The Interview (2014)

2015 #80
Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen | 112 mins | download (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English & Korean | 15 / R

The InterviewSix months on from all the kerfuffle, the storm-in-a-teacup (as it turned out) controversy of The Interview’s initial release has been consigned to the (film-)history books, leaving us with a movie to be judged on its own merits… albeit a movie being judged by a lot of people who probably wouldn’t’ve bothered with it otherwise, just because of the aforementioned controversy.

The story — lest you need reminding — sees James Franco as a trashy TV interviewer and Seth Rogen as his producer who’d hoped for a more high-brow career. When they find out North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show, they set out to land the interview that everyone wants. Much to their surprise, they get it… but before they travel to Pyongyang, CIA agent Lizzy Caplan turns up with a request: assassinate Kim. So the pair set off to a brutally oppressed country in order to murder someone — hilarity ensues!

As with so many comedies, your mileage will vary on whether what follows is indeed hilarity or merely inanity. For me, it contained a weight of obvious ‘gags’ and crass ‘humour’, but also enough genuinely amusing bits to keep it ticking over. Park is excellent as the affable Kim, a misunderstood social outcast who bonds with Franco over basketball, tanks, margaritas, and Katy Perry songs. The latter in particular has a great pay-off at the climax.

Some plot beats may feel over-familiar (the nasty guy is actually nice! It leads to our best-mates heroes falling out!), but then you’re not going to get much comedy out of them turning up to find out that Fireworkno, really, he’s definitely as evil as everyone thought. On the bright side, co-writer/directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg also pull off a surprisingly well-constructed through-line about honeypotting/honeydicking, even if it doesn’t wholly hang together if you think about it too much (if Kim was just honeydicking Dave, would those things really make him cry?)

The real-world incidents that dogged The Interview mean it gained far more scrutiny than it ever would have normally, and the final result proves that such faff wasn’t necessary: it’s a Seth Rogen comedy, not some biting political indictment of the North Korean regime — anyone who expected it would be is clearly deluded in some way. Perhaps it’s a shame it wasn’t secretly a genius satire that deserved the extra attention, but at least it’s not bad.

3 out of 5

1945-1998 (2003)

2010 #66a
Isao Hashimoto | 14 mins | streaming

1945-1998 title cardIs 1945-1998 actually a film? Or is it a piece of video Art? Or just another online video?

Its setup is quite simple: it charts every nuclear explosion between the titular years; the total, by-the-way, is 2,053. These explosions play out as flashing dots on a world map; different colours indicate which country was responsible for the explosion, accompanied by running totals. You might note at the end that the US are solely responsible for over half.

The film begins with close-ups: the first test by the US; then the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II. Then it zooms out, to a map of the whole world (arranged differently to how we’re used to seeing it here, with the UK and Europe off to the far left and America on the right. I suppose this is neither here nor there, but it took me a bit to get my bearings on where the explosions were happening). From then it progresses through time at a precise rate of one month equalling one second. If that sounds quite reasonable, the maths holds that it’s 636 seconds, aka ten-and-a-half minutes; or, quite a long time to look at a static map with flashing lights.

There are long gaps between explosions to begin with, but as it heads into the ’60s things pick up (so to speak). As time wears on further, the initially lifeless map transforms into an almost hypnotic array of multi-coloured flashes and variously toned bleeps (provided your 1945-1998: the first testattention didn’t already wander, that is). There are ultimately so many flashes and bleeps, and the effect is so lulling, that I had to force myself to remember these represented Big Nasty Bombs that were Not A Good Thing. Perhaps something more aurally grating would’ve been appropriate; the counter argument going that this would cause even more viewers to abandon the work.

Sadly, it’s become outdated: the bleeps all but stop after 1993 but, as the webpage you can view it on notes, North Korea have since tested nuclear weapons several times. Perhaps Hashimoto needs to add another 2 minutes and 24 seconds, just to ram home that the issue of nuclear weapons is still depressingly relevant.

So is it a film, or video Art, or just another online video? It’s all of the above (of course). 1945-1998 isn’t exactly fun viewing — really speaking, it’s a kind of moving graph — but, if one sticks with it, and despite its outdatedness, Hashimoto makes his point reasonably well.

3 out of 5

1945-1998 can be seen at CTBTO.org.