The coda to our great national exploration of the fine points of North Korean censorship is that Sony Pictures will choke out a limited release of the hacker-forbidden, dictator-disapproved comedy “The Interview” after all. Fox News headlines this as an “about-face,” but given that it’s only a very limited release, it’s more like one of those halfway about-faces where you’re looking backward while walking forward, and you end up slipping on a banana peel and falling into a pack of rabid chihuahuas. You can have that scene for free in your next movie, Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Actually, they ought to make their next movie a meta-comedy about the travails of a pair of comedians who make a movie banned by dictators, with the climactic scene finding our comedy duo in the dictatorship’s Internet hub, standing over a pile of cut wires and giggling madly. It’s interesting that Sony’s decision comes the day after North Korea’s Internet went mysteriously dark for several hours, isn’t it? Maybe the studio has received some quiet reassurances that it’s safe to put the movie out, at least in limited release.
The “Guardians of Peace” hackers warned Sony that only its continued submission to their will would prevent them from releasing the rest of the massive trove of data they stole, but the studio is running a victory lap after announcing the release:
“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”
“I want to thank our talent on ‘The Interview’ and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month,” Lynton said. “While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
Seth Rogen was likewise ebullient:
The people have spoken! Freedom has prevailed! Sony didn’t give up! The Interview will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Xmas day!
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) December 23, 2014
A few theaters, including the Plaza Atlanta, have announced plans for a Christmas Day screening, and independent theater owners have pledged their support. Either public backlash against them for knuckling under to totalitarian evil really got to Sony executives, or something has changed behind the scenes. Naturally there are conspiracy theories suggesting that the entire hack was the work of a few disgruntled Sony employees who have been quietly tracked down by the authorities, or that it was all a massive publicity stunt (which the governments of both the United States and North Korea were somehow willing to participate in.) The latter theory would seem difficult to square with the immense loss of revenue and studio prestige from the canceled wide release, not to mention the damage to Sony’s business relationships caused by leaked emails and financial data, and the theft of several other big-budget films, which were pureed by the hackers and turned into Bitstream fodder.
Okay, refined pitch for the next Rogen-Franco outing: two comedians seek revenge against a totalitarian dictatorship falsely implicated in censorsing their movie by studio executives trying to run a modified Mel Brooks “Producers” scam.
A remaining bit of Sony hack-related fallout also made the Fox News blotter today, as an interview with actress Amy Adams on NBC’s “Today” show was suddenly canceled, and shovelfuls of conflicting backstage dirt were dished:
Insiders tell FOX411 the source of the snafu was the recent Sony hacking scandal, which included leaked emails that claimed Adams was paid less than her male counterparts for the Oscar-nominated flick “American Hustle.”
Adams requested questions about the Sony emails not be included in the interview, as she was appearing on the popular morning program to talk about her new film, “Big Eyes.” But sources close to Adams and “Today” have provided FOX411 with conflicting reports about exactly what went down on the “Today” set that led to the last-minute cancellation.
A “Today” show insider insisted to FOX411 that Adams was informed ahead of time that Sony hack may come up.
“As a professional courtesy, Amy and her team were told well in advance that she might get asked about Sony, and that it was entirely up to her whether she wanted to answer,” the insider told us. Yet when she arrived, a debate about whether or not to include the Sony question occurred.
A rep for “Today” said: “As a news program, the ‘Today’ show doesn’t allow guests to put restrictions on interviews. In this case, after hours of discussion we felt uncomfortable with the demands being made and we determined the best course of action for all parties involved was to cancel the interview.”
That’s very strange behavior for entertainment media, which relies heavily upon maintaining good relationships with big stars – that’s why we’re subjected to so much uncritical coverage of celebrities’ deep thoughts about subjects that have nothing to do with acting or singing. In this case, Amy Adams is clearly a legitimate source for reflections on her own career trajectory. Her people say she was willing to field questions about the hack, everyone in the industry seems to agree she’s willing to handle tough interviews, and the company behind her new film seems a bit testy that she’s being blamed for scuttling the interview.
After all the political angst over pay discrepancies and glass ceilings we’ve been subjected to, why would it be considered out-of-bounds to ask about what seems to be the most obvious example of “a woman getting paid less than a man for the same work?’ As the Fox News report notes, other stars have been asked to comment on leaked Sony emails covering a variety of other subjects, but evidently this particular subject is too delicate to broach. Is Hollywood just considered above the social criticisms is films, and favorite politicians, relentlessly pummel the rest of us with?
Given that no one disputes that a great deal of as-yet-unrevealed Sony data rests in the hands of their hacker nemeses, it will be interesting to see what happens next. If the hackers don’t retaliate for the limited release of “The Interview,” maybe the most interesting part of this ugly tale has yet to be told. Even if it’s a limited victory for freedom of speech, it’s still a victory, and that’s good news. Now to find out if the movie is any good or not…