THE INTERVIEW: HACK ATTACK OR CACK ATTACK?

I wanted to write an article on Birdman. I tried to write an article on Birdman.

On Boxing Day, I retreated from the nightmare that is Christmas to a slightly advanced screening of Birdman. I’d been waiting for this film ever since murmurs, teasers and whispers started emerging last year. With such a build up it is more than easy to set oneself up for disappointment and this is usually exactly what I do. But Birdman was everything I wanted it to be: A powerful reaffirmation of Keaton as an incredibly underused talent; a witty and worthwhile examination on celebrity, an engaging personal drama about the human condition and overall an amazingly achieved piece of cinema. 

The characters are spot on with flawless performances to match. The graceful dance between the camera and the subjects almost never feels forced or intrusive. The marriage of magical realism, existentialism, parody and straight drama never feels unbalanced. The soundtrack is playful, well paced and always pitch-perfect. I could go on. I could elaborate. Every time I started trying to write anything about Birdman it just ended up being an over written list of complimentary descriptions much like I’ve forcibly shoehorned in at the beginning of this article. I simply can’t help myself – it is amazing. You should all go see it.

The following day however, I got around to watching The Interview and decided that it seemed like a much more interesting thing to write about, namely because of all the bullshit surrounding its release. As I’m sure you are all fairly well versed on the ‘he said she said’ of the Sony scandal by now, I will gloss over the details. I can’t really be bothered to look into it in too much detail either but my general thoughts are something along the lines of - like fuck would North Korea a) give a shit and b) respond like that if they did. I suspect either it was some hackers having major trololololz or a disgruntled Sony employee. It also seems almost as ridiculous to believe it was all a PR stunt as it does to think it was a North Korean Attack though a pal of mine says given Franco’s past antics when Palo Alto was released he wouldn’t put it passed him.

Truth be told, I don’t really care either way. What I do care a bit more about is how the American government jumped on the opportunity to spin some kind of cyber-terrorist news story and, whilst hiding behind the guise of being noble defenders against censorship and champions of free speech, will no doubt use this debacle to try and pass new laws to further monitor and police internet usage in foreign territories. 

www. might as well stand for wild wild west right now. First Pirate Bay got taken down. Then this. Then news reports featuring silhouetted grungers in Berlin talking about how they stream Breaking Bad as soon as it airs. Next Playstation Network gets taken down on Christmas Day and finally the release of thousands of hacked usernames, passwords and bank details from sites ranging from Amazon to PleaseBangMyWife. Where has this cyber spotlight come from all of a sudden? North Korea denied the attack and proposed for a joint investigation which America declined, two days later North Korea's internet went down and America refused to pass comment. It all seems a bit fishy to me but let’s not get too bogged down in conspiracy theories for the time being. Let’s try to wade through all the hype and bullshit and talk about the film itself for a minute. I think the scariest thing about this whole thing is that the film simply wasn’t very good and yet by the time people embrace a brave new 2015, nearly every cunt on the planet will have seen it; most of them through some kind of illegal download or stream.

I’m a big fan of Rogen and his silent partner Evan Goldberg. I love Superbad. Apart from being generally hilarious, I think it can easily stand beside Animal House and American Pie as era-defining coming of age comedies. Pineapple Express was extremely fun too, lightly touching on genre tropes and brilliantly bringing familiar cast members together with a casual ease and generous helping of improv that would make any audience member feel like they were part of an inside joke. This Is The End took the in-joke idea even further by having various members of the Rogen gang playing themselves as the apocalypse strikes during a house party at James Franco’s house. Apart from being jam-packed with great cameos, great jokes, great effects and great action sequences, the film is held together by a very traditional but strong and well executed narrative. I felt like I was not only watching a decent film but seeing a group of friends having fun and playing out their silliest ‘if we could make a movie what would we do’ fantasies. Obviously at the top of their list of fantasies was to stage the anal rape and subsequent exorcism of Jonah Hill.

The Interview had none of that. Although I’m not bashful when it comes to high-concept premises, the set-up seemed desperate for attention as soon as I heard about it, which I could easily forgive had the film delivered.  The characterization was lazy and generic and so didn’t even allow for a decent version of Rogen and Goldberg’s traditional and self-ridiculed ‘first they’re friends, then they’re not, then by the end of the movie they’re friends again’ character arc. Performances and improv also seemed lazy and repetitive as if by simply replicating past tricks the film would recreate past success. Throw in a misplaced scene where they take ecstasy to further remind people of how much better This Is The End was, along with some dick jokes and less funny cameos and we’re nearly there. Thank god I had Lizzie Caplan to keep me interested.

Its attempts to ridicule Kim Jong-un were expectantly irreverent but quite childish and the film worryingly failed to pass any worthwhile or intelligent critique on the power of celebrity and the media within world affairs or the current state of American politics. Consequently, it felt like an unthoughtful, patriotic piece of pro-American propaganda. Team America is a great example of the film The Interview thinks it is but done much, much better. Whilst successfully ridiculing Kim Jong-il Stone and Parker’s masterpiece also manages to mock America’s approach to dealing with the rest of the world and even throws in a savagely hilarious comment on the intervention of its celebrities too. I much preferred seeing the Kim Jong-il puppet being torn by cats than anything The Interview had to offer. It simply wasn’t risky enough. Remember in South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut when they made Saddam Hussein the devil’s sex slave? Or when Chaplin lampooned Hitler during the peak of World War II in the Great Dictator? What about Kubrick’s satire of nuclear threat in Dr. Strangelove right at the tail end of a very itchy trigger finger part of the Cold War?

The Interview wasn’t that bad - its biggest sin is that it was boring, inoffensive and unprovocative. The fact it made the news at all is either a testament to how shallow our gag reflexes have become, or it was all one big honey-dick to find out who is downloading what where and if the film industry can make just as much money from online distribution as through a theatrical release. Reports are now claiming that Sony has banked up to $18million (and saved $30million forgoing the films marketing campaign) in what has been their most downloaded online release of all time. Either way, I think we will probably soon be saying goodbye to the good old wild-west that was the internet and say hello to a new age of cyber-police brutality.

Now that actually sounds like a decent movie - I’m thinking Jonny Mnemonic meets Judge Dredd meets Lawnmower Man. What do you think?