Tag Archives: The Wrap

Like A Rolling Stone

Michael Hastings at Rolling Stone:

How’d I get screwed into going to this dinner?” demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It’s a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He’s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

“The dinner comes with the position, sir,” says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.

McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.

“Hey, Charlie,” he asks, “does this come with the position?”

McChrystal gives him the middle finger.

On the ground with the Runaway General: Photos of Stanley McChrystal at work.

The general stands and looks around the suite that his traveling staff of 10 has converted into a full-scale operations center. The tables are crowded with silver Panasonic Toughbooks, and blue cables crisscross the hotel’s thick carpet, hooked up to satellite dishes to provide encrypted phone and e-mail communications. Dressed in off-the-rack civilian casual – blue tie, button-down shirt, dress slacks – McChrystal is way out of his comfort zone. Paris, as one of his advisers says, is the “most anti-McChrystal city you can imagine.” The general hates fancy restaurants, rejecting any place with candles on the tables as too “Gucci.” He prefers Bud Light Lime (his favorite beer) to Bordeaux,

Talladega Nights

(his favorite movie) to Jean-Luc Godard. Besides, the public eye has never been a place where McChrystal felt comfortable: Before President Obama put him in charge of the war in Afghanistan, he spent five years running the Pentagon’s most secretive black ops.

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“What’s the update on the Kandahar bombing?” McChrystal asks Flynn. The city has been rocked by two massive car bombs in the past day alone, calling into question the general’s assurances that he can wrest it from the Taliban.

“We have two KIAs, but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Flynn says.

McChrystal takes a final look around the suite. At 55, he is gaunt and lean, not unlike an older version of Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn. His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you’ve fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice.

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“I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says.

He pauses a beat.

“Unfortunately,” he adds, “no one in this room could do it.”

With that, he’s out the door.

“Who’s he going to dinner with?” I ask one of his aides.

“Some French minister,” the aide tells me. “It’s fucking gay.”

Get more Rolling Stone political coverage.

The next morning, McChrystal and his team gather to prepare for a speech he is giving at the École Militaire, a French military academy. The general prides himself on being sharper and ballsier than anyone else, but his brashness comes with a price: Although McChrystal has been in charge of the war for only a year, in that short time he has managed to piss off almost everyone with a stake in the conflict. Last fall, during the question-and-answer session following a speech he gave in London, McChrystal dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as “shortsighted,” saying it would lead to a state of “Chaos-istan.” The remarks earned him a smackdown from the president himself, who summoned the general to a terse private meeting aboard Air Force One. The message to McChrystal seemed clear: Shut the fuck up, and keep a lower profile

Now, flipping through printout cards of his speech in Paris, McChrystal wonders aloud what Biden question he might get today, and how he should respond. “I never know what’s going to pop out until I’m up there, that’s the problem,” he says. Then, unable to help themselves, he and his staff imagine the general dismissing the vice president with a good one-liner.

“Are you asking about Vice President Biden?” McChrystal says with a laugh. “Who’s that?”

“Biden?” suggests a top adviser. “Did you say: Bite Me?”

When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he immediately set out to deliver on his most important campaign promise on foreign policy: to refocus the war in Afghanistan on what led us to invade in the first place. “I want the American people to understand,” he announced in March 2009. “We have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” He ordered another 21,000 troops to Kabul, the largest increase since the war began in 2001. Taking the advice of both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he also fired Gen. David McKiernan – then the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan – and replaced him with a man he didn’t know and had met only briefly: Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was the first time a top general had been relieved from duty during wartime in more than 50 years, since Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War.

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn’t go much better. “It was a 10-minute photo op,” says an adviser to McChrystal. “Obama clearly didn’t know anything about him, who he was. Here’s the guy who’s going to run his fucking war, but he didn’t seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed.”

Eric Zimmermann on The Hill:

On Tuesday morning, Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates suggested that the magazine gathered even more devastating information that could not be published.

“They said a lot of stuff to us off the record that’s not in the story, so we respected all those boundaries,” Bates told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Bates said the magazine has gotten zero pushback from McChrystal’s people.

“No. No, I haven’t heard that,” Bates said when asked whether McChrystal has claimed the magazine misquoted him. “Didn’t hear that during the course of the story. I didn’t hear that in his apology.”

Byron York at The Washington Examiner:

I just got off the phone with a retired military man, with more than 25 years experience, who has worked with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Pentagon.  His reaction to McChrystal’s performance in the new Rolling Stone profile?  No surprise at all.

“Those of us who knew him would unanimously tell you that this was just a matter of time,” the man says.  “He talks this way all the time.  I’m surprised it took this long for it to rear its ugly head.”

“He had great disdain for anyone, as he said, ‘in a suit,’” the former military man continues.  “I was shocked one day in a small group of people when he took [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to task in front of all of us.”

“The other thing about him is that he is probably one of the more arrogant, cocksure military guys I have run across.  That in itself is not necessarily a character flaw, but when you couple it with his great disdain for civilians, it’s a very volatile combination.”

The former military man is under no illusions about the general nature of relations between the military and the civilian leadership.  “I don’t consider this an anomaly,” he says.  “You can find examples of this going back to the founding of the republic.  Nevertheless, it is very disturbing that he would have such disdain for the civilian leadership.”

Andrew Exum:

I have been struck by the degree to which a lot of smart friends are in disagreement about what should be done about l’Affair Rolling Stan. In some ways, the argument about whether or not you dismiss Gen. McChrystal for comments made by the commander and his staff in this Rolling Stone article breaks down into unhappily familiar lines. Critics of the current strategy in Afghanistan unsurprisingly think McChrystal should be fired. Supporters of the strategy think that while the comments made to Rolling Stone were out of line, McChrystal should be retained in the greater interest of the war effort. Neither side, that I have yet seen, has acknowledged that either course of action would carry risk. The purpose of this post is to outline the risks of dismissing Gen. McChrystal as the commander of ISAF in response to the affair. This is an uncomfortable post to write. I very much admire Stan McChrystal and have looked up to him since my time in the Rangers when I fought in Afghanistan under his command. I know the man personally and worked with him last summer in an effort to analyze the war in Afghanistan and NATO/ISAF operations there. And so there may be a limit to how objective I can really be, but I’m a defense policy analyst, so I’m going to try and soberly analyze these risks without letting my admiration for McChrystal get in the way.

James Fallows:

If the facts are as they appear — McChrystal and his associates freely mocking their commander in chief and his possible successor (ie, Biden) and the relevant State Department officials (Holbrooke and Eikenberry) — with no contention that the quotes were invented or misconstrued, then Obama owes it to past and future presidents to draw the line and say: this is not tolerable. You must go. McChrystal’s team was inexplicably reckless in talking before a reporter this way, but that’s a separate question. The fact is — or appears to be — that they did it

The second step is what this means for US strategy in Afghanistan, the future of COIN, etc. But the first is for the civilian Commander in Chief to act in accordance with Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution and demonstrate that there are consequences for showing open disrespect for the chain of command.

And, yes, I would say the same thing in opposite political circumstances — if, for instance, a commander of Iraq operations had been quoted openly mocking George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Resign in protest: yes, a course of honor. But protest and mock while in uniform, no.

Jon Soltz at VetVoice:

I know something about this. In 2006, I worked with two Generals, appearing in national television ads critical of President Bush and his strategy in Iraq. Or, should I say, retired Generals. Major Generals Paul D. Eaton and John Batiste each made the painful decision to leave the military they loved, so they could speak out. To that point, they had held their tongues.

Why?

Because the order and efficacy of our Armed Forces falls apart without respect for the chain of command. Whether it’s a grunt respecting his company commander, or a General respecting the Commander in Chief, every single thing is predicated on the integrity of the chain of command. As soon as someone – especially someone as high up as General McChrystal – violates that respect, every single person under him begins to not only question the orders they’ve been given from above, but is given the signal that it’s OK to openly disagree or mock his or her superior.

And, violate that respect General McChystal and his subordinates have. Among other things, the Rolling Stone story reports first-hand that:

* McChrystal was disappointed with his first meeting with the President, and that he feels the President is uncomfortable and intimidated with military brass.

* McChrystal’s aid calls National Security Advisor James Jones a “clown.”

* Another aide says of envoy Richard Holbrooke, “The Boss [McChrystal] says he’s like a wounded animal. Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he’s going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous.”

* Bolstering that, McChrystal himself, receiving an email from Holbrooke says, “Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke. I don’t even want to read it.”

* On Vice President Biden, who disagreed with the General’s strategy in Afghanistan, McChrystal says while laughing, “Are you asking me about Vice President Biden? Who’s that?”

* An aide, mirroring his boss, adds, “Biden? Did you say Bite me?”

Anyone of lower rank would be immediately dismissed if he or she said of their superiors what General McChrystal said, or what he allowed members of his team to say.

This, of course, isn’t the first time that the General has been in trouble. Following a very public campaign for his preferred strategy in Afghanistan, which included a 60 Minutes interview that challenged the President, McChrystal landed in some hot water with the President, and was told to cool it. Frankly, McChrystal got off easy.

When General Eric Shinseki testified to Congress about his opinion on the force levels needed to invade Iraq, countering the strategy laid out by President Bush and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he was forced into retirement. Shinseki, unlike McChrystal, was asked his opinion, under oath, in front of Congress. There’s a difference between that professional conversation, and personal attacks on your superiors. Shinseki didn’t lead a public campaign to air his views, either. At any rate, McChrystal was given a second shot, where Shinseki was not.

Whether he continued his insubordination purposely, or stupidly and unintentionally, isn’t an issue. The issue, here, is that it happened. Again.

Thomas Donnelly and William Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

If Stan McChrystal has to go—and he probably does—it will be a sad end to a career of great distinction and a low moment in a lifetime devoted to duty, honor, and country. But the good of the mission and the prospects for victory in Afghanistan may well now demand a new commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

While there are obvious issues of civil-military relations exposed by the general’s cringe-inducing quotes in the “Runaway General” article in Rolling Stone—and while his staff appear to be off the leash entirely, a command climate for which McChrystal is responsible—the original source of the problem is above the general’s pay grade.

So McChrystal should not be the only one to go.  Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and “AfPak” czar Richard Holbrooke should likewise either submit their resignations or be fired by President Obama.  Vice President Biden and his surrogates should be told to sit down and be quiet, to stop fighting policy battles in the press.  The administration’s “team of rivals” approach is producing only rivalry.

Max Boot at Commentary:

McChrystal was undoubtedly stupid to grant so much access to a hostile reporter, and his aides were equally clueless in making some disparaging remarks in front of this reporter about Vice President Biden and National Security Adviser Jim Jones, among others. But that in no way invalidates McChrystal’s plan, which should be carried out, with some inevitable adjustments, by whomever is the NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Should that person be McChrystal? Despite the calls for his firing emanating from the usual quarters on the left, the general is certainly not guilty of violating the chain of command in the way that truly insubordinate generals like Douglas MacArthur have. Recall that MacArthur publicly disagreed with Truman’ strategy in the Korean War. Likewise, Admiral Fox Fallon was fired as Centcom commander in 2008 after publicly disagreeing in an Esquire article with Bush-administration strategy over Iran. McChrystal does nothing of the sort. At worst, one of his aides says that McChrystal was “disappointed” by his initial meetings with the president, who looked “uncomfortable and intimidated.” Most of the disparaging comments heard from McChrystal’s aides are directed not at the president but at presidential aides who oppose the strategy that the president himself announced back in the fall and that McChrystal is working 24/7 to implement. Is this type of banter enough for Obama to fire McChrystal?

It could be, but if he does it could represent a setback to the war effort — and to the president’s hopes to withdraw some troops next summer. The least disruption would occur if a general already in Afghanistan — Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, who runs day to day operations, is the obvious choice — takes over. If an outsider were chosen (e.g., Marine General Jim Mattis), there would likely be a delay of months while the new commander conducted his own assessment of the situation. That’s a delay we can ill afford right now. On the other hand, we can ill afford having McChrystal stay if he is so discredited with the commander in chief and so weakened in internal-administration deliberations that he cannot stand up to the attempts by Biden and other internal critics to downsize the mission prematurely.

McChrystal has undoubtedly created a major problem for himself, his command, and the larger mission in Afghanistan. But I still believe he is a terrific general who has come up with a good strategy and has energized a listless command that was drifting when he took over. Notwithstanding the current turmoil, the war remains eminently winnable, and the McChrystal strategy remains the best option for winning it.

Spencer Ackerman:

You can read Gen. McChrystal’s apology in full here at the Washington Independent. No “clarification” that I expected last night after seeing the AP writeup of McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview disrespecting the Obama administration. “It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal emailed reporters instead. “Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard.” You think?

McChrystal gets called to the White House on Wednesday to direct the monthly Afghanistan/Pakistan briefing — oh, and to explain himself and see if he can keep his job. As I wrote for the Washington Independent, firing him carries its risks. There’s only a year to go before the July 2011 date to begin the transition to Afghan security responsibility and the Kandahar tide is starting to rise. It’ll be hard to fire McChrystal without ripping the entire Afghanistan strategy up, and I’ve gotten no indication from the White House that it’s interested in doing that. On the other hand, if senior administration officials are and I just haven’t picked up on it, McChrystal just gave them their biggest opportunity.

And what an opportunity. You can read the Rolling Stone profile through Politico. The amazing thing about it is there’s no complaints from McChrystal or his staff about the administration on any substantive ground. After all, McChrystal and his allies won the argument within the White House. All the criticisms — of Eikenberry, of Jones, of Holbrooke, of Biden — are actually just immature and arrogant snipes at how annoying Team America (what, apparently, McChrystal’s crew calls itself) finds them. This is not mission-first, to say the least.

In fact, you have to go deep in the piece to find soldiers and officers offering actual critiques — and what they offer is criticism of McChrystal for being insufficiently brutal. Everyone of them quoted here is a mini-Ralph Peters, upset because McChrystal won’t let them “get our fucking gun on,” as one puts it. I have a lot of respect for Michael Hastings, the author of the profile, but there are many greyer shades of on-the-ground military perspective than that, and I’ve seen them up close. But Hastings does a good and insightful job of showing that McChrystal is stepping into a diplomatic vacuum and acting as an advocate for Hamid Karzai despite Karzai’s performance in office.

We’ll have to wait for Wednesday to see if McChrystal keeps his command. My guess is he’ll stay, because now the White House knows that a chastened McChrystal isn’t going to say anything else outside of his lane to any reporter. McChrystal’s apology, emailed to me and other reporters well before the Rolling Stone story dropped, suggests that he wasn’t trying to walk away from his command in a blaze of arrogance. But it’s on him to repair his relationship with his colleagues and his bosses.

Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy:

My bet is that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will be gone within a week or so. Defense Secretary Gates canned Admiral Fallon as Central Command chief in the spring of 2007 for less pointed remarks, so he will look like a hypocrite if he does less here in response to McChrystal dissing Obama, Biden, and the White House in a new  article in Rolling Stone.

At any rate, it may be time for a whole new team in Afghanistan. My nomination is for Petraeus to step down an echelon and take the Afghanistan command. You could leave him nominally the Centcom chief but let his deputy, Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen, oversee Iraq, the war planning for Iran, and dealing with Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. But more likely is that Petraeus will ask for another Marine general, James Mattis, who is just finishing up at Jiffycom, and who had planned to retire later this year and head home to Walla Walla, Washington. Petraeus and Mattis long have admired each other. The irony is that Mattis has a reputation — unfairly, I think — for speaking a little too bluntly in public about things like killing people. I think Mattis is a terrific, thoughtful leader.

I do wonder if this mess is the result of leaving McChrystal out there too long-he has been going non-stop for several years, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan. At any rate, his comments reflect a startling lack of discipline. He would expect more of one of his captains. We should expect more of him. I know, I’ve said worse about Biden. But part of my job is to comment on these things, even flippantly sometimes. Part of his job is not to.

CNN:

[Updated at 4:41 p.m.] Gen. Stanley McChrystal has submitted his resignation, Time magazine’s Joe Klein told CNN, citing an unnamed source. CNN is working to confirm Klein’s information.

UPDATE: Andy McCarthy at The Corner

UPDATE #2: Allah Pundit

Jim Pinkerton at Ricochet

Spencer Ackerman

Doug Mataconis

UPDATE #3: David Brooks in NYT

Dylan Stableford at The Wrap

The Week Magazine

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone

UPDATE #4: Conor Friedersdorf and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Max Read at Gawker

Glenn Greenwald

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Filed under Af/Pak, Military Issues, Political Figures

Spidey Sense Knows No Color

Marc Bernardin at Io9:

We just ran down the five bland white guys that are, reportedly, in the running to play Peter Parker in Sony’s Spider-Man reboot. Yawn. In this day and age, why does Spidey have to be a white guy?

Yes, I know: “Because that’s how Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created him.” There is no worse argument for anything than, “because that’s the way it’s always been.” Lee and Ditko created a wonderfully strong character, one full of complexity and depth, who happens to be white. In no way is Peter Parker defined by his whiteness in the same way that too many black characters are defined by their blackness. He’s defined by the people he cares for, by his career, by his identity as a New Yorker (incidentally, one of the most diverse cities in the world) — as too many good people died to prove, a man is defined by his choices, not by the color of his skin.

So why couldn’t Peter Parker be played by a black or a Hispanic actor? How does that invalidate who Peter Parker is? I’m not saying that the producers need to force the issue; that they need to cast a minority just for the sake of it — but in the face of such underwhelming options like Billy Elliot and the kid who played young Voldemort, why not broaden the search? It’s not like any of these blokes are lighting the world on fire like a young Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio.

And don’t tell me it’s because an actor of color would hurt the box office: Not only is Spider-Man one of the most recognizable fictional characters on the planet, and managed to do just fine with Tobey “Snoozeville” Maguire playing him, whoever they cast WILL BE IN A MASK FOR HALF THE DAMNED MOVIE. AND ON THE POSTER.

Jamelle at PostBourgie:

Bernardin is right on target; most superheroes aren’t defined by their race or ethnicity (indeed, as he points out, the only exceptions are black heroes), and you wouldn’t lose anything by mixing up the racial background of a character. Indeed, changing the racial background of a character isn’t exactly new; in the 1970s, DC passed the Green Lantern’s power-ring to John Stewart, an African-American architect and Marine veteran. And in 2002, Marvel introduced “Ultimate” Nick Fury, a black version of their long-standing character modeled after Samuel L. Jackson. And as Bernardin points out, Marvel went even further with the limited series Truth: Red, White & Black, which told the story of Isaiah Bradley, the sole survivor of a group of black soldiers forced to act as test subjects for the super-soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.

You could easily pen a non-white Peter Parker that retains essence of the character while reflecting the fact that he is African-American. Black Peter Parker, for instance, might not have grown up in Forest Hills or attended Empire State University, but he would still be a struggling photographer with a good head for science, and a huge crush on Mary Jane Watson. I would welcome the director who cast a non-white Peter Parker, in lieu of another twenty-something white guy. And if there’s anything I’d worry about, it’s that screenwriters might try to add non-white “signifiers” to this hypothetical Peter Parker, with horrible results.

Caroline Stanley at Flavorwire:

Community’s Donald Glover wants to be the next Spider-Man. And he’s hoping a Facebook petition (Donald Glover 4 Spiderman!!) and Twitter campaign (#donald4spiderman) will at least get his foot in the door. “Some people are mistaken,” he has said. “I don’t want to just be given the role. I want to be able to audition. I truly love Spider-Man.”

As io9 notes, there’s nothing about Peter Parker’s history that requires him to be played by a white actor — other than tradition. We love Glover in Community, and from what we’ve heard about his performance in Mystery Team, he has the chops to carry a big-screen part. And he’s certainly more interesting to us than any of the other actors currently in talks for the role (sorry, Billy Elliot and young Voldemort).

Stephanie at Informavore:

I once read an interview with one of the DC Comics executives where they discussed interpretations, legacy characters, and the immutable elements of their mythologies.  He argued there are three elements in defining the way a character is represented: 1) the absolutes; 2) the negotiables; and 3) the things up for grabs.

[…]

As such, I feel it’s best to refer back to our three-tier system for understanding the mythology.

1.  The Absolutes
Teenage Peter Parker is raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben after the death of his parents.  On a field trip, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers.   To make money, he participates in underground wrestling matches.  When the owner cheats him, he lets a robber get away.  That robber later murders Uncle Ben.  Feeling responsible for his uncle’s death, he realizes “with great power comes great responsibility.”   Red and blue suit (though sometimes black), New York City, Daily Bugle, Mary Jane Watson, J. Jonah, Jameson, etc. are all part of the mythology.  You can’t replace these parts of the story.
Though Peter Parker has always been represented as white in the comics, I think it is fully reasonable to change the character’s ethnicity without destroying the core elements of the mythos.  Here’s why:
Peter grows up in the outer borough of New York City and becomes from an economically-disadvantaged background.  Family is an important part of his upbringing.  He works hard in school and hopes for a better life.  Due to short-sightedness, he takes the easy way out and makes the quick buck.  He suffers great loss due to senseless urban violence.  He deals with the mistrust of society because of his identity (Spider-Man, vigilante, masked hero).  Each of these elements are plausible within the context of an African-American character.  They are also plausible for a white or Latino character as well.   Superman might not work in the same way due to the Jewish overtropes and middle-America upbringing that are a part of the character’s creation.   Spider-Man could easily be an African-American teen.
For too long, comic scholars–both professional and casual–have lamented the white, homogeneous make-up of our superheroes.   Storm, Black Panther, Steel, and Green Lantern (Jon Stewart) are some of the most recognized heroes of color.  I was encouraged when WB decided to use Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes as a central character in the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon series.  For every Great Ten, Super Young Team, and Global Guardians that comics produces, you have the senseless killing of Ryan Choi (The Atom) in order to return Ray Palmer to the spotlight.
Could Spider-Man be black?  Sure.  Why not.  There’s lot of great discourse that come from it.  Is Donald Glover the right person to take up the mantle?  Maybe.  I’m a big fan of his comedic talents on Community.  He plays a character that is confident, cocky, goofy, and at ease with himself.  I think those are important things that fall under The Negotiables label.  Race, in turn, could very well be Up for Grabs.

Erin Polgreen at Spencer Ackerman’s place:

As of last night, the campaign #donald4spiderman was a trending topic on Twitter, and a slew of comics bigwigs and other industry luminaries are hopping on board.

I think it’s a good thing. More diversity in casting of stories from the comic book canon means more interpretations and layers to the character. Look at what Brian Michael Bendis did for Nick Fury in Marvel’s Ultimates line. Samuel L. Jackson plays the historically white character in Marvel’s Iron Man franchise.

Jeff Sneider at The Wrap:

Meanwhile, Brooklyn resident Michelle Vargas has created a Facebook group, “Donald Glover 4 Spiderman!!,” which has amassed 5,060 fans at last count.

And another Twitter attack is planned for Tuesday night — this time orchestrated by Glover himself, who plans to have his fans tweet the hashtag at 6:30 p.m. The plan is to make himself a trending topic again, since retweeting doesn’t count for trending.

Said Glover in a tweet over the weekend about the campaign: “Some people are mistaken. I don’t want to just be given the role. I want to be able to audition. I truly love Spider-Man.” Neither Glover’s represenatives nor Sony would agree to comment for TheWrap.

Talk show host Craig Ferguson (who, keep in mind, works for a rival network) endorsed the potential casting by retweeting Glover.

So who is Glover, other than Troy on NBC’s “Community”?

The 26 year-old, NYU-educated comedian won an Emmy as a writer on NBC’s “30 Rock,” and his comedy troupe, Derrick Comedy, recently released its first feature, “Mystery Team,” on DVD and On Demand. More crucially, his comedy videos have become a YouTube sensation, amassing millions of views.

While it’s unlikely that Sony and director Marc Webb would take such a huge creative risk by reinventing the beloved character since they each have a lot riding on this 3D reboot, Glover does have a devoted fanbase that’s roughly the same age as the audience that Sony wants to attract with this teen-centric project.

And Peter Parker is from the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Queens, New York. In fact, there’s nothing in Marvel’s “Spider-Man” comics that dictates that the character must be white.

Indeed, if Facebook earned Betty White a gig hosting “Saturday Night Live” and Twitter made Justin Bieber a household name, why couldn’t their combined powers help Glover land an audition for Sony execs?

It couldn’t be worse than Brandon Routh as Superman.

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Filed under Art, Movies, New Media, Race

“Bring Me The Head Of Lynn Hirschberg”

Lynn Hirschberg in NYT:

On the Grammy Awards in 2009, Maya Arulpragasam, also known as M.I.A., performed her biggest hit, “Paper Planes,” a rap song that infuses rebellious, defiant lyrics with the sounds of her native Sri Lanka, a riff lifted from the Clash, the bang-bang of a gun and the ka-ching of a cash register. Maya, as she is called, was nine months pregnant (to the day), and while she was onstage rapping about “some some some I some I murder, some I some I let go” — in a black skintight, body-stocking dress, transparent except for polka-dot patches that strategically covered her belly, breasts and derrière — she began to experience contractions. As the pain hit, Maya was performing with the male titans of rap (Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T.I.) and she later told me that she thought all the free-floating testosterone caused her to go into labor. While American rappers today tend to celebrate sex, wealth and status, Maya, who grew up listening to the politicized rhymes of Public Enemy, takes international dance beats and meshes them with the very un-American voice of the militant rebel. In contrast to, say, Bono or John Lennon, with their peacenik messages, Maya taps into her rage at the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka to espouse violence: while you’re under the sway of the beat, she’s rapping, “You wanna win a war?/Like P.L.O. I don’t surrender.”

Although her publicist had a wheelchair ready and a midwife on call, Maya, who has a deep and instinctive affinity for the provocative, knew that this Grammy moment was not to be missed. It had everything: artistic credibility, high drama, a massive audience. The baby would just have to wait. The combination of being nearly naked, hugely pregnant, singing incendiary lyrics and having the eyes of the world upon her was too much to resist. And she was riveting, upstaging the four much more famous guys and dominating the stage. “That’s gangsta,” said Queen Latifah, one of the show’s presenters.

Three days later, her son, Ikhyd (pronounced I-kid) Edgar Arular Bronf­man, was born. His father is Maya’s fiancé, Ben Bronfman, son of the Warner Music Group chief executive and Seagram’s heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. In one of many contradictions that seem to provide the narrative for Maya’s life and art, Ikhyd was not, as she had repeatedly announced he would be, born at home in a pool of water. As usual, she wanted to transform her personal life into a political statement. “You gotta embrace the pain, embrace the struggle,” she proclaimed weeks before Ikhyd was born. “And my giving birth is nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp.”

As it happened, Maya, who is 34, gave birth in a private room in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “Ben’s family insisted,” she told me a year later, when we met in March for drinks at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in nearby Beverly Hills. Before the Grammys, Maya and Bronfman moved to Los Angeles from New York, buying a house in very white, very wealthy Brentwood, an isolated and bucolic section of the city with a minimal history of trauma and violent uprisings. “L.A. is a lovely place to have a baby,” Maya said. She’s surprisingly petite and ladylike, with beautiful almond-shaped dark brown eyes and full lips that she painted a deep red the day we met. Maya has a unique tomboy-meets-ghetto-fabulous-meets-exotic-princess look that, like her music, manages to combine sexy elements (lingerie peeks out from under her see-through tops) with individual flourishes (she designs elaborate patterns for her nails) and ethnic accents (the bright, rich prints of Africa are her wardrobe staple). Like all style originals, Maya wears her clothes with great confidence — she knows how to edit her presentation for maximum effect. At the Beverly Wilshire, she was wearing high-heeled pumps with leggings under a hip-length, sheer white tunic woven with gold threads and an outsize black jacket that looked as if it might be on loan from her boyfriend. Her only jewelry was a simple diamond engagement ring.

“We went to the Grammys, we had the baby and we bought the house,” Maya said as she studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries. “A month later, all this stuff was happening in Sri Lanka” — the Tamil insurgency was being defeated amid reports of thousands of civilian casualties — “and I started speaking up against it. And then, within a month, I found out my house was being bugged, my phones were being tapped and my e-mails were being hacked into. I was getting death threats, like ‘hope your baby dies.’ The biggest Sinhalese community is in Santa Monica, people who are sworn enemies of the Tamils, which is me.” She paused. “I live around the corner from Beverly Hills, and I feel semiprotected by Ben and, if anything happens to me, then Ben’s family will not take it. Jimmy Iovine, who runs Interscope, my record company, said, ‘Pick your battles carefully — don’t put your life at risk,’ but at the end of the day, I don’t see how you can shut up and just enjoy success when other people who don’t have the fame or the luxury to rent security guards are suffering. What the hell do they do? They just die.”

Maya’s tirade, typical in the way it moved from the political to the personal and back again, was interrupted by a waiter, who offered her a variety of rolls. She chose the olive bread. Maya’s political fervor stems from her upbringing. Although she was born in London, her family moved back to Sri Lanka when she was 6 months old, to a country torn by fighting between the Tamil Hindu minority and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. In the ’70s, her father, Arular, helped found the Tamil militant group EROS (Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students), trained with the P.L.O. in Lebanon and spearheaded a movement to create an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the country. EROS was eventually overwhelmed by a stronger and more vicious militant group, the Tamil Tigers. In their struggle for political control, the Tigers not only went after government troops and Sinhalese civilians but also their own people, including Tamil women and children. “The Tigers ruled the people under them with an iron fist,” Ahilan Kadirgamar at Sri Lanka Democracy Forum told me. “They used mafia­like tactics, and they would forcefully recruit child soldiers. Maya’s father was never with the Tigers. He stayed away.”

[…]

Her rhetoric rankles Sri Lankan experts and human rights organizations, who are engaged in the difficult task of helping to forge a viable model for national unity after decades of bitter fighting. “Maya is a talented artist,” Kadirgamar told me, echoing the sentiments of others, “but she only made the situation worse. What happened in Sri Lanka was not a genocide. To not be honest about that or the Tigers does more damage than good. When Maya does a polarizing interview, it doesn’t help the cause of justice.”

Unity holds no allure for Maya — she thrives on conflict, real or imagined. “I kind of want to be an outsider,” she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry. “I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.”

[…]

When she was a child, Maya sat under the table while her mother sewed and caught fabric scraps as they fell. “The first thing I made was a bra,” Maya said. “Two circles in pinky red, blue straps.” Her father remained in Sri Lanka (whenever they saw each other, he was introduced to Maya as her uncle, so that the children wouldn’t inadvertently reveal his identity). Maya claims that she has not seen him in years. Diplo told me a different story. “I met her dad in London with her,” he said. “He was very interested in sustainable living and was teaching in London. But he wasn’t a good father.” Whatever the truth is, Maya has gone from trumpeting her father’s revolutionary past in order to claim that lineage to playing down his politics to support a separate narrative. “He was with the Sri Lankan government,” she now maintained, when I saw her in Los Angeles. “He’s been with them for 20 years. They just made up the fact that he is a Tiger so they can talk crap about me.” (Her father could not be reached for comment.)

Chris Matyszczyk at Cnet:

M.I.A., the Carrie Bradshaw of the Planet Subversive, seems to be a little upset.

The rapper acceded to an interview with The New York Times and was not best pleased with the results. So she tweeted: “CALL ME IF YOU WANNA TALK TO ME ABOUT THE N Y T TRUTH ISSUE, ill b taking calls all day bitches ;)”

Personally, I was not aware that The New York Times was printing a special edition that included only the truth. However, I admit I have omitted the first part of her tweet. You see, M.I.A. decided to adorn this tweet with the phone number of Lynn Hirschberg, the journalist.

I know you will be able to judge for yourselves whether Hirschberg’s profile had feather-ruffling qualities. She certainly seemed to suggest that there were some uncomfortable contradictions in M.I.A.’s life. She contrasted, for example, the rapper’s insistence that she would give birth in a pool of water at home “in order to embrace the pain” to the ultimate result: a birth in the relatively pain-free LA cocoon of Cedars-Sinai hospital.

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair:

Following the publication of an ego-bruising profile in this week’s New York Times Magazine, the attention-seeing singer M.I.A. has published the writer’s phone number on her Twitter. (The journalist, Lynn Hirschberg, is a Vanity Fair alumna famous for inciting the ire of another tempestuous pop star: Courtney Love. Hirschberg reported that Love had used heroin while pregnant with daughter Frances Bean, inspiring a barrage of furious faxes—the Tweets of their day.) Touré, who first tipped us off to M.I.A.’s petulant prank, wrote, “I don’t think vengefully posting a writer’s cell on Twitter is gangsta or even ouch. It’s a childish & weak retort.”

In the case of M.I.A., it’s unclear what specific objections the singer has to the piece. However, a quick Google Image investigation reveals that Hirschberg is a ginger! Has M.I.A. taken her anti-redhead blitzkrieg too far?

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

Like Courtney Love before her, M.I.A. has responded to a less than kind Lynn Hirschberg profile — Love’s in Vanity Fair and M.I.A.’s in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine — the only way she knows how: angry music. Love’s band Hole had the bootleg “Bring Me the Head of Lynn Hirschberg,” and now, via her blog, Maya comes with “I’m a Singer.” (Sample lyric: “Why the hell would journalists be thick as shit/ Cause lies equals power equals politics” and later, “You’re a racist/ I wouldn’t trust you one bit.”)

But this isn’t just about politics; it’s about honor. And french fries.

Along with the track — which kind of bangs — M.I.A. also supplies two audio clips of an interview between herself and the New York Times reporter, under the headline “here’s the TRUFF,” just to set the record straight:

In her piece, Hirschberg writes that M.I.A. “studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries,” and then quotes the singer: “‘I kind of want to be an outsider,’ she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry.” But if M.I.A.’s own secret audio is to be believed, it was the reporter who insisted on ordering the bourgie fries, which we hear are gross anyway.

Lisa Horowitz at The Wrap:

It’s not the first time she has gone after the Times in a song: She previously expressed her anger over a Times report on Sri Lanka, where she grew up, criticizing the paper for glossing over the political violence there.

She sounds like someone who might hold a grudge.

Erin Polgreen at Spencer Ackerman’s place:

M.I.A. is a political artist and she is rightfully outraged by the inhumanity of the situation in Sri Lanka. Whether she’s effective or not is an interesting question, but I don’t know if Hirschman’s article is particularly revelatory in that regard. I’m not sure the fact that she eats fancy french fries means that she does more harm than good.  What worries me is whether M.I.A. is just lashing out blindly instead of trying to deescalate a vicious situation (See the video for “Born Free” as an example).

In the end, I don’t think the wool has been pulled over anyone’s eyes, as Hirschman would have readers believe. M.I.A is a human being and is contradictory and flawed by nature. As the lyrics M.I.A. samples in the new song go: “I am a sinner. Never said anything else. I didn’t lie to you. Thinking of somebody else.”

Hanna Rosin and Maureen Tkacik at Bloggingheads here and here

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

The latest on the M.I.A. vs. NYT slapfight: The paper has appended an editor’s note to Lynn Hirschberg’s profile. But the note only addresses the fact that Hirschberg cobbled together separate quotes into one longer quote without noting that fact. Which is actually a very bad thing to do! Left unaddressed, however: the case of the truffled french fry. So the war shall continue!

UPDATE: Andrew Potter, via Will Wilkinson

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In The Television Industry, There Are Two Types Of Criminal Justice Shows: Law And Order And Its Spin-Offs And Everything Else. These Are Their Stories. Doink Doink.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with a round-up

Nikki Finke and Nellie Andreeva at Deadline, on May 13th, withe the scoop:

BREAKING NEWS! KEEP REFRESHING! 3:30 PM UPDATE!

Here’s the latest news on this fast-moving story. A deal was in place if NBC picked up the Law & Order flagship for a 21st season consisting of 16 episodes. But insiders say Dick Wolf is now accusing the network of going back (some use the word “reneging”) on that arrangement made in March: “He’s so fucking angry, you have no idea.”

As recently as the start of this week, even NBCU chief Jeff Zucker was privately telling people that L&O would get one more season. That’s certainly what Wolf and his longtime reps (UTA and Ziffren Brittenham legal eagle Cliff Gilbert) were led to believe from NBC suits Marc Graboff and Jeff Gaspin. That is, until last night.

Wolf simply wanted NBC to live up to the deal that both sides had agreed to back in March. According to that arrangement already in place, NBC/Universal Media Studios was supposed to go to TNT and negotiate a new deal (the old one was up) whereby the cable channel would finance some original episodes of Law & Order in order to continue getting runs of the show. “And, for whatever reason, NBC was unwilling to engage in a serious way with TNT. They didn’t do it. At the last minute, they said, ‘We’ll pick the show up and this is how we’re going to do it’. Which was ludicrous.” That’s when NBC threw its agreement with Wolf out the window and demanded Wolf kick in to help “finance the pickup of Law & Order out of all the money he’s made. And his reps said, ‘Never going to happen’,” according to an insider. Another source explained the situation: “Graboff broke off the negotiations last night when they fell apart based on Team Dick’s unwillingness to make certain deal concessions deemed unreasonable.”

But that’s not all. According to NBC insiders, immediately, Team Dick contacted Gaspin. And that email exchange revealed that Gaspin didn’t realize the show had been cancelled. Network sources say there was a lack of communication between Graboff and Gaspin, who didn’t know the negotiations had broken off. But then Gaspin confirmed it. This morning and afternoon, the producers began calling reps for the show’s stars and telling them about the cancellation.

Andrew Scott at TV Squad:

UPDATE: NBC has officially canceled its cornerstone legal series ‘Law & Order,’ the network confirmed today in a press release.

“The full measure of the collective contributions made by Dick Wolf and his ‘Law & Order’ franchise over the last two decades to the success of NBC and Universal Media Studios cannot be overstated. The legacy of his original ‘Law & Order’ series will continue to make an impact like no other series before,” Jeff Gaspin, Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment said in a statement.

Executive producer Dick Wolf had only this to say: “Never complain. Never explain.”

Deadline
first reported the story yesterday.

‘Law & Order’ will have its series finale on Mon., May 24 at 10PM ET.

The show ends after 20 seasons on the air, which ties ‘Gunsmoke”s record as the longest-running drama in television history.

Frankie Stone at The Wrap:

It was the worst possible coincidence. On the very day that NBC announced a snazzy social media marketing initiative aimed at building viewer loyalty, it pissed off those same people – along with its own talent and the creative community – by fumbling the “Law & Order” cancellation.

When news broke the afternoon of May 13 that the 20-year series was canceled, it was a seismic jolt. For starters, there had been mounting on-background affirmations, seemingly from the camps of both NBC and producer Dick Wolf, that renewal was a near-certainty.

Also, with the final May 24 episode in the can, there was no chance to tie up loose ends and see the characters off – courtesies commonly extended to series with 1/10 the longevity.

The significant 21st season, when “L&O” would become the longest-running scripted series on US primetime television, was something viewers wanted to experience. None as much as Wolf himself, a linchpin creative talent at NBC whose “L&O” franchise is embedded in the network’s schedule. Just five months earlier, no less than NBC’s president of primetime entertainment Angela Bromstad publicly referred to herself as “a ‘Law & Order’ junkie” who didn’t want to be responsible for pulling the plug before the record-breaking year.

Knowing that it was squaring off against a warhorse, one of its most valuable producers and a famously passionate fan base … coming off a season more embarrassing than even the 1983 “Manimal” low point … knowing it had fed into (and certainly didn’t deflect) speculation of renewal … needing to put its best face forward to advertisers in four days at its upfront … and with weeks, possibly months, to plan for this potential outcome … what was NBC’s strategy to buffer and position this?

PR 101 would be to get ahead of the rumors and make this decision public with a gracious standalone announcement and have media talking points, social websites’ comments and Audience Services e-mail responses at the ready. Ideally with Wolf and the show on board.

NBC chose to handle it their old-fashioned way: by doing pretty much nothing. It was Conan, Leno and the “Tonight” show all over again.

After the news leaked Thursday afternoon, NBC officially no-commented to the media for nearly 18 hours. Even stranger for a company that boasts about its digital and social media talents, it appears to have posted nothing – not even a polite vague acknowledgement – on the numerous fansites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Not even its own.

The information gap was filled by sources from both camps with various levels of actual knowledge and media relations skills. Half claimed the cancellation was done and irreversible while others said it remained undecided and the sides were talking. We eventually learned the truth was somewhere in the middle but in the meantime, these conflicting sides resonated across an increasingly angry digital community.

Finally, the next morning, NBC issued an announcement. It attempted a flimsy end run, announcing renewal of “SVU” and pick-up of a new LA “L&O” before acknowledging the cancellation. The requisite effusive language was there. Wolf’s comment wasn’t; he chose to issue a terse rejoinder.

With the bad news finally out, NBC’s still hiding. As of this writing, there’s nothing posted by a network representative on Twitter, Facebook or fansites including its own – a routine part of crisis PR. They have no dedicated response (another PR basic) to viewer e-mail coming in through the “Contact Us” system on NBC.com.

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic:

The secrets of this show’s success are manifold. To begin with, both the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders are, shall we say, easy on the eye. They play against a colorful cast of witnesses and defendants. (How many successful young actresses got their start by playing teen psycho killers on the show?) And there’s the dependable formula—discovery of body, wisecrack, false start, arrest, interrogation, release, arrest of the correct perp, indictment, suppression motion, shocking new evidence, impassioned argument by Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), verdict—usually, thank heaven, guilty. W.H. Auden once described mystery stories as progressing from innocence to common guilt and back to innocence again: “The law becomes a reality and for a time all must live in its shadow, till the fallen one is identified. With his arrest, innocence is restored, and the law retires forever.”

But the true secret of the show’s appeal is that it’s not a crime show at all. It’s a fable about the field called tort law—the branch of civil justice in which people hurt by others’ sloppy or vicious conduct can wring some measure of payback from those who hurt them. The idea may seem ridiculous. No figure in American popular culture is more roundly reviled than the ambulance-chasing, injury-faking, fast-talking shyster shakedown artist. Consider the plaintiffs’ lawyer Jan Schlichtman as portrayed by John Travolta in the film of A Civil Action. In Jonathan Harr’s book, Schlichtman is portrayed as a canny lawyer, to be sure, but one with ideals of justice for the poor; by the time writer-direct Steven Zaillian is done with him, the screen Schlichtman is a greedy, amoral shark, who runs about the city making “call me” gestures to the injured even before the ambulance arrives.

Or consider the 2000 Steven Soderbergh film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts as a paralegal who helps a community find compensation from the soulless corporation that has poisoned its water. Early in the film, one of the victims asks Roberts whether she is a lawyer. “Oh, no,” she says. “I hate lawyers, I just work for them.” (The film has a happy ending—the injured get scads of money—but that victory is won by lawyers, and is not shown onscreen.)

We profoundly believe that the world does not need legal bottom-feeders. But when a powerful figure inflicts injury on the powerless, we need someone to make things right. The need for a tort system aches like a missing limb.

James Poniewozik at Time:

I’ll admit never having been a huge fan of the show. Not that I have anything against it; it’s generally been well-made over the decades, but I just don’t have the need for a regular cop procedural. So I don’t want to dance on its grave. But I will say that, if the only reason to keep it on the air was to set a record for Dick Wolf—and it wouldn’t have been for the ratings—then that’s the wrong reason. You’d be royally and rightfully pissed if you were a fan of the show that got killed so L&O could collect a record.

Still, I’m guessing that L&O is one of those shows that people will mourn out of proportion to the amount that they actually watch it. For one thing, it’s been on so long that there are a lot of people who had an L&O habit once and feel sentimental. And it’s so widely rerun (and spun off, etc.) that plenty of people watch it even if they never watch the original in its timeslot anymore. I suspect, though, that they like to know that it’s somewhere out there, churning out murders and efficient trial starring New York stage actors for them to watch, someday.

I also wonder, once the dust clears, whether it may be that L&O is simply “canceled,” but still has the chance to pick up new life—and go for that record—on cable, where it has a faithful following. A TNT deal had been talked about in the past before, for instance, and really the meat-and-potatoes cop drama is becoming more a staple of basic cable.

Allison Waldman at TV Squad:

‘Law and Order’ is over. It had a great run. Really. It spun-off four other shows, including the drama that’s taking its place on NBC in fall 2010, ‘Law and Order: Los Angeles.’ It made a lot of sense for the original to finally wrap with this May 24th’s season finale, and here’s five reasons why:

1. It’s going out on top. Too many shows overstay their welcome, lingering long after they’re still a viable program on the schedule or have good stories to tell. That’s not the case with ‘L&O.’ In fact, this season has been a good one and the pairing of Linus Roache with Sam Waterson has been dynamic. For all intents and purposes, ‘Law’ is going out while still something special.

2. It had become too formulaic. The ‘ripped from the headlines’ formula that was been ‘Law and Order’s’ bread and butter had become a twisted mess in the past couple of years. Maybe it was the headlines, but the roman a clef storylines were cutting too close to the bone and with every new scandal, you just waited for ‘Law and Order’ to do their spin on it. Elliot Spitzer? Did it. Mel Gibson? Yes. Heidi Fleiss? Check.

3. NBC needs to move on. After the year that NBC has had, this was no time for sentiment to trump practicality. It’s true that Angela Bromstad, NBC Entertainment President, said that she didn’t want to be the executive to pull the plug on ‘Law and Order,’ but I give her credit for making the tough decision. NBC doesn’t need to hold onto the past; it’s time to embrace the future. That means new drama series that might have a run half as long as ‘Law.’

4. Television history has already been made.
Does the record book really matter to anyone? Most people don’t even remember that ‘Gunsmoke’ had the longest run in television history. So ‘Law and Order’ will be tied with that CBS western, big deal. They’re both still way behind ‘Guiding Light’ which had 72 years on the air — radio and television — before ending in September 2009. And if you want to know about history, Fox’s ‘The Simpsons’ currently wrapping year 21 and will be back for a 22nd.

5. It’s not really gone.
While NBC will not be producing new episodes of ‘Law and Order,’ the show will hardly be gone and forgotten. It’s a huge fixture in syndication as well as on USA Network. The program plays all over the world in television markets and the DVDs are available for sale and rent. Also, since there really won’t be an ending to ‘L&O,’ it wouldn’t shock me if two or three years from now creator/executive producer Dick Wolf convinces NBC to do a TV movie, reuniting some of the original cast members. If not a reunion movie, perhaps a series of TV movies. Don’t be shocked … it could happen.

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While You Were Out Watching “Avatar”

Obviously, this clip from Pulp Fiction is rated R.

Sharon Waxman at The Wrap:

It’s been a slow death, but Miramax dies on Thursday.

The New York and Los Angeles offices of the arthouse movie studio owned by Disney will close.

Eighty people will lose their jobs. The six movies waiting distribution — “Last Night,” “The Debt,” “The Tempest” among them — will be shelved, to gather dust, or win a tepid release.

[…]

The story of Miramax has been told and retold: Scrappy New York brothers name the studio after their parents, wheel and deal to hold their movie company together, bully business partners, seduce filmmakers and spend loads of money on Oscar campaigns.

Then came the sale to Disney. The success, the hubris, the Oscars, the overspending. The loss of identity, the desperate attempts to reconcile with Michael Eisner followed by the bitter divorce, and the quiet takeover by Daniel Battsek.

The final chapter has been short and bitter.

Battsek was squeezed to a smaller and smaller size by Disney, despite releasing some respectable movies including “The Queen,” “Tsotsi” and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

The studio endured endless rumors of its impending closure. On Oct. 2, Disney announced that “Miramax Films will reduce the number of films it releases annually while consolidating certain of its operations.”

Dick Cook, the former chairman of the studio, told me last summer that while reduced in size, the studio would continue.

But by year-end , Dick Cook was gone, and Rich Ross had taken over. Soon after, Daniel Battsek was gone, too.

Remained the final sweep-up — the firing of the remnant staff as part of the Ross reboot of the larger Disney studio, focused on a digital future with great, big, global brands.

Dr. Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects:

Miramax, a beloved studio that’s provided entertainment for just over 30 years, died today. According to several sources, including The Wrap, the Disney arm has succumb to financial difficulties after a long-fought battle.

Ballsy and often brilliant, the films and filmmakers that had a home at Miramax often viewed it as a safe haven from the stormy seas of commercial studios with less gusto and freedom.

The studio is survived by My Left Foot, The Crying Game, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, The Piano, Trainspotting and a cast of thousands left to mourn.

The heart of the studio could be summed up by one schlubby filmmaker who found success there. Kevin Smith wrote this today:

I’m crushed to see it pass into history, because I owe everything I have to Miramax. Without them, I’d still be a New Jersey convenience store register jockey. In practice, not just in my head.”

There’s a chance that the Weinsteins will buy the name back, but for now we should be remeniscing about the past instead of looking into the future. We can leave that for another day.

Michael Atkinson at Village Voice:

The “independent movement” turned out to be a different marketing paradigm, with a different cost-and-profit measure, turning out movies that could benefit from the scene’s own brand of hype, aggrandized not for their size or ambition but for their production modesty and “passion.” The Weinsteins, of course, played the game perfectly, and were roundly praised for it (Queen Elizabeth named Harvey a Commander of the British Empire). They drummed up idiosyncratic buzz for Quentin Tarantino, Todd Haynes, and Kevin Smith even as their turnout was mostly a glut of treacly Euro-trash and Sundance yawns.

Miramax lorded over the short-lived heyday of the modest-budgeted alt-film, and of course the company has been dished as often as it’s been hailed for successfully selling what the suits in L.A. would never greenlight. Just don’t call the movies indies. Even as the news cycle loudly laments the “death of the indie,” now that the bullgoose is dead, the indie flourishes — if I had a dime for every genuine MasterCard movie or video doc that hit the slipstream, theatrical or video or online, in the last six months, I could afford the meals that have made Harvey’s waistline so famous.

It’s the Miramax-created “dependie” that’s dead — aging movie stars now look to TV to coolly extend their careers past the sell-by date, not to $5 million heist sagas written by film school grads and shot in the neighborhood gin mills. As much as I may have enjoyed Bruce Willis snapping the samurai sword in Pulp Fiction, or Sylvester Stallone lumbering through Cop Land, I won’t miss their third- or fourth-generational equivalents. It was a mutant form of American showbiz to begin with, born without the genetic tools for survival.

Aylin Zafar at The Atlantic with five best Miramax moments

Dr. Abaius with a list of top Miramax films

Caitlin Brody at Flavorwire with top Miramax films

Vadim Rizov at IFC:

Yet after notoriously picking up “Happy, Texas” for $10 million in 1999, the Weinsteins seemingly threw up their hands and moved into the production business; the rest is history. But there’s no denying that where a major festival movie went in the ’90s, the Weinsteins were there too: overpaying, perhaps, or burying the movie in their vaults, or recutting, or generating all kinds of bad blood, but they were still there.

So who fulfills that role now? The first company that came to mind was, er, the one resembling the masthead up there, which looks all kinds of suspicious, but I get my paychecks from a separate division. Sony Classics and Magnolia are also strong labels in terms of acquiring notable festival titles, as is former Picturehouse prexy Bob Berney’s Apparition, which seems to be on the same wavelength as Miramax in midstream, where they can pick up movies like “Bright Star” and have a production pipeline of films like “The Runaways.” Indiewood’s Focus Features and Fox Searchlight appear to be more focused on production than pick-ups, despite the fact that Focus just bought the rights to Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are Alright” at Sundance. Otherwise, smaller independent films are spread out all over a diaspora of even smaller companies that can fold and leave their libraries in a mess at the slightest notice. ‘Twas ever thus, obviously; the recent shuttering of New Yorker Films, for example, left a valuable library cut adrift.

The dream of Miramax — if often not the reality — was to have at least one place where valuable arthouse films of the ’90s could all be found and accessed. And we now know, for all kinds of reasons, that this simply will never be possible. One more symbolic nail in the coffin.

Richard Lawson at Gawker:

Though it had dwindled a bit in recent years, the studio built by Harvey and Bob Weinstein (named after their parents, Miriam and Max) will stand in history as the great drum beater of the modern independent film movement. Beginning humbly as a small family business in 1979, within ten years Miramax had emerged as the go-to haus for hip, outre cinema — their sex, lies, & videotape stormed Cannes in 1989, ostensibly kicking-off the great indie boom of the early ’90s. Harvey Weinstein became known as something of a god, feared and respected, capable of terrible wrath but also great artistic passion. He was the champion of game-changers like Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh, seeming to possess a near-flawless eye for the hip, the cool, and the awards-bait.

Indeed Harvey’s unprecedentedly aggressive awards campaigns not only became the stuff of legend, but were studied and emulated to such a degree that Weinsteinian “For Your Consideration…” onslaughts have become de rigeur from December to March. Miramax was bold and smart and powerful enough to keep its feet in two different camps — it produced artsy independent features but also had a mind toward mainstream profit. Films like Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, and The English Patient deftly skipped the barren plane of little-seen art house fare and became popular and awards-bedecked hits. Shakespeare, specifically, was the film that famously upset the king of Hollywood himself, beating Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan in the 1998 Best Picture race.

Harvey was never shy about trumpeting his successes or wading into the celebrity-industrial morass with gleeful cunning and ruthlessness. He became something of cigar-chomping parody of himself (an actual parody became a bellicose recurring character on Entourage), while his brother Bob quietly led the studio’s more profit-focused arm, Dimension. Mostly the place for cheapo horror and sci-fi, Dimension helped resurrect the slasher genre with the snarkily self-aware smash Scream, again another instance of trusting a mostly unknown talent (Kevin Williamson) and having it pay off handsomely. Miramax had the winning formula, a certain kind of alchemy, and there was no stopping them. Well, for a time.

David Edelstein at New York Magazine:

Dear Miramax:

Please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your company. I can only imagine what a shock it must be to you and the artists who are and have been a part of your family. The ones who sired you, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, were not universally beloved, but they changed the course of American film, and in the years since their departure from your world you have soldiered on with honor. Your recent films The Queen and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly were the best of their respective years, and you never made anything as grisly as Nine. You are a symbol of a movement hit hard by a collapsing economy and the rise of “event” pictures that were never a part of your mandate. Others more knowledgeable will trace the course of your life and your last, declining years. But I know this: In the end you had more than a spark of life, and the plug need not have been pulled. We will miss you and the gifted individuals who enriched all our lives.

Sincere condolences to you and to all who love movies,

David Edelstein

UPDATE: Adrian Chen at Defamer

UPDATE #3: Heather Horn at The Atlantic

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