The Dictator

Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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2012year_worst

Years from now, cinema fanatics will probably look back at 2012 fondly, remembering that this year brought us new films from Spielberg, Bigelow, Anderson (P.T.), Haneke, Affleck, Anderson (Wes), Van Sant, Arnold, Tarantino, Johnson, and many, many more. But amidst all the good stuff (and, rest assured, there was plenty of good stuff to go around), there were plenty of rotten, silly, messy, sloppy, boring, and insulting films to fill our theaters and empty our heads. The worst, if you will. Just the worst. Settle in, gird your loins, and prepare yourself for The 12 Worst Films of 2012, as determined by your faithful Rejects. Oh, 2012, you really packed some doozies.

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Shuffle Every time Lovell falls asleep he awakens at a different point of his life. His thirty year old mind and memories remain intact as a ten year old, a ninety year old, and anywhere in between. Things get even more complicated when he discovers his wife has died under potentially mysterious circumstances, but can he use his uncontrollable life-hopping ability to make things right? It’s tough making science fiction films on an indie budget, but writer/director Kurt Kuenne (Dear Zachary: A Letter To a Son About His Father) takes a sci-fi concept and uses it to tell a very human story. Loss, redemption, and forgiveness are just a few of the themes shown to transcend time, and the film explores them with beauty, humor and vitality. [Extras: Trailer, festival video diaries, making-of, black & white version]

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Can you hear it? Out there in the distance, on a cold crag of rock with the wind whipping at its monstrous back is a marketing department VP howling at the empty night. Battleship – in all of its $209m budget plus probably $200m more in marketing – was hoping for the kind of win at the box office that would signal the go-ahead for two more movies and the trappings that come with franchises. It did not succeed. As proof that sticking feathers up your butt and calling yourself a chicken doesn’t work, the Peter Berg-directed pile of messy noises made a paltry $25m this weekend, coming in at #2. A fitting, metaphorical place. It’s not surprising that The Avengers ended up back in the top spot, this time earning another $55m – bringing its domestic take closer to the half-billion mark and making its grand total right at $1.8b (with a b).

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What is Cannes in 60 Seconds? If you say it with a pompous accent, it’s a hilarious pun on a classic Nic Cage/Angelina Jolie film that no one can rightfully claim is at all terrible. If you say it with a normal accent, it’s still a news and review round-up from the South of France. The biggest news comes from the mouths of critics after seeing the opening night flick – Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom. It’s garnered high, near-universal praise. A smattering of reviews can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. But that’s not all that’s going on:

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Sacha Baron Cohen is a bit of an odd duck. An understatement, true, but he’s an outlier as a lead in studio comedies because thus far, instead of receiving a script and playing a character, he’s been making features based on characters created for his short lived HBO show. From the appropriately titled Da Ali G Show, Baron Cohen’s alter egos Borat and Bruno sprang forth assaulting the minds, eyes and morals of moviegoers the world over in what were essentially feature-length sketch shows more so than films (though Borat does get extra credit for the Pam Anderson narrative thread). Cohen’s new studio comedy, The Dictator, represents a departure from his norm and thus a challenge. Despite his involvement in the writing process, this wasn’t a persona he was used to slipping in and out of for years. Moreover, this would supposedly be a film with a narrative, filled with Cohen’s trademark humor for sure, but an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. All that remained to be seen was whether or not Cohen could pull that off.

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What is Movie News After Dark? Well, it ain’t like dusting crops, boy. Our fearless leader, Neil Miller is taking the night off and has left you in my very incapable hands. And thus we spring forth to the internet to see what new bounty of cinematic gifts that unfaithful mistress doth offer up to we lowly cinephiles. Or something like that. We begin, boys and girls, with Paul Thomas Anderson. For my money, he’s easily one of it not the very finest directors working today with apologies to Christopher Nolan. There Will Be Blood was quite frankly a masterpiece and my expectations are high for his next film, The Master. The folks over at Cigarettes and Red Vines got a nice exclusive today from the man himself, revealing a few behind the scenes photos of old fashioned negative cutting going on. Not only is this new PT Anderson film shooting on glorious celluloid but this particular negative was of the much higher quality 65mm variety. Word has it that the film will be comprised of both 35mm and 65mm elements, though the question remaining is will the distributor be willing to strike a 70mm print. Exhibition options for 70mm are scarce, but Oscilloscope Labs appears to be striking a 70mm print for Baraka follow-up Samsara. It appears the Weinstein’s are in charge of theatrical distro for The Master, hopefully they’ll have the courage to pony up for a 70mm print

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Culture Warrior

Tomorrow, the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring, Larry Charles-directed The Dictator opens. Unlike the previous two docu-prank collaborations between Charles and Cohen, the humor of the fully staged Dictator doesn’t so much rely on the reactions of ‘real people’ to an idiosyncratic foreigner as it uses its fish-out-of-water arc to chronicle the pseudo-enlightened changes that its eponymous character experiences (this is all based on the film’s advertising – I have yet to see it). With its riches-to-rags narrative, The Dictator seems to be the newest iteration of a long tradition in Hollywood comedy: the story of the redeemable asshole. It’s rather appropriate that the teaser trailer for Anchorman 2 will be premiering in front of The Dictator.  Will Ferrell has made the redeemable asshole into something of an art form in his collaborations with Adam McKay. Ferrell’s often narcissistic, privileged, ignorant, and empathy-challenged creations should, by any measure of any other genre (audiences are far less tolerant of asshole protags in, say, dramedys) be reviled by audiences. But we ultimately find something redeemable, even lovable, in Ferrell’s jerks, even if this surface-level redemption overshadows the fact that they never quite achieve the level of self-awareness that would actually redeem one from assholedom. These are characters we would likely avoid in nearly any real-life circumstance, but yet we go see movies about them learning life lessons which add up to little more than common knowledge for the rest of us. The redeemable asshole is often a white male who is conniving, manipulative, entitled, […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? This week it’s a series of second stringer fill-ins trying not to run things into the ground while regular columnist Neil Miller disappears for a while due to reasons both glamorous and mysterious (in true Lohan fashion, he’s cited both “exhaustion” and “being dehydrated”). And today it’s a laundry list of Internet people still crushing on Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza, The Avengers, because Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows shit the bed this weekend and we haven’t had anything shiny to come along to steal away our fickle attentions yet. Let’s get to it. The above image comes from an artist named Hannah, who has proven that her finger is firmly on the pulse of the Internet by paying tribute both to the death of beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak as well as the work of beloved nerd-God Joss Whedon by mashing up Sendak’s artistic style with the cast of The Avengers. Is cute, no?

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What is Movie News After Dark? Like a giddy schoolgirl come home to tell her diary the news of the day, it’s excited to share with you all that has happened while you were paying attention to other, more important things. We begin with the news of the night: Marion Cotillard has confirmed that she’s not Talia Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises, her long rumored role. She will instead play Miranda Tate, a ecologically minded businesswoman who “is fascinated by Wayne Enterprises. They go through difficulties, and she wants to help provide the world clean energies. She’s a good guy.” Or a good lady. Which is it, Ms. Cotillard?! If that is your real name! 

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Even when the studio flies you up and puts you in a nice hotel, movie press conferences are usually incredibly dull. They largely consist of general questions and meaningless answers. If you’re lucky/unlucky, the foreign press will be there punctuating the conversation about story structure with inquiries into what color underwear stars are wearing or who they’re currently bedding. So, it’s all pretty boring. Unless it’s performance art. Enter Sacha Baron Cohen. Instead of appearing to answer bland questions about The Dictator, he arrived in character with a host of female body guards and proceeded to make brashly anti-semetic statements, call for fairer treatment of dictators, and to take at least one planted question about how glorious and wise he is. The fine folks at IndieWire got his introduction on video. It’s not monumental, but history has been made. Minutes into the press conference, almost no one in the crowd looks asleep.  

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If you’ve seen any of the other trailers for Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming comedy, The Dictator, then you already know what it’s all about. It mocks the absurdity of modern dictatorships, the ignorance of American jingoism, the douchiness of New York hipsters – and somehow it seems like it’s still going to tell a riches to rags story of personal growth and redemption. But to really get an idea of how far Cohen is going to be willing to go with his comedy, you have to take a look at the film’s newest red band trailer…

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Finally, readers, the summer movie season is upon us. So far this year has been solid, but sorely lacking in mega-blockbusters. John Carter did not deliver for the fifteen people who saw it and The Hunger Games, as successful and good as it was, wasn’t an epic actioner or packed with real spectacle. Yet there’s much promise in the action department for the summer of 2012, and it’s starting off just right, with something we’ve all been anticipating. Hopefully the rest of the summer will follow that film’s mighty lead…

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If it’s a Monday, Hollywood is cleaning out the refuse left over from the weekend – like a big old mess of release date announcements and changes! While scheduling shuffles and calendar mix-abouts might seem like the driest of movie news, they often can signal studio confidence (or not) in a film, which could in turn give us an idea of how excited (or, well, not) we should be for the final project. And, thankfully, today’s announcements provide something for just about everyone. After the break, check out the newly-minted release dates for The Dictator, Ender’s Game, and Maleficent, along with news of potential conflicts and expectations for the films. Get your tickets now?

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has basically made it their business to look like a bunch of boring old fuddy-duddies. Not only did their nominations this year fail to recognize some of the year’s best and most progressive examples of filmmaking, like Drive, Take Shelter, and Shame, but they’ve also seemed to do everything in their power to make sure that nothing fun or new happens at the ceremony itself. The members of the Academy have gotten a lot of criticism lately for being made up mostly of out of touch, old white men, and with every decision that they make those claims appear to be more and more valid. It’s to the point where it seems like old white people aren’t just the only ones allowed to join their club, but they’re also the only ones they want watching their telecast. Already this year they made the Internet mad by refusing to hear their pleas to let the Muppets host instead of going with their safe, usual choice of Billy Crystal. And most recently they’ve raised everyone’s Muppet ires once again by announcing that—despite the fact they were nominated for the original song “Man or Muppet” - nobody would actually be performing the nominated songs during this year’s ceremony, so a Muppet performance was out of the question. I mean, come on, who could be so cold-hearted that they refuse the Muppets twice? The latest victim of their old man grumbling is apparently Sacha Baron Cohen. There […]

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Sacha Baron Cohen as The Dictator

Paramount Pictures has released the first trailer for The Dictator, in which Sacha Baron Cohen plays a ruthless Middle Eastern dictator, something along the lines of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, who is sent to America in exile and must live among the infidels. It’s what one might call a brave move, if this weren’t another Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles joint. It’s safe to assume that Cohen is trying to create this modern generation’s version of Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, but with far more hairy Kardashians jokes.

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What’s maybe most fascinating about Sacha Baron Cohen‘s newest movie is that he won’t be playing himself via one of the characters he created for his television show, and he won’t be acting alongside people that don’t know what kind of movie they’re in. It’s a welcome change because even with its successes, the schtick had a shelf life, and Cohen is smart to move away from it before it got completely stale. The natural next step for him and director Larry Charles? Basing a narrative feature off a novel written by Saddam Hussein. They’ll be mocking Hussein in The Dictator, and a few clips from the set have already come out, but this is the first one that’s any fun to watch. At first, it’s a little jarring because the mind wants to see that crowd as a group protesting something legitimately that Cohen has wormed his way into instead of a set full of extras. It’s still a fun, quick little look into the film as Cohen protests himself.

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Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming movie The Dictator, wherein he plays a crazy, bearded zealot who finds himself adrift in the United States, just keeps on adding awesome names to its cast. Already it had names like Anna Faris, John C. Reilly, John Mantzoukas, and even Ben Kingsley set to take part, and now it’s added Larry David’s permanent houseguest Leon to the mix. If you haven’t managed to see any of David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, first, shame on you, and second, you need to know that one of the biggest revelations to come out of that classic show is the powerful comedic prowess of J.B. Smoove. This guy has got the goods. Just look at that name. He showed up for about five minutes as a cab driver in Date Night, and completely stole that movie away from rock solid comedic actors like Steve Carell and Tina Fey. I can’t imagine what he’s going to do when paired up with the insanity of a Sacha Baron Cohen production. Early word is that Smoove (I love typing that) is set to play a character named Usher. No details are known about who the character is, but does there really need to be? His name is Usher, it’s going to be funny. [THR]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It doesn’t even know anymore… Megan Fox and John C. Reilly are tonight’s lead story. The choice of lead image was bound to be a sexy one. And as you can see, I believe I’ve made the right choice. He’s almost too sexy. Anyway, he’ll be starring alongside the outcast Transformers actress in Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator. No word on what role either will play in the story of a Middle Eastern dictator who ends up in the U.S., where no one cares who he is.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news round-up that finds the darndest things. Like Sacha Baron Cohen’s beard, creepy Musketeer posters, Mark Wahlberg, Simon Pegg, Paul Walker and a way to make your tweets into epic cinematic adventures. You need this and you know it. We begin tonight with Sacha Baron Cohen looking crazytown as The Dictator, his latest mockumentary prank film. Only this time, it’s got a more concise narrative. Cohen will play the dual roles of a ruthless dictator who heads to the U.S. for a meeting at the United Nations and finds that his number two has replaced him with an unsuspecting sheepherder lookalike. The big guy has sort of a Cosmo Kramer meets Mr. T vibe going on, with all the frills of the late Saddam Hussein. That feeling deep in your loins is unbridled excitement. That’s a good thing.

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