[Mb-civic] Politics and Entertainment

RJ Mac nycrjmac at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 1 07:19:45 PDT 2004

from the Wall Street Journal:


Screen Righters
Tired of Michael Moore's film-flam? There are

Wednesday, September 1, 2004 12:01 a.m.

Forget about pricey summer blockbusters. Forget the
films vying for Oscar that are all crunched into
December releases. This year, it's all about
pre-election films. Not the incendiary "Fahrenheit
9/11," not the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate"
that mysteriously erased Red China as the villain,
replacing it with an American corporation, but a film
that promises to strike even more anger into the
hearts of angry liberals everywhere.When the buzz
first started for "Team America: World Police,"
bloggers theorized what the Trey Parker/Matt Stone
send-up of action movies would entail--these are,
after all, the gents who gave the world Comedy
Central's "South Park." Then juicy tidbits started
dribbling into the Internet Movie Database, like the
plot outline: "Marionette superheroes fight to end
terrorism and put tired celebrities out of their
misery." Who could oppose that? Then came the trailer:
"We live in a time of unparalleled danger," drones the
narrator over a shot of Earth. "Weapons of mass
destruction are being offered to terrorists all over
the world. Global chaos is about to consume every
country on earth, and there is only one hope for
humanity." Earth self-destructs into a long roster of
names beginning with Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and Tim
Robbins, rounded out by both presidential nominees and
Kim Jong Il, then followed by, "All are going to be
really, really mad when they see 'Team America: World
Police.' " Anyone who's seen the "South Park" episode
that mocks Meathead-turned-activist Rob Reiner knows
these guys are serious."They should really leave
politics out of their work," balked one poster on the
IMDb.com message board. "This seems like it's going to
be a movie that makes fun of liberals in a very
uncreative way throughout, so I'm staying out of this
one." There's an "uncreative way" to mock liberals? Oh
well, give me a movie featuring a Michael Moore puppet
grasping a hot dog in each hand with mustard stains
pocking his shirt, and I'm there faster than you can
wail "Palme d'Or." As a "South Park" fan from season
one, I was sucked in by the trailer, laughed until I
was in pain, and will be there on opening day. Messrs.
Parker and Stone rushed to get the movie done for an
Oct. 15 release date, and the clip shown at a recent
comics convention featured the Kim Jong Il puppet
casting Hans Blix into a shark tank. Imagine--a movie
that shows the bad guys as bad and U.N. weapons
inspectors as feckless. Who could miss this? 

Considering the tagline--"Putting the F back in
freedom"--some conservatives touchy at the language in
Parker/Stone productions and those who have long
crusaded against the dynamic duo will miss it. Messrs.
Parker and Stone are not moralists but satirists. "The
'South Park' creators are way ahead of their time,"
Mark Ebner, co-author of "Hollywood Interrupted," told
me. "Let's not forget that in their 'South Park'
movie, long before we invade Iraq, they depicted
Saddam fornicating with the devil." (And Saddam was
the dominant one in the relationship.) In "South Park:
Bigger, Longer & Uncut," America goes to war with
Canada because parents in South Park place blame
solely upon a north-of-the-border movie for their kids
learning and spewing foul language. Personal
responsibility--or the pitiful lack of it--is a
persistent theme throughout their libertarian-minded
material. Particularly hailing this box office arrival
is that abstract group sometimes referred to as the
South Park Republicans. South Park Republicans not
only chuckle uncontrollably at cartoon 8-year-olds
violating every directive of political correctness but
are more apt to worry about evil guys like Kim Jong Il
or Osama bin Laden than fret about the dangers of
popular culture. These Republicans are as likely to
read Blender magazine as The Weekly Standard and would
rather see Alice Cooper as the entertainment at the
Republican National Convention (or even Ted Nugent or
Gene Simmons--please!). South Park Republicans hang
onto a degree of that "who cares what people think?"
collegiate spirit--embodied in the official movie of
my campus Republican group back in school, the Quentin
Tarantino classic "Reservoir Dogs." The South Park
Republican generally agrees with the party line, but
just prioritizes the elements within differently than
his more staid fellow partisans. He has most likely
done an upside-down margarita at some point in
life--and may have even enjoyed it--and recognizes the
artistic merit in the Ramones and Black Flag. The
South Park Republican might have grown up watching the
ultimate non-PC tutorial, "In Living Color."Since its
1997 premiere, "South Park" has roasted Barbra
Streisand as a giant robot hell-bent on world
domination, portrayed Sally Struthers as hogging food
from starving children in Africa, and shown Michael
Jackson climbing trees and scaring the neighborhood
children--and losing parts of his face throughout.
We've seen Cartman's mother lobbying for the right to
abort her 8-year-old child (after she sleeps with
President Clinton, he agrees to legalize
40th-trimester abortions), disabled students forming a
gang called the "Crips," and the sole black student in
the school bearing the name Token. Not all Republicans
share this sensibility. Matt Drudge reported on Aug. 1
that Bush advisers were in a kerfuffle over the "Team
America" trailer. "I really do not think terrorism is
funny, and I would suggest Paramount give respect to
those fighting and sacrificing to keep America safe,"
an anonymous senior Bush adviser said, according to
Mr. Drudge. To which Mr. Parker responded that "Bush
is not even in the film" and "I would ask that people
wait and see it before passing a judgment." Later,
South Park Studios posted a response on its Web site:
"For some strange reason, the Bush Administration
doesn't want to be viewed as 'World Police' so close
to the election year." Who knows why the term "world
police" would even be construed as negative,
considering this is supposed to the job of the United
Nations, but they've dropped the ball more times than
the Dream Team in Athens. Thou doth protest too much,
O mysterious Bush adviser--unless, of course, your
real intent is to drum up enough controversy to plant
more butts in the theater seats. 

It seems to be a deliberate mystery which boxes
Messrs. Parker and Stone check on their voter
registration card. "This isn't about whether or not
the 'South Park' creators are on the right or the
left," said Mr. Ebner. "It's about them holding their
own in Hollywood as independent thinkers, hence
hard-core satirists. They are probably delighted by
the outrage from the right, and will no doubt profit
from it by drawing both sides to the 'Team America'
box office. The 'right' side will be the side that
gets the joke."And what about the short-lived "That's
My Bush!" series on Comedy Central, in which Messrs.
Parker and Stone took it to the president in a send-up
of cheesy sitcoms? Well, the series was planned before
the election, and if Al Gore had won it would have
been him in the roasting pan--complete with a Gore
robot that others in the White House would confuse
with the real man. In fact, Mr. Gore's protestations
of the vote meant a lot of nail-biting as every
recount choked the production schedule.Andrew
Breitbart, who wrote "Hollywood Interrupted" with Mr.
Ebner, put it this way: "Stone and Parker make a point
not to state what they stand for. They are best at
expressing what they are against, and nanny-state
liberalism and her slavelike Hollywood acolytes are
clearly at the top of their comedy attack list. It's
so Barbra Streisand of Republicans to get out of sorts
that they, too, are being mocked. Stone and Parker are
the rare breed that skewers everyone in power, and
young people are rightfully drawn to this irreverence.
Republicans better stop worrying about them--and
fast."The online Ain't It Cool News toured the sets
during production of the movie, and reported that in
the film there is "an organization of Hollywood
liberals who are determined to stop Team America from
interfering in the affairs of international politics."
So the celebs are the bad guys? "Actually, they're not
bad," Mr. Parker was quoted as saying. "They're just
really, really stupid and misguided." According to a
recent New York Times article, the Sean Penn puppet,
fighting alongside Kim Jong Il with Danny Glover,
screams "Die, conservative!" as he blows away a Team
America member.

Granted, an R-rated puppet sex scene may not be
everyone's cup of tea. If your tastes are as
conservative as your politics, you might want to skip
"Team America" and take in a film festival instead.
Not Cannes, not Sundance, but the first-ever Liberty
Film Festival, showcasing conservative, libertarian
and independent films this fall in Los Angeles. Rising
conservative filmmaking power couple Jason Apuzzo and
Govindini Murty, who are directing the event, will be
premiering their black-and-white noir thriller
"Terminal Island," shot at the Port of Los Angeles.
Ms. Murty's character is stalked around the harbor by
a Muslim terrorist, who is being pursued by a bounty
hunter. "Because no Hollywood studio would touch a
film that had a Muslim terrorist as the villain--or
that was sympathetic to the war on terror--we produced
the film ourselves," Mr. Apuzzo said, noting they shot
the film digitally for only $7,000. "Our goal is to
make edgy, provocative narrative films that challenge
Hollywood's liberal orthodoxy," added Ms. Murty.
"Documentaries are fine, but narrative films are what
have the greatest impact on our culture." One
promising documentary you'll find at the festival is
"Michael Moore Hates America," scheduled for release
this October. What could be more fitting than a young
filmmaker doing exactly what the disingenuous Mr.
Moore does to others--chase him around with a
microphone to pen him into answering questions and
torturing him in the process? "The movie's title . . .
sounds like a trash piece on Moore, but the film
itself is a thoughtful, heartfelt and fun journey into
the Big American Conversation," according to director
Michael Wilson's description of the film. "It searches
for the shrillness that surrounds that conversation
and gives it a big kick in the ass." In the trailer,
Mr. Moore tells a newsman that he refuses to be
interviewed by Mr. Wilson because Mr. Moore doesn't
appear in anything but his own films--and as he
explains this, we see a scrolling list of films Mr.
Moore has appeared in but not directed. Mr. Moore is
also confronted by Mr. Wilson in front of his audience
at a speaking engagement. Sounds like enough to make
Mr. Moore want to stow away in the baggage compartment
on one of those secret flights to Saudi Arabia.

Another film to be shown at the festival and
attempting to find a distributor for U.S. release is
"Saddam's Mass Graves," from Iraqi filmmaker Jano
Rosebiani. This film is all about the sheer grief
inflicted by the dictator, as Mr. Rosebiani talks to
Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who survived or lost their
families, and even some who were shot and pushed into
mass graves only to live and climb out of the deadly
pits. Particularly if you were in the theater for the
Happy Hussein Days portrayed in "Fahrenheit 9/11," you
should see Mr. Rosebiani's cameras as traumatized
Iraqis began the arduous task of identifying victims
in "Saddam's Mass Graves"--or, as I like to call it,
Exhibit A. "I made this film to have the voice of the
Iraqis heard and their stories be told," Mr. Rosebiani
told me. "My intention was that by documenting the
scope of Saddam's tyranny through first-hand
testimonies by the survivors of the Anfal genocide on
the Kurds and mass-grave victims' families across
Iraq, [it] will make clear the need to remove Saddam
and his regime."Another must-see pre-election flick,
"Osama," is out on DVD. This year's Golden Globe
winner for best foreign film--and rudely snubbed for
even a nomination by the Academy--was the first film
(and hopefully not the last) released by Afghanistan
since the fall of the Taliban. No, it's not about the
grand Qaeda pooh-bah, but about a girl who disguises
as a boy to work and feed her mother and grandmother
under Taliban rule.Director and writer Siddiq Barmak
plucked lead actress Marina Golbahari from the streets
as she begged for change; some actors were discovered
in refuge camps; and even reformed Taliban play the
regime's foot soldiers. Afghans tell their own story,
and they're screaming it for the hard-headed herd who
still insist on screaming in protests and on bumper
stickers that war is never, ever the answer.So if
recent films have left you feeling like you just left
a leftist indoctrination rally, cinematic hope is on
the way. Let's hope Messrs. Parker and Stone remember
to send a screener of "Team America" to their keynote
villain, the renowned movie buff Kim Jong Il. Then
again, he'd probably pirate the DVD anyway.Ms. Johnson
is a journalist and screenwriter in Southern

Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights

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