Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Judicial Opinions: The Interview

I have been meaning to open this blog up to guest posts from friends of the blog.   Today I received this review of the Interview from a Texas Bankruptcy Judge who wishes to remain anonymous.  I am a huge fan of the First Amendment and am glad to see that one of our judges was willing to sacrifice her Christmas day in service of that most precious of rights.   Hope you enjoy the review.

Movie Review:  "The Interview"by Judge Angie Alias 12/28/14
Rating (on a scale of 1-10 gavels): 2 gavels.*

On Christmas Day 2014, after traveling over the river and through the woods to visit family (actually it was over a big city expressway that I traveled); after feasting on the savory and sweet foods of the season and avoiding mistletoe encounters with certain relatives; and, finally, after drinking way too much eggnog, I decided I would nestle down and do something not all that Christmas’y. I decided to fulfill what seemed like my patriotic duty. On this holiest of holy days–the day on which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and in this season in which men and women of all faiths and nations endeavor to spread peace on earth and goodwill toward men–I would do something completely different. I would support every artist’s creative freedom. I would quietly pay homage to every artist’s First Amendment Right to write, speak, or otherwise express whatever he wants, no matter how offensive. I would do my own small part in telling world governments, monolithic corporations, and anonymous hackers that censorship and stifling of artistic freedom (even bad artistic displays) will never be tolerated in our American society. Yes, after basking in the magic, warmth, and customs of the season, I paid $5.99 and downloaded “The Interview” off of GooglePlay. What a sap, you say. But wait. Read on before mocking me. 

I'll preface the following movie review by stating that, until Christmas Day 2014, I had never watched a movie starring the actors James Franco and Seth Rogen in my life, so I guess I wasn't aware of their...let's say, really raw bad-boy humor. I understand that there have been some less-than-stellar cinematic collaborations between the two on films with such names as “Spring Breakers,” “Pineapple Express,” and “This is the End.” The trailers for those movies look less than enticing to me. I mean, I am by no means an entertainment snob. Despite the sober and stern stereotype that people may have for judges (yes, I am a judge by day; amateur movie critic or whatever by night), I will watch pretty much ANYTHING anytime, in a never-ending quest to forget the daily stress and seriousness of my job. It’s not easy making life-changing decisions regarding other people’s lives all day. But. . .OMG (yes, I have teenagers, too)! Let’s just say there are conversations in the movie “The Interview” regarding male anatomy, the lingering scent of guacamole, and an alleged Matthew McConaughey goat fetish that are WAAAAY too offensive to describe in print. Surely that makes you curious. ... Anyway, I suppose the movie is worth the $5.99, but BARELY. Again, in this amateur movie reviewer’s perspective, it is all about one’s patriotic duty. At least, that’s what I am telling myself to justify the loss of $5.99 and two hours of my life. 

Most readers probably know something about the movie plot by now. The farfetched premise is that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who loves American pop culture (think Dennis Rodman, Elvis, etc.) but, of course, hates America itself, is an adoring fan-from-afar of James Franco’s character Dave Skylark–a pretty boy TV talk show host who interviews celebrities and makes them confess to interesting or otherwise well-kept secrets. In fact, in two amusing cameo appearances, rapper Eminem unexpectedly shares during an interview the fact that he is gay (saying “I’ve been leaving bread crumbs of my gayness in my songs for years”) and Rob Lowe takes off a toupee, revealing his terrifyingly ugly bald head during a TV tell-all. 

You get the gist. So when Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapoport (played by Seth Rogen) learn of Kim Jong Un’s fan-crush/man-crush on Dave Skylark, they manage to arrange an interview with the boyish leader in Pyongyang, North Korea. Then the CIA recruits the unlikely pair to assassinate Un while they are in North Korea. It is not an easy mission for the two dimwits. There are lots of crazy situations when the two are there, including their accidental fatal poisoning of one of Un’s trusted advisors (when the advisor mistakes a ricin strip in Skylark’s bag for a piece of chewing gum). Seth Rogen’s character also has a near-death encounter with a Siberian Tiger while in a field at night (do they have Siberian Tigers in North Korea?). And Franco’s character even starts to develop a fondness for the maniacal, child-like dictator, until having a chance encounter with a fake grapefruit one night (you have to see the movie if you want to understand this plot twist). 

But the important thing (spoiler alert) is that, after revealing Un’s true character to the North Korean public in a craftily choreographed interview (with the assistance of a sexy, female, machine-gun toting North Korean official, who hijacks the TV communication systems and prevents termination of the interview), the pair not only makes the North Koreans understand that Un is not an Almighty God (among other things, it is revealed that Un actually has bodily functions like all human beings–according to the movie, which uses different terms than “bodily functions”–allegedly it is North Korean folklore that he does not), but the pair finally manage to assassinate the crazy dictator in spectacular fashion, with a ridiculous Katy Perry song loudly blasting in the background. But, without a doubt, the best part of the movie is an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy named Digby that the Franco character manages to smuggle out of the country in the end. 

I should be struck by lightening for watching this movie on Christmas night. It has crude language, over-the-top sexual humor, and, yes, even some bloody violence (after all, they kill the dictator). Without a doubt, the movie has no redeeming qualities. Not one. No Oscar-caliber performances, no brilliant (or even mildly clever) dialogue, no cinematic beauty, and it’s not even that funny. But it did make me feel patriotic. “Lol.” Actually, strike that. The movie didn’t make me “laugh out loud.” Go ahead. Call me a sap and mock me. Just not while in court. 


Judge gives “The Interview” a 2-gavel* rating.

Judge uses gavels, rather than the traditional stars, to rate movies. Judge’s opinions in this movie review are her own, and do not reflect the views of anyone at the court at which she serves.

4 comments:

Art One Court said...

Is there any hope for certainty now that a federal court in the Fifth Circuit has weighed in on “The Interview?” We here in the Ninth Circuit, with the backing of Bellingham and a very divided Supreme Court decision in Arkinson, understand that our judgments, for the most part, are final with consent.

The Rogan and Franco parties have clearly (if only implicitly) consented to reviews, good or bad. But, what of Mr. Kim in this dispute? Nowhere. He hasn’t made an demonstrable appearance. Not even through the internet. Can he even get internet? Qui tacet consentire videtur? I repeat, qui tacet consentire videtur?, my friend. Must we wait for Wellness to descend upon us?

Also, Caveat Emptor, por favor. The reviewer above is no Texas Probate Court Judge, which in the Central District of California could now be considered the highest court in the land; no sir. She is an Article I federal bankruptcy judge from the 5th Circuit, as is this trifling (and meddling) writer but with Bellingham and Arkinson support, and with only limited Beer money to disburse on movies.

This review, as it stands now and originating from the 5th Circuit, can only serve as a report and recommendation, subject to Article III de novo review. A review of the review, so to speak. Will some Senior Status District Court from Abilene please step up? We need, we deserve, finality.

Scott C. Clarkson
United States Bankruptcy Judge
Central District of California

Steve Sather said...

Now that I have seen The Interview, I would give it at least five stars. Of course, I was a huge fan of Seth Rogen and James Franco in Freaks & Geeks so I wasn't surprised by the crude humor. I thought it was an interesting character study with the shallow entertainment TV host, Dave Skylark, and the shallow North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, each trying to use the other. The movie had some accurate notes about North Korea. The song that the little girl sings at the beginning of the movie was very similar to an actual North Korean cartoon that the Alamo Drafthouse played as part of the pre-show features. Now I understand why North Korea was so upset about this film. Not only does it thoroughly insult their Glorious Leader, but it is pretty as well.

I express no opinion about whether Judge Alias's review needs to be treated as a report and recommendation by an Article III Judge.

Steve Sather said...

Next to last line of my comment should have said "pretty funny as well." Missed a word there.

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