Saturday Night Eye Candy Open Thread

From this still, Benedict Cumberbatch is almost too good a Dr. Strange — he’s so close to the 1960s comic that my first thought involved recent leaps in 3D printing technology. But then I’m one of the few who feel that Mr. Cumberbatch is a native of the Uncanny Valley, and what more appropriate aura for the Master of the Uncanny?

Apart from pop culture, or concerning it, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

Horror Movie Open Thread: Teach Screen the Controversy!

Zombie lies, they’re not just for economics any more! Per the NYTimes:

In a decision that has dredged up the widely debunked link between vaccines and autism, the Tribeca Film Festival plans to screen a film by a discredited former doctor whose research caused widespread alarm about the issue.

The film, “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” is directed and co-written by Andrew Wakefield, an anti-vaccination activist and an author of a study — published in the British medical journal The Lancet, in 1998 — that was retracted in 2010. In addition to the retraction of the study, which involved 12 children, Britain’s General Medical Council, citing ethical violations and a failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest, revoked Mr. Wakefield’s medical license…

On Friday, Robert De Niro, one of the festival’s founders, said in a statement issued through the festival’s publicists that he supported the plan to show the movie next month, although he said he was “not personally endorsing the film,” nor was he against vaccination.

Mr. De Niro’s statement seemed to suggest that this was the first time he has expressed a preference that a particular film be shown at the festival.

“Grace and I have a child with autism,” he wrote, referring to his wife, Grace Hightower De Niro, “and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined. In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming. However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED.”…

The plan to show the film has unnerved and angered doctors, infectious disease experts and even other filmmakers…

According to the festival’s website, “Vaxxed” will be screened only once, on April 24, the festival’s closing day. A talk with the director and the film’s subjects will follow.

An earlier version of this article suggested that perhaps Mr. de Niro intended to rebut the film during his talk, but that doesn’t seem to be what he’s planning, per Deadline:

[T]he TFF promotional material could easily be taken to endorse Wakefield’s cause. “Digging into the long-debated link between autism and vaccines, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe features revealing and emotional interviews with pharmaceutical insiders, doctors, politicians, parents, and one whistleblower to understand what’s behind the skyrocketing increase of autism diagnoses today.” Also this: “The most vitriolic debate in medical history takes a dramatic turn when senior-scientist-turned-whistleblower Dr. William Thompson of the Centers for Disease Control turns over secret documents, data and internal emails confirming what millions of devastated parents and ‘discredited’ doctors have long-suspected.”…

One happy effect of De Niro’s statement, according to the LA Times: “The De Niro news does quell reports that actor Leonardo DiCaprio was involved in backing the film — as Wakefield apparently told reporters on a promotional cruise — and even may have been orchestrating its Tribeca screening.”

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Surely…

ballard street dogs watch teevee
(Ballard Street via

In honor of discerning film criticism, NYMag interviews the creators of Airplane!:

What do you recall of filming the “Don’t call me Shirley” gag?
Abrahams: Well, Paramount Pictures was apprehensive about three first-time directors working together on a movie.
David Zucker: Our contract said they could fire us after one week.
Abrahams: As it turned out, the “Don’t call me Shirley” scene was filmed on the first day of shooting. When Paramount Pictures watched the dailies and saw that joke and the way it played, they were relieved. They finally understood the concept and were much more comfortable dealing with us.
Jerry Zucker: We got the call and it was kind of like, “Oh, now we get it.” I think they previously said, “Okay, fine, you can have [Robert] Stack, [Lloyd] Bridges, [Leslie] Nielsen, and [Peter] Graves,” but I don’t think very many people understood what we were doing by casting these serious, straight-men actors until they saw it.
David Zucker: It was a radical concept. We were doing a comedy without comedians. I think the studio most likely green-lit it thinking this was Animal House on an airplane, and it turned out to be totally different than what they imagined.
Jerry Zucker: It’s a line that a lot of different people could have said, and it would’ve been funny — people would’ve gotten it. But I don’t think it would be remembered in the same way if it hadn’t been said the way Leslie Nielsen says it.
David Zucker: That’s a good point. We love Bill Murray and people who do comedy well, but it wouldn’t have been the same if a comedian had said that line…


Apart from homegrown MST3K jokes (Bill Murray is supposed to be a comedian, you say?), what’s on the agenda for the day?

Open Thread: Hollywood, Sadly, Still Not Quite As Racist…

A number of Balloon Juice regulars have drawn attention to the headline: “Joseph Fiennes to Play Michael Jackson in 9/11 Drama”. Not to defend Hollywood’s abysmal record for diversity, but that seemed extremely counter-intuitive, in this day of #OscarsSoWhite. So I checked a source article, in this case The Wrap

Joseph Fiennes has been cast as Michael Jackson in a new British television movie.

Fiennes will play the late King of Pop alongside Brian Cox as Marlon Brando and Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor, according to The Guardian

I suspect the highlighted word, British, demonstrates the validity of David Harewood’s explanation to NYMag on “Why Black British Actors Leave the U.K.”:

Last week, actor Idris Elba spoke before Parliament about the need for more diversity on British television and said that growing up, while his community was diverse, he did not see that reflected in the shows he watched as a child.

Even now the shows still show a lack of diversity. American television, for all its faults, still has a black presence in shows and even in commercials. You’ll see black people in automobile ads, black women starring on their own television shows. We don’t see that on British television. The reason being that the decisions are being made by white, middle-class men, and their shows cater to a certain demographic. This is why you see black British actors coming to America, because they know there are more opportunities. I didn’t leave the U.K. because I wanted to be famous — I came here to find work because I was struggling to find work as a black actor. We’ve been banging around this issue for years. In the beginning we were laughed at, and now people are really paying attention.

There’s been discussion of a black British invasion where some feel that actors like David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor are taking away opportunities from their African-American counterparts. What are your thoughts on this critique?

Hollywood has always had a fascination with casting British actors in general, like Sir Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Laughton, and now it’s back in vogue. I can certainly understand the frustration if people feel that way, but I’m also finding a lot of great opportunities here and really enjoying these roles that I couldn’t find in my own country…

More intelligent discussion at the link. I hadn’t gotten around to watching Supergirl — the pre-show promos weren’t promising — but J’onn Jonnz was one of my first childhood comic-book crushes, so I may have to check it out now.

Open Thread: Alas, Bayghazi

From that Flavorwire article:

It’s sort of a perfect storm of moneymaking elements, a dramatization of an international incident that remains particularly interesting to the segment of the movie-going audience that’s made big hits out of war movies for the past three consecutive Januarys (American Sniper, Lone Survivor, Zero Dark Thirty). But those films went “wide” in January after Oscar-qualifying runs the previous month; no one bothered to take that step for 13 Hours, which takes the complexities of those films and burns them off like fat in the Foreman grill of director Bay’s shiny flag-waving. (13 Hours is as clumsily imitative of those films as his Pearl Harbor was of Titanic, and about as dire a sit.)

…[L]et’s ignore the obvious red and blue elements, let’s bypass the obvious digs at Obama and Clinton and the like, let’s take Bay’s word that his film “doesn’t get political at all” and that he only aims to tell this story and honor these men. Even taken purely on those terms, it’s still garbage – punishingly paced, flimsily constructed, tackily executed with the subtlety and panache of a third-rate 1930s melodrama…

And all the sad pianos and teary-eyed reactions and scorched family portraits floating through the debris like the feather in Forrest Gump merely serve to underscore the fact that Bay took that moment, and he cheapened it into whiz-bang “Bayhem.” In the Wall Street Journal, Mark Geist, one of the men at the center of the story, says, “I told Michael, if you do anything that disrespects the four Americans that died, I will beat the shit out of you.” Well, the filmmaker’s got an ass-kicking coming. Because at the end of the day, he took these brave men, and he plugged them into a goddamn video game. Fuck Michael Bay, and fuck his bullshit movie.

The Washington Post‘s film critic, on “‘13 Hours,’ Benghazi and the slippery definition of ‘political’”:

In a juxtaposition so perverse that it could only have been dreamt up in Hollywood, the holiday designated to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. — America’s most prominent practitioner of nonviolence — has become the go-to weekend for war movies. Read more

Saturday At the Movies Excellent Read: “I Watched Michael Bay’s Benghazi Movie at Cowboys Stadium With 30,000 Pissed-Off Patriots”

Christopher Hooks, “a journalist based in Austin”, reports for Gawker:

“Why didn’t we bomb the shit out of them?” a man asked me. “Why aren’t we bombing the shit out of ‘em? Give me a B-52 and I’ll go over there right now.” It was a chilly night in Texas, but his mind was more than 6,000 miles away, in Libya. He and I and some 30,000 other people had come to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas—home of the Dallas Cowboys—for the outsized world premiere of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

The 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi means many things to many people. It is, at its most basic level, an actual human tragedy, one of an uncountable number this country has been party to in the last fifteen years. Lives were lost, and they might have been saved, and it’s hard to say why, or what good it did. It is also a meme, a punchline, and a political cudgel. For the people who care most about it, Benghazi is less shorthand for a historical episode than a concept, an abstract descriptor of a feeling shared by an uncountable number of people in this country that the nation’s leaders are traitors, by way of incompetence or malice or both.

But on Tuesday, people lined up by the thousands to see Benghazi begin a new life as something else entirely: an entertainment product. Michael Bay, the auteur who brought you Pearl Harbor and Pain & Gain, had brought the premiere to the stadium’s 180-foot-long high definition video board, with an enormous on-field stage and red carpet below. The audience filled most of the north half of the stadium. There was complimentary popcorn, one bag per ticket… Read more

Oscar Nominations (Open Thread)

So the Oscar nominations are out. Complete list here. The best picture nominees are:

The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

So far, I’ve only seen two: The Martian and Mad Max. I thought the former was okay but not great and the latter was crap (and no, I do not wish to have that debate again). I hope to view the other nominated films soon.

Which of the nominees do you think should win? What picture was robbed via a failure to be nominated?

Feel free to discuss other topics too — open thread!