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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Jane Mayer vs Zero Dark Thirty

I really don’t want to go through every line of Jane Mayer’s inflammatory, inaccurate piece on ZD30. But it’s much like the many other flavors of inaccuracy and overhype we are seeing in many “thinking” outlets regarding the film. So I will.

“At the same time that the European Court of Human Rights has issued a historic ruling condemning the C.I.A.’s treatment of a terror suspect during the Bush years as “torture,” a Hollywood movie about the agency’s hunt for Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty—whose creators say that they didn’t want to “judge” the interrogation program—appears headed for Oscar nominations. Can torture really be turned into morally neutral entertainment?”

1. Is the ruling that torture occurred not in direct step with the first moments of the film?
2. Who said this was meant to be neutral? What has been said is that the filmmaking is meant to be neutral, not the experience, aka “the entertainment.”

Zero Dark Thirty, which opens across the country next month, is a pulse-quickening film that spends its first half hour or so depicting a fictionalized version of the Bush Administration’s secret U.S. interrogation program. In reality, the C.I.A.’s program of calibrated cruelty was deemed so illegal, and so immoral, that the director of the F.B.I. withdrew his personnel rather than have them collaborate with it, and the top lawyer at the Pentagon laid his career on the line in an effort to stop a version of the program from spreading to the armed forces. The C.I.A.’s actions convulsed the national-security community, leading to a crisis of conscience inside the top ranks of the U.S. government. The debate echoed the moral seriousness of the political dilemma once posed by slavery, a subject that is brilliantly evoked in Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln; by contrast, the director of Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow, milks the U.S. torture program for drama while sidestepping the political and ethical debate that it provoked. In her hands, the hunt for bin Laden is essentially a police procedural, devoid of moral context. If she were making a film about slavery in antebellum America, it seems, the story would focus on whether the cotton crops were successful.”

1. So what does the FBI’s position on torture have to do with this film? (Apparent answer: She expects a film that includes torture to be about torture. ZD30 is not about torture.)
2. Lincoln? Huh? Lincoln is an excellent movie about an important debate coming to a head. ZD30 is not about the debate over torture or any real debate at all. It is about events, which are not debated on moral grounds, but on tactical ones… as they tend to be in real life.
3. The slap mocking that if Bigelow “were making a film about slavery in antebellum America, it seems, the story would focus on whether the cotton crops were successful.” Oh, bullshit. 100% lazy and cheap. It’s unlikely that it would be a film set in Congress where words, not action, rule the day. But my guess would be that the Bigelow slave-era movie would be about some group of blacks and white supporters who fought back.

Skipping forward…

“…by ignoring the full weight of the dark history of torture, her work falls disturbingly short.”

Well, that’s the whole thing in a nutshell, no? Jane Mayer wanted to see a different film… nothing remotely like ZD30… nothing that could be “fixed” by even significant changes to the screenplay. She’s taking charge of the idea of a bin Laden film and turning it into a Frontline episode, because that is what she wants, it seems, ANY discussion of torture by the US to be.

“It doesn’t include a single scene in which torture is questioned…”

False.

There is not a single scene of debate about the value and/or effectiveness of torture. But torture is question by behavior (Mayer will mock this later) and by the primary torturer, who is having some form of post-traumatic stress from doing this work and repeatedly in the film by clear arguments that much of the torture leads to worthless information—including the failure of the specific torture shown in the film to get the information they are trying to retrieve—or information coming out of torture sessions going back to “the terrorists” via lawyers.

If the argument is that ZD30 says they get critical info via torture, shouldn’t there be an acknowledgement that the torture in question fails completely before a nugget of information—which is not the focus of their interrogation—starts the ball rolling towards the courier?

“…even though the Bush years were racked by internal strife over just that issue—again, not just among human-rights and civil-liberties lawyers, but inside the F.B.I., the military, the Justice Department, and the C.I.A. itself, which eventually abandoned waterboarding because it feared, correctly, that the act constituted a war crime. None of this ethical drama seems to interest Bigelow.”

Interest? I think it reflected through the film. But even if not, this is not a movie about human-rights and civil-liberties lawyers or even internal discussions about the morality or effectiveness of torture within government offices.

“In reality, when the C.I.A. first subjected a detainee to incarceration in a coffin-size “confinement box,” as is shown in the movie, an F.B.I. agent present at the scene threw a fit, warned the C.I.A. contractor proposing the plan that it was illegal, counterproductive, and reprehensible. The fight went all the way to the top of the Bush Administration. Bigelow airbrushes out this showdown, as she does virtually the entire debate during the Bush years about the treatment of detainees.”

So let’s understand the complaint. Mayer claims this confinement box was only used once, apparently. And again… this was not a movie about the debate about torture. Nor is a movie about the debate about whether they should have aimed at bin Laden’s legs instead of his head. Nor is it about how stupid it was for the military to allow a car onto its compound without searching it, regardless of whether the information being chased might be lost.

Did Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal need to make a 10-hour miniseries for HBO be considered worthy of showing CIA-based torture in any way? It seems they have a lot of after-the-fact producers coming aboard.

“The lone anti-torture voice shown in the film is a split-second news clip of President Barack Obama, taken from a “60 Minutes” interview, in which he condemns torture. It flashes on a television screen that’s in the background of a scene set in Pakistan; the movie’s terrorist-hunters, who are holding a meeting, barely look up, letting Obama’s pronouncement pass without comment.”

FALSE.

The change in tactics and rules that Obama’s presidency will bring is discussed, not in the context of policy or morality, but in the functional reality of the lives of the characters/people in the film… just like real life.

““By this point in the film,” as the CNN national-security analyst Peter Bergen wrote recently, “the audience has already seen that the C.I.A. has employed coercive interrogation techniques on an al Qaeda detainee that produced a key lead in the hunt for bin Laden. In the film, Obama’s opposition to torture comes off as wrongheaded and prissy.”

This is one of the more idiotic comments in this piece. It’s not Mayer’s. But at that point, about 25 minutes into the film, you think the film is heavily invested in the “big win” of torture and are aching for more torture, you are not really watching the movie, but obsessing on your personal agenda.

It would be easy to argue that the matter-of-fact way to which the Obama interview is responded to is offensive in some way. It doesn’t spark a moral discussion. There is a new boss in the office and there will be no more 30-minute coffee breaks or $100 lunches paid for by the company. You don’t like that the film sees the CIA that way? Ok. Not sure how that jibes with the spin that this is all an ad for the CIA, but at least that’s an honest argument.

“Yet what is so unsettling about Zero Dark Thirty is not that it tells this difficult history but, rather, that it distorts it. In addition to excising the moral debate that raged over the interrogation program during the Bush years, the film also seems to accept almost without question that the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” played a key role in enabling the agency to identify the courier who unwittingly led them to bin Laden. But this claim has been debunked, repeatedly, by reliable sources with access to the facts. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent first reported, shortly after bin Laden was killed, Leon Panetta, then the director of the C.I.A., sent a letter to Arizona Senator John McCain, clearly stating that “we first learned about ‘the facilitator / courier’s nom de guerre’ from a detainee not in the C.I.A.’s custody.” Panetta wrote that “no detainee in C.I.A. custody revealed the facilitator / courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts.”

I hate to be all Clinton-y on this, but the guy who is being tortured in the film does not give the CIA the name of the facilitator/courier. The scrap of information he does give is only that the person exists and without a useable name.

There is an inherent idiocy about writing in the idea that Boal ever “excis(ed) the moral debate.” He didn’t include it. Very, very different. Boal didn’t write a movie about the moral debate and even though Ms. Mayer would prefer that film, not putting in the part she wanted is not a act of falsification, any more than not including Sueprman’s father on Krypton in a Superman film is falsifying Superman.

Mayer continues to list somewhat vague comments from politicians that are not specific about the film – since they haven’t seen it – before landing on Lindsey Graham, who says, “I would argue that it’s not waterboarding that led to bin Laden’s demise. It was a lot of good intelligence-gathering from the Obama and Bush administrations, continuity of effort, holding people at Gitmo, putting the puzzle together over a long period of time—not torture.”

Gee… the movie says exactly the same thing. It never argues that waterboarding led directly to bin Laden’s demise. But torture is such a hot button issue that one scrap of info that was not being pursued by the interrogators until one of them had an idea about the courier, which leads to 30+ additional pieces of intel slowly gathered over years, until they finally find the person she started thinking about that day… that has now been reduced to “weatherboarding led directly to bin Laden’s death.” It’s stretching credulity. Did my first look at my wife’s smile the first time I saw her across a room lead to my 3-year-old son? Yes. Sure. But was it the lynchpin or an important moment in our history? No. Four or five days of smiles later, maybe you can make the argument. But it’s still rather dismissive of the reality of how a relationship develops and leads to something solid and permanent.

“As Scott Shane wrote in the Times on Thursday, so little is publicly known about the C.I.A.’s erstwhile interrogation program that it is nearly impossible for outsiders to assess the facts with total confidence.”

And yet, we are seeing a lot of journalists writing in black & white terms who seem to feel they know everything there is to know about it.

“But for the past three years, Democratic staffers at the Senate Intelligence Committee have been compiling six thousand pages of records related to the secret program, and in doing so they have found little to celebrate. It is hard to understand, then, why the creators of Zero Dark Thirty so confidently credit the program.”

Who is f-ing celebrating interrogation? Not the movie. Not its makers.

“n addition to providing false advertising for waterboarding, Zero Dark Thirty endorses torture in several other subtle ways. At one point, the film’s chief C.I.A. interrogator claims, without being challenged, that “everyone breaks in the end,” adding, “it’s biology.” Maybe that’s what they think in Hollywood, but experts on the history of torture disagree. Indeed, many prisoners have been tortured to death without ever revealing secrets, while many others—including some of those who were brutalized during the Bush years—have fabricated disinformation while being tortured. Some of the disinformation provided under duress during those years, in fact, helped to lead the U.S. into the war in Iraq under false premises.”

Another show that Mayer was watching something in her head and not this movie. The interrogator says this TO THE GUY HE’S TORTURING. He’s not debating the effectiveness of torture at Harvard.

Mayer then proceeds to discount the other forms of intelligence gathering because they are not impactful enough for her tastes. Thanks for the notes. Could you take a look at Sandler’s next movie?

“The filmmakers subtly put their thumb on the pro-torture scale, as Emily Bazelon put it, in another scene, too. A C.I.A. officer complains that there is no way for him to corroborate a lead on bin Laden’s whereabouts now that the detainees in Guantánamo all have lawyers. The suggestion is that if they are given due process rather than black eyes, there will be no way to get the necessary evidence. This is a canard, given that virtually all suspects in the American criminal-justice system have lawyers, yet their cases proceed smoothly and fairly every day.”

FALSE

What he says, quite clearly, is that the problem is that the lawyers of the detainees will send the information about what it being asked back to al-Qaeda. It’s not a question of due process. It’s a question of function. And one that makes perfect sense. If you show your cards to someone with a way to get the info back to your target, your target has been warned. Is this confusing in some way? Controversial?

“Perhaps it’s unfair to expect the entertainment industry to convey history accurately.”

Having read this opinion piece, I am still seeing only one actual claim of inaccuracy. So how about laying off the condescension? She thinks torture leads to bin Laden in some tangible way. I don’t see the movie saying that.

“Knowing the real facts—the ones that led the European Court of Human Rights to condemn America for torture this week—I had trouble enjoying the movie.”

Again… irrelevant to this film, as opposed to your personal focus. You are welcome to your personal focus, but to attack this film for its perspective, which is not the one you want, is certainly not journalism… or even intelligent argument.

“I’ve interviewed Khaled El-Masri, the German citizen whose suit the E.C.H.R. adjudicated. He turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, an innocent car salesman whom the C.I.A. kidnapped and held in a black-site prison for four months, and who was “severely beaten, sodomized, shackled, and hooded.” What Masri lived through was so harrowing that, when I had a cup of coffee with him, a few years ago, he couldn’t describe it to me without crying. Maybe I care too much about all of this to enjoy it with popcorn. But maybe the creators of Zero Dark Thirty should care a little bit more.”

I guess when Bigelow & Boal make the Khaled El-Masri story, they should call you for advice. I don’t think you care to much… but you have zero objectivity, seeing every single thing in the film through a prism that demands you see the movie YOU would make. And about that, neither Bigelow, Boal nor anyone who is not your close friend should care a little bit more or at all.

24 Responses to “Jane Mayer vs Zero Dark Thirty”

  1. Breedlove says:

    Very interesting piece, Dave, well done. Tons of typos but I suppose cookie decorating is a solid excuse.

  2. eldrick says:

    andrew sullivan now agrees with Jane Mayer by the way on the part about the film not being morally serious.

  3. tim says:

    “But even if not, this is not a movie about human-rights and civil-liberties lawyers or even internal discussions about the morality or effectiveness of torture within government offices.”

    Why isn’t it? If torture plays such a key role in the film, how can you not address these issues and still be considered a serious film?

  4. David Poland says:

    Tim… it doesn’t play such a key role in the film.

    And no, the idea that a film has to cover all bases in regards to its storyline to be taken seriously defies the idea of drama. Name one that does.

  5. CL says:

    One of those typos might indeed be worth fixing: “It never argues that waterboarding led to Obama’s demise.”

    Adroitly argued, though. Hope this “debate” doesn’t burn out many potential viewers before the film reaches a theater near them.

  6. Freddie says:

    1. It’s incredible the way the goalposts have moved and the arguments have shifted from the people who are working to defend this film against contrary opinion. That itself is very telling.
    2. When you (and your commenters) undermine the notion that other people have a legitimate read on the material and still disagree, it makes you seem overzealous, which makes me wonder where the desire to mount this defense actually comes from.

  7. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Freddie:

    1. If you’re going to argue “shifting goalposts” you should establish where the goalposts were and how they were moved. Arguing in the alternative (introducing new arguments) by itself does not imply shifting goalposts unless the previous argument is abandoned – in fact, it strengthens a case rather than weakens it.

    2. Arguing in opposition to a viewpoint of course undermines said viewpoint. That’s kinda the whole point. Saying “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is pure speculation – please stick to the merits of the argument.

  8. bill stamets says:

    although I like reading, writing, thinking about distinctions between what films show versus state, and to whom, and to what end, in this case I’d say Poland could have better engaged Mayer by using her use of the quoted statements by Boal and Bigelow to make her points, rather than what their film might state or not; in this case, quotes by Boal and Bigelow can be critiqued in a way that Zero Dark Thirty cannot 

    [as for where I am coming from... whenever I see 'based on a true story' I recall that logicians tell us that ony a sentence or a statement can be true or false, and a story by definition cannot be either, and "inspired by actual events" is redundant or nonsensical in the absence of 'unactual' events, an oxymoron, I'd say] 

    Poland and Mayer agree torture occurred in the world; to go Bordwellist, I’d ask what Boal and Bigelow are doing(italicized) with these particular scenes of torture in this particular film, versus what other such scenes did in “24″ or in “The Battle of Algiers” — along the lines of, what are the particular shots of Bin Laden doing in “Zero Dark Thirty” versus the very different shots of him in, say, “Postal,” or shots of a mock Bin Laden in “Tere Bin Laden.”

    rhetorics (plural) matter, on screen, in interviews, in op-eds, in posts, and an unacademic kind of rhetoric really matters in those interrogations occuring offscreen where popcorn is not for sale

  9. David Poland says:

    bill – I have no problem with the idea of arguing what Boal & Bigelow have to say about their intent and the work… except that the record on that is not well established either.

    Having done this for a long time – and creating DP/30 with great regard for letting the talent speak to things without any editorial spin – I understand how specific language within longer conversations are taken out of context in almost all situations, whether the intention is to twist (positive or negative) or not.

    On top of that, there is the reality that Boal & Bigelow are now offering restrained rhetoric for all the reason that filmmakers do. The stakes are high. And as Boal notes in one conversation with one writer who is clearly an adversary in this situation, going through the details of how this script was manufactured is a fool’s errand.

    The flip side of this is that very few filmmakers would engage on the content issues of their film as much as Mark & Kathryn already have.

    Moreover, it is a film. It exists. And the intent of the filmmakers, in terms of what the film says to people, is somewhat irrelevant at this point.

    Finally… this notion that Bigelow & Boal have to speak to film history in some direct way strikes me as odd. Maybe they have an opinion about “24″ or “Battle of Algiers.” Maybe not. Maybe more should have been made of Christopher Nolan using The Battle of Algiers as an imprint for a Batman movie.

    I do think the duo would have been well-served, in terms of smoothing the op-ed waters – to have a clear (likely too simplistic and somewhat false) answer to the purpose of the first 20whateevr minutes of the film. “We meant to be like Saving Private Ryan… shocking the audience into the world of frustration and pain on both sides… yadda yadda yadda…”

    But my sense of these two, over these few years, is that they want to leave the “answers” to the audience, not to spoon feed them. And that, I find, is true of most of the interesting directors in the world. Haneke is a fascinating and delightful (for me) man, but trying to get him to discuss subtext in his work causes him to behave as though he is being waterboarded.

    I will eventually shoot Mark & Kathryn for DP/30. But I suspect that the media events of the last week will delay those shoots by a month or more. I am on their side on this, but still, even talking to a “friendly” is dangerous, as there are people out there anxious to parse any comment, sentence, or turn of phrase into something on much more rhetorical weight than it was ever meant to hold.

  10. Daniella Isaacs says:

    The ZD30/Superman analogy is really crazy. We haven’t seen DP work this hard to affect the Oscar race since he got it in his mind that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was unworthy of the statuette. It’s going to be a long four weeks.

  11. Mike says:

    I get the feeling that both Jane and Andrew would prefer to see another Redacted or any of the other anti-torture movies that have come out of Hollywood over the last six years, and been routinely ignored by the movie-going public. It’s a shame that they’re both faulting ZD30 for what it isn’t rather than what it is.

  12. bill stamets says:

    thanks David, though I never meant to fault the film or the filmmakers for not covering things that may matter more to some critics and commentators, including myself; I now realize I really meant to get to what “agenda” and “no agenda” mean in Mayer’s piece and in her quotes from the filmmakers; I suggest using “rhetoric” (in its classic sense of crafting something that moves a reader or listener or viewer somewhere) as a way to think about ‘serious’ films and ‘mere’ entertainment when directors and audiences are trying to think or not to think about torture and other things that might not go down with your mega-litre Cherry Coke, in my case

  13. Mark F. says:

    If Bigelow had made a Nazi movie that was “neutral” on whether or not Hitler was bad, would you be defending her?

  14. mike says:

    So, if she made a WWII movie about the procedure of fighting the war that didn’t get into the politics of Nazism or show the horrors of the Holocaust, she’d get destroyed? The debate over this movie is getting weird.

  15. Js Partisan says:

    David went MCWEENY STYLE ON SOMEBODY! That’s hilarious. What? Add to the debate? The Bush era torture practices did involve a future AG, going out of his way to explain them in several memos. Why that’s not a part of the film’s backstory is something that should be brought up. If you are going to do a RECENT HISTORY MOVIE, then maybe there should be some SOUND historical context involved in the story of that movie.

  16. David Poland says:

    Mark F – Have you ever heard of Downfall? It’s a terrific movie about Hitler that doesn’t go on about why Hitler was evil.

    I don’t have a problem with Triumph of the Will, though I hate teh purposes for which it was made.

    The thing is, in all this ZD30 hysteria, is that the motive for this alleged pro-torture or not-anti-torture-enough choice by the filmmakers is non-existent. It’s untrue, but if it was true, WHY? Do you really believe that Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are trying to drive a wedge into the conversation so that the US government will once again openly embrace torture of prisoners as a tool? Based on what? To what end? On whose behalf?

    Even if all the spin was true, it’s still not comparable to Triumph of the Will, as the government didn’t call for the film to be made or fund it. The suggestions that the US government heavily influenced or controlled in some way the content of the film would seem to be a malicious lie that, if filmmakers sued over such things, would be cause for a lawsuit by Boals and Bigelow. (Of course, everything I have read has heavily hedged, not really saying this directly, but hinting and then running back behind the real issue of the author, whether general issues with embedding or the still prosecuted Bush Administration or whatever. Cowardly way to argue.)

    Pretty much all drama that is focused on anti-heroes has a certain “neutrality” that some people can turn into an issue because good and evil isn’t clear enough.

    It’s a stupid argument that leads to stupid films. And I bet almost none of those who are upset by ZD30′s alleged politics feel that way about foreign films that do much the same things… because it’s about “them, not “us,” and we know what’s best for them and what we are “supposed to think” about “them.”

  17. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Well, I for one haven’t seen ZD30 yet. I’m hoping it’s “neutral” like BATTLE OF ALGIERS was, but I do have a great deal of respect for some of these people who have been alarmed by the film, so I wonder.

  18. eldrick says:

    i will just say this. Bigelow and Chastain have made comments that are very worrying.

    when bigelow says this what is she implying, her direct quote, “There’s something exciting to me as a filmmaker to work with the hand you’re dealt. And with Maya, we happened to be dealt a royal flush” . looks like they want to sell this on feminist grounds as well.

    which would be like black people selling American Gangster as a win for the race cause black people finally had their own Godfather or Goodfellas.

    what i am trying to say is that if this was a truly moral film, which its critics are arguing it isnt, and its defenders are saying it is, just not in an overt way, would you really be trying to sell this on progressive politics grounds as well. give me a break. no you would be like, this films main character is not a woman any of us should be proud off.

    but no its , hey, the woman that found bin laden might be a war criminal, but she’s also a woman. yee hahh.

    if you think i am imagining things how about this.

    when chastain was on chelsea handler a few days back to promote this film, she says the film is about a kick ass woman who does kick ass stuff that we dont see women in film get the chance to do. yikes. and in a different interview on a red carpet, also how this portrayal is to say thank you to the real life maya, who cant get credit cause she is undercover. so this film is a thank you to her.

    anybody who wants to defend a film whose main actress wants to thank a war criminal cannot scream and shout when the people who study this real life serious business for a living call that film out.

  19. Sam says:

    eldrick, you’re reading into things just to make something of them. Bigelow clarified what she meant by that remark, saying that what she was happy about was finding SOMEBODY — anybody — as a real-life counterpart to Maya, because that meant they’d found a throughline for their story. A POV character that could carry the narrative. She stated explicitly that she’d have been happy to discover a man in that role. If she was pleased, as a bonus, that it was a woman, is that a bad thing? Does that automatically mean she’s suddenly on a feminist rampage and has made an issue out of it in the film?

    Furthermore, the fact is that it WAS a woman, and that IS interesting, given that it’s usually men you see in these kinds of positions. That makes the story inherently more interesting and distinctive, both to a storyteller and its potential audience, even if you AREN’T interested in feminism or gender relations in general.

    Taking Bigelow’s very unpolitical comment, then ignoring everything she said to elaborate, and inferring all kinds of ulterior motives to ascribe to the film is even more insane than the people disparaging the film for not being outspokenly anti-torture. The movie just isn’t about either of those things.

    In closing, calling the real life agent who captured Bin Laden a war criminal is about the most odious thing I’ve read today.

  20. eldrick says:

    if you torture, you are a war criminal. i didnt make the rules, the geneva convention did. sorry to point out that uncomfortable fact.

    and since the film is you know, journalism, and the film shows her going along with the torture program, and presiding over some sessions, then i guess it exposes her as a war criminal. since critics aren’t going to you know, ask these uncomfortable questions, i’m glad the “annoying” and “self righteous” writers out there are.

    i wasnt aware of the bigelow follow up quotes, but it doesnt matter cause it doesnt disprove what i said. which you agreed with anyway. the fact that it was a woman makes it more interesting? i read that different than you but that is an honest disagreement.

    you still ignored the jessica chastain part. who was definitely on some i want to thank maya who is a heroine and who has not been recognised publicly stance. which just shows how out of it even the main protagonist is in regards to this story. cheerleading someone who participated in torture, that is dangerous jingoism

  21. Sam says:

    eldrick: We don’t know that the real-life Maya used torture. We know that the CIA used torture in its investigations, and Bigelow and Boal included torture in the movie to be truthful in a broad sense. However, the specific details, in particular the nature of the real-life Maya’s personal involvement or lack thereof, remain classified and unknown.

    It is therefore grotesquely irresponsible and an affront to the principles of a free democracy to call her a war criminal. You have no evidence.

    Perhaps I misread you, and that comment was directed more at the Maya character than her real-life counterpart.

    As for what makes things interesting or not, that’s a subjective call, so not worth arguing, and not really relevant anyway. Bigelow’s quote doesn’t mention the main character’s sex and doesn’t imply that it was a significant issue.

    As for Chastain, I didn’t address it because I’m not really sure how much it matters. Chastain is brilliant, but she’s not the director, and her performance was made in service to Bigelow’s vision. If she thought it was fun to play a Strong Woman, so what? That doesn’t mean she approves of everything Maya does, any more than James Earl Jones must approve of strangling people with his mind. When addressing the issue of torture specifically, there’s no hint of any kind of Girl Power attitude in, for example, her DP/30 on this site. She conspicuously avoids casting a moral judgment, presumably in keeping with the film’s own refusal to make moral judgments for its audience, but it’s crystal clear that Chastain herself is deeply disturbed by the idea of torture and declined to attend the premiere for the express reason that she couldn’t watch that part of the movie without crying.

  22. David Poland says:

    Eldrick… sincere question… should the movie W have been made, as it was about a number of “war criminals” (by your definition) and didn’t focus on torture?

  23. Ted Pikul says:

    Dude, marry her. If she’ll have you.

    Funniest Internet White Knight I’ve seen in a while.

  24. David Poland says:

    Was that in code, Ted?

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A Haunted House 2 is not a movie. It is a nervous breakdown. Directed by Michael Tiddes but largely the handiwork of star, producer, and co-writer Marlon Wayans, the film is being billed as yet another Wayans-ized spoof of the horror movie genre, à la the first Haunted House movie and the wildly successful Scary Movie series. (Keenen Ivory Wayans and his brothers were responsible for the first two Scary Movie films; they have since left that franchise, which may explain why a new one was needed.) And there are some familiar digs at recent horror flicks: This time, the creepy doll and the closet from The Conjuring, the family-murdering demon from Sinister, and the dybbuk box from The Possession all make appearances. But this new film is mostly an excuse for star Marlon Wayans to have extended freak-outs in response to the horrors visited upon him—shrieking, screaming, crying, cowering, and occasionally hate-fucking for minutes on end. Yes, you read that last bit right. A Haunted House 2 puts the satyriasis back in satire.”
Ebiri On A Haunted House 2

“I wanted to make you love a murderer. There’s no way of redeeming him. He’s a drunk and a killer. He killed at least seven people (that we know of). But there were reasons he was a bad guy. He was surrounded by evil in those days. A lot of people were killed building modern Florida—modern everywhere. Watson had plenty of opportunities to see how rough those guys were playing and he thought he could do it too. At least he rationalized it that way. He had the devil beaten out of him and became a very dangerous guy. And he couldn’t handle his liquor, which is one of the worst aspects of him. And he went crazy. Understanding how that happened is useful, I think. There’s no reason any one of us couldn’t be Edgar Watson.”
~ Peter Mathiessen On Writing “Killing Mister Watson”