erik lundegaard

Monday April 27, 2015

We are Groot: 'Furious 7' Sets B.O. Record in China

 An absurdly moronic, biceps-heavy movie becomes absurdly popular at the box office, and for once it's not America's fault. 

Much.

Furious 7 ChinaYes, “Furious 7” topped the U.S. box office for the fourth weekend in a row—the first film to do that since “The Hunger Games” in the spring of 2012. And sure, it's already grossed $320 million here, which is by far the best performance of the year (second place: “Cinderella” at $190). But that $320 million is only the 36th-best domestic b.o. of all time. And if you adjust for inflation, “Furious 7” drops all the way down to 179th place.

No, where the movie is really killing is overseas.

It was the No. 1 movie last weekend in every country Box Office Mojo lists, and it's already become, at US$323 million, the highest-grossing film of all time in China. It's currently at $1.321 billion worldwide, which is fifth all time, and a mere $20 million away from passing the last “Harry Potter” flick for fourth place. After that, it's “The Avengers” ($1.518 billion), and then Cameron country (> $2 billion).

Keep in mind: This is for a movie starring muscle cars and muscleheads. Fifty years ago, it would've been relegated to drive-ins. 

What changed? How did this series go from $158 million worldwide for 2006's “Tokyo Drift” to $788 million worldwide for 2013's “Furious 6” to $1.3 billion and counting now? Was it star Paul Walker's untimely death in 2013? The trailer shots of muscle cars parachuting from planes? The numerous and gratuitous shots of girls' asses? Or have we all suddenly become huge Vin Diesel fans? (We are Groot.)

Elsewhere in the domestic box office, “The Age of Adaline,” a Blake Lively romantic tragedy (rom-trag?), which looked awful from its trailer last November, opened in third place at $13 million, while the second weekend of “Paul Blart 2” fell off 35% for a $15.5 million showing: not bad, but overall it looks to do about half the business the original did in 2009 ($143 million).

Meanwhile, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” prepares to blow away everyone next weekend. In the states. Abroad, it's already opened, and has pulled in $201 million

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Posted at 07:52 AM on Apr 27, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Tuesday April 14, 2015

Before the Show at Pacific Place No. 9 for 'Furious 7'

I haven't done a “Before the Show” since Sept. 2009 but thought I'd trot one out again since I began taking notes before “Furious 7” Saturday afternoon. Blame “Friday,” or its 20th anniversary release, which semi-shocked me enough to reach for the notepad. Of all movies, “Friday,” starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, gets a 20th anniversary re-release? “Billy Madison” and “The Brady Bunch Movie” must feel slighted. 

Quick note to AMC: Please make your PSAs shorter. We get the message without the round cows.

AMC logoNot that the mucky-mucks are in a realm to pay attention. From AMC's Wikipedia's page

AMC Theatres (often referred to as just AMC and previously known as AMC Cinemas) is an American movie theater chain owned and operated by AMC Entertainment Inc., which is itself owned by AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc., a majority-owned subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.

I saw eight trailers, which is about four too many. Thoughts:

  1. Southpaw,” the Jake Gyllenhaal boxer flick. Light heavyweight champ, wife (Rachel McAdams) wants him to retire for their young daughter. Instead, the No. 1 contender trashtalks him into a fight, gun goes off, wifey dies. Jake's boxing license is then revoked, daughter is taken by child custody services. It's like two 1910s melodramas in one. Of course he climbs his way back. He needs to 1) reclaim his daughter's love and 2) regain his title. Wish it were just the first. Forrest Whitaker, taking the Morgan Freeman role, has a good line in this regard: “Gotta let her hate you,” he says, “so she can get better.” July 31. 60% chance it's good.
  2. “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” I like the notion that what we've created to make us safe comes back to haunt us. But what's missing is that “We have a Hulk” wit the first movie's trailers had. Saving it for the film? Please, God. Or Whedon. May 1. 49% chance it's good. 
  3. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”: I like it when it's parodying your typical action movie, but with Kevin James' roly-poly bod rather than, say, the Rock's ridiculous version. But the rest looks lowest-common denominator. I didn't see the first, doubt I'll see this one. Sometime in April. 15% chance it's good.
  4. “Poltergeist”: After “The Way Way Back” I'll see Sam Rockwell in almost anything; and it's Sam Raimi, who can normally do horror even if he killed the first Spider-Man franchise with “Spider-Man 3.” And “They already know what scares you” is a good line. The original scared me back in '82. But do we want to encourage this? Reboots and yadda-yaddas? May 22. 51% chance it's good.
  5. “San Andreas”: Another reboot of a kind but basically more apocalyptic porn. Irwin Allen gave us “Earthquake” in 1974 so now we get the CGI version of California crumbling—complete with The Rock and impossible rescues of Carla Gugino. At least Paul Giamatti's around to say smartish things. May 29. 20% chance it'll be good. 
  6. “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”: First, Tom Cruise is too old for that haircut. Second, do people still want to see him—particularly after “Going Clear” aired on HBO? But they'll want to see that stunt with the plane. The girl, btw (Rebecca Ferguson), does nothing for me. Maybe I'm must not interested in any girl who's interested in that boy. July 31. 20%. But I think I'd rather see the apocalyptic porn. I think.
  7. “Ted 2”: Amanda Seyfried plays a lawyer. Sure. June 26. 33%.
  8. “Straight Outta Compton”: I hadn't even heard of this, but I guess music biopics, particularly of black artists, are on the rise, so why not NWA? The dude they got for Ice Cube seems pretty spot-on. It's Ice Cube's year, isn't it? 20th anniversary for “Friday” and this. August 14. 55% chance it's good. 

The trailers lasted approximately 25 minutes. Tack it onto a 137-minute runtime of “Furious 7” and it's “Schindler's List” length.

People at Pacific Place were pleasant, btw, including the enthusiastic box-office dude. Theater itself was nearly empty for a 12:30 show. 

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Posted at 10:30 AM on Apr 14, 2015 in category Movies - Theaters
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Monday April 13, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7 (2015)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Muscle dudes + muscle cars + dumb dialogue + ass shots + well-done but impossible action sequences x 7th movie = $1 billion worldwide.

That’s the new math being taught by “Furious 7,” a low-rent car movie mixed with high-rent James Bond/Mission: Impossible action movies. The outlaws of 15 years ago are now in-laws and working for the government to track former British Special Forces soldier Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), whose little brother, former British Special Forces soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), was bested by the F&F team in the last movie.

As this one opens, Deckard is talking to his comatose brother in the hospital about getting vengies for him, and as he’s leaving we see the havoc he wreaked upon entering: bodies everywhere, smoldering wreckage. Question: Did someone try to prevent him from seeing his brother or is this just his way of saying hello?

No, we know. It’s the villainous intro. We’ll soon get two big action set pieces before the big-bang finale. Then we can all go home a little poorer in wallet and spirit.

But first, some soap.

The middle-aged and the restless
I always thought the WWE was like a soap opera for men, and the Fast/Furious franchise is a little like that, too. See if you can spot the soap opera elements below.

Furious 7: One Last RideIn the early going, our hero, Dom (Vin Diesel), tries to jog the memory of his amnesiac lady love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), but she’s resisting, and, at her tombstone (she was declared dead in 2009), she leaves him to tinkly, sappy background music. Meanwhile, our only non-bald hero, Brian (Paul Walker), is having trouble adjusting to life as a suburban dad—so much so that his wife, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom’s sister, doesn’t tell him that she’s pregnant with his second child. She saves that for the final reel to give him the courage to go on. Because apparently she and the first kid aren’t enough.

So it’s almost a relief when their house is blown up by Deckard. Is that the key to these movies? Make the downtime so excruciating that we crave the action sequences? We’re like Brian in this regard. We need to get away from the domesticity and its greeting-card sentimentality. (Ex., Dom to Brian: “What’s real is family. Your family. Hold onto that, bra.”)

Deckard also kills old friend, and F&F regular, Han (Sung Kang), then shows up at Han’s funeral and is chased through the L.A. streets by Dom. There’s a car confrontation (vroom, vroom), and a head-on collision. Deckard is about to shoot Dom when U.S. Special Forces, led by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, enjoying himself), save Dom but let Deckard escape. Because everyone lets Deckard escape.

That’s how Dom, the bald, undershirt-wearing outlaw with the Groot voice, winds up working for the feds. Sadly, our government, which can normally track a fart on the other side of the universe, has no way of tracking a guy who is forever leaving smoldering wreckage in his wake. But a plan is hatched. A hacker known only as “Ramsey” (question mark in the middle of a blank face) has created a computer program called God’s Eye that can hack into ... well, anything: smartphone, surveillance camera, you name it. It basically uses face-recognition software while turning every smartphone in the world into surveillance cameras. The feds figure this would be a good way to track Deckard. (And us? Not raised. No Edward Snowdens here.) The bigger problem is that Ramsey has been kidnapped by a terrorist named Jakande (Djimon Hounsou, to add to the bald) and no one knows where God’s Eye is. So the F&F team, including Letty, have to get through Jakande to get to Ramsey to track Deckard.

Except they really don’t. Because no matter where they go, Deckard follows. It’s kind of funny, actually. They go through hell—parachuting muscle cars out of transport planes to land in a remote region of Azerbaijan; launching hot rods from one skyscraper through another in Abu Dhabi—so they can get the hacker to get the hacking device to get Deckard. Except he’s always right there. Just shoot him for shit’s sake.

Ramsey, in a shocker, turns out to be a hot-looking chick (Nathalie Emmanuel of “Game of Thrones,”), and joins Angelina Jolie, Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth as your average Hollywood hackers. At one point, Dom and Ramsey are surrounded by bad men on one side and a cliff on the other. His solution? Drive off the cliff. It works. The car breaks apart but they don’t.

That’s the ultimate lesson of this movie: the flesh is willing but the metal is weak. Or mathematically: musclemen > musclecars.

The bald and the beautiful
But don’t take my word for it. The characters themselves point out the absurdity of the movie. Tej and Roman (Ludracris and Tyrese Gibson) check out a bikini-clad Ramsey emerging in slow-mo from the Persian Gulf and say, “She don’t look like no hacker.” In the kitchen-sink finale in the streets of L.A., while Dom and Deckard square off on a rooftop parking garage and Jakande shoots missiles from a military helicopter, Brian and Roman perform a parallel 360 stunt to transfer Ramsey from one car to the other. Tej’s response: “She made it! Can’t believe we pulled that off!”

My favorite absurd moment may be when the hospitalized Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), realizing L.A.’s a war zone, stands and rips the cast off his massively pumped left arm, then tells his sassy daughter, “Daddy’s gotta go to work.” Or maybe it’s when Dom guns his muscle car through the air, barely missing Jakande’s helicopter, but manages to hang a bag of explosives off the end of it, which Hobbs—after driving an ambulance through a bridge barrier to stop a missile in flight—shoots to blow the helicopter up.

Sadly, Jakande killed, Deckard captured when a parking garage falls on him (yes), we’re back to the soap. Dom, who survived the drive off the cliff and through the Etihad Towers with hardly a scratch, is at death’s door after the parabola run at Jakande’s helicopter. Brian pounds on his chest, makes demands (“You breathe!”), until Letty takes over. She cradles Dom’s head, cries, tells him if he dies, she dies. She also tells him her memory is back. “I remember it all,” she says. To which, not nearly at death’s door (can no one on the Furious team take a pulse?), he opens his eyes and croaks in his Groot voice, “About time.” And everyone smiles with tears of relief in their eyes. Or something.

The tagline for “Furious 7” is “One Last Ride.” Promises. 

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Posted at 06:28 AM on Apr 13, 2015 in category Movie Reviews - 2015
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Sunday April 12, 2015

Famous Last Words

“Mr. Selznick was two years deciding on his Scarlett, and out of million of American women couldn't find one to suit him. ... Scarlett O'Hara is southern, old southern, with traditions and inborn instincts of the South. How in the name of common sense can an English actress possibly understand Scarlett, her times or the characterization is beyond a thinking American. ... I’m sure millions of Americans will stay away from the picture in a gesture of protest.”

--Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper on the casting of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. It's a quote I came across last week while visiting the Margaret Mitchell House in midtown Atlanta.

Gone with the Wind

The picture did OK box office, despite Hopper's prediction. 

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Posted at 05:12 PM on Apr 12, 2015 in category Quote of the Day
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Box Office: 'Furious 7' at $800 Million Worldwide

Furious 7 crew

Gunning for Harry Potter.

The rule of the “Fast & Furious” movies, post-Tokyo Drift, is that no matter how well they do opening weekend they fall in the low 60s the second weekend. And as the first figure gets bigger, so does the second. 

So “Fast and Furious” (2009) opened to $70.9 but fell 61.6% second weekend; “Fast Five” (2011) opened to $86 and fell 62.4%, while “Fast and Furious 6” (2013) opened to $97 and fell 63.9%. 

“Furious 7” opened biggest of all, $147 million last weekend, the ninth-best domestic opening ever, so one expected a crashing to earth this weekend. Nope. The top-heavy movie parachuted in to a 58.8% drop. The franchise has reached the point where its box office alone is generating second-weekend interest, cushioning the fall. 

Oh, and it's already hit $800 million worldwide. I thought it would creep to $1 billion but it looks like it's going to slam past it. The only question is how far. Top 5 all-time? Top 3 all-time? “Harry Potter” territory? “Avengers”? Cameron?

(I saw it in a mostly empty theater yesterday afternoon. Review up tomorrow.)

The big domestic opener, “The Longest Ride,” a sappy cowboy romance starring Scott Eastwood (Clint's son) and Britt Robertson (seventh cousin once removed of Elvis Presley), finished in third place with $13.3 million. Not good considering the 3,300+ theaters in which it debuted. 

The movies I wanted to see, “Ex Machina” and “Clouds of Sils Maria,” opened this weekend in just NY and possibly L.A. (four and three theaters, respectively), and finished 15th and 30th domestically.  

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Posted at 09:41 AM on Apr 12, 2015 in category Movies - Box Office
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Saturday April 11, 2015

Lancelot Links

The Worst Statue in the World

The worst statue in the world. Is it Steve Buscemi? Jerry O'Connell? Both?

  • Via Adam Wahlberg, the worst statue in the world.  
  • Via Uncle Vinny: SNL does a great takeoff on the awful internal Scientology “We are the World” videos that Alex Gibney's recent must-see doc, “Going Clear,” showed us. Funny stuff. Also sad. 
  • Another recommendation from that show: Michael Keaton's opening monologue, in which castmembers serenade the “Birdman” star into playing Batman and/or Beetlejuice one more time. 
  • From “The Twlight Zone” to Mark Rothko to “Bye Bye Birdie” to “Born Free” and “Dark Shadows”: the '60s pop-cultural references of “Mad Men.”
  • Related, and via my first cousin once removed, Zoe, about her favorite “Mad Men” character: The Complete Quips of Roger Sterling. I remember laughing at the “God opens a door” line but the “Napoleon/Beef Wellington” line is so, so good. 
  • I'm generally not a fan of College Humor (not to mention college humor), but this bit on Superman and Batman teaming up made me laugh. A lot.
  • Gail Collins follows up her quiz on GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz with a quiz on GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul, but this one isn't interactive and it's less comprehensive. Just four questions. I missed two of them. The rest of the column charts the devolution of Paul from libertarian to, you know, UGC (Usual GOP Crap). 
  • Writer extraordinaire and FOE (Friend of Erik) Josh Karp has a new book out, “Orson Welles's Last Movie,” which gets a great review here. The reviewer is basically saying: Welles Schmelles, this Karp guy is genius. You can buy it here
  • Via Brenda Biernat: Another FOE, Jason Lamb, hosts “Movies in Black and White,” a series looking at race in film. This April 30, at Central Cinema in Seattle, he doesn't mean to cause you any trouble, he doesn't mean to cause you any pain. He only wants to see you watching Prince's “Purple Rain.” 
  • Is it better to lose outright or keep coming back again and again ... and then lose? The Yankees did the latter against the Red Sox last night. Down 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Chase Headley went deep to tie it. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 16th, Mark Teixeira went deep to tie it. Down 5-4 in the 18th, Carlos Beltran doubled (helped by some sloppy fielding from Hanley Ramirez) to plate Brian McCann with one out, but the Yankees couldn't bring him in to win it. Then down 6-5 in the 19th, Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single and it seemed like we might back where we started from. But with one out, the BoSox infield turned a nifty double play to end it at 2:13 a.m. One wonders if any Yankees fans (not to mention any Yankees) were cheesed at Headley for keeping it going in the first place. Here's your box score. Here's the NY Times report. I love this line from Billy Witz: “The game dragged on so long that Mark Teixeira, who was 34 when it began, had turned 35 by the time it was over.” Welcome to 2015 baseball.

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Posted at 07:21 AM on Apr 11, 2015 in category Lancelot Links
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Friday April 10, 2015

#ComcastOutage

This was my week to begin to work from home. It's been a steady increase—working from home. Ten percent of the time. Twenty percent of the time. But office space is now at a premium, particularly in downtown Bellevue, so Tuesday and Wednesday I moved the kit and kaboodle to my home office on First Hill, where I'll be working 90 percent of the time. I know: Nice if you can get it.

It necessitated making room, of course. That was something else I was doing Tuesday and Wednesday: clearing the detritutus off the bookshelves (books I'll never read, or read again), as well as cleaning and straightening up. A clean place, well-lighted or not, helps me think. There's still work to be done, but by Wednesday evening it wasn't looking bad, and Thursday morning I actually woke up with a sense of excitement. A new day!

And around 9 a.m. the internet went out. Really? I checked the router. Yellow light. I turned it off and on. I turned the whole thing off and on. I checked the cable TV—I get both through Comcast—and that was out, too. I called Comcast, and after about 10 minutes of various “press 1 for .../ press 2 for ...” hurdles, I talked to a poor customer rep—surely the lousiest job in the world. She told me there was an outage. In my building? I asked. In the neighborhood? In the world? She only knew “outage” but said it would most likely be fixed by 4 PM.

Wait, what? 4 PM? Most likely?

After this call, I went down to the basement of our condo building, where the cable-box is located, and lo and behold, a Comcast rep was already working on the problem. Nice! Except, no, he was trying to activate service for a new resident, and wasn't getting a signal. And knew less than I did. So I filled him in while he tried to reach somebody to confirm. It took a while. Apparently even Comcast technicians are put on hold forever when calling Comcast. 

Eventually he found out that a colleague of his in Southwest Seattle was running into the same issue. Eventually I found out that a friend of ours, half a mile away, was also without internet. Soon, #ComcastOutage was trending on Twitter. But it wasn't until mid-afternoon that I got the full story via The Seattle Times:

An estimated 30,000 Comcast customers in the Seattle area were affected by an extensive outage Thursday caused by a construction crew cutting through a fiber-optic line in South Lake Union.

(That headline, by the way, used to read: DAMAGE TO FIBER-OPTICS CABLE CAUSES COMCAST OUTAGE. Now it reads: COMCAST SERVICE RESTORED TO THOUSANDS OF SEATTLE-AREA CUSTOMERS. The happy-ending approach to journalism.)

Anyway, that was my first exciting day working from home. Another reason—as if I needed one—why Charlie Brown is my patron saint.

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Posted at 07:08 AM on Apr 10, 2015 in category Technology
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Thursday April 09, 2015

Harvey's Ladies' and Gentlemen's Oyster Saloon

Here's a nice section from Ben Macintyre's “A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal”:

Harvey's Ladies' and Gentlemen's Oyster Saloon started serving steamed oysters, broiled lobster, and crab imperial in 1820 and had continued to do so, in colossal quantities, ever since. In 1863, notwithstanding the Civil War, Harvey’s diners were getting through five hundred wagonloads of oysters a week. Every president since Ulysses S. Grant had dined there, and the restaurant enjoyed an unrivaled reputation as the place to be seen for people of power and influence. The black waiters in pressed white uniforms were discreet, the martinis potent, the napkins stiff as cardboard, and the tables spaced far enough apart to ensure privacy for the most secret conversations. Ladies entered by a separate entrance and were not permitted in the main dining room. Most evenings, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover could be seen at his corner table, eating with Clyde Tolson, his deputy and possibly his lover. Hoover was said to be addicted to Harvey’s oysters; he never paid for his meals.

Interesting: ladies get first billing but separate entrance and no main dining room.

Here's a little history of Harvey's, which “no longer exists in the city.” (That second photo of the exterior looks like something out of a Wes Anderson movie.) This piece suggests Harvey's does exist; it simply “relocated to the suburbs,” but it doesn't say which suburbs.

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Posted at 06:18 AM on Apr 09, 2015 in category Books
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Wednesday April 08, 2015

How the Great Soviet Spy was Undone by the Soviets

I recently finished Ben Macintyre's much-recommended and compelling piece of history, “A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal,” which focuses mostly on the friendship between Philby and MI6's Nicholas Elliott during the 1930s, '40s and '50s, as Britain fought World War II and then the Cold War, while Philby, a Soviet spy recruited at Cambridge, fought both war for the U.S.S.R.

First, this needs to be a movie, and soon, with Colin Firth as one of the two leads. The section in which Philby is stationed in Washington, D.C., and charming information out of compatriots from MI6, MI5, the CIA and the FBI at Harvey's Ladies' and Gentlemen's Oyster Saloon, while the information he's extracting leads to the deaths of numerous nationalists dropped in to combat communism at home, is already a heart-wrenching montage. Macintyre makes you see it: the drinking and laughter on the one hand, the sudden deaths on rocky cliffs on the other.

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great BetrayalSecond, you cringe a bit as you read the book, since our side is so badly duped. You think: How could the Soviets have been so much smarter than us?

Answer: They weren't. Macintyre doesn't say it outright, but the biggest blunder in this entire decades-long drama was a Soviet blunder.

That's saying something, by the way, since the West was completely schnookered here. Philby was so Etonian, so Cambridge, so properly British that no one suspected him. (Except for J. Edgar Hoover, but Hoover suspected everyone.) And even after they suspected him—this is the beauty of it—and suspended him, and thought of prosecuting him, he was able, years later, to worm his way back into the fold. In the mid-'50s he became an MI6 agent again in Beirut, with a journalist cover. He was only finally “caught” for B.S. reasons. Flora Solomon (who created the welfare dept. at Marks & Spencer, and whose son founded Amnesty International in 1961) fingered him less because he tried to recruit her to the Soviet side at Cambridge in the 1930s than because, as a Zionist, she thought his reporting from Beirut was too pro-Arab. And down he went.

Even so, even in ths tragicomedy of errors, the Soviets committed the biggest error of all. 

By 1951, one of their agents, British diplomat Donald Maclean, had been fingered by the West as a Soviet spy, and to spirit him out of the country they used another British spy, Guy Burgess, who was, according to Macintryre, gay, a heavy drinker, and rarely diplomatic. Two for one, they thought. Bring in Maclean, whom the West was about to pounce on, and Burgess, who, given his lifestyle, could only last so long. 

The problem? Maclean had only tangential connection to Philby, their best spy. But Burgess had actually lived in Philby's house in D.C. So when Burgess defected with Maclean, all eyes turned inevitably toward Philby. 

Think of it. You had Philby stationed at the epicenter of western power, and being groomed for high rank in MI6. Some thought he might lead MI6 someday. He was a star. And the Soviets turned him into a suspect. And his career was never the same. 

BTW: If anyone knows a good book on the Venona code-breaking operation, let me know. 

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Posted at 08:11 AM on Apr 08, 2015 in category Books
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Tuesday April 07, 2015

John Oliver Lets Edward Snowden Know He Ruined His Life for Nothing

This is what I wrote at the end of my review of “CitizenFour,” Laura Poitras's Oscar-winning documentary on Edward Snowden:

We visit Snowden briefly in Moscow, where he’s now living with his girlfriend. ... But the questions I’d like to ask Edward Snowden aren’t asked. What’s it like being so plugged in—as he was at the NSA—and then being completely unplugged, as he is now? Did he think the reaction of the world was commensurate with the problem as he saw it? I’d ask “The Insider” questions: Was it worth it? If he could go back, would he still come forward? Would he still blow the whistle?

Are we worth it?

On Sunday, John Oliver aired his interview with Edward Snowden on “Last Week Tonight,” and we got the following exchange:

Oliver in voiceover: While the risks were significant, Snowden himself has made it clear that he feels that the rewards have been worth it. 

Oliver to Snowden: You said yourself in your letter to Brazil, “I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the world in which they live. My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong.” How did that feel?

Snowden: I was initially terrified that this was gonna be a three-day story and everyone was going to forget about it. But when I saw that everybody around the world said, “Whoa, this is a problem; we have to do something about this,” it felt like vindication. ... I think we're seeing something amazing, which is: If you ask the American people to make tough decisions, to confront tough issues, to think about hard problems, they'll actually surprise you. 

Then Oliver surprises Snowden by showing him footage in which New Yorkers are asked who Edward Snowden is. Many don't know. One woman thinks he “sold some information to people.” Others confuse him with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. 

Are we worth it? Snowden thought we were. Oliver traveled all the way to Moscow to disabuse him of that notion. It's worth watching, partly for that sad theater, but mostly for the questions raised throughout.

John Oliver and Edward Snowden

Are we worth it? Oliver releases crucial data to Snowden.

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Posted at 05:30 PM on Apr 07, 2015 in category Politics
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