Claire Black: Hackers terrorise Hollywood

Workers take down a poster for The Interview in Hollywood last week. Picture: AFP

Workers take down a poster for The Interview in Hollywood last week. Picture: AFP

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YOU wait for months for a story about a dictator to come along and then two arrive in one week. Just as Barack Obama and Fidel Castro spark up a couple of huge Havanas to celebrate the thawing froideur between Cuba and the United States, relations between the US and North Korea have taken a serious turn for the weird.

If I’d told you this time last week that baby-faced dictator Kim Jong-un would be able to kill off a Hollywood movie that cost $44 million before it had even been released, you might have suggested I had been supping on the eggnog a little too enthusiastically (right before you asked me if I could have a word in his shell-like about that new reboot of Annie. I mean, how come that got through the net?)

Like some second-rate script idea dreamed up by a newbie writer, a threat to bomb cinemas by the Guardians of Peace (they don’t go in for irony apparently) – a faceless group of hackers which may or may not be connected to North Korea – managed, by way of a hacking spree and a hideously badly written threat, to get Sony to scrap the Christmas Day release of The Interview. Impoverished authoritarian regime, one; most powerful country in the free world, nil.

After a ticking off from president Obama the company is now reconsidering its position, but for many the damage has been done.

The film stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as two dim-witted television journalists who blag an interview with the North Korean leader and are then manoeuvred by the CIA into trying to assassinate him.

“We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression, and are extremely disappointed by this outcome,” said the initial Sony press statement that scrapped the release, showing that it isn’t only faceless hackers who don’t do irony.

Perhaps what is most significant about this farce is that it is now serious enough to have made George Clooney swear. “We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f***ing people,” is how the Cloonster put it. Rob Lowe compared Sony’s capitulation to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, while Michael Moore tweeted: “Dear Sony Hackers: now that u run Hollywood, I’d also like less romantic comedies, fewer Michael Bay movies and no more Transformers.”

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There are serious issues about global security, cyber-terrorism and censorship at stake here, but do you know what really gets my goat? It is how badly written the Guardians of Peace threat is: “We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places The Interview be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to… We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time (if your house is nearby, you’d better leave).” Even for Google Translate, that’s a bad job. And I know poor syntax and grammar cannot be used as a way to predict threat to life but, call me fearless, I just can’t muster a panic at the behest of someone who ends a sentence with a preposition.

No-one comes out of this looking clever. And we all know what’s going to happen: some wet-behind-the-ears scriptwriter is already halfway through his pitch. Grim times.

Laying down the law for stars

“You just can’t stick Brad Pitt in a jury box and expect 11 jurors to ignore him.” That’s what California lawyer William R Lively said about Pitt being dismissed from jury duty recently for being “too distracting”. I’ve got to agree. Imagine trying to get your head around some kind of complicated case with Pitt sat across the table. He had pitched up at a Los Angeles court to do his civic duty, and after a load of hanging around was dismissed on the grounds that he is a man around whom mere mortals lose the power to think. And before you accuse me of buying into Hollywood hooey and remind me that Pitt is merely a man, let me remind you that last year a man accused of domestic violence ended up with a fine of $150 rather than the potential year in jail because Tom Hanks was on his jury. It wasn’t Hanks’ fault, it was the fault of the woman from the prosecutor’s office who approached him to tell him how amazed everyone was that a movie star would deign to serve on a jury, thereby allowing the defence to win a case of prosecutorial misconduct. Movie stars: good for multi-million dollar celluloid silliness; not so good for much else, it turns out.

Hitting rock bottom

I feel a bit sorry for the organisers of Miss World. I have not lost sight of the fact that Miss World is an anachronism that should have long ago ceased to exist. I don’t believe the guff about it being about “beauty with a purpose” rather than a beauty pageant in the hoary old sexist way. It’s a dinosaur, a relic. But when the Miss World chairwoman, Julia Morley, said of the recent decision to bin the bikini round, “We are really not looking at her bottom, we are really listening to her speak,” it was like witnessing someone wearing a corset insist that they love wearing it because it’s so comfortable. Sad.

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