The Interview — A Bit of Truth in the Farce

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The Interview is a slapstick comedy about an assassination attempt against North Korean despot Kim Jong Un. Given the absurd nature of the Kim family dynasty, any political comedy about North Korea is destined to be of the juvenile slapstick variety. The Interview fits that bill.

 

"The Interview" Movie Poster

“The Interview” Movie Poster

 

Dave Skylark (James Franco) hosts celebrity tabloid show Skylark Tonight, Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen) is the show’s producer, and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) is the show’s biggest fan. When Skylark and Rapaport score an interview in North Korea with Jong Un, the CIA recruits them to assassinate the despot. The pair goes about this in farcical style.

As was predictable, the film rocketed to international attention when North Korea chimed in with its routine, state-sponsored histrionics. Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked, according to the FBI, by “Guardians of Peace.” The hackers leaked embarrassing documents to the press. Terrorists threatened attacks on movie theaters showing the film, movie theaters canceled their bookings, and Sony announced that it would not release the film. The hackers purportedly said they would stop the leaks, but only if The Interview was kept away from any and all movie screens. Popular theory was that North Korea was behind the hacking.

Millions of Americans and the US president chided Sony and the theater chains for folding to the demands of the world leader equivalent of the kid in the corner of the room eating glue. Sony then acquiesced and released the film in indie theaters and online.

 

James Franco triumphant. Image from "The Interview."

James Franco triumphant.
Image from “The Interview.”

 

The notion that the Sony hack was conducted by North Korea is now disputed by leading anti-hacking experts such as Marc W. Rogers and Kurt Stammberger. The Sony hack might have been carried out with the assistance of a disgruntled Sony employee, or it could have been a marketing ploy by members of Sony management.

Regardless of who conducted the Sony hack, the miserable North Korean government hates this film, and Vladimir Putin, a.k.a. Stalin 2.0, has declared it an act of terrorism. This gives normal people two good reasons to check out The Interview.

 

Diana Bang (Sook), Seth Rogan, James Franco, and Rogan's dog, Zelda Image from "The Interview."

Diana Bang (Sook), Seth Rogen, James Franco,
and Rogen’s dog, Zelda
Image from “The Interview.”

 

From an entertainment standpoint, The Interview accomplishes its goals. There are no great messages, profound thoughts, or deep enlightenments to be found here, and that’s a good thing. Complexity and depth would be completely out of place amidst the crude, juvenile humor, which, while often predictable, is still satisfying in a distinctly vulgar way.

While The Interview is a fantastically absurd comedy, it actually captures a bit of reality.

While North Korea appears to the West to be as ridiculous as this movie, it actually takes itself quite seriously. North Korean propaganda is pervasive throughout the closed country, with gems like portraying the North Korean military as capable of taking out the US in one blow and showing North Koreans giving Americans blankets and coffee made from melted snow. (Search “North Korean propaganda videos” on YouTube for a laugh.) The Interview clearly portrays this dichotomy between the North Korean government’s desired image of strength and plenty and the North Korean reality of starvation and ignorance.

 

Actual photo of potential MI-6 spies. Image from "The Interview."

Actual photo of potential MI-6 spies.
Image from “The Interview.”

 

It is tempting to dismiss the notion of a scandal sheet television duo being recruited by an intelligence agency as part of the general silliness of the movie. However, the writers either purposely or accidentally touched on an old British tradition. Long before televisions, the upper levels of the British working class commonly sent their sons to the same boarding schools and universities, and English newspapers often hired members of that well-connected, socially reliable “old boys’ network.”

When the BBC was formed in 1922, many of its employees had ties to members of the UK Foreign Office, Home Office, Colonial Office, MI-5, and MI-6. It was common for spies, newspaper journalists, and radio program employees to attend the same parties and social functions. Journalists assigned to foreign postings would often moonlight for MI-6 as agents of opportunity.

Although today the British bureaucracies are far less incestuous and something more similar to a meritocracy, it is still in the realm of possibility for UK media types to conduct an operation for MI-6. Even here in the US, where most of the inhabitants of our media subculture consider themselves to be the archrivals of the CIA and the Pentagon, it would not be unheard of for a member of the media to work for the CIA.

 

Randall Park as Kim Jong Un Image from "The Interview."

Randall Park as Kim Jong Un
Image from “The Interview.”

 

Historical comparisons aside, The Interview is worth seeing when you are in the mood for juvenile slapstick humor. If you enjoyed the Austin Powers movies, then you will likely enjoy The Interview. The plot and the script are simple and easy to follow. The actors were all well cast to their respective roles, and they play their parts smoothly. In particular, Randall Park did a great job of playing the dangerous, evil-genius wannabe Kim Jong Un with a soft spot for Katy Perry. Park had a thousand chances to screw up his role. He and the directors deftly avoided them all.

Our Bayard & Holmes rating for this film is a solid .38 Special, meaning that it won’t change your life, but we didn’t resent the $5.99 for the online rental. If you can catch it at a matinee or in the comfort of your home, then go ahead and enjoy a few laughs at the expense of that most natural, albeit accidental, of all comedians—Kim Jong Un.

 

Where in the World is Kim Jong Un? You Tell Us.

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Someone’s missing, and it isn’t Waldo. Kim Jong Un hasn’t been seen in North Korea since September 3. Some are speculating about illnesses, diseases, and political coups.

Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol-ju image by NK government

Kim Jong Un and wife Ri Sol-ju
image by NK government

With the regular measure of concern that we demonstrate for Little Un, we tasked our special Bayard & Holmes operatives (us) with uncovering news of the AWOL despot. We are sad to be the bearers of bad tidings, particularly to the already-beleaguered North Korean people, but it seems there have been numerous confirmed sightings of their Dear Leader around the globe.

A police report places Little Un in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after he was caught at a local Hobby Lobby muttering about delivery systems and sneaking Estes rockets into his black tunic pants.

Image from EstesRockets.com.

Image from EstesRockets.com.

Prostitutes in Amsterdam complained to local police that he had stolen their clothing to use for cross-dressing anime cosplay at the upcoming London Film and Comic Con.

Several resorts in Macao, China, reported evicting a Korean man with a toothbrush haircut after patrons complained that every time he lost at the craps tables, he threatened to feed them to a pack of dogs.

Numerous Scottish children and tourists at the Edinburgh Zoo told of a man fitting Little Un’s description who accosted them to ask about the unicorn exhibit. He became agitated at the absence of such exhibit and attempted to swipe a stuffed unicorn from a toddler in a stroller.

The Unicorn in Captivity Tapestry currently at The Cloisters Image public domain, wikimedia commons

The Unicorn in Captivity
Tapestry currently at The Cloisters
Image public domain, wikimedia commons

A street artist in Los Angeles spotted Little Un preening in the window of a hair salon, slathering his locks with Bacon Lube and asking passersby where to find Dennis Rodman’s house.

With all of these sightings, we’re guessing some of you readers have seen Little Un, too. Please notify us of your findings in the comments below. Let’s keep an eye on Little Un and prevent his return to North Korea for as long as possible, both for us and for the North Koreans.

Where have you seen Kim Jong Un, and what was he doing?

The Gangster and the Poet – Kim Jong Il and Vaclav Havel

By HOLMES

This week, we have been treated to odd bits of news from the North Korean state media machine. According them, Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack on Saturday, December 17, 2011. The “news” that has been broadcast from North Korea has been rather interesting.

One of my young coworkers took the time to read and analyze some of the very odd claims that were made for North Korean consumption and for those imaginary North Korean admirers that the NK government likes to pretend exist in large numbers across the world. Here are a few of the recent outlandish claims from a nation that is so crippled it can produce little more than outlandish claims.

Kim Jong Il lived for five thousand years. Kim Jong Il did not urinate or defecate because he was a higher being that didn’t need to do those lowly human functions. It’s not often that Westerners or anyone living outside of North Korea agrees with the NK media, but based on that particular claim, Westerners were apparently being fair and accurate when saying that Kim was “full of shit.”

We are now being told that a mountain peak in North Korea that was named after Kim Jong Il glowed for an hour after he died. As absurd as it seems, that claim might be accurate. It could be that the insects hiding beneath the frozen surface were so overjoyed at the death of the despised dictator that they glowed like glow worms and fire flies in celebration of his departure from their ecosystem.

The nonsensical and amateurish propaganda that flows from North Korea would all be nothing more than cheap comedy if not for the fact that it tells us something about the current state of their tortured society. Even in authoritarian police states like China, Cuba, Syria, and Iran, there are limits to how outlandish the propaganda can be. Neither North Koreans nor Cubans would believe that their respective crime syndicate leaders were five thousand years old, but the difference is that the Cubans would loudly refuse such asinine statements. It’s a sad comment about the lives of the victims of the North Korean crime state that they feel compelled to pretend to believe such absurdity.

Kim Jong Il had announced that his third son, Kim Jong Un, would inherit the family crime syndicate, but not all is going as planned. Today, North Korea announced that Kim Jong Un’s aunt and her husband would share power with him, and that the military would have more power than they did under Km Jong Il.

My impression is that the North Korean military hates Kim’s sister and her husband and will wrestle for control of the country. At least in the short term, it seems unlikely that the people of North Korea can expect much improvement in their lives. Chronic malnutrition and a complete lack of freedom will continue. Kim Jong Un has a long way to go to gain complete control of North Korea, but the undeserving victims of the ongoing Kim family crime spree have even further to go to reach freedom and human rights.

Kim Jong Un – To show their loyalty, all North Koreans are required to get bad haircuts before Friday. (That’s actually a joke. So far.)

While the news is filled with the farcical proceedings in North Korea, another important world leader left us on December 18, 2011. A brilliant poet who I admired.

On October 5, 1936, a boy, Vaclav Havel, was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. That boy would one day prove instrumental in leading the nation of Czechoslovakia out of the dark ages of forty-nine years of brutal Nazi and Soviet occupation.

image by Ondrej Slama

image by Ondrej Slama

Vaclav Havel was the son of a theater owner father and a wealthy mother. During the Soviet occupation, he was not allowed to attend secondary education because of his “bourgeois” parents, and he was shunted to industrial training. He worked full time and attended night school. Then, he dropped out of economics school and found work as a laborer in theater productions. From that humble beginning, he went on to become one of Europe’s most respected writers, admired poets, and esteemed world leaders.

While living under constant police surveillance and suffering through multiple prison internments, including a five-year stint, Havel managed to write popular plays and was able to see them produced in spite of sabotage by the Czech secret police. What did he have to say after years of abuse? “Truth and love will prevail over lies and hate.”

In 1989, as the Soviet lead Warsaw Pact began to unravel, Havel became the de facto leader of the Velvet Revolution. The Czech secret police and the Soviet KGB had long seen Havel as a dissenter. It is my belief that the Czech police state and the Kremlin decided Havel was just a poet and playwright and would never be able to successfully lead a revolution. They denied permission to their field operatives to assassinate him. They likely feared that killing Havel would have left less known and less visible leaders in charge of the resistance.

Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia on December 29, 1989 and served in that office until July, 1992. He later served as Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 1993 until 2003.

The Soviets underestimated the poet and the people of Prague. Now, that poet is gone, but his memory and the freedom that he helped create lives on. The world was a better place with Vaclav Havel in it. It remains a better place for his having passed here.

To his family and to the courageous people of the Czech Republic who defeated brutal tyranny with little more than reason and moral conviction, I offer my sincere condolences and my deep admiration. May reason and moral conviction reign forever in the Czech Republic. May truth and love always prevail over lies and hate.

Tonight, in North Korea, the notions of freedom and human rights appear to be beyond all hope. Only 25 years ago, we would have said the same about Czechoslovakia.