It seemed fitting for us heathen unbelievers to finish watching "The Interview" Christmas evening.
Plates of Tofurkey perched before us on TV tables, memories of a completely non-religious day resting in our heads, pleased to perform our patriotic duty by silently screaming Hands off our right to enjoy tasteless sexist frat-boy humor, North Korea! via my brave commitment to free speech by allowing Google Play to charge $5.99 to our credit card so we could stream the movie and watch it at home.
(OK, experts are beginning to suspect that North Korea wasn't responsible for the hacking of Sony, but that undermines my pleasurable feeling of sticking it to that country's nasty leader, Kim Jong-Un, when we watched The Interview, so I choose to ignore that very real possibility.)
My wife, Laurel, and I enjoyed the film more than we thought we would. Mostly because our expectations were very low, given what we'd heard about the The Interview before seeing it.
However, before trusting our judgment of the movie keep in mind that we also like the humor of South Park. Bathroom humor appeals to us. Along with dark, twisted, ironic joking around. That said, The Interview only had a few laugh-out-loud moments for us.
But since we rarely laugh out loud at any movie, this was a compliment to the makers of The Interview.
We would have watched it at Salem Cinema, our local independent artsy theatre, but I'd already forked out the $5.99 to Google Play before learning it was going to be shown Christmas Day at Salem Cinema. It turned out that there was one big advantage to seeing the movie at home, though.
I could pause our Roku player when the dialogue became inaudible to me because my wife was engaging in her habit of rather loudly pointing out flaws in the logical structure of a movie's plot line.
"That couldn't really happen." "This doesn't make sense." "There's no way that could be real." "Nobody would actually do that."
Though I find this annoying, usually Laurel only makes comments like those a few times during a movie, so I've learned to let them pass through one husbandly ear and out the other, a skill all long-married men acquire.
Over the years I've done my best to clue my wife in to a basic fact about filmmaking, but obviously it hasn't sunk in. (Maybe because long-married women acquire the same skill their husbands do.)
"This is a freaking movie!" I'll say. "It's fictional, made-up, not real. If I wanted to only see things that could happen in real life, I'd just live my boring predictable life. Movies show us an alternative reality. They don't have to make sense!"
Sometimes I add some concluding zest to my response after Laurel interrupts a movie we're watching with one of her That doesn't look real comments. "One of these days Alice...one of these days, bam, zoom, straight to the moon."
The problem is, since she's a retired psychotherapist who did a lot of domestic abuse counseling, Laurel knows that my tough talk obviously is an empty threat. It didn't work for Ralph in The Honeymooners, and it doesn't work for me.
So I wasn't surprised when I had to keep hitting the pause button during our watching of The Interview. My wife had lots of observations about absurdities in the movie. What did surprise me was when I started to pause the movie to do the same thing.
Which gets to my main criticism of The Interview. If a film is meant to be farcical, go all out. If a film is meant to be serious, go all out. Clearly farcical dominates The Interview.
However, it also tries to make some semi-serious observations about the power of popular media in this country, the absurdity of treating an authoritarian dictator like a divine being, and such. And the whole notion of making a movie around the theme of assassinating a real person who is still alive... hey, that's pretty damn serious.
Thus it bothered me when the filmmakers didn't even try to make The Interview farcically believable. Great movie humor makes fun of a situation that appears real to the viewer. For example, Woody Allen's many films about male-female relationships, and his own fear of death.
I'm fine with craziness in a movie, but I like it to make some sort of twisted sense within the unreality of the film. Meaning, I like being taken away into an alternative reality, yet within that reality things should unfold in a fitting fashion.
This is why I paused streaming of The Interview myself during the farcical tiger scene. Sure, it was funny. Fart jokes hugely appeal to my still adolescent sense of humor. Butt/anal jokes are a related genre that reliably make me laugh.
But that scene bothered my sense of minimally acceptable cinematic credibility.
The characters played by Seth Rogen and James Franco have just been ushered into a massive fortress palace of Kim Jong-Un. It's very well guarded. The guards are competent enough to do a good job of sniffing out a poisonous packet the Franco character has hidden in a pack of gum.
However, when the Rogen character slips out of a window of the palace to retrieve a replacement packet being dropped by an American drone, there's no security outside and no walls between the fortress and the countryside.
And when guards finally show up after the drone package (fortunately sized to barely fit up Rogen's butt, where he hides it) hits the tiger and kills it, they are blissfully unconcerned about how an unfit American TV show producer was able to slay a large tiger with his bare hands.
The scene would have been funnier with a bit more realism. As would the entire movie. Again, I feel like humor works best when the audience can identify with the joke. "Hey, I've been there and done that kind of thing myself!"
The Interview was so far-out, so farcical, so unbelievable, it was like watching a cartoon show. Except, a cartoon show like South Park seems like an absurdist reflection of the real world, whereas The Interview didn't feel at all that way to me.
Some in Hollywood argue that countries made fun of in their movies should have a sense of humor and not to react too strongly against the mockery.
But what if the targets of assassin in the movies were the kings of Saudi Arabia or Thailand, or the state leaders of Indonesia or Singapore?
The protests would be exceptionally strong, and the entertainment companies in the US might also end up in big troubles.
No matter how the US society looks at North Korea and Kim Jong-un, Kim is still the leader of the country. The vicious mocking of Kim is only a result of senseless cultural arrogance.
Senseless cultural arrogance. Seems like the Global Times has the United States pegged pretty accurately. We do make funny tasteless movies, though. Got to give us credit for that.