Jon Stewart

Open Road Films

The idea of incarceration, whether justified or unlawful, is terrifying, and when solitary confinement and torture are added to the mix the thought that any of us would last a day — let alone 118 — is most likely a pipe dream. But that’s exactly what Iranian-born Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) faced after leaving his pregnant wife in London and returning to his home country in 2009 to cover the presidential elections. After the results are announced as heavily and suspiciously in favor of the incumbent leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the populace reacts with outrage and protest. Bahari captures footage of the people in the streets and awakes the next morning to Iranian authorities rousting him from bed and taking him into custody. He’s immediately placed in solitary confinement, labeled a spy and interrogated mercilessly by an unnamed man whom Bahari calls Rosewater (Kim Bodnia). The days and weeks tick by as he’s threatened, pressed and pushed to the emotional brink by the possibility that he’ll never see his wife, never meet his unborn child and never walk free again. It’s his desire for all those things alongside imagined conversations with his deceased father and sister — both of whom faced their own conflicts with the Iranian government — that keep his hope alive. Rosewater achieves most everything it sets out to do with skill, grace and a powerful lead performance by Bernal, but its most glaring fault is that it doesn’t actually try to do all that much. In a sense […]

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Open Road Films

When Jon Stewart first announced he was taking time off to write and direct a feature film the expectation was for some kind of comedy. Sure it would probably be smart and most likely woven through with political or social commentary, but the main narrative would surely be something goofy. Happily that wasn’t what Stewart was interested in pursuing though and instead took up a far greater challenge. Maziar Bahari is an Iranian-born journalist who was arrested in Tehran while covering the elections and subsequent riots for Newsweek. His jail time lasted several months and included both physical and emotional torture, and the story Stewart wanted to tell on film is the one Bahari told in his memoir, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.” It’s an alternately engaging, terrifying and inspiring story, and while that’s enough of a reason to bring it to the screen Stewart had another motive as well. Clips of Bahari being interviewed on The Daily Show were used as evidence against him during his “trial” in Iran. Check out the first trailer for Rosewater below.

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The Purge

Plenty of entertainment news happened over the weekend while you were girding your loins for a very special season finale of Game of Thrones (or going outside like a normal person, perhaps). We’ve rounded a bunch of it up into a neat little news package we call our afternoon Biz Break. 

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bernal

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s the last bits of casting news coming in for the week. That’s it, it’s the weekend, it’s time to see movies that are out, not read about movies that haven’t been made yet. Before we go though, let’s cap things off with news about Bond Girl Rosamund Pike. As sad as everyone is over Jon Stewart taking a 12 week hiatus from The Daily Show, the silver lining in the story is that he’s taking the time off to try his hand at directing movies, so at least we’ll get to see what a Jon Stewart-directed movie looks like. So far what we know is that it looks like a dramatization of the life of Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was imprisoned and tortured in Iran for 118 days, and that it’s going to be called Rosewater, because that’s what the guy doing the torturing smelled of. The new news here is that we now also know what Stewart’s version of Bahari is going to look like, because The Wrap is reporting that he just cast Gael Garcia Bernal in the role. Who he’ll cast as Jon Stewart in the scene where Bahari goes on The Daily Show is anybody’s guess, but I vote Jason Momoa.

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Jon Stewart

The New York Times reports what, in the grand scheme of thing, was probably inevitable – that Daily Show host Jon Stewart will be taking some time to write and direct his very first film, titled Rosewater. Unfortunately, Stewart’s new, quite serious undertaking will also mean that he has to actually take time off from his hosting duties. The comedian is expected to be away from his Comedy Central flagship for twelve weeks in order to film the feature, which he has already adapted from Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy‘s 2011 book “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.” That sounds pretty serious, right? Stewart’s show actually had something to do with the true life tale at the heart of Rosewater – as the Times tells it: the “Canadian-Iranian journalist and documentarian…was jailed in Tehran in 2009 for four months, accused of plotting to stage a revolution against the government. Shortly before his arrest, Mr. Bahari had participated in a Daily Show sketch, conducted by one of the show’s correspondents, Jason Jones, who was pretending to be a spy. Mr. Bahari’s captors used the footage against him.” Of course, Stewart and company took the news quite hard, with the newbie filmmaker telling the outlet, “You can imagine how upset we were and I struck up a friendship with him afterward.” Stewart also commented on the tone of the film, saying that “one of the things that appealed to me about the story is that it does have lighter moments. One of the things that kept Maziar alive was […]

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Culture Warrior

Will Ferrell is a funny man. This seems to be a fact undeniable even to those who don’t otherwise care for his brand of comedy. Even though his schtick has become reliably familiar – he often plays variations of an over-privileged adult child who is hopelessly naïve in certain categories of social life and prone to random bursts of livid anger – its regularity has yet to prevent Ferrell’s comic talents from growing stale. There seems to also be some indescribable aura at the core of Ferrell’s comic talent, something about his appearance and demeanor that can’t be explained through analyses of timing and punchline, as evidenced by his strange appearance on Jimmy Fallon last May. For many, Ferrell’s comic appeal has been this essential, indescribably funny core since his SNL days. Ferrell is funny not exclusively because of his physical comedy or imitable characters; he, as a force of nature, is pure farce (a farce of nature?). But as his film career continues to accumulate titles and as his unique comic sensibilities become better-known with his roles as producer and writer, it’s clear that, beneath his farce, Ferrell has a confrontational political and satirical streak underlying much of his work, which has naturally led to him portraying a politician in Jay Roach’s The Campaign. Ferrell’s roles, however, often exercise a fascinating and occasionally self-defeating tension between satire and farce, with one element substituting, rather than laying the groundwork for, the other. Here’s an overview of the politics of Will […]

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Like comedians of comedy that have to pray five times a day, The Muslims Are Coming! is a new documentary featuring stand-up performances, personal diary moments, and talking heads attempting to show a different angle on what it means to be Muslim in America. Featuring luminaries like Jon Stewart, David Cross, Russell Simmons and Soledad O’Brien , it focuses specifically on the comedy of Negin Farsad (who directed) and Dean Obeidallah (who also directed). Judging from the trailer, the flick looks really lighthearted even as it tackles an unavoidable social responsibility. There’s no real way to make a documentary about Islam without taking on the All-American baggage that comes along with it. Fortunately, this doc seems content to battle fear with jokes. Check it out for yourself:

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Culture Warrior

The Oscar montage reel is a genre on its own. It’s transparently demonstrative of the overall function of the Academy Awards. These montage reels summarize and make explicit what the annual ceremony attempts to accomplish writ large: to create and solidify a canon of important American films, along with a delimited understanding of their importance. Yes, the Oscars have occasionally given a voice to the indie underdog and rush through their obligatory movies-with-subtitles category, but besides the occasional screenplay nomination for a truly innovative film and the rare foreign language film that broaches through the marginal categories, the Oscars are by and large a celebration of American cinema, specifically Hollywood cinema. During the 2006 ceremony, a moment occurred that has been seared into my memory. I haven’t been able to find a clip of it online since it aired six years ago, so I hope this isn’t wishful or inaccurate. The 2006 ceremony consisted of a spate of overtly political films, as Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich, Good Night and Good Luck competed for top honors, and Syriana was in the running for other awards. In likely hopes of gaining cultural capital from celebrating mainstream cinema’s rarely explored but ever-present political function, the Academy aired a self-congratulatory reel of past Oscar-nominated films that have addressed other topical social problems, from In the Heat of the Night to Philadelphia. When the lights came back and the audience applauded with anticipated decorum, host Jon Stewart then graced the stage and stated, in a […]

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Patton Oswalt in Big Fan

I’ve found that this list comes up fairly often on the Internet – however every time I read one I’m surprised by how many redundancies they all share. While a few of said redundancies will also appear in the following (because sometimes you just can’t deny a good performance) I’m going to try and mix this up and give a you a few of my personal favorite and slightly less talked about non-funny roles some real funny people took on. Let’s get started with a picture of a pen jabbed into Jon Stewart’s eye.

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Last week many questioned what the end of the South Park mid-season finale “You’re Getting Old” meant for the future of the series. Many (including myself) suspected that the ending was Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s way of saying that this was indeed the final season of South Park and the show would come to a close after the fall run at the end of the year. Last night the duo appeared on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to discuss their win at the Tony Awards for Best Musical with their critically adored musical The Book of Mormon. During the interview with Stewart they said many of their peers approached them after the episode aired, asking “are you okay? Is the show coming back?” To which their response was “yeah, South Park‘s our thing… We had fun doing the episode.”

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Every TV season there are a select group of people that really stand out above the rest. People that really push their shows to a place that no one expects. People that take the medium of television and spin it on its head. And that’s why sometimes they need the love that the Emmys just refuse to give. And with that, I bring you The Top 10 TV Big Shots of 2010-2011. Let’s celebrate these creative minds and their teams in no particular order.

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Culture Warrior

Dear Mr. Franco, Before I say anything else, I just want to say, at the risk of sounding like a brown-nosing blogger writing a hypothetical letter to a movie star who most definitely will not read it, that I actually do appreciate what you’re trying to do. Many people would start a post like this heavy on the snark and in total dismissal of a star’s decision to construct their career as performance art. But I don’t. I think it’s kind of interesting. Kind of. We know you’re talented. And we know you like to explore a variety of avenues of expression. It’s not just that you’re actor, but an actor who can play Aron Ralston and Alan Ginsberg, convincingly, in the same year. It’s not just that you’re a filmmaker, but the filmmaker that made Saturday Night, which is more enjoyable than anything SNL has produced in years. It’s not just that you’re pursuing a PhD, but…well, I’m actually not familiar with your scholarship, but I’m sure you’ll publish something someday. Anyway, this is to say I’m writing from the perspective of a reluctant fan. But after Sunday night, you and everybody that respects you deserves a damn break.

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Culture Warrior

Quite a fuss has been made of Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony. Not the actual awards mind you – everything was safe and predictable in that arena. Not even the obvious drunkenness or awkward attempts at humor with varying degrees of success by the night’s celebrity award winners and presenters are the primary subject of the conversation (De Niro’s bizarre acceptance speech, Robert Downey Jr’s creepy framing of the Best Actress category). All discourse has been centered on the performance by the show’s host, Ricky Gervais. Gervais’s acerbic monologue was met with audible surprise and even aghast by his elite audience. His introductions to awards presenters ranged from tongue-in-cheek playfulness to blatant comic criticism. He later disappeared for more than an hour, prompting speculation on Twitter (the only place where aside observations can immediately morph into conspiracy theory) that he was taken off the show, only to emerge later, without his jacket and appearing vexed, to give quite the backhanded introduction to Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, which all-in-all does suggest at least a firm backstage talking-to. With strangely perfect timing, Gervais ended the show with the line, “And thank you to God for making me an atheist” before the generic end credits music surged. The Buñuelean echo of these final words was a rather appropriate summation of Gervais’s brilliant absurdity and anarchic irreverence peppered throughout this masturbatory rich-ual (get it?). It was, in short, hilarious and the best thing about the show. Here’s his monologue:

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. This week, Print to Projector presents the story of a political theory, a governmental style, and the greatest nation on the planet with the bald eagle as its official bird. This Daily Show guide to everything you could ever possibly want to know about the United States of America packs in the infographics and the Judge Judy references that the people demand. It’s time someone made it into a movie.

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Conan O

I woke up this afternoon to a little bit of a shock. Famed and damned late-nite talk show host Conan O’Brien is headed back to late night television. But he’s not going to be on FOX, he’s going to be on another network — on cable, competing directly with Jon Stewart. Interesting…

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The answer is ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
A-


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