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Dear Kathryn Bigelow: I’m Sorry

He provoked outrage when he tweeted that director Kathryn Bigelow was overrated because she’s a “very hot woman.” Now ‘American Psycho’ author Bret Easton Ellis addresses his critics—and concedes that they have a point.

AN APOLOGY TO KATHRYN BIGELOW
By Bret Easton Ellis

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Author Bret Easton Ellis attends 'Che Tempo Che Fa' held at Rai Studios on October 17, 2010 in Milan, Italy. (Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty IMages)

1.

On Dec. 5 at 11:31 p.m. I tweeted the following:

NEVER-ENDING STORY

Why Are Movies So Damn Long?

The running times for this year’s Oscar hopefuls—‘The Hobbit,’ ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ ‘Django Unchained’—are all nearly three hours. Why aren’t the studios demanding shorter cuts? Ramin Setoodeh investigates.

In the time it takes to sit through this year’s new holiday movies, you could do a lot of other things. For example, finish all your Christmas shopping, roast a turkey, drive to the airport, and fly to Hong Kong. If you don’t believe me, just look at the numbers.

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is a laborious 150 minutes. Both Les Misérables and Zero Dark Thirty are 7 minutes longer than that. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained trudges along at 165 minutes. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey doesn’t just have a bloated title, but 169 minutes of Middle-earth sword fighting and Gollum hissing the word “precious” over and over. At least that’s what I think happens. I may have dozed off at some point.

On ‘Flick Picks,’ Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers review the first installment of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel.

At 143 minutes, Sam Mendes’s Skyfall is the second-longest James Bond, just a minute shy of 2006’s Casino Royale. The terrible Cloud Atlas, released in October, clocks in at 172 minutes but feels more like 172 days. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a movie about something (who knows what!), keeps you hostage for 144 minutes. I kept thinking how I’d rather be watching Flight on a plane to Miami (138 minutes), even after that terrifying crash scene. In comparison, Life of Pi’s 127 minutes almost felt brisk, and it still could have been leaner. (I loved Les Miz and Zero Dark Thirty, but I would say the same about both of those.)

‘Osombie’

Bin Laden’s Walking Dead?

A talk with the director of ‘Osombie,’ the outrageous new low-budget action-horror film featuring an undead al Qaeda chief rising from his watery grave.

What if Osama bin Laden really isn’t dead?

What if, during Operation Neptune Spear, bin Laden caught wind of the Navy SEALs closing in on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan—they made quite a ruckus after all, crashing a helicopter in his backyard—rushed up to his bedroom, and injected himself with a serum? Then, after his body was mysteriously buried at sea, what if he rose up from his watery grave to lead a clandestine army of zombies against U.S. forces in Afghanistan?

Such is the batshit-crazy plot of Osombie, a wild action-horror film now available on DVD/Blu-ray that provides a fun counterpunch to that other hunt-for-bin Laden film being released this holiday season, Zero Dark Thirty. According to the film’s director, John Lyde, his movie was finished in March, but the movie’s distributor, Arrowstorm, delayed the release to time it to coincide with Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-hopeful.

osombie-stern-tease

Dodgier and Dodgier

Zero Dark Thirty and the Senators

So now we have a bipartisan collection of senators saying that Zero Dark Thirty has it wrong, and torture had nothing to do with getting bin Laden. Check out this rather eyebrow-lifting paragraph from the HuffPo's report:

"I would argue that it's not waterboarding that led to bin Laden's demise," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee. "It was a lot of good intelligence-gathering from the Obama and Bush administrations, continuity of effort, holding people at Gitmo, putting the puzzle together over a long period of time -- not torture."

John McCain weighed in similarly. And while Idaho Republican Jim Risch is not perhaps one of your better-known senators, look at this quote:

"The issue isn't does torture work or not. The issue is, is torture right, or is torture wrong?" Risch said. "And the answer to that is torture is wrong. It shouldn't even be a question as to whether it works or not. ... All the stuff I've looked at -- and I've looked at lots and lots and lots of stuff -- I don't think any reasonable person could reach a conclusion based on that, that torture works or it doesn't work."

INSTANT REAX

18 Globes Snubs & Surprises

Today’s nominations showed no love for Anthony Hopkins, Robert De Niro, or Batman—but Nicole Kidman and Richard Gere squeaked by. Ramin Setoodeh on what it all means for the Oscars.

On Thursday morning, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced its annual Golden Globe nominations, further cementing its status as the Iowa straw poll of awards season.

This year’s Michele Bachmann—for better or worse—is Lincoln, the biopic from Steven Spielberg about our 16th president. It led all other films with seven nominations, and arguably now becomes the frontrunner in this year’s Oscars race. Argo and Django Unchained each logged five nominations. Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty (both really great films!) didn’t do as well as expected.

Before we get to the rest of the list, a few points of consideration: The Academy Awards nominations are about a month away, and the Feb. 24 ceremony—hosted by a guy middle America won’t recognize—is traditionally shaped by what happens on the Globes stage. Many Oscars voters lean on the Hollywood Foreign Press (a small but influential crop of about 80 journalists) as a guide for which studio screeners to pop into their DVD players. This year, the Globes could even overshadow the Oscars, since it tapped two hilarious comedians—Amy Poehler and Tina Fey—to headline the boozy celebration on Jan. 13.

Here are the 18 biggest snubs and surprises from this morning’s announcement. And even though Globes cover TV too, nobody cares about those races, so we’re ignoring them. (If you’re still curious, click here for craziness about how The Newsroom got nominated over Mad Men.)

Promoting Torture?

The ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Backlash

Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-bait film about the CIA hunt for bin Laden is being accused of promoting waterboarding. Marlow Stern, who spoke to screenwriter Mark Boal about the film’s big torture scene, says it’s a false claim.

Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow and journalist-cum-screenwriter Mark Boal’s highly anticipated follow-up to 2009’s Oscar winner The Hurt Locker, has received kilotons of critical praise. The film, which documents the Central Intelligence Agency’s decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, was named Best Picture by the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle, and was named one of the 10 best films of the year by the American Film Institute.

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Jessica Chastain (center) plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives (Christopher Stanley, left, and Alex Corbet Burcher, right) who secretly devoted themselves to finding Osama bin Laden in Columbia Pictures' electrifying new thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Jonathan Olley / Sony Pictures)

It was only a matter of time before the backlash came, and oh boy, is it a doozy.

Bigelow and Boal’s impressive film is being painted by contrarians as pro-torture propaganda, with New York magazine critic David Edelstein branding it “morally reprehensible” and making “a case for the efficacy of torture.” In a mini-profile of Bigelow, The New Yorker buried this incendiary nugget:

It's That Opening

Is Zero Dark Thirty Propaganda?

This discussion appears to been kickstarted by Frank Bruni in the Times, who noted in his Sunday column that Zero Dark Thirty, the we-got-bin-Laden movie by the acclaimed Kathryn Bigelow, appears to argue, quite against the known historical record, that torture was crucial to learning OBL's whereabouts. Bruni:

But the movie of the year is also the political conundrum of the year, a far, far cry from the rousing piece of pro-Obama propaganda that some conservatives feared it would be. “Zero Dark Thirty,” which opens in theaters on Dec. 19 and presents itself as a quasi-journalistic account of what really happened, gives primary credit for the killing of Bin Laden to neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations but to one obsessive C.I.A. analyst whose work spans both presidencies. And it presents the kind of torture that Cheney advocated — but that President Obama ended — as something of an information-extracting necessity, repellent but fruitful.

Dexter Filkins, in a New Yorker piece released today, takes note of the problem:

Bigelow maintains that everything in the film is based on first-hand accounts, but the waterboarding scene, which is likely to stir up controversy, appears to have strayed from real life. According to several official sources, including Dianne Feinstein, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the identity of bin Laden’s courier, whose trail led the C.I.A. to the hideout in Pakistan, was not discovered through waterboarding.

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Holiday Movie Preview

Sally Field’s Take

Was Mrs. Lincoln Bipolar?

Or was she just lonely? Sally Field talks to Ramin Setoodeh about how she interpreted Mrs. Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s new movie and if the 16th president could have been gay.

To hear Sally Field tell the story, she had to put up a real fight to land the role of Mary Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

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Courtesy 20th Century Fox

The director first approached her about the part around 2005. But there was no script or leading man. “I read many versions written by many writers, and it was never anything I thought Steven would actually do,” Field says. “It was the grandest idea, and I couldn’t see that it was ever going to be.” That changed when Tony Kushner came on board to write the screenplay and Daniel Day-Lewis replaced Liam Neeson, who dropped out, as the 16th president. Field told Spielberg she still wanted the role.

But her first audition felt wobbly. “I think part of it was age,” says Field, who is 66. “I’m 10 years older than Daniel. And Lincoln was 10 years older than Mary. I’m 20 years older than Mary. That’s a legitimate concern. You have to be worried: can I really pull that off? Steven, rightfully so, said the lighting will be harsh. Daniel is not going to be wearing any prosthetics. And so he had to make sure that Mary fit with him.” Spielberg watched the video of Field as Mary and compared it with the footage of Day-Lewis as Abe, and told Field it wasn’t going to work.

One Day More

The Best ‘Les Miz’ Flash Mobs

Itching to see Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman belt out the Broadway hit’s classic score on the big screen? Bide your time with some of the most impressive public displays of ‘Les Miserables’ love.

“I dreamed a dream…” of starring in a production of Les Misérables.

It’s a common fantasy, whether for the aspiring divas who memorized the words to “On My Own” at age 8, the failed thespians who never had the chance to belt Jean Valjean’s “Soliloquy,” or even just the untalented among us who harbored pipe dreams of leading a revolution set to rousing music. With a splashy, Oscar-bound film adaptation of the cherished musical hitting screens at Christmastime, we’re all stifling a jealous rage that the likes of Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Russell Crowe get to play the roles of the dreams we dream.

Others, however, have long swapped wishful thinking about starring in Les Miz with staging flash mobs of the show’s best numbers. The next best thing to Broadway? As a particularly joyous wedding flash mob set to “One Day More” goes viral, here’s a retrospective on the best public displays of Les Misérables love.

Copenhagen Wedding’s ‘One Day More’

Spies Like Them

Is This the Real Carrie Mathison?

Jace Lacob explores the thematic overlaps between two female spies now stealing our collective attention: Claire Danes’s character on ‘Homeland’ and Jessica Chastain’s Maya in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ WARNING: the following contains plot details from the latest episode of ‘Homeland.’ If you are not up to date, read at your own peril.

“We fight with what we have.”

Spies Like Them

Jessica Chastain, left, in "Zero Dark Thirty" and Claire Danes in "Homeland." (From left: Jonathan Olley / Columbia Pictures; Kent Smith / Showtime)

On the most recent episode of Showtime’s byzantine terrorism thriller Homeland, Carrie Mathison, the damaged, disgraced, bipolar CIA analyst played by Emmy-winner Claire Danes, finally came face-to-face with the terrorist that she had been doggedly pursuing for years, a hunt that put both her career and her sanity in jeopardy.

While the fanatical Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban)—responsible for the death of countless innocents and for brainwashing Marine Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) and transforming him into an instrument of vengeance—had the upper hand in this standoff, the tête-à-tête that followed was remarkable for the fact that Carrie was staring into the face of her adversary, and the words that he spat out at her, hogtied though she was, reflected Carrie’s own indomitable will.

Academy Watch

Batman Wants an Oscar

Warner Bros. is pushing hard for ‘The Dark Knight Rises' to nab a Best Picture nod. That may be too much to ask for a popcorn flick with a complicated cultural legacy.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman saves Gotham City. Could an invite to the Oscars be his reward?

Dark Knight Rises

Tom Hardy, left, and Christian Bale appear in a scene from "The Dark Knight Rises." (Ron Phillips / Warner Bros. )

Warner Brothers, the studio behind the summer blockbuster, is banking on it, launching an aggressive campaign to get the conclusion of director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy into the Oscar conversation. The film is getting a splashy Blu-Ray release Dec. 4—prime time for awards campaigning—and its very own “For Your Consideration” website. Nolan himself, notoriously shy when it comes to participating in the annual awards-show horse race, is even shilling for the cause. On Wednesday, he caved to years of requests and participated in a Film Comment Selects Q&A at Lincoln Center in New York, offering a detailed retrospective on his Batman series. 

The end goal: the Best Picture nomination that has eluded the Dark Knight trilogy thus far—and, really, popcorn action flicks in general. But is this the one obstacle Batman can’t slay? 

Reality Check

‘Shahs of Sunset’ Grade ‘Argo’

The Bravo reality show about affluent Iranians in Los Angeles is back. Ramin Setoodeh asked three of its stars for their thoughts on Ben Affleck’s critically hailed film, which is set in Iran.

Shahs of Sunset, the hit Bravo reality series about affluent Iranians in Los Angeles, returned for a second season on Sunday—with more drama, drinking, and designer frocks.

Shahs of Sunset

The cast of Shahs of Sunset, from left: Mercedes 'MJ' Javid, Mike Shouhed, Golnesa 'GG' Gharachedaghi, Asa Soltan Rahmati, Reza Farahan and Lilly Ghalichi. (Tommy Garcia / Bravo)

But these Persians will have to compete against another, very different image, of Iran in pop culture this year. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, tells the story of a CIA mission that uses a faux Hollywood production to rescue six Americans hiding in Tehran. Set during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979, the real-life adventure is poised to be one of the major contenders at the 2012 Oscars.

So we asked the "Shahs" for their review of Argo. Our panel included Reza Farahan, the gay real estate agent with the show’s best one-liners; Asa Soltan Rahmati, the free-spirit singer/songwriter, and Mike Shouhed, an entrepreneur and self-described mama’s boy.

Bin Laden Film

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Revealed!

The new film by the Oscar-winning team behind ‘The Hurt Locker’ chronicles the CIA’s exhaustive hunt for Osama bin Laden. It also features one of the year’s most badass screen heroines, says Marlow Stern.

I’m gonna die, aren’t I?

The opening minutes of Zero Dark Thirty, the new film by the Oscar-winning team behind The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, pack a wallop. The screen is entirely black, as distress calls from 9/11 are heard. The calls start off calm, from the passengers aboard the hijacked airliner United 93, and gradually get more distressed, as they shift to those trapped inside the crumbling World Trade Center.

What follows is an exhaustive, often suspenseful account of the Central Intelligence Agency’s hunt for the mastermind behind the attacks, Osama bin Laden, seen through the eyes of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA analyst who specializes in locating terrorists. (The film’s title, meanwhile, is military jargon for the dark of night, as well as the time—12:30 a.m.—the Navy SEALs infiltrated the Abbottabad compound.)

Allen Guelzo

A Civil War Professor Reviews 'Lincoln'

Screen Shot 2012-11-27 at 2.16.42 PM

Allen Guelzo is the director of the Civil War studies department at Gettysburg College. He is the author of a magnificent new history of the Civil War and Reconstruction (why these periods are always separated into different volumes baffles me) as well as important studies of Abraham Lincoln's religious views and the emancipation proclamation.

(My 2000 review of Redeemer President can be read here.)

Prof. Guelzo went last night to see Spielberg's Lincoln. Below follows his reaction to the movie:

I am walking out of the multiplex theater in my old home town of Springfield, and already the sold-out audience for the next showing of Steven Spielberg’s new Lincoln is queuing up. The sound of something very rare in my movie-going experience is still reverberating in my ears – the sound of an audience applauding. And, from the opening crack of thunder that introduces us to Daniel Day-Lewis’s stoop-shouldered Lincoln, there is much worth applauding, even to an empty screen.

Seth MacFarlane's Worst Oscar Jokes

Whether you found him hilarious or lame, it's undeniable that the Academy Awards host gave a provocative performance. Watch MacFarlane's most controversial comments, as he ripped on everything from Clooney's pedophilia to Lincoln's assassination.

Snub

They Forgot Who?

10 Oscar Shockers!

10 Oscar Shockers!

All the surprises and snubs from this morning’s Academy Award nominations honoring the best in cinema.

For Your Consideration

Amour

The Year’s Best Foreign Film

The Year’s Best Foreign Film

Marlow Stern talks to Michael Haneke about his heartrending ‘Amour’—which deserves an Oscar nod.

For Your Consideration

Argo

Ben Affleck’s Oscar Lock

Ben Affleck’s Oscar Lock

The actor-director dishes on his riveting CIA thriller, a virtual Oscar-nomination lock.

Reality Check

‘Shahs of Sunset’ Grade ‘Argo’

Not a History Lesson

What ‘Argo’ Gets Wrong

Crisis Revisited

Love and Hate in Tehran

Reality Check

‘Argo’ Blurs the Truth

Flick Picks: Argo

It's Hollywood to the rescue in actor/director Ben Affleck's new film, 'Argo,' based on the true story of when the U.S. staged a movie shoot to rescue hostages from Iran. Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers dissect the film.

For Your Consideration

Beasts of the Southern Wild

A Post-Katrina Fairy Tale

A Post-Katrina Fairy Tale

Sundance darling ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ out June 27, is one of the year’s best, says Marlow Stern.

For Your Consideration

Django Unchained

Django’s Damsel in Distress

Django’s Damsel in Distress

In Quentin Tarantino’s dark new movie, Kerry Washington comes face to face with the horrors of slavery.

‘Django’ Fallout

Was Spike Lee Out of Line?

Too Far?

Django Unhinged

Flick Picks: Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino is at it again, directing another star-studded cast in a monumental slave story meets spaghetti western. But is it his best work? Ramin Setoodeh and Peter Travers debate.

For Your Consideration

Les Miserables

‘Les Misérables’ Is a Triumph

‘Les Misérables’ Is a Triumph

Marlow Stern on why the film adaptation of the celebrated musical is the frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar.

Misreading History

‘Les Miz’s’ Bad History Lesson

One Day More

The Best ‘Les Miz’ Flash Mobs

Cheat Sheet

French Revolution for Dummies

‘Les Miserables’

Eddie Redmayne’s Star-Making Turn

Flick Picks: Les Miserables

Does 'Les Miz' justify all the Oscar buzz? Ramin Setoodeh and Peter Travers review the epic big screen adaptation of the celebrated musical.

For Your Consideration

Life of Pi

‘Life of Pi’: Book vs. Film

‘Life of Pi’: Book vs. Film

Was Ang Lee’s film adaptation of ‘Life of Pi’ true to the novel? Mike Munoz explores the differences.

Oscar Hopeful

Life of Pi: This Year’s ‘Slumdog?’

For Your Consideration

Lincoln

'Lincoln' Fact Check

'Lincoln' Fact Check

Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, a consultant on the movie, says in the end it’s not the details that matter.

Sally Field’s Take

Was Mrs. Lincoln Bipolar?

Highlights 2012

Obama Reviews ‘Lincoln'

Come On

Where Are the Black People?

EPIC

Is ‘Lincoln’ Great?

For Your Consideration

Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence on Katniss and Vaginas

The actress tells Ramin Setoodeh about ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and how ‘Hunger Games’ changed her life.

‘Silver Linings’ 

Chris Tucker’s Comeback Tour

Under the Mistletoe

2012’s Most Memorable Kisses

For Your Consideration

Zero Dark Thirty

The ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Backlash

The ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Backlash

Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-bait film is being falsely accused of promoting torture, says Marlow Stern.

Bin Laden Film

‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Revealed!

It's That Opening

Is Zero Dark Thirty Propaganda?

Spies Like Them

Is This the Real Carrie Mathison?

‘Osombie’

Bin Laden’s Walking Dead?

Flick Picks: Zero Dark Thirty

We missed you, Kathryn Bigelow! In this edition of Flick Picks, Ramin Setoodeh and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers review her not-quite-a-follow-up to The Hurt Locker.