Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Aimee Blanchette, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
Both "American Sniper," coming off a near-record breaking $90.2 million opening for the three-day weekend, and "Selma," which earned $26.4 million since opening wide three weeks earlier, are history-based films that deal in myths.
"Selma" triggered criticism for portraying President Lyndon Johnson as a slow supporter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s campaign for black voter rights. Similarly, "American Sniper" has made substantial alterations from its source material, the best-selling memoir by the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The film shows Kyle fighting a former Olympic marksman in a sharpshooters' battle to the death, though the two never encountered each other in real life. It also created a fictional Iraqi terrorist who murders children with electric drills. Film star, screenwriter and director Seth Rogen on Twitter said it reminded him of a fictional Nazi propaganda film.
Kyle's wife, Taya Kyle, who was interviewed extensively by screenwriter Jason Hall, will share her insights about her husband’s experiences in battle and on the home front, and about the film version of his life story, in an event Feb. 8 at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.
Jim DeFelice, co-author of "American Sniper," will appear as well at the 7 p.m. event, a part of the synagogue's Heroes Among Us series. Admission is $18 for members of the military, $36 for the general public, $100 for reserved seating and $360 for a VIP meeting with the special guests.
A portion of the proceeds will help underwrite the synagogue’s Minnesota National Guard unit support initiative, benefiting the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter, and the 204th Area Support Medical Company.
Beth El Synagogue is located at 5225 Barry St. W., St. Louis Park.
James Franco and Seth Rogen in a scene from "The Interview."
At least 10 Minnesota movie houses, including St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis, joined others across the country Tuesday in announcing that they would show “The Interview’’ beginning Christmas Day.
Sony Pictures had withdrew the picture from release last week after threats of terrorism from computer hackers, but reversed its stance on Tuesday. The comedy stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as TV journalists recruited by the CIA to kill North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un.
“I guess we’re not concerned. We’re not close to North Korea,” said Debbie Zeise, co-owner of the GTI Cambridge and North Branch Theatres, which is showing the film in both venues. “We’re showing it because we believe in the freedom of press and that we shouldn’t bow down to terrorism.”
It’s a view shared by many patrons, she said.
“That I think really is the reason people will come out and watch it. Not because they think ‘Oh, I’ve got to watch this movie.’ ” The controversy may bring larger audiences than she first expected to her theaters’ top auditoriums, which seat 200 or fewer viewers.
“We were not anticipating this would be a huge movie. Now we are anticipating it being bigger than it would have been. More people are going to be saying, ‘I’m going to go see it to see what all the hubbub’s about.’
"Even my mother-in-law, who’s a woman in her 80s, said, ‘Well, I just want to see what it’s about.’ They aren’t going because they want to see the movie. They’re going because they want to make a statement about free speech and we’re not going to bow to terrorism.”
Susan Smoluchowski, executive director of the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, which will be showing the film at St. Anthony Main, had a similar take: “Although this film may not be typical of the films we generally screen, we made a decision to do so from a philosophical standpoint, that of artistic freedom, creative license and defense against censorship.”
Besides St. Anthony Main, the Minnesota theaters showing “The Interview’’ will be Cambridge Cinema 5 in Cambridge, North Branch Cinema Theater in North Branch, the Quarry Cinema in Cold Spring, Premiere Theatres in Cloquet, Fairmont Theatre in Fairmont, Cine 5 Theatre in International Falls, Grand Makwa Cinema in Onamia, Rochester Galaxy 14 Cine in Rochester and Main Street Theatre in Sauk Centre. Each theater will open the film Thursday for a run of at least a week.
In a public announcement Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Entertainment said, "We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we're excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day," while continuing its effort to secure more theaters and possibly a digital release.
Following ongoing online hacks and threats to attack screenings of "The Interview," the Sony Pictures conflict reached a new level of havoc Wednesday afternoon.
After afternoon cancellations of earlier agreements to screen it by four of the nation’s largest movie theater chains, Sony cancelled the film’s scheduled Christmas Day opening. Earlier in the day the studio withdrew scheduled press screenings. It appears that there are no plans for any type of theatrical exhibition.
The $42 million film, a satiric political comedy, stars James Franco and Seth Rogan as TV journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. It was called “an evil act of provocation against our highly dignified republic” in late November on Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean government-controlled website. While Kim announced "merciless counter-measures" if the film was released, North Korea has denied involvement in the anonymous corporate hacks.
The U.S. movie theater chain leaders AMC, Carmike, Cinemark and Regal announced earlier Wednesday that they had abandoned their bookings.
"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film ‘The Interview,’ we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release," Sony announced in a written statement Wednesday.
“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."
The film debuted at the Ace Hotel theater in Los Angeles for press and film executives last week to uneven reaction. Online critic Jeff Wells wrote after the screening, “I never once laughed. Yes, the opening 20 or 25 minutes is mildly entertaining and yes, at heart 'The Interview’ is anti-Kim, pro-anti-Kim revolution and pre-people power and all that, but it never rises above the level of a good-enough programmer.”
After decades spent studying, researching and writing books about the history of world religions, British author Karen Armstrong (pictured) appears to have arrived at a stunningly simple resolution: follow the Golden Rule.
In her new book, "Fields of Blood," Armstrong zeros in on myths and reality surrounding the role of religion in the history of warfare and violence.
With ISIS in the news, interviewer Kerri Miller of MPR asked Armstrong about the situation in Syria and Iraq, and the perception in the West that the violent leaders of ISIS are motivated mainly by their Muslim faith.
"First off, it is a mistake to think that all ISIS fighters are devout jihadists," Armstrong said. "Many are secular" militia, including troops left over from Saddam Hussein's armed guard. She said there had been a story about one ISIS leader who had ordered the book "Islam for Dummies" from amazon.com.
The resurgence of radical Islam in parts of the Mideast today, Armstrong said, is in part a response to the violence used to repress religion and impose a secular state in places like Iran and Egypt in the mid-20th-century.
Another factor, she said, "is a perception in many parts of the Middle East that the West is indifferent to human suffering."
While some have labeled Armstrong an apologist for Islam, she said she abhors the ISIS-sponsored aggression and says that it actually defies Islamic law that forbids violence against civilians and prohibits attacking any country where Muslims are allowed to practice their faith freely.
Armstrong has been a leader in the Charter for Compassion, a global effort to involving elected leaders, clergy and laypeople to sign on to this simple notion: "Do not impose on others what you yourself would not desire." She read an elaboration of that Golden Rule, which is available here.
Armstrong, who turns 70 on Nov. 14, lived in a convent, leaving it after six years, when she was 24. Since then, she remained unmarried and without children. She lives alone and spends much time in study, research, reflection and writing, so that her life today "remains very nun-like," she said.
But Armstrong is no stay-at-home. She travels globally to speak and promote her books. She has given TED talks and is a regular TV commentator. She has made numerous trips to Pakistan, where she has helped promote a chain of progressive schools.
While her topic is a serious one, Armstrong frequently displayed flashes of wit and self-deprecating humor. She acknowledged Britain's once-mighty status as a colonial power, but said "we now view ourselves as the poodle of the United States."
Star Tribune writer Graydon Royce recently interviewed Armstrong, here.
Armstrong's full talk is scheduled to be rebroadcast at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, on Minnesota Public Radio.
Mariellen Jacobson, the group's treasurer, said topics will include "excessive use of the endowment to 'balance' the budget, red flags that the MOA's auditor should have caught, and misleading 'all is well' statements made to legislators, the city and donors."
Ulitmatley, she said, "We hope to drive constructive resolution through our specific "calls to action for the MOA, musicians, governor, state auditor, state attorney general, legislature, city and individuals."
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