Tag Archives: The Interview

Why North Korea will be flooded by 10,000 copies of ‘The Interview’

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — “The Interview” may haunt North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s dreams, thanks in part to South Korean activists who plan on smuggling the controversial movie into North Korea later this month.

Fighters for a Free North Korea, a group led by a North Korean defector Park Sang-Hak, is preparing to float balloons carrying up to 10,000 copies of the movie along with anti-North Korea leaflets across the demilitarized zone into one of the most hermetically sealed countries in the world.

Park is aiming to launch the balloons around March 26 which will mark the fifth anniversary of the sinking of a South Korean warship. The South Korean government has blamed North Korea for the attack which killed 46 sailors.

“Nobody can stop it. I will keep sending leaflets into North Korea at the risk of my life,” Park told the AFP..

North Korea has reportedly threatened that Park will “pay for his crimes in blood” if he doesn’t desist, the news agency said.

This isn’t the first time North Korea has thrown a fit over “The Interview.” Pyongyang, which viewed the comedy as an attack on the regime, is believed to be behind the hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November.

Earlier this month, Pyongyang also railed against the South Korean government for allowing activists to send propaganda leaflets and threatened military action. ”We will retaliate with cannons and missiles rather than bullets,” said the North Korean government in a statement posted on its official news website.

Activists in the past have sent Bibles, transistor radios, UBS drives, food, and even U.S. dollars in a bid to undermine the government by showing its repressed citizens how good life is outside of North Korea.

It isn’t clear if these guerrilla tactics are doing anything more than annoying the North Korean dictator but it certainly hasn’t slowed the pace of the tactics.

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James Franco on ‘I Am Michael’ and Getting Sick from the Sony Hack

James Franco Sundance

In “I Am Michael,” the controversial new drama that premieres on Thursday night at the Sundance Film Festival, James Franco plays former gay rights activist Michael Glatze, who in 2007 renounced his homosexuality and turned to Christianity. Glatze was profiled in a 2011 New York Times Magazine profile by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, which caught Gus Van Sant’s eye. He shared the material with Franco, and it took four years to secure financing to get the story on the big screen.

Franco attended a special Variety dinner at Sundance in honor of “I Am Michael,” where he talked about the project over salad and chicken. The film’s first-time director, Justin Kelly, occasionally chimed in.

After you read the article, why did you think Michael’s life would make a good movie?
It’s like a lot of projects, where in the beginning, there’s an idea that’s interesting to me, but I don’t quite know how it’ll be fleshed out. I liked the reverse take on this story. I didn’t think I would be the one to develop it. I thought there would be other voices, who knew this world better. So that led Gus and I to look for some people, and Gus suggested Justin. One of the reasons Gus liked Justin, in addition to the short film he had directed, was Justin has been in San Francisco for 10 years. He knew the scene really well.

Did you always know you’d play Michael?
I didn’t, until Justin’s script started coming in. I saw it and said, “It’s so good. If Justin wants me, I should definitely do it.”

How did you prepare?
I really depended on Justin for that. As far as Michael’s attitude, Justin was good about putting together various videos from throughout Michael’s life and transformation. I could see him. In some ways, he’s similar and in other ways, he’s very different.

How so?
It just seemed early on he was aware of himself as a young gay man. It was almost as if later, he willed himself to forget all that. His personality became a lot more rigid, based on how he behaved in the videos.

Did he become less flamboyant?
Yeah. When Justin went to meet him and asked about his sister, Michael said to Justin, “Why? Are you interested in her?” It’s almost like this willful blindness. My first guess is that if Justin is doing this movie, he’s probably gay. That Michael would be blind to that, I don’t know — it said a lot to me.

Justin: He said to me, “I know that Gus is gay. I don’t know about James, and I don’t want to make you identify as everything.” I said, “If you don’t want me to identify as anything, I’m not going to identify as anything.” He knew what I meant. I was being a bitch, because he was being a bitch.

James, did you meet Michael before shooting?
I didn’t really have much interaction with him before. I had one Skype conversation. I just felt like with this role, I had the videos of him. It’s not like I had to match his behavior perfectly, as I did with James Dean or Alan Ginsberg, because they were such public figures. What I wanted to get was an authentic connection to his experiences and emotions. I didn’t think I would get anything from talking to him, because if he was still in his Christian anti-gay mode, I don’t need to hear any more of that.

So you’ve never met him in person?
We saw him yesterday. He was a delight. I wouldn’t give full credit to the movie, but I think the movie has helped him release some of these extreme views that basically gays are sinners. And that it’s helped him heal a little bit and maybe showed him that just because he doesn’t want to identify as gay doesn’t mean he has to completely destroy or condemn everything about gay lifestyles.

Did he like the film?
Yeah, he loved it. His words for me were, “I want to thank you. You’re a good actor.”

There’s a buzzed-about threesome in the film between you, Zachary Quinto and Charlie Carver.

I knew Justin wasn’t going to take it too far. You play it too safe, and it’s just lame. So I went as far as I could before Justin said cut.

Justin: I always keep saying, there’s a great moment when James licks Charlie’s armpit.

James: I can’t even remember what happened. I think I was going for it more than they were.

During the Sony hack, did you ever regret making “The Interview?”
No.

What was it like to go through that?
It was really out of my hands. It was a situation where there was nothing for me to do to. As soon as they called the press off, and the movie was pulled from theaters, there was nothing to do. They weren’t looking to me to make any decisions. It was just sitting around and staying quiet. That said, there was this pressure. There was so much attention on it — attention on a level you never expected. It was a shock to my system, and I got sick. But I was never scared for my safety or anything.

Here’s the real reason North Korea hacked Sony. It has nothing to do with The Interview.

Evidence that North Korea was responsible for the massive Sony hack is mounting, and in many ways the country has already been convicted in the court of US public opinion. But, no matter how conclusive the evidence becomes, one thing remains widely misunderstood: why North Korea would do this.

Despite the emerging narrative that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures in revenge for insulting Kim Jong Un with The Interview, this incident is consistent with a long line of North Korean attacks and provocations that are premised on such slights — a South Korean president saying the wrong thing, for example, or the US conducting too-close military exercises. But these are understood to be excuses, and the attacks are not responses but are in fact part of a long-running North Korean strategy carefully designed to increase international tensions.

IN BUYING NORTH KOREA’S EXPLANATION, WE ARE HELPING KIM JONG UN

This is belligerence meant to deter the much stronger South Korea and US, and to draw international attention that North Korea can use to bolster domestic propaganda portraying Kim Jong Un as a fearless leader showing up the evil foreign imperialists. It is meant to foment the isolation and tension that has allowed the Kim family to hold onto rule, impossibly, for decades. It has nothing to do with Sony’s film, however offensive it may be, with the film’s portrayal of Kim, or with free speech in America. In believing North Korea’s rhetoric strongly implying a connection, we are buying into the country’s strategy and helping Kim succeed.

It’s not actually about The Interview offending Kim Jong Un

The writers and producers of The Interview, including star Seth Rogen (center left) gather at the film's premiere (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

The writers and producers of The Interview, including star Seth Rogen (center left) gather at the film’s premiere (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

There is every reason to believe that The Interview is just an excuse, and Sony just collateral damage, in yet another random act of North Korean violence made to perpetuate the international tensions that Kim Jong Un sees as serving his larger strategic interests.

The assumption is that North Korea would want to hack Sony as revenge for The Interview, a now-cancelled comedy that was to portray the cartoonishly tasteless assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Both North Korean state media and the hackers themselves have gone to great lengths to express outrage over the film, and the hackers have in fact repeatedly suggested that this is what motivated them.

This conforms with American understandings of how North Korea works. We see it as an irrational, inherently aggressive country, run by lunatic hotheads, whom we can easily imagine flying off the handle at hearing about The Interview, especially the craziest of them all, leader Kim Jong Un. North Korean media’s unhinged statements have done a lot to cement that view. That’s deliberate: North Korea wants us to see them as crazy, irrational, volatile — and dangerous.

North Korea has a long, and easy to study, history of launching these seemingly random attacks or provocations. The Sony hack fits clearly into that pattern. In the past, those have been military attacks. It test-launched long-range offensive missiles, fired dangerously close to Japan, in 2005, 2006, and 2007. It shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong and sank a South Korean naval ship, Cheonan, both in 2010. It set off test nuclear warheads in 2006, 2009, and 2013. It has also launched offensive cyberattacks in the past, such as against US and South Korean government targets in 2009, against South Korean banks in 2011, and South Korean banks and TV stations in 2013.

Every time, the attacks are accompanied by a spate of over-the-top rhetoric and threats, and the North makes every effort to portray itself as dangerously irrational, and an unpredictable threat to world peace. It is certainly dangerous, but it’s anything but irrational or unpredictable.

The real reasons North Korea launches attacks

north korea kim jong un KNS/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

The effort that North Korean state media makes to convince us they’re crazy gets to the three real reasons that North Korea launches these occasional attacks.

The first reason is to appear crazy and dangerous, so as to deter North Korea’s far stronger enemies from doing anything against the country.

Kim Jong Un isn’t stupid: he knows that his weak, impoverished state is much weaker than the US and South Korea and Japan, all of whom would just love to see his government collapse. North Korea can only deter those enemies by being more threatening and dangerous; it will never be stronger, so it has to be crazier instead, always more willing to escalate. This convinces the US and other countries, even if they see through Kim’s game, that it’s just easier to stay away from North Korea than to risk provoking the country into another flamboyant attack.

The second reason that North Korea does this is to keep the Korean peninsula perpetually locked in a state of high-tension and low-boil conflict, which is essential for North Korean domestic propaganda and for keeping out would-be foreign meddlers like the United States.

The country’s breathtakingly oppressive government had kept power, even since the 1990s famine, with something called the Song’un or military-first policy. This policy tells North Koreans that the reason they are hungry and impoverished and locked in a police state is because this is all necessary to fund the military and protect from internal enemies, so as to keep the country safe from the imperialist Americans who would otherwise surely overwhelm them and do unspeakable things. But the Song’un policy requires keeping the appearance of a conflict with the US going at all times, which means occasionally North Korea has to lash out to maintain tensions.

The third reason is that Kim Jong Un believes he needs to keep the Korean peninsula in a state of perpetual tension and conflict to maintain his government’s own physical security. This keeps the US and others on the defensive and wary of doing anything against North Korea. It also frequently generates concessions for North Korea — like Sony pulling the release of The Interview, or the US sending former Presidents Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton to negotiate the release of Americans held by North Korea. Even if these concessions are only symbolic , they still serve North Korean domestic propaganda.

North Korea’s effort to fool us is working — and The Interview proves it

North Korean propaganda mural (Feng Li/Getty)

North Korean propaganda mural in Pyongyang (Feng Li/Getty)

Like so much of North Korea’s behavior, its cyberwarfare program is another sign that, despite its popular portrayal (including in The Interview) as a wingnut state run by delusional madmen, the country is coldly rational and brutally strategic in its actions.

North Korea’s decision to hack Sony is being widely misconstrued as an expression of either the country’s insanity or of its outrage over The Interview. But that sort of cartoonish mischaracterization is exactly how Americans came to believe that North Korea was a bunch of buffoons who probably couldn’t dial up to the internet, much less launch one of the most successful cyber attacks against the US in history.

And it is a portrayal of North Korea that is far from unique to The Interview, but that the film certainly did its part to promote, playing up the Hermit Kingdom as a hilarious and bizarre little oddity of a country, run by a crazy man.

This strategy of portraying itself as crazy is remarkably effective at securing North Korea’s strategic goals. But it is also quite dangerous. By design, the risk of escalation is high, so as to make the situation just dangerous enough that foreign leaders will want to deescalate. And it puts pressure on American, South Korean, and Japanese leaders to decide how to respond — knowing that any punishment will only serve to bolster North Korean propaganda and encourage further belligerence. In this sense, the attacks are calibrated to be just severe enough to demand our attention, but not so bad as to lead to all-out war.

People will often say that North Korea launches these attacks because they’re crazy or irrational. If only it were that simple, the Kim Jong Un regime would have driven itself into extinction decades ago.

What’s the evidence that North Korea is behind the attacks?

North Korea’s anger over The Interview gives the Hermit Kingdom a clear motive for the attacks. This summer, it vowed a “resolute and merciless” response if the film was released as planned, though it frequently issues such threats with little consequence.

There’s also circumstantial evidence linking the attacks to the North Koreans. Some of the malware used in the attack seems to have been written in the Korean language. The attacks also use tactics similar to those used against targets in South Korea in 2013 and Saudi Arabia in 2012.

The hackers’ apparent obsession with The Interview is another sign that North Korea is a likely culprit. It’s hard to see why anyone else would go to such lengths to try to get the comedy shelved.

On December 17 the New York Times reported, based on anonymous US intelligence sources, that the US government believes North Korea was “centrally involved” in the attacks.

At this point, the North Korean connection is widely accepted, but it’s not certain. One intriguing possibility is that the attacks were originally carried out by an independent group that then sold its access to the North Koreans. That would explain why the hackers’ focus seemed to shift so heavily toThe Interview a week or two after the initial attacks.

Demand For ‘The Interview’ Is Shooting Up In North Korea And Its Government Is Freaking Out

North Korea

More and more North Koreans are becoming aware of the North Korea-mocking movie “The Interview,” and the government is doing everything to block it from getting smuggled in to the country.

According to Free North Korea Radio, an online radio network made by North Korean defectors, demand for “The Interview” has been shooting up among North Koreans. It says people are willing to pay almost $50 a copy of the movie, which is 10X higher than what a regular South Korean TV show’s DVD would cost in the black market.

In response, North Korea’s State Security Department and The Ministry of People’s Security held an emergency meeting recently, and told its officers to make sure the movie doesn’t make it into the country under any circumstances.

The report says the North Korean government has beefed up its border security inspection level, and even told black market dealers to not bring in any kind of US movie for the time being.

It’s not too hard to see why North Korea is so freaked out by the possibility of “The Interview” reaching its people. The movie makes a blatant mockery of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – who dies at the end – and breaks the government’s narrative of portraying him as an almighty God.

In fact, Rich Klein of the advisory firm McLarty Associates says that “The Interview” could become “a very real challenge to the ruling regime’s legitimacy.” He writes in the Washington Post:

Think of the movie as Chernobyl for the digital age. Just as the nuclear catastrophe in the Soviet Union and the dangerously clumsy efforts to hide it exposed the Kremlin’s leadership as inept and morally bankrupt, overseeing a superpower rusting from the inside, so does The Interview risk eroding the myths, fabrications and bluster that keep the Kim dynasty in power.”

But even with all the increased inspection, some lucky North Koreans may be able to see “The Interview” soon. North Korean defector and activist Park Sang Hak plans to send copies of “The Interview” to Pyongyang through 33-foot hydrogen balloons as soon as the film becomes available on DVD.

Report: Sony Plans To Release ‘The Interview’ For Free On Its Own Streaming Service Crackle

Seth Rogen Jonah Hill

Sony is planning to release Seth Rogen’s controversial comedy, “The Interview” for free on its own streaming service Crackle, The New York Post’s Dana Sauchelli reports, citing unnamed sources.

A lawyer for Sony Pictures stated on “Meet The Press” Sunday that the film would be distributed, but he wasn’t yet sure how.

“The Interview” was scheduled for a Christmas Day release in theaters nation-wide. Sony canceled it after hackers threatened it and breached its servers, releasing 32,000 private email messages written by Sony executives.

Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria Friday that his company did not “cave” to the pressure of hackers. Lynton said the film’s release was canceled because theaters came to Sony one by one over the course of a “very short period of time … and announced they would not carry the movie.”

Lynton says Sony had “no alternative” but to cancel the Dec. 25 theatrical release. He also stated that Sony was condering online alternatives for the release, including YouTube, but that it needed a distribution outlet to show the film.

Sony may have felt pressure to release the film after President Obama stated Friday that the company’s decision to cancel the showings was a “mistake.”

“What I was laying out is a principal that I think this country has to abide by,” Obama told CNN’s Candy Crowley after his Friday press conference. “We believe in free speech. We believe in the right of artistic expression and satire and things that powers that be might not like. And if we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber a company’s distribution chain or its products and, as a consequence, we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem … I expect all of us to remember that and operate on that moving forward.”

When asked why Sony didn’t release the film online when it canceled the theatrical release, Sony Pictures president Michael Lynton replied:

“There are a number of options open to us and we have considered and are considering them. While there have been a number of suggestions that we deliver this movie digitally or via VOD [Video On Demand], there has not been one major VOD distributor, one major e-commerce site, that has stepped forward and said they’re going to distribute this for us. Again, we don’t have that direct interface with the American public, so we need to go through an intermediary to do that.”

He did not mention Crackle.

Sony Pictures did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Sony Hackers Pranked The FBI

Kim Jong Un

The hacker group who broke into the computer network of Sony Pictures and managed to halt the release of ‘The Interview’ have issued a new message, this time mocking the FBI.

The Daily Beast reports that Guardians of Peace published a new message on Pastebin on Saturday. Here’s that message in its entirety:

By GOP

The result of investigation by FBI is so excellent that you might have seen what we were doing with your own eyes.

We congratulate you success.

FBI is the BEST in the world.

You will find the gift for FBI at the following address.

Enjoy!

The link in the message leads to a Japanese prank video which repeats the phrase “You are an idiot” to the tune of throbbing house music. It seems that Guardians of Peace are mocking the FBI’s “excellent” investigation, which led to the US government declaring on Friday that North Korea was behind the cyber-attack.

The “You are an idiot” video could be an attempt to criticize the FBI for blaming the Sony hack on North Korea. Some are still unconvinced by the US government’s claim that the software used in the Sony hack was similar to programs used in the past by attacks linked to North Korea.

US authorities found the evidence to be overwhelming enough to call out North Korea directly, and President Obama has vowed to respond to what is the most destructive hack ever on a company in the US.

GEORGE CLOONEY: ‘We Cannot Be Told We Can’t See Something By Kim Jong Un, Of All Fucking People’

george clooney on phone

Actor George Clooney isn’t happy about Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview” before its Dec. 25 release, even after a group of hackers threatened any theaters that showed the comedy film.

Clooney, who initially circulated a petition to stand in solidarity with Sony, now believes Sony should release the film online — immediately.

“We should be in the position right now of going on offense with this,” Clooney told Deadline. “Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie.”

“That’s the most important part,” Clooney added. “We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong Un, of all fucking people.”

In a news conference Friday, President Obama also said he believed that Sony was making a mistake by pulling “The Interview” entirely, despite the damage they had caused by releasing thousands of internal Sony emails.

“I wish [Sony] had spoken to me first,” President Obama said. “I would have told them do not get into a pattern where you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

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