Friday, December 26, 2014

"The Interview," Redux

So what happened next is Sony pictures grew tired of being called a bunch of cowards. The corporation reversed gears and released the film, "The Interview," on Christmas Day just like they originally planned. Well, sort of.

After some murky outfit calling itself The Guardians of Peace issued terrorist threats the large theater chains here and in Canada refused to show the movie. They still won't. However, Sony found just over 300 independent theater owners who know a golden opportunity when they see one. For the first time in decades they were able to get their hands on a hot property the mega chains wouldn't touch--you know--a feature which didn't happen to be epic pornography, or an abject dud starring people who made terrible career choices.

Yesterday they had lines of customers running down the sidewalks in front of their places in numbers they previously only dreamed about. In addition Sony released the movie on You Tube, Google Play, a dedicated web site run by the company, and the Microsoft Xbox gaming console.

Things didn't go completely without a hitch. Xbox and Sony's Play Station were hacked on Wednesday night and both were still encountering problems as late as yesterday. Another band of merry trouble makers calling themselves, the Lizard Squad took credit. What they have to do with The Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Guardians of Peace, if anything, is unclear at this time.

A spokesperson for the DPRK called the film, "An unpardonable mockery to the dignity of our supreme leader." The Russians said the North Koreans anger was, "quite understandable." Earlier, among other things, the Chinese accused Seth Rogen and crew of, "cultural arrogance." At home it appears American television talk show hosts, who the film also skewers, haven't taken it so personally--at least not yet.

NBC interviewed a few movie goers who bragged about standing up for freedom of expression and doing, "The most American thing." From a Hawaiian golf course Barack Obama said he was glad the film was being released. Rogen took to a stage, beer in hand, at a midnight showing somewhere and thanked both the theater and audience for, "making this fucking thing happen."

Yes, but exactly how far can all this patriotic frenzy carry a film which cost between $42 and $44 million to make? According to reports the movie took in $1 million yesterday. The original estimate by Sony was that from Christmas Day through the weekend in wide release it would gross $20 million.

It is a number which, at this point, seems completely unattainable.  Those 300 plus screens represent less than 10% of the number of venues which Sony had originally planned on. Not to mention there is no telling how many deft keyboardists are out there at this moment watching it for free thanks to their nefarious computer skills.

Sony might talk about freedom of expression, but they are, after all, looking  to make a buck. Ultimately, if there is no profit in a motion picture they could give a rat's ass about freedom of expression.

As for the film itself, right now, Rotten Tomatoes gives "The Interview," a rating of 45%, meaning a majority of critics they've surveyed have panned it. MovieFone has it at 53%. In the NBC piece, after viewing the film, one patron told a reporter, "It was hilarious in a stupid way."

In other words it ranks right up there with the average American male's opinion of those old Three Stooges short films.

That's right, America can be accused of many things, but having a sophisticated sense of humor will never be one of them.

Technology may change, but we won't. We are constantly crude to the extreme. We always have been and always will be.

It was something I first realized during my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma in 1968. The sophomores who were mercilessly hazing us wore black tee shirts which said, "If you can't take a joke, fuck you."

Indeed. Nothing says America more than that.


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