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#171 June 12, 2013

Marie writes: Welcome to "Good Books", an online bookseller based in New Zealand. Every time you buy a book through them, 100% of the retail profit goes directly to fund projects in partnership with Oxfam; projects which provide clean water, sanitation, develop sustainable agriculture and create access to education for communities in need. To increase awareness of Good Books' efforts to raise money for Oxfam, String Theory (New Zeland based agency) teamed up with collaborative design production comany "Buck" to create the first of three videos in a digital campaign called Good Books Great Writers. Behold the award winning animated Good Books Metamorphosis.

Far Flungers

Understanding the Dung Fly

Sang-hoon is a terrifying piece of work. He is someone you never want to mess up with. He is callous, narrow-minded, vulgar and, above all very volatile. Whenever his hair-trigger fury erupts, there's more than hell to pay -- and that happens often.

Even when his temper relatively abates, he is still difficult and hostile to communicate with, probably even with himself. In the opening sequence, we see a young woman being beaten by some guy in the night streets. Sang-hoon appears and he savagely beats that guy. And then, he spits at her, smacks her, and insults her.

May contain spoilers


Hecklers as critics, critics as hecklers and comics as critics

Psychologists say that depression is rage turned inward. Stand-up comedy, on the other hand, is rage turned back outward again. (I believe George Carlin had a routine about the use of violent metaphors directed at the audience in comedy: "Knock 'em dead!" "I killed!") In the documentary "Heckler" (now on Showtime and DVD) comedian Jamie Kennedy, as himself, plays both roles with ferocious intensity. The movie is his revenge fantasy against anyone who has ever heckled him on stage, or written a negative review... or, perhaps, slighted him in on the playground or at a party or over the phone or online.

"Heckler" (I accidentally called it "Harangue" just now) is an 80-minute howl of fury and anguish in which Kennedy and a host of other well-known and not-well-known showbiz people tell oft-told tales of triumphant comebacks and humiliating disasters, freely venting their spleens at those who have spoken unkindly of them. At first the bile is aimed at hecklers in club audiences (with some particularly nasty invective for loudmouthed drunken women), then it shifts to "critics" -- broadly defined as anybody who says something negative about a figure whose work appears before a paying public. Some of the critics are actually interested in analysis; some are just insult comics who are using the Internet as their open mic. It gets pretty ugly, but it's fascinating -- because the comics, the critics and the hecklers are so much alike that it's no wonder each finds the others so infuriating.


'World Trade Center': How political is it?

9/11 is in the eye of the beholder: Michael Pena (center) in "WTC."

That's a question everyone who sees Oliver Stone's 9/11 movie will have to answer for him- or herself. The studio's official line is that it's an inspirational and healing movie ("The World Saw Evil That Day. Two Men Saw Something Else"), and that it's not political at all. But it's about 9/11, and no contemporary event has been more politicized -- beginning within moments of the attacks themselves.

Stone himself is quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times, sounding very political indeed: "At the time, I thought we were overreacting," he says. "I've been through many disasters in my life. There was Vietnam. The Kennedy assassination, Watergate. The last presidential election. Sept. 11 to me was a national wound. It was one big murder job. But it plunged us into this homeland security state of mind.

"All I can say is that we had the sympathy of the world on that day. The rest of the world was with us. We had a right to pursue those murderers. We should have closed the circle. We didn't need more and more terror, Constitutional breakdowns and more pain. But those are only my opinions as John Q. Citizen." I have to say I agree with Stone on this. I think history will show that the World's Only Superpower's overriding reaction of "Why us?" (going beyond righteous grief and shock and anger to a protracted and unseemly wallow in self-pity, as if we had the corner on victimization in the world) was one of our most shameful hours as a nation, and was, as we witnessed at the time, part of what sparked an anti-American backlash in record time of only a few weeks. If this was indeed a modern Pearl Harbor moment, we failed miserably in our response. I kept thinking of FDR, who made a stirring speech without resorting to overblown (and simultaneously reductive, picayune) language about "Evildoers." Stone actually makes Bush look good, and doesn't show how he went AWOL for most of the day, or how, when he did finally appear, he looked like a scared rodent in the headlights. That's something else about that day that we should never forget -- not that we could if we tried.

Richard Roeper, in his Sun-Times review recalls thinking of A-- C------ (The Coprophagic Thing That Shall Not Be Named) while watching "WTC" -- and, I confess, I did, too -- for the same reasons:

Movie Answer Man

Movie Answer Man (08/25/2002)

Q. I am disappointed with the latest Sight & Sound poll. The omission of both Keaton (the greatest filmmaker who ever lived) and Chaplin from both the critics' and directors' lists is disheartening. I feel sorry for all the people who will never be exposed to the beauty of Keaton and Murnau, the pathos of Chaplin, the revolutionary techniques of Griffith and Eisenstein, and the fierceness of Lang. I'm involved in my high school film club. Some members wanted to show "Fight Club," "Requiem for a Dream" and any Wes Anderson or Kevin Smith film. I'm not saying those films are bad, it just illustrates ignorance concerning our film heritage. I convinced them to let me show Keaton's "The General" (1927), "Steamboat Bill Jr," and "The Navigator." Everyone was laughing their heads off. (Matt Stieg, Carmel IN)