at least for the time being. For the most part, Americans know what they know, or think they know, about Noah’s Ark from picture books, Sunday School songs, and previous dumb movies about the man who beat the deluge. In one respect, this seems forgivable.  You can laugh at someone who thinks Washington cut down a cherry tree, or that Custer was a genocidal buffoon, or who maintains (as almost 100% of the college professors we’ve confronted on the topic maintain) that Joe McCarthy somehow helmed the House Un-American Activities Committee. Such misapprehensions result, obviously, from lazy scholarship—a simple failure to peruse available sources or digest the ample histories of those eras. Not so with Noah. The Bible’s discussion of Noah is positively miserly, leaving us to imagine our own details if we desire additional context.

Satellite photo of ark on Ararat?

CIA satellite photo of ark on Ararat?

This is the part you can skip if you read Genesis a lot.  

My three sons--Shem, Ham, and Japheth--not a lot of detail all in all.

My three sons–Shem, Ham, and Japheth–not a lot of detail all in all.

From the Bible we know only that Noah was the son of Lemech, that he begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth when he was around 500 years old, and that he “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). We are also told that he was “just a man,” but one who “walked perfect in his generations,” and that Noah, like Enoch, “walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9). Even communists know the bones of the story from this point. God tells Noah that he is fed up with mankind’s evil ways and intends to “destroy them with the earth.” So, on that note, Noah begins to do what God tells him—which is to build a three story tall ark out of gopher wood and pitch, with a window and a big door in its side, famously 300 cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall. God explains that he’s going to wipe out humankind with a deluge, but covenants with Noah because of his righteousness to spare him, his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives.   Besides its role as a lifeboat for Noah and his kin, the Ark of course shelters and preserves animals of every sort who miraculously “come unto” Noah, and file obediently aboard.

Noah builds him an arky arky--pre Hollywood

Noah builds him an arky arky–pre Hollywood style

Stocked with quadrupeds, fowl of the air, every creeping thing, some extra “clean” animals for sacrificing, and plenty of chow, the Ark endures the flood and delivers Noah’s clan to Ararat, or maybe not. What we know from the Bible is that “the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4). Whether this means Mount Ararat, or the range of mountains in its vicinity, or some totally different place (inasmuch as some scholars argue that the word “Ararat” derives from a Hebraic term for mountain) is a matter of considerable dispute. Indisputable, at least from a scriptural standpoint, is that God dried the land, brought Noah’s Ark to safety, and promised never again to destroy mankind with a flood. Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk testing his product. His son, Ham, looked upon him, sprawled naked in his tent and was cursed as a result. Theories, of course, abound about the nature of this curse, and about why it was so awful to see Noah naked—or naked and drunk—in the first place. But we depart now for Hollywood, that contemporary Babylon where so many are naked and drunk and, well, other stuff, and which is recently risen to an awareness that religious films often draw floods of ticket purchasers.

Noah goes Hollywood 

Darren Aronfsky, the director who tweaked the Torah.

Darren Aronofsky, the director who tweaked the Torah.

It was somewhere in the ethereal proximity of Hollywood (as much primal apeiron as municipality, after all) that our other lead character, Darren Aronofsky, became inflamed with the idea of transforming the ark story from Genesis into an epic motion picture. And why not? Cecil B. DeMille made Bible-based blockbusters inspiring others to do likewise in the days of the major studios. Ben Hur really starred Jesus as much as Charlton Heston, and then there was The Robe, and King of Kings (the latter starring Jeffrey Hunter, whose boyish demeanor inspired critics to refer to the film as ‘I was a Teenage Jesus’). More recently came Mel Gibson’s uber-successful Passion of the Christ, which contemporary Hollywooders scorned, denounced, and then sought frantically to emulate once it out-earned all of their standard fare.

Aslan--he always had more gravitas than Jeff Hunter.

Aslan–he always had more gravitas than Jeff Hunter.

Hollywood subsequently explored many possibilities in its endeavor to make “Christian” films, but most flopped because Hollywood couldn’t get past being too cool to make films about something as square as Christianity. Instead it tried to make movies about how religion could be changed into something cool and hip if properly re-engineered. How Christianity could become more “native American,” or Buddhist, were popular themes. The greatest success to date may have been the Disney treatment of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia fables, because Jesus is present only as an analogous lion named Aslan, and that didn’t seem too Bible-belty for tinsel town’s elites; thus the movie was faithful to the stories and Christians went in droves because they already knew who Aslan was (even if everybody else thought it was a film about a magic lion). But all this time, and apparently all the while he was churning out such secular oddities as The Wrestler, Black Swan, and Requiem for a Dream, motion picture director and screen writer Darren Aronofsky wanted to make a film about Noah.

Edward R. Murrow High School? Let's face it, the kid never had a chance.

Edward R. Murrow High School? Let’s face it, the kid never had a chance.

One can find some plausible grounds for such an ambition in Aronofsky’s past, he having been raised by conservative Jewish parents in Brooklyn, but Aronofsky recalls his upbringing as socially Jewish, not religiously so. It should probably be said in Aronofsky’s defense that fate also decreed he attend something called Edward R. Murrow High School. WOOF has no doubt that such a traumatic association would take a severe toll on anyone’s sense of perspective, and further damage was undoubtedly inflicted on Darren’s young psyche during his subsequent years at Harvard. In fact, when you think about it, it is remarkable that Noah exists at all, and avoids most of the most awful perfidies its writer might have imposed on the story— deconstructing it, perhaps, as a metaphor for Trotsky’s Fourth-International message surviving Stalin’s purges. (Just for instance.) But we digress.

More Old Testament than the Old Testament?

Noah runs and yells a lot in this film--here he is chased by a mob wearing suspiciously modern rain coats.

Noah (Russell Crowe) runs and yells a lot in this film–here he is chased by a mob wearing suspiciously modern rain coats.

Aronofsky talked to a variety of studios about getting Noah launched on film, and after considerable campaigning he received Paramount’s blessing. He produced, finally, a movie that performs an interesting inversion of norms, being roundly criticized by Christians for butchering the Genesis account of the deluge and almost uniformly praised by liberals as a religiously significant flick. Odd, isn’t it?  Perhaps Aronofsky’s secret purpose was to apply reverse psychology so deftly that leftists customarily predisposed to mocking scripture would find themselves ardently defending the film and the significance of its protagonist—hardly what one expects from a demographic customarily affiliated with that party whose last convention booed God off the stage. But let Jon Stewart rave against a mélange of bottle-blond FOX foxes paying insufficient homage to Aronofsky’s vision. Let the Huff Post zealously put forth James Tabor’s view that “Noah’s family represents the last remnant of hope for humankind’s peaceable ideal in which violence toward humans or beasts is quelled and warfare ceases.” (Got all of that?)

Just for the record!

Less biblical than “Noah,” just for the record!

Let Christopher Orr write in The Atlantic of “the fierce moral intensity of Aronofsky’s vision, which is, if anything, more Old Testament than the Old Testament.” In contrast to such spiritual encomia we have Aronofsky’s gob-smacking assurance that Noah is “the least biblical film ever made.” So take that, Christopher Orr et confreres!  It seems Aronofsky strove to keep well clear of a biblical ethos—even though everybody knows that the least biblical film ever made was actually 1964’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians–no, really–and even though everyone knows that the big brains on the left will make the rounds for weeks to come explaining that Aronofsky obviously meant the opposite of what he appears to have said. (Leo Strauss, please call your office!)

Just as problematically, Aronofsky has variously described Noah as “the first environmentalist” and a man wracked with survivor’s guilt. (Really?) The embattled director has at times said of himself, “I think I definitely believe,” and yet emphatically protests his atheism on alternate days. Somewhere in the Book of James (we’re too lazy to look it up, but it’s there, trust us) it is written that “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways,” and while WOOF cannot pretend to know Mr. Aronofsky’s ways in their entirety, we are pretty certain his script and his continuity editing reflect a schism between the director’s inherent candle flame of faith and his desperate need to make Noah relevant in all sorts of archly predictable ways to his peeps in the Hollywood hoi aristoi.  Double-mindedness may by equal degree account for the film’s plot whenever it wanders from the original text, which is to say almost always. As evidence, here is the plot of Noah’s ark in a nutshell—readers prone to vertigo should take a firm hold of something solid:

both Noah and Director suffer large doses of double-mindedness throughout the film. Noah for example cannot decide on a hair style.

Both Noah and Director Aronofsky suffer large doses of double-mindedness throughout the film. Noah for example cannot decide on a hair style.

Noah, the lost years…

As Methuselah, Anthony Hopkins displays an extra-scriptural craving for wild berries. He never mentions fava beans, however, so relax.

As Methuselah, Anthony Hopkins displays an extra-scriptural craving for wild berries. He never mentions fava beans, however, so relax.

Herewith, our brief synopsis of what Darren Aronofsky and scriptwriter Ari Handel believe to bethe rest of the story.   We begin in the venerable tradition of the spaghetti western and neo-spaghetti westerns, with a flashback in which our protagonist (young Noah in this case) witnesses the brutal murder of his father (Lamech, remember?) by the arch villain, Tubal Cain, over a land dispute…rather as though Sergio Leone had filmed something called ‘Once Upon a Time in the Middle East,” which of course he never did. We now fast forward to the “present” and find Noah, a middle aged guy of about 500 years, living peaceably with his wife, Naameh, and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Noah isn’t up to much, it seems, but suddenly he sees a beautiful flower sprout from the earth and blossom in full glory in a matter of seconds…remember those old Walt Disney nature shows with the stop-action footage of the flowers sprouting? This miraculous event persuades Noah that he must gather up his family and go visit his Uncle. (Wouldn’t you?) His uncle is Methuselah, whose character is written rather as a kind of bargain basement Gandalf, but who bears a disconcerting resemblance to Hannibal Lector—possibly because he is played by Anthony Hopkins. But before Noah and his brood arrive at Uncle Methuselah’s they come across a batch of freshly slain corpses—yuck–victims of the aforementioned Tubal Cain, who is a hard man to love.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson as Ila, whoever that is, is not allowed to wear a necktie, which seems arbitrary since all the extras appear to be outfitted in upscale Gore-Tex.

The lone survivor of this pitiless massacre transpires to be a young girl named Ila played by Emma Watson, formerly Harry Potter’s love interest at Hogwarts. We are made forcibly aware that Ila is barren, although this seems an odd factoid to broach in the circumstances. But nobody has time to ponder it because Noah’s family is chased by Tubal Cain’s men, who are bent on killing them and finishing off Ila, who, as we mentioned, is barren. Noah and family run for their lives, but it looks dicey because Tubal Cain’s gang is fleet of foot and hell bent on committing mayhem, as is their wont. Just when we think our heroes are bound to meet a ghastly fate, they stumble upon—have you heard about these guys?—the rock people. Yes, rock people.

This bears some explaining, we guess, so as a visual aid, picture those goofy “rock monsters” in the Veggie Tales pirate movie (photo thoughtfully supplied for those who do not watch Veggie Tales movies) mixed together with the Transformers, and you have a pretty good mental image except that the rock monsters in the Veggie Tales movie were funny on purpose, while the Transformers were less laughable and required less suspension of disbelief. So the rock people turn out to be the Watchers (check your handy book of Enoch) who were hurled to earth by a wrathful God and forced to dwell here as fallen angels. You may justifiably protest at this juncture that fallen angels are not supposed to resemble rock people, but these particular fallen angels explain that they were turned into rock people by “the Creator” because they disobeyed their orders and helped humans after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. The Watchers explain that humans once staged a massive operation to enslave them, but they were befriended and saved from captivity by Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins, remember?)

rock monsters

Rock monsters really seemed to work in the Veggie Tales Pirate Movie– in Aronofsky’s “Noah,” not so much…

The further adventures of Noah…

Their relationship plagued by vague styles of communication, Noah wonders why the Creator wants a big boat on his front lawn...

Their relationship plagued by vague  communication, Noah wonders why the Creator wants a gigantic floating zoo…?

Snatched from the clutches of Tubal Cain, Noah is handed a seed from the Garden of Eden which he duly plants and from which (immediately of course) grows an entire forest.  Beat that, Walt Disney. Without ever consulting “the Creator,” at least on camera, Noah declares that the forest will yield wood from which an ark will be constructed. This is good enough for the rock people and Noah’s family who construct the ark without undue difficulties because when you have fallen angels who have been turned into giant rock golems helping out, ark building is a lot easier. Nevertheless, the vessel takes eight years to complete. No sooner are the finishing touches in place than animals come from everywhere and obediently board the ark. The cinematic complicatedness of advancing a  narrative that incorporates thousands of growling, bleating, howling and jostling animals is finessed by the use of a special animal-sedating incense that Noah prepares. When the incense is wafted through the ark, the animals all go conveniently into suspended animation. Luckily, people do not appear to be affected. And you might think that at this point the flood comes and the ark delivers its cargo safely to Ararat, but no, further antediluvian adventures ensue aforehand…which syntax actually makes sense in this instance. Noah’s sons need wives to perpetuate the race and in all the commotion they’ve neglected to acquire any—so Noah ventures into a neighboring village to recruit some likely candidates, but en route he discovers that a famine has beset the land and humans, led by the indefatigably sinister Tubal-Cain, have begun eating one another.

From barely-mentioned distant cousin in the Old Testament to endlessly cunning, vastly powerful super villain in the movie—Tubal Cain sure came a long way from his early days as a walk-on metal worker to  From barely-mentioned distant cousin in the Old Testament to endlessly cunning, vastly powerful super villain in the movie—Tubal Cain sure came a long way from his early days as a walk-on metal worker!

From a walk-on part in Genesis to playing an endlessly cunning, vastly powerful super villain in the film “Noah”–Tubal Cain sure came a long way. 

Seemingly it is only upon making this discovery that Noah is privy to another of his oddly intra-psychic hunches from God—and it is only now that he declares the Creator fed up with mankind. The Creator, he announces, is determined to cleanse the earth of man’s vileness by unleashing a global flood. Fortunately for Noah, he spent the last eight years building a gigantic boat, so there’s kismet for you! And we should probably insert here, because it may be apposite in some context we’ve overlooked, that Methuselah blesses Ila at this point with the result that she is no longer barren. (Never saw that coming, right?)  And Noah’s son Ham decides to go get his own wife, infiltrating the village and talking a young lady into accompanying him back to the ark by using the old “there’s a planetary deluge coming and my dad has the only boat” line. Sadly, the engagement is cut short when the bride-to-be steps in a trap and dies at the hands of Tubal-Cain—or rather at the feet of his followers who trample her while assaulting the ark. Once again, Noah’s destruction seems certain, but at the last moment the fallen-angel-stone creatures swing into action, wiping out the opposing force at the cost of their own lives. Not to worry, though, because every time a rock creature dies we see him zapped up to heaven because God likes it that they are being helpful.

The Wackiest Ship in the Pentateuch

ark in the flood

Sheet loads of rain—in fact, what appear to be heavenly shower heads pouring rain– pummel the weary earth; the ark is lifted on the tide, and the epic voyage is begun—absent Methuselah who elects to remain behind because he is weary of his mortal existence, out of wild berries, and evidently believes that committing suicide will unite him with the Lord. Meanwhile, (brace yourselves) Ila reports in pregnant—she and Shem having been busily copulating in the wake of her “cure.”  But a painfully obtuse Noah, who still does not grasp the nature of his mission, insists that God wishes humankind to vanish (Really, Noah? Really?) and tells the family that he plans to kill Ila’s child should it be born female. This graceless revelation understandably upsets Shem and Ila who try to escape in a jury-rigged dingy, but Noah catches them, burns the boat, and asks the Creator for guidance, which guidance is not  forthcoming, which is hardly astonishing since God has not said a mumbling word throughout the entire film. (One can’t really blame Him.) On sails Noah’s Ark (or drifts, more exactly) and once again the reader may be tempted to suppose the remainder of this tail is a known commodity, but no. Picture this:

What did Ham really do to get cursed by his father? Well, he didn't try to push him overboard, so the enigma continues!

What did Ham really do to get cursed by his father? Well, he didn’t try to push him overboard, so the enigma continues!

Ham is wandering around below decks after months at sea when up pops no less a reprobate than the infamous Tubal-Cain (gasp!) who has stowed away on the ark. Tubal-Cain is possessed of a silver tongue with which he dissuades Ham from turning him in and convinces him, for reasons too insipid to recount, to help him murder Noah. Thus, Ham’s great sin is re-imagined as tricking his dad into joining him astern so that he and Shem (who is still mad about his baby and his burned dingy, but who never manages to get a curse named after him) can team up with Tubal-Cain and toss the Patriarch into the drink. But Noah is too fast on his sandals for his assailants and a fight ensues. The fists fly furiously and with the odds stacked heavily against him, Noah yet again appears doomed; but apparently he left Mrs. Noah (Naameh, right?) at the wheel, because at that very moment the ark rams into a mountain. (Whew!) And Ham suddenly repentant of his treachery, takes this opportunity to strike down Tubal-Cain. Somewhere about here, also, Ila has twin daughters, and Noah decides they’re too cute to sacrifice and spares them, thus evoking God’s blessing upon the entire crew. The ark lands its complement upon dry land, God spreads a rainbow across the sky in token of his pledge to spare mankind another deluge, and the animals wake up and offload. Roll the credits.

Having read the book…

Apart from being a priori absurd in most of its depictions, to what extent is Aronofsky’s film an offense against biblical writ? Examples throughout defy quantification, but those that especially stand out are worthy of mention. Students of scripture will probably have the following top-ten complaints:

  • Tubal Cain is not the villain in the Biblical account—he doesn’t even know Noah or live at the same time as Noah—he is a descendant of Cain’s who is briefly mentioned as an artificer of brass and iron. He definitely didn’t stow away on the Ark, or do any of the other rotten things imputed to him by Aronofsky.
  • Noah’s wife in the Bible is unnamed. Naameh is the name given for Tubal Cain’s sister in Genesis, so if she is also Mrs. Noah (for which not a shred of biblical evidence exists) that would make Tubal Cain Noah’s brother-in-law…which might explain a lot if it were true, but in fact explains nothing, because it isn’t.
  • Ila doesn’t exist in the Bible. Yes, Shem has a wife, but she isn’t barren, doesn’t get healed by Methuselah, has sons, not twin daughters, and remains nameless.
  • Speaking of Methuselah, he has nothing to do with the Ark in the bible and Noah has no interaction with him whatsoever in the flood story, thus he never gives Noah any magical seeds. And if Methuselah died in the flood, which on consideration seems plausible, we can probably rule out suicide.
  • Ham didn’t need to go looking for a wife—the Bible says his wife was on the ark the whole time. The idea of a girl who agrees to marry Ham but sticks her foot in a snare and gets trampled to death is pure nonsense.
  • Noah knew there would be a flood because God spoke to him, not because he had some weird water dreams and inferred the Creator’s will however inexactly. God was very exact with Noah, right down to the blueprints for the Ark. Why He plays peek-a-boo with Noah and the audience in Aronofsky’s film is anybody’s guess.
  • Magic incense is not mentioned in the Bible—the animals did not get put to sleep for the voyage.
  • Fallen angels are certainly mentioned in scripture, but they have no role in the story of Noah building the Ark, and the idea that cast-out angels were somehow turned into rock creatures is absurd.
  • It takes Noah eight years to build the Ark in the movie, even with the rock-angel-people helping out, He gets it done in a week in the Bible, no rock people required.
  • And the sin of Ham—long debated by theologians, seems murkier than ever in the film, where yes Noah gets drunk, and requires covering up by his kin; but Ham’s and Shem’s earlier efforts to murder him seem a bit more problematic and deserving of censure.

Holding our nose and standing our ground… kicked off

So what is the message of Noah, finally, that we can leave the theatre contemplating? That an atheistic Hollywood director can make a monumentally solipsistic knock-off of the scriptural story and Christians will nevertheless flock to theatres to watch? No, that’s the message Paramount wanted to get from Aronofsky’s work, and to an extent, at least, that message was received. Aronofsky’s own vision was clearly to produce a film that would succeed for Paramount on that basis, while at the same time earning high-fives from his co-irreligionists among Tinsel Town’s creative elites. To this end, Noah became a movie about environmentalism, vegetarianism, and to a largely unnoticed degree (we notice) about the Kabala (still among the favorite hip religiosities of the stars—currently holding its own against Zen Buddhism, long the perennial faith of record in Tinsel Town).  Or is the profoundest message intended for the nation’s ever expanding spread of families without spiritual or moral foundations (except for environmentalism and vegetarianism, maybe)?  As Esther Zuckerman writes in the entertainment forum of The Wire: “…take away the ark and the fact that there’s no one else left on Earth, and it could simply be a story about how a family copes with a man who doesn’t know how far to take his beliefs.”   Indeed, this perfectly describes the protagonist of Aronofsky’s film, just at it appears to perfectly describe Aronofsky. It also describes the exact antithesis of the biblical Noah, who was just a man, but a man who walked with God. Aronofsky’s Noah, by contrast, doesn’t really seem comfortable with God—certainly doesn’t walk with him, or, for that matter, talk with him, and refers to him only by a cozy, new-agey sobriquet.


Maybe for all these reasons the tartest and least intentional of jokes steals (and closes) the show as it sweeps perfunctorily past us in the final credits—we refer here to that most familiar of Hollywood disclaimers, the routine assurance that, “The persons and events in this motion picture are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons or events is unintentional.” For WOOF’s part, our minds wandered to John Prine’s old classic from the album “Sweet Revenge,” inasmuch as our attitude toward Mr. Aronofsky’s opus can be summed up tidily in Prine’s first verse:

I got kicked off Noah’s Ark

I turn my cheek to unkind remarks

There was two of everything else but one of me

And when the rains came tumbling down

I held my breath and I stood my ground

And I watched that ship

Go sailing out to sea.WOOF PRINT

___________________________________________ in the name of spain!

WOOF reviews “White House Down” without actually going to see it!

In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on July 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm

whd logo

WOOF realizes, dear readers, that some of you become upset with us when we review movies without actually going to see them, but seeing them in some cases strikes us as ill-advised, and in any case, as many of you are aware, we are always reluctant to leave the WOOF cave and dodge the drones. The difficulty in this case is mainly logistical (read: drones), because who wouldn’t want to see a film that CNN acclaimed as “satisfyingly stupid”?  Reviewer Chris Nashawaty went on to write of Director Roland Emmerich that, “Seriously. It takes a certain kind of genius to crank out blockbusters as spectacularly silly as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012.”  And WOOF does not beg to differ. We are also aware that the “trades” are chalking off White House Down as a colossal flop, eaten alive by Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in Heat, a lovable assortment of computer-generated characters in Pixar’s Monsters University, and one other picture, but we forget which one. Anyway, it’s running in fourth place and that means the film’s chances of “earning out” (as we say in show biz) are practically nil. WOOF is indifferent to such crass details, however, and persists in reporting on art for art’s sake.

“A certain kind of genius.” Director Emmerich, eyes always left, searching for inspiration.

So what about White House Down earned it our specific interest? Well, because until President Obama gets his own Saturday morning cartoon show (do they still have those? Probably not, come to think of it) or is fully restyled as a revolutionary he-man by the Liberal Establishment Media, this is the closest look we have at how the Left’s perceptions of the president clash with reality; because, as you may already be aware, the movie features Jamie Foxx as Dear Leader, shooting shoulder-fired missiles and running about with a firm grip on a Colt .45 automatic. Don’t take our word for it, check out the publicity stills—and note the distinction between the presidential image confected by Director Emmerich and his band of liberal screenwriters and thespians, and the actual Barack, brandishing an ultra-expensive (and apparently recoilless) Italian shotgun in his notorious skeet-shooting photo.  Isn’t this a discrepancy worthy of mention? Well, obviously we thought so. The president, after all, has killed a lot of people, but he does it with drones—and you can’t get out of a White House taken over by terrorists by deploying drones, because, quite literally, the ceiling is too low.

Lest we forget!

Lest we forget!

Now, lest anyone be concerned, the terrorists who take over the White House in the movie are not Arabs and not Islamic—they are, predictably, that rare breed of white, right-wing, German-led terrorist observed only in Hollywood movies—and always in Hollywood movies, unless Eastern Europeans get the gig.  And although he has a Lincoln fetish, a Michelle-style wife and two daughters who drive home Foxx’s true identity (President Obama, obviously!) he is coyly referred to as President “James Sawyer” so that the Hollywood Left can claim plausible deniability—especially now that the picture seems to be tanking. Beyond this we are provided with a Rush Limbaugh stand-in who is revealed to be vile, disingenuous and racist, and what “Big Hollywood” reviewer Christian Toto calls “unrelenting liberal propaganda” from start to finish.

More than one Rush? Film discovers radio host's evil twin!

More than one Rush? Film discovers radio host’s evil twin!

Apparently, understanding the plot requires nothing more than having already viewed Die Hard, so numerous are the similarities; and the film so exactly recreates an earlier 2013 release entitled Olympus Has Fallen, that only the Obama angle and the blockbuster budget distinguish it. But understanding White House Down as political mythmaking requires that we give you a blow by blow description of events, so you can identify the hero and the bad guy …No, not any of the terrorists, they’re just mercenaries—we mean the real bad guy.

obamma haloFirst some background: President “Sawyer” has a wonderful plan, referred to throughout the film as his “peace plan.” He’s going to pull all American troops out of the Middle East. Here we see a true glimmer of the Obama mystique, at least as perceived in those heady days of yesteryear when Our Beloved Helmsman was “advanced” the Nobel Peace Prize on the expectation of pending performances, and widely perceived as a man who would withdraw America from battle wherever offered or encountered.  In this simple-minded vision, America is the cause of destabilization and unrest everywhere on the planet, so it will require only our absence to ensure felicity and calm across the entire Arab world– and yet, as the film soon reveals, certain right-wing, tea party, military-industrial fanatics are opposed to the idea (you know, peace and all) and begin to plot in secrecy.

Meanwhile, our other hero, played by Channing Tatum has just flunked his audition for the Secret Service, but is taking his daughter Emily (played by Joey King) on the White House tour (which is apparently re-established despite dread sequestration cuts) when ka-boom! The politically-correct white right-wing terrorists attack!

Capitol destroyed--more of Roland Emmerich's odd passion for blasting historic icons.

Capitol destroyed–more of Roland Emmerich’s odd passion for blasting historic icons.

The bomb actually goes off at the Capitol Building, but this places the White House on lockdown, giving the devious head of the President’s security detail (James Woods) a chance to get the president to a safe room and then gun down the other Secret Service agents because he, James Woods, is a traitor!  (Just like that trusted security chief in Air Force One, remember? Imagine our shock and amazement.) The white, right-wing terrorists are led by a white, right-wing German named Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke), and he and his killer elite have little trouble knocking off the rest of the Secret Service and taking over the White House, at which point they begin utilizing the White House computer system to initiate nuclear strikes against a whole bunch of innocent countries where peaceful Arabs live.

The other hero--Channing Tatum. But we don't think this still is from the same film.

The other hero–Channing Tatum. But we don’t think this still is from the same film.

So, Channing Tatum grabs a gun and starts killing the terrorists, fighting his way into the White House (where daughter Emily is trapped because she was using the bathroom when the lockdown occurred), and while he’s at it, he rescues President Obama—we mean Sawyer. But Sawyer/Obama is a game dude, and he excels at running, shooting, and firing rockets at the heavies as Tatum leads him toward rescue. Of course, while rescuing the president, Tatum loses his daughter again and she gets captured by the terrorists, so the president nobly gives himself up to the bad guys (how like him!) in exchange for Emily …sort of like in Die Hard except that was the hero’s wife, not his daughter, but one must allow for creative differences.

Okay, suffice it that Tatum finally gets his hands on the leader of the terrorists and blows him up—but during this spasm the president gets recaptured and is forced to activate the nuclear codes after which he is clearly shot point blank, but not to worry—the bullet is actually stopped by a pocket watch that was somehow handed down to him by Abraham Lincoln. Ahhh, take a moment to savor the poesy in this event, gentle readers!  Meanwhile, Channing Tatum crashes through the wall in a presidential security vehicle and kills Stenz with a mini-gun.

Jenkins plays an evil, though more resourceful, less cunctative version of Speaker Boehner.

Jenkins plays an evil, though more resourceful, less cunctative version of Speaker Boehner.

Anyhow, guess who turns out to be the criminal master mind behind everything? Why, the Speaker of the House—the leader of the “opposition party”…the knuckle-dragging Neanderthalic  Republican– or, in other words, John Boehner as portrayed by actor Richard Jenkins. Except they don’t call him John Boehner, that would be too obvious. He is hell bent on stopping the peace process by seizing power, and since Sawyer was thought dead and the Vice President was blown out of the sky, (we skipped that part), Boehner, whom the film calls Eli Raphelson, is now the apparent president. His aim is to send troops swarming back into the Middle East, which is a bit odd considering that he is simultaneously conspiring to nuke most of it, but you know those haters! However, this vile little RINO reckoned without Channing Tatum being on the scene, and didn’t figure on President Sawyer being equipped with Honest Abe’s magic, bullet-stopping watch!  Obama (that is, Sawyer) directs that Boehner (we mean Raphelson) be taken into custody for attempting a coup d’état…and blowing up a lot of the White House and the Capitol…and shooting down the Vice President…and stuff.

The events described above, by the way, originated, if that word is even vaguely apposite, in a film shot from a script by Producer James Vanderbilt, who sold his scenario to Sony for 3 million dollars—so don’t give up out there, struggling script writers!


James “Magic Fingers” Vanderbilt was paid three million for the script–maybe it looked better on paper?

So why is WOOF bothering with this film, filled with calisthenics for your eyeballs and clichés mined from more than a dozen films featuring white terrorists attacking the president or some other American institution, plus about eight seasons of 24? Because the Liberal parallax view absorbs us and awes us in its insularity from anything real.

lincolnWho could reasonably, at this point, link the Obama image to peace in the Middle East? Who could possibly conceive a president who can’t throw a baseball or shoulder a 12-gauge demonstrating adroitness with a semi-automatic handgun, or any of the other ordinance he appears to manipulate in Emmerich’s film? How is withdrawing American troops from the field, somehow Lincolnesque?  How does the Lincoln comparison ever really function in the Obama ethos? Why would Russia, China and Iran all agree to President Sawyer’s “Peace Plan” after learning of his macho performance in confronting the terrorists—but not have greeted it with cynical encomia initially? Why does Israel finally approve of it also? Why does France need to approve of it at all?  And does anybody truly conceptualize John Boehner as the living simulacrum of Ernst Stavro Blofeld? …Really? …C’mon, really?

speaker weeps

Even arch super villains have feelings, ya know!

In Hollywood there is a long-lived incongruence between the endless flower-childhood of its denizens and the extraordinary visions of violence and mayhem they create repeatedly for the screen—so how do filmmakers make Barack Obama appear heroic? By having him grab a pistol and do things the real Obama would attribute to “bitter clingers,” and yet, by the very issuance of such imagineered flapdoodle, lending the whole notion a sense of wide-screen verisimilitude. That this is how they make Obama seem heroic to themselves is further evidence of the maladaptive nature of the Hollywood psyche…ever split between didactic pacifism and Homeric teleologies. But to make this film succeed on a grand scale would have required a grandeur attributable only to the blank-slate Obama of 2007-8—the unsullied template—the man about whom we could believe anything we wished, because he was cool, and he stood for hope and change—possibly the two most deliberately ambiguous concepts in the history of American politics. Yes, we might have bought it in those days before the baseballs, the skeet shoot, the tantrums, the corpse-man gaffe, the pouting, and that peculiarly Obamian style of governance that everywhere creates division, decline, and ruination but invariably denies responsibility for any of it.

“Obama” and his .45: No more skeet for this guy–this time, it’s personal!

Today, the movie appears to be bombing (forgive us), and this fact mystifies the critics who flattered it and the producers who assumed it would earn epic returns. Maybe this is because the fates were cruel to Sony Pictures, or maybe this is because the image of Barack the gunslinger is simply untenable out there in movie-going America. Anxious to regain some ground, Sony is throwing open the doors of theaters showing their flop to anyone with a military ID on the Fourth of July.  In England, The Guardian suggests that, “If White House Down has upset any members of the US military, Sony’s decision to offer veterans and current armed forces servicemen free entry to see the film on…U.S. Independence day might help to turn the tide.” But what tide is that? Even the Guardian must realize that giving seats away for free will not increase earnings, and you can bet your boots Sony does. No, Sony is just burning off a bit of bad karma—but at this point, everyone’s gone–gone to go watch Monsters University. We hear it’s boffo… and considerably less implausible! WOOF PRINT

Striking a blow for reality!

Striking a blow for reality in theaters everywhere!

WOOF reviews “The Company You Keep” without seeing it…and guess what? It’s a bomb!

In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on April 24, 2013 at 2:03 am
Run, Bob, run! The bad guys are after you! No, wait, that would be you!

Run, Bob, run! The bad guys are after you! No, wait, that would be you!

WOOF established a precedent a few months ago of reviewing movies that we haven’t actually seen. At the time, we wrote about Zero Dark Thirty. Truth be told, we don’t feel comfortable drifting too far from our WOOF cave these days–what with all the drones swooping about the coastline–so using a nearly infallible gauge based on the simple inversion of liberal sentiment as it may be expressed in reaction to a film’s release, we concluded that Zero Dark Thirty was probably pretty good because every liberal who reacted to it denounced it as odious based on its failure to fulfill its anticipated mission.

The film was feared on the Right and ballyhooed by the Left because everybody knew it was going to lionize Barack Obama as the greatest military leader since at least Napoleon Bonaparte, and possibly of all time..and just in time for his re-election, too! But the film ran into a brick wall when the glitter set realized that the talented and attractive director, Kathryn Bigelow, had not delivered her film in time to help with the Bamster’s election (not that it turned out to matter) and had in any case effectively rabbit punched the establishment by delivering a product that showed heroic SEALs killing Osama Bin Laden after an equally heroic female CIA analyst located him, but which failed to accord Our Dear Leader a single scene, quite accurately implying by omission that he was barely in the loop as events unfolded. Yikes! The Oscar went, vengefully, to John Kerry’s longtime BFF, Ben Affleck, for his film Argo, which depicts the State Department as heroic, and Michelle Obama did the presenting, just in case viewers didn’t get the picture, no pun intended. Obviously, Bigelow must have made a pretty good movie to generate that much spitefulness from the entertainment establishment, and we gave it a good review, sight unseen.

It's lonely out there defying the establishment, right, Michael?

It’s lonely out there defying the establishment, right, Michael?

Flushed with success, we have assayed to review a second film we haven’t seen—and will not bother seeing. We speak now of The Company You Keep directed by and starring Robert Redford, the fabulously wealthy film star who, like several other outspoken Hollywood communists (including Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Jane Fonda, and others too numerous to mention), has not scrupled to acquire vast wealth consisting of well-invested millions (one-hundred and seventy of them, to be precise) none of which, so far as we can tell, has been redistributed in accordance with anyone’s authentic needs—although to be fair, Redford does style himself a philanthropist. So what does that mean in his case? Well, he gives money to wild horse preservation, which should stand him in good stead with the beautiful and talented Bo Derrick, so WOOF is willing to grant him a pass on the horses—besides, remember the beginning of Billy Jack? No? Not a problem; skip it. Anyway…we also approve of his donations to bone-marrow-and-transplant charities, for which he is to be commended—but most of his philanthropy amounts to the support of his own Sundance film festival, a celebration of liberal filmmakers who can’t make films interesting enough to command larger audiences. Mister Redford also supports several environutty funds aimed at the destruction of free enterprise, military firing ranges, supersonic air travel, fossil fuel, and all possible means of powering anything that actually goes.

Polished wit is a trademark exclusive to the Left.

Bill Maher: Sophisticated wit is a trademark exclusive to the Left.

Predictably he supports Green Peace, and is a loyal member of the subversive Architects of Peace Foundation (afforded three and a half “Algers” by WOOF’s own Eastern Touchdowns archive, meaning they’re pretty bad). He is merrily ensconced at the Foundation with the likes of fellow peace devotees Al Gore, Bianca Jagger, Desmond Tutu, Bono and of course, Harry Belafonte. In 2007, TIME magazine named Redford a “Hero of the Environment.” (How very Soviet!) And who among us could have supposed him unworthy of the almost-oppressively effete Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for 2008, given annually to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Think about it—if you had been asked in 2008 who such a man might be, surely, after a moment’s thought, you would have exclaimed, “Why, Robert Redford!”

Tinsel Terrorism…

Jane Fonda--not a movie promo, just a rich brat standing up to--what?--the system, or something like that.

Jane Fonda–not a movie promo, just a rich brat standing up for Marxist Leninist principles before she bails herself out.

Now, the funny thing about Redford is that while Comrade Fonda and Comrade Redgrave and Comrade Boyle and Comrade Sutherland all made the biggest asses of themselves while they were young and sanctimoniously fatuous, Comrade Bob seems to have kept his sinistral enthusiasms curbed to a fair degree until his golden years, somewhat reminiscent of Comrade Ed Asner (who everyone in the ‘60s and ‘70s assumed was nice until he foamed over with red hot left-wing vitriol in his dotage.) But make no mistake, Robert Redford studied at the feet of Hanoi Jane Fonda, and he’s as red a Hollywood Red as ever climbed into a private jet to go make a speech about evil rich people at a global-warming protest.

And now, we have The Company You Keep, which the Left Wing Critical Establishment is charitably calling “a political thriller,” as though it were somehow consanguineous with “Fail Safe” or “Seven Days in May.” No, what Redford’s new crie de cour amounts to is a paean to homicidal mania—and if it were a sentimental, nostalgic piece about hanging out with Tim McVeigh  or Charles Whitman (the Austin Texas shooter who killed 17 civilians and wounded 32 others in 1966, shooting from the University clock tower), and if McVeigh and Whitman were called “activists,” as though they just wanted lower turnpike tolls or something, the critics would have exploded with indignation at Redford’s insane glamorization of such fiends.

Abbie Hoffman--another idealistic dreamer for social justice!

Abbie Hoffman–another idealistic dreamer for social justice!

But the anti-heroes of Redford’s movie are good, idealistic, peace-loving Communist terrorists (oops, we mean “activists”) who blew innocent people up and shot people in cold blood to call attention to social injustice, right? So it’s all just hunky dory. This bizarre double standard ramifies from the peculiar psychosis of the late 1960s during which the leading denizens of today’s journalistic, political, and entertainment establishments cut their chops—a time in which the peace-and-love affectations of the flower-power drug-and-sex fest were decaying beyond rescue, and the truer, more elemental toxicity of the Yippee counter-culture was asserting itself, insisting that its numbed minions “Steal This Book!” (the title of Abbie Hoffman’s revolutionary best seller) “Kill your parents!” (Bill Ayers’s thought on how to manage the ‘generation gap’), and “Off the pigs!” (Jerry Rubin’s catchy mantra—translatable as “kill policemen!” for those whose epochal experiences do not include militant sixties speak).

Peace, Man! The '60s before the Yippies broke bad!

Peace, Man! The ’60s before the Yippies broke bad!

For decades now, Hollywood has played the ‘60s off as a fun-filled era of Beatlemania, long-haired boys and dazzling hippy chicks in bell bottoms flashing naive but heartfelt peace signs, softly overlain by visions of flower power, psychedelic mini-buses, and laid-back, sun-drenched college kids—all glimpsed in kaleidoscopic Technicolor through a haze of marijuana smoke and flashing strobes. Even Woodstock, which rapidly degenerated into a muddy nightmare of rapes, fist fights and overdoses, is portrayed as a pastoral idyll, and when “activism” must be depicted, audiences are shown peace marches, placards and phalanxes of grim riot police, without any thought given the real violence of the era’s revolutionary movement. In a way, then, we suppose Redford may warrant one-and-a-half cheers for finally acknowledging on film that the Weather Underground even existed—even if he makes them seem more like the Children’s Crusade than the pack of rapid, butchering psychopaths they truly were.

The Robin Hood Delusion

\Supply Side OutlawsWhy does Redford find these spoiled college-brats-turned-urban-terrorists so appealing? For one thing, he was a moderately successful actor playing relatively straight-laced all-American boys by the time the hippies were metamorphosing into yippies around the bitter spring of 1968, which makes him too old for the part he plays in his film—which datum bespeaks an envy issue that swept over the “hootenanny” generation, or much of it, as it confronted the more glamorous, daring, stoned and sexually liberated radicals of the collegiate “New Left.” Just as moms and dads in suburbia strove to establish their “coolness” by learning to smoke pot with their offspring while running around in absurd Nehru jackets and Granny dresses and pretending to enjoy the Sgt. Pepper album, so the professional classes, just come into their own as the culture’s pushing-thirty crowd– acknowledged the  psychedelic era by backpedaling fiercely in a collective fear of being deemed “irrelevant” by the grooviest generation. Lawyers, advertising executives, TV stars and mainstream priests became radical, and pop singers became folk-rocky, (heck, Bobby Darin even took his toupee off for six or eight months and ran around in a blue-jean jacket with a studiedly casual tobacco-pouch fob hanging from its breast pocket—draw your own conclusions, kids, wink, wink)—and aging pop music composers yearning for acceptance began churning out “relevant” tunes that used words like “babe” and “freedom” a lot. Barry Mann, who co-wrote “Who Put the Bomp,” a clever parody of the do-wopp musical craze of the Kennedy era, actually apologized for it on Merve Griffin’s TV program and swore that he would only write “meaningful” material from that point onward. Many of Hollywood’s players of that generation broke wildly left for the same reasons, and if they had previously entertained a predilection for liberalism, it lurched into febrile radicalism during that decade’s bloody final quarter.


Even many in classic, old school Hollywood went nuts in support of the “Hollywood Ten” back in 1950 as the accused bravely took the 5th amendment to preserve our constitution–to  take a stand for intellectual freedom in the arts–and mainly because every single one of them was a communist just as HUAC asserted, but didn’t care to admit it. Most of the protesters in this picture are, in fact, the ten and their relatives.

So Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando and Paul Newman and Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda and Barbra Streisand and Warren Beatty and most of their entertainment-industry peer group sprang staunchly to the collectivist barricades, at least rhetorically—though none, it must be noted, gave up their luxuries or defected to Cuba or Beijing. And with them came Robert Redford. And if you are part of that cattle call, whom do you idolize most? Why, the slightly younger crew that put its Marxist buns on the line while you were negotiating multi-million dollar motion picture contracts, of course! The Weather Underground began as the Weathermen, taking their name from Bob Dylan’s song Subterranean Homesick Blues, but felt obliged to switch to the gender-neutral and more familiar form as feminism became increasingly trendy. This was the outfit “taking it to the man” and with such authentic, murderous brutality that the Hollwooders were in awe. Where serious thinkers would have seen inept, inarticulate butchers, Tinseltowners and ivy-league intellectuals saw Robin Hood. They always do.

Robin and his Merry Men? Not hardly--and no, Bill Ayers didn't just make varsity, either!

Robin and his Merry Men? Not hardly–and no, Bill Ayers (in helmet) didn’t just make varsity.

The Getaway–keep the blood, hold the Peckinpah

So now we have this sentimental remembrance of a film, based loosely on the Brinks robbery that resulted in the shooting death of a guard and two cops and featured Kathy Boudin, a longtime member of the Weather Underground, in a lead performance. In the actual event, Boudin dropped her baby daughter off at a sitter’s and took the wheel of a U-Haul truck intended as the operation’s getaway vehicle. Her accomplices walked up to a Brinks armored car at a mall in Nanuet, New York, shot the guard and grabbed 1.6 million in cash.

Kathy Boudin--always stylish, even under pressure--why, even under arrest!

Kathy Boudin–always stylish, even under pressure–why, even under arrest!

The U-Haul came immediately under police suspicion and the cops pulled Boudin over—but she seemed so innocent and so sincere in her entreaties to lower their weapons that the police relaxed their guard and were promptly gunned down by Kathy’s six pals who leapt from the back of the van, M-16s blazing. This meant their getaway scheme was blown, so the outfit scattered and was picked up piecemeal. Boudin’s wealthy daddy got her a top-dollar attorney with whose help she was able to trade a plea of guilty to one count of felony murder and robbery for a comparatively mild 20 year sentence. Her daughter was adopted by fellow Weather Undergrounders Bill Ayers (promoter of and political adviser to the young Barack Obama) and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn. Dohrn helped found the movement and told early Weathermen that she approved of the Charlie Manson murders, saying, “Dig it! First they killed those pigs and then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into the pig Tate’s stomach! Wild! The weathermen dig Charles Manson!” (Sharon Tate, of course, died nine months pregnant. WOOF will spare you further details.)

Sharon Tate, 1969, expecting, but not expecting Charlie.

Sharon Tate, 1969, expecting, but not expecting Charlie.

Redford’s movie, no matter what its objective cinematic foibles or strengths, is a profound cultural marker. In his hyper-empathetic treatment of the Boudin episode we find Redford playing Nick Sloan, former Weather Underground “activist,” who has lived the peaceful life of a small town lawyer since abandoning his–shall we politely say–rather picaresque past as a militant radical. But darn it, trouble finds Bob/Nick when Susan Sarandon’s character is arrested for the robbery (her character being an homage to Boudin). This event enables investigative journalist Shia LaBeouf (whoever that is) to uncover Nick’s history, obliging Nick to take it on the lam in a cross country attempt to evade the FBI meanies—you know, kind of like “The Fugitive,” only guilty. He eludes the feds with help from a glamorized chain of aging radical Leftists and seeks his true love, also a hunted radical played by Julie Christie, who is suddenly important to the plot for reasons we consider irrelevant to this critique. We won’t spoil the ending for you. For one thing, like we said, we haven’t actually seen the film. And besides, we hear the ending is so implausibly treacly that it spoils itself unassisted—but anyhow…

Susan Sarandon--emoting for the camera? Or maybe she just read the script.

Susan Sarandon–emoting for the camera? Or maybe she just read the script.

Why do we say the film represents a cultural marker? Because this is where we are, fellow Woofians—we are arrived at an American era of historic confabulation in which our past is reinterpreted for us by the academic and entertainment establishments (both being constituents of the worldwide totalitarian socialist conspiracy that governs us) in such a fashion that these abhorrent, murderous vermin are recast as idealistic romantics—as Robin Hoods—because their aging comrades in the liberal establishment have decreed that this is how they must be remembered. Look at how Candidate Obama got away with describing Bill Ayers as “just a guy who lived down the street.” And why would we here at WOOF claim that the academic establishment would join with Hollywood in so deceptive a portrayal? Well—where do you think the Weather Underground went to fester and metastasize? Hmm?

Where are they today?

Where is Kathy Boudin these days? She is an adjunct professor at Columbia University.

Bernardine today

Bernardine today

Where is Ayers’s beloved comrade in arms, Bernardine Dohrn? You know, the lady who waxed ecstatic over Sharon Tate getting a fork rammed into her pregnant tummy? Why, she is Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law, and just for a laugh, did you know she is also the former Director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center? “Wild,” as she might remark. Ayers himself, Haymarket and Pentagon bomber, is happily retired from his professorship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Education. And as WOOF made manifest in a previous article, he is currently instrumental in spreading the CSCOPE program of communist indoctrination throughout the nation’s secondary schools.

Former Weather Underground member Eleanor Raskin, who fled justice after being indicted for bomb making in the 1970s, is an associate professor at Albany Law School.

Suzanne Rosenberg's book-- wow, she's really evolved, right?

Suzanne Rosenberg’s book– wow, she’s really evolved, right?

Kathy Boudin’s comrade in arms, Susan Rosenberg, indicted for her roll in the Brinks robbery was caught in 1985 with 740 pounds of dynamite and weapons—but luckily for our nation’s young scholars, President Bill Clinton commuted her sentence since as he left office. She subsequently graced John Jay College and Hamilton College with her professorial acumen. Even more wonderfully, John Jay College of Criminal Justice Interdisciplinary Studies Program was pleased to invite students to a “Celebration of Susan Rosenberg” upon the release of her memoirs in 2011.

"Howie" Machtinger's deepest thoughts.

“Howie” Machtinger’s deepest thoughts.

Weatherman founder “Howie” (Howard) Machtinger ducked prosecution for a his role in the attempted bombing of the Detroit Police Officers Association Building and, although now comfortably retired, went on to educate young Americans as a professor at North Carolina Central University and served as Teaching Fellows Director at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s School of Education.

Legendary founder and leading Weather Underground exponent Mark Rudd was taking a stroll when his bomb factory in Greenwich Village exploded, killing a number of his comrades. Rudd went on to write such bittersweet autobiographical gems as “Underground: My Life with the SDS and the Weathermen.” He is also the author of the comment, “Don’t be timid about telling people we’re Communists. Don’t deny it, be proud of it.” We are fortunate that between writing and lecturing he could find time to teach at Central New Mexico Community College.

Cathy Platt Wilkerson joined the Chicago Weatherman Collective during the summer of 1969 and was busy building a nail bomb in her Daddy’s townhouse (intended for a non-commissioned officer’s dance at Fort Dix) when it blew up, destroying the home. She survived to carry on the struggle, visiting Cuba several times for further training (which was obviously needed), but surrendered in 1980 and pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of dynamite. She served only 11 months. She spent the next 20 years teaching in high schools and adult education programs.

Cathy Platt Wilkerson today--she still looks pretty homicidal to us...just sayin'

Cathy Platt Wilkerson today–she still looks pretty homicidal..just sayin’

And say, what happened to Tom Hayden, you know—the member of the “Chicago Seven” indicted for incitement to riot and conspiracy along with the late Abbie Hoffman and the late Jerry Rubin? Yes, he’s the revolutionary activist who wrote the SDS manifesto and put so much creative energy into helping the North Vietnamese communists during the Vietnam War that Jane Fonda married him—although she eventually got bored and moved on. Well, besides being an elected (Democrat) politician, he has taught countless courses on social activism including a course called “From the ’60s to the Obama Generation” at Pitzer College in Claremont, California; two courses at Scripps College, and not a few at Occidental College as well as Harvard University—but he’s at UCLA currently, if you want to catch up.

Confabulation? It’s sweeping the nation!

Redford directing and starring in his seventies--going meterosexual and prematurely orange.

Redford directing and starring in his late 70’s–going somewhat metro-sexual, and prematurely orange.

And this, we assure you, Wooferians, is but a smattering of the available data supporting the obvious fact that the surest way to secure a University Professorship—even without any graduate studies on your curricula vita, is to blow a few people up in the name of Communism, shoot a few police officers for social justice, and devote any remaining stamina to denouncing, or at least perverting, every value held sacred by the Founders—because now this is normative,  because now we have apologists like Bob Redford selling us romanticized manure as “taught political drama” while critics like Rex Reed marvel at the wonderfulness of it all, and the President of the United States (whose first “autobiography” was in fact written for him by Bill Ayers) can tell the bobble-head media that he thought Bill Ayers was just “just a guy around the neighborhood.” Yes, just a guy who wrote his first book for him, organized Our Beloved Leader’s political “launching” by staging a fundraiser in his home, whose wife worked with Michelle Obama at the same law firm, and who invited the Obamas to barbecues in his backyard (how disappointingly bourgeois) where they brainstormed ideas like organizing the subversive group ACORN.  And if there were anything so bad about any of that, why would Robert Redford be making movies about these cool people? Aren’t they just a modernized version of Pirates of the Caribbean? Isn’t the ‘70’s era wanted poster of “Nick” in The Company You Keep actually a still of Redford from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? (And those guys were lovable–hint, hint!) Perhaps it’s time we all just cashed in America’s historical mnemonics, which are in any case only vestigially retained, and joyfully embraced this proffered confabulation. Perhaps resistance is futile. Perhaps we are fated to re-establish the Republic as a people’s collective populated by desensitized zombies. Perhaps it’s time we all got used to thinking of these oafish slaughterers from our past the way Studs Terkel did. Studs undoubtedly spoke for the vast majority of the arts-and-letters crowd when he extolled Bill Ayers’s memoirs as “a deeply moving elegy to all those young dreamers who tried to live decently in an indecent world.” Studs, we couldn’t have put it better ourselves—if we were on acid, anyway–and it wouldn’t be evenhanded of us here at WOOF to end this screed without pausing to contemplate the good that the Weather Underground unarguably achieved during its organizational lifespan. So in fairness, let it be noted: a lot of them blew themselves up.

See you real soon--why? Because we like you!

See you real soon–why? Because we like you!

WOOF reviews the “Zero Dark Thirty” controversy without actually seeing the movie!

In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on January 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

zero poster

What happened to the film “Zero Dark Thirty” between conception and execution? The strange story of a film that was originally expected to puff President Obama as “The Man Who Shot Osama Bin Laden” but wound up hated and despised by all the proper Leftists, is as mysterious as the special warfare and intelligence communities it depicts. It also demonstrates how quickly the tides of totalitarian opinion can change within the vast clockwork fruitcake that is the entertainment Left, and marks an unusually firm relationship being established between politicians and show-biz types both on the occasion of the film’s inception, and in response to its recent release. WOOF wishes to make it clear that this is not a review of the movie per se, as none of us here in the secret cave have actually gone out and seen it. No, this is a discussion of how curiously the film appears to have transformed itself from an object of hope and praise on the left, into a widely denounced “celebration of torture” that decent humans everywhere are advised to avoid at all costs.

WOOF remains convinced OBL may have been his own sister.

WOOF remains convinced OBL may have been his own sister.

Let’s us first explain for the unenlightened that the film in question portrays the hunt for, and the eventual discovery and killing of, Osama Bin Laden. WOOF has not had much to say about Bin Laden since we published an ALERT in 2008 in which we made the case that Osama Bin Laden was actually his own sister. Needless to say, our revelation met with a predictable wall of silence from the establishment, but we should in no respect be here construed as backing away from our original claim which we continue to consider founded on reliable evidence. We have also not said anything about movies since we advised readers to see “The Incredibles,” which we were pleased to see did quite well, subsequent to our endorsement. But in the case of “Zero Dark Thirty” we are fascinated by the way in which the film was initially defended and ballyhooed by the vast left-wing totalitarian socialist conspiracy that governs us, only to wind up in the hurt locker—if you know what we mean.

Rep. King on guard against the Hollywood Left.

Rep. King on guard against the Hollywood Left.

Back in 2011 when the film was first underway, Conservative congressman Peter King (R-NY) had a fit over it, calling it blatant leftwing propaganda aimed at ensuring the re-election of President Obama. The film, at least as originally conceived by the Beloved Helmsman’s supporters in tinsel town, was going to show a commanding, hard-as-nails Commander in Chief taking charge of the situation and hunting the villainous Bin Laden to ground where all others had failed. It was speculated that the movie version of events would have the President hovering in a command chopper, or perhaps making a HALO jump into the compound to motion in his Presidential SEAL Team. King angrily charged that the White House was providing unprecedented special access to intelligence secrets and mission protocols to the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow and her script writer, Mark Boal. As if shilling for Representative King, which is impossible to believe in the circumstances, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd –famously the most humorless human being on earth—gloated that “the moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history,” and made the case that the film’s intended release date of Oct. 12, 2012,  was “perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost” to the Obama campaign. This incensed John Hayward at Human Events who wrote that “The killing of bin Laden is a worthy story to tell, but not if it’s an eleventh-hour cinematic love letter from Hollywood to a failed president.” Opinionists on the right began to refer to Kathryn Bigelow as the new Leni Riefenstahl, (Hitler’s brilliant but misguidedly-alacritous filmmaker) who is best known for her pro-Nazi documentary, “Triumph of the Will.”

Leni Riefenstahl--filmdom's official twisted genius

Leni Riefenstahl–filmdom’s official twisted sister.

The conservative Judicial Watch charged that screen writer Boal was far too chummy with the Obama administration and made a similar charge regarding Bigelow. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met on occasion with Boal and was therefore grilled regarding the suspected release of classified and potentially damaging intelligence to the filmmakers. Panetta promised Rep.King’s committee that, “No unauthorized disclosures were provided to movie producers or anybody else,” which is, once appropriately parsed, merely saying the filmmakers weren’t handed anything Obama didn’t say to give them, which was King’s point to begin with—that Obama was giving away the candy store to Hollywood in hopes of portraying himself as Dick Marcincko. For a few anxious weeks, America’s conservatives braced themselves for the arrival of a film that would propel Barack Obama (whom nobody intelligently believed could otherwise be re-elected) back into the Oval Office. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what would be on display—a kind of redo of The Missiles of October as our gallant young president rose to the occasion, stiffening the spines of his less courageous minions, barking necessary corrections to his loyal but tactically obtuse military leaders, and essentially masterminding the culmination of a hunt that no one in the theater would be left to doubt began in earnest only after his election in 2008. It all seemed as unavoidable as it would be asinine—but a strange thing happened on the way to Pakistan.

Obrambo? This was the cinematic depiction the Left anticipated and the Right feared.

Obrambo? This was the cinematic depiction the Left anticipated and the Right feared.

The first signs of difficulty arose when it turned out the movie just wouldn’t arrive on time—in fact, it was delayed until December, meaning it would not be available in time to  propagandize the brain dead into marching determinedly to the polls to re-elect Barack “Old Blood and Guts” Obama. But the unthinkable occurred anyhow, and Our Beloved Helmsman was retained in office despite fewer people voting for him than voted for John McCain in the previous election (effecting an election result that WOOF is unsure whether to attribute to voter fraud, or, perhaps, to the allegedly stupefying effects of ‘chem trails’).  So in the event, the urgency of a pre-election release was lost in the media-wide celebration of the Return of the King, runaway spending, higher taxes, and universal health rationing…but then, once things had calmed down to a dull afterglow, came the Bigelow film’s pre-release publicity campaign. Like diviners scowling at the innards of a sacrificial goat, critics and conservative pundits began to consult the images for portent. Almost playfully, the early trailers showed a character staring off-screen and exclaiming, “Oh my God, is that I what I think it is?!” But it was difficult to determine, from the teasers, whether the film was or as not what everybody thought it was…a two hour Obama campaign ad. And then,  in due course, came the debut of “Zero Dark Thirty”.

Naomi Wolf--Oh my God, is that what I think it is?

Naomi Wolf–Oh my God, is that what I think it is?

And then, dear readers, a remarkable phenomenon manifested. Rather like in a debating class when the teams, having competed, are suddenly asked by the crafty professor to switch positions and debate again, all the accusations and complaints remained, but the advocates of those positions swapped roles. To begin with, outrage of outrages, the film’s anticipated hero did not even show up on screen! Yes, reader, although WOOF has not seen this picture, we are assured by Hollywood insiders (who went to the movie) that Barack Obama is never depicted, let alone lionized, in the story line. As screenwriter Boals had predicted earlier in Entertainment Weekly, “A lot of people are going to be surprised when they see the film. For example, the President is not depicted in the movie. He’s just not in the movie.” Not in the movie?  So what is depicted in the film? The hard work of a CIA analyst who suffices as a sort of intelligence-community Everywoman, the courage and ingenuity of America’s special operations forces, and, most offensively to the Left, the evident value of torture as a means of extracting vital information from homicidal barbarians who will not offer information voluntarily. Holy Jack Bauer, Batman!

After witnessing Obama staging victory lap after victory lap in the wake of the Bin Laden slaying, while Vice President Biden gushed about the event at every conceivable opportunity as though Barack had choppered in and delivered the fatal shot personally, the Left in Hollywood and on the East Coast was suddenly faced with a film in which the President didn’t even merit a single scene. A Hollywood Left that had previously been atwitter with discussion of whether the Great Helmsman should play himself in his hagiography (after all who else could play him? Denzel Washington? Will Smith? Forest Whitaker? ) was suddenly confronted with a film in which their star was …”just not in the movie.” Where the vision had once been of Kathryn Bigelow as a kind of female Virgil, singing of arms and the man—there was now no man, only some hardworking CIA chick, and the righteous deployment of American arms. And there is nothing more offensive to Hollywood than a film about America’s intelligence services and military that doesn’t vilify our intelligence services and military. So tempers flared.

Jessica Chastain as some CIA chick? Where's the Man?

Jessica Chastain as some CIA chick? Where’s the Man?

The liberal cultural cabal, while not authentically capable of subtlety, often attempts it.  In this instance it would not do to rail against Bigelow and Boals for failing to deliver the expected paean to Field Marshall Barack; no, that would plainly reek of sour grapes, and besides, the only moral high ground from which liberalism ever functions plausibly is that of sanctimony, and so a cause for righteous indignation had to be found, however ancillary to the actual grievance. That was no problem in the case of “Zero Dark Thirty”, because “Zero Dark Thirty” shows torture, folks—and worse than that, it shows torture paying off with the kind of info that led to pinpointing Bin Laden’s location. Thus, while Bigelow continued to be depicted as a contemporary version of Hitler’s pet cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl, the comparison now emanated from Naomi Wolf (herself a failed director having unsuccessfully endeavored to coach Al Gore to play the part of an alpha male in the 2000 election). Wolf pretended to address Bigelow directly, huffing that “like Riefenstahl you are a great artist, But now you will be remembered forever as torture’s handmaiden.” Yipes! But this was only an opening burst. Frank Bruni at the subversive New York Times declared the film’s theme to be “No waterboarding, no Bin Laden.”  Emily Bazelon guessed that “the filmmakers didn’t start out to be Bush-Cheney apologists” but made it plain they had stumbled into that apparently abhorrent mindset and were not even contrite, because “perhaps they’re in denial…” while Michael Wolff at the Guardian (which we would call subversive except it’s British and they can’t help it, really) ranted that the film was “a nasty piece of pulp and propaganda” and deemed director Bigelow “a fetishist and sadist.” In fact, many of the film reviews contained longsome disputations of the efficacy of torture as a means of interrogation, which to our knowledge has never previously been a criterion by which cinema was evaluated. Poor Kathryn Bigelow, gone from the Left’s great brunette hope in the battle to retain the Obama presidency, to the SM-obsessed dungeon mistress from Hell.

Director Bigelow--the new face of fetishistic sadism? So, no Oscar?

Director Bigelow–the new face of fetishistic sadism? So, no Oscar?

With her film opening today in a wide splay of theaters after a cautious limited release during which it fared well despite the opprobrium from the Left, Bigelow seems not to have aroused massive support from the right—you know, the pro-torture right. But to be certain of this, WOOF decided to examine the views of all the best known conservative film critics, and of course that would be Michael Medved. Medved sorely disappointed WOOF by reviewing the film as a film, faulting it for a lack of depth in its characterizations and for moving slowly for the first ninety minutes. He gave Zero Dark Thirty three stars and called it “expertly crafted but maddeningly flawed.” Like, what kind of a stupid review is that? Apparently lost in some sanctum of the cloistered conservative right, Medved seems to have lost sight of the need to opine on whether the film is bad because it shows torture leading us to Bin Laden, or pretty good even though it is flawed by showing that torture led us to Bin Laden; and then to say whether torture did or did not in reality lead us to bin Laden—but his review is inexcusably devoid of anything other than cinematic evaluations. Oh well.

Bigelow with Hurt-Locker Oscar--in chummier days.

Bigelow with Hurt-Locker Oscar–in chummier days.

And as if Medved’s Pilate act weren’t enough of a shunning, out came the Oscar nominations for this year, which WOOF would typically disdain to mention, except that  Zero Dark Thirty received a namby pamby five nominations including best picture, best lead actress (Jessica Chastain as the CIA chick) and best original screenplay for Mark Boal. That’s chicken feed compared to what Hollywood bestowed on Spielberg’s Lincoln, which picked up 12 nominations, and consider this: Kathryn Bigelow was NOT nominated as best director.  Now, that’s a snub, fellow patriots, and it must leave Miss Bigelow wondering, in wistful moments, how she went from heroine to heel so quickly in an industry that awarded her the Oscar for best director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker (which WOOF never went to see—but we hear it was okay.)

And as if all this weren’t enough obloquy and disdain for the slenderly attractive film director to bear on her shoulders, we now have the United States Senate involved in the act, with a little presentation WOOF likes to call “A Gal, A Git, and a Gob.” Yes, dear readers, if you don’t think the White House is unhappy with how the Obama war epic turned out, or the fact that Secretary of Defense Panetta (before the muzzle was clapped on firmly) freely circulated his concurrence that water boarding got us to Bin Laden—just consider the appearance, as if by magic, of Capital Hill’s newest cinema critics, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and, of course, shambling along behind these two pixelated liberals like some obedient-though-witless tulpa comes John McCain (R-Ariz) as the Maverick. These legislative heavy weights were able to wrest themselves away from the onerous demands of a disintegrating economy and a massively disfigured social fabric long enough to waddle up to some microphones and jointly denounced Zero Dark Thirty’s'” depiction of successful enhanced interrogation methods. They lectured the film’s producer about his “social and moral obligation to get the facts straight.”  John McCain said that the film made him sick, which was certainly a more concise version of what the Left had been trying to communicate about its own collective reaction. And if you doubt that these Congressional conservators of the public aesthetic were dancing to the Administration’s fiddle, ask yourself this: If John McCain is so offended by the depiction of torture as a successful method of interrogation, why did he sit silently through eight seasons of “24” which was seen by far more Americans than are ever likely to see Bigelow’s opus? And if you think it’s rather odd that United States Senators are holding press conferences to review movies—comes now the CIA!

The Gob, the Gal, and the Git--eat your heart out, Rex Reed!

The Gob, the Gal, and the Git--eat your heart out, Rex Reed!

Yes, next on the agenda we have another, even more noteworthy first—a first-ever film review from the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, Michael Morrell, unmitigated Obama flak, has been acting (emphasis ours) director of the CIA since that bizarre moment when it evidently occurred to Director Petraeus that having a mistress was immoral, whereupon he hastily resigned his post, apparently lest the CIA be tainted by any hint of impropriety. And that left Michael Morrell in charge , who just sent a letter to every single one of the Agency’s employees, which letter he also made public, stating that “Zero Dark Thirty” “creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.”

Acting CIA Director Morrell seen here coming up with good reasons he should remain in top intelligence slot!

Acting CIA Director Morrell seen here coming up with good reasons he should remain in top intelligence slot!

It is mildly amusing that nobody, from Hollywood to the Senate to the CIA has bothered to say at any point during the Dark-Thirty brouhaha exactly what techniques not involving torture did lead us to Bin Laden—possibly the Agency is loathe to reveal that its actual tips on such matters come from the deft manipulation of divining rods and Ouija boards. But one thing is for sure, with enemies like these, “Zero Dark Thirty” needs friends—so WOOF is here for you, Kathryn Bigelow! We are definitely beginning to admire your independent nature and the fact that you long ago divorced that pinko James Cameron. We are also now convinced unalterably that enhanced interrogation got us the information necessary to track Bin Laden to his lair. Why else would so many egregious gobshites be insisting on the contrary proposition? And we bet that Zero Dark Thirty” is a really good movie. So good, in fact, that we may even go out and see it at some point. But, really…we’ll probably just wait ‘till it’s on Netflix.

Nobama? In this scene form Zero Dark Thirty, SEALS assault compound without their Commander in Chief in on point. You call that film making?

Nobama? In this scene form Zero Dark Thirty, SEALS assault OBL’s compound with their Commander in Chief conspicuous by his absence. You call that film making?

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