10.April.2012: Michael Cieply writes for The New York Times about the unfortunate timing of 20th Century Fox’s summer comedy Neighborhood Watch, starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade as “four suburban watch members who save the their neighborhood, and the world, from an invasion by space aliens.” Ciepley writes, “That Neighborhood Watch should be tainted by even a whiff of the vigilantism at issue in the [Trayvon] Martin shooting is attributable not just to the film’s name, but also to an unfortunate decision by Fox to release a brief initial teaser trailer that portrayed its stars as a band of dark-clad heavies cruising their suburban turf to a hip-hop theme. Mr. Hill points his fingers as if firing a gun.” Fox has withdrawn that trailer, along with a promotional image of a shot-up Neighborhood Watch sign.
There have been many cries of outrage following Glen Greenwald’s report on Sunday of documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras’ frequent harassment by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. New York-based documentary group Cinema Eye issued a public letter of protest signed by many prominent filmmakers. It reads in part, “It is unacceptable for any American nonfiction filmmaker or journalist to be treated in this manner. They must be able to return to their own country without fear of arrest or fear that their work product will be seized, solely because they are investigating or chronicling subject matter that may be sensitive or controversial.”Filmmaker’s Scott Macaulay calls up some of his 2010 interview with Poitras about her sensitive contacts for The Oath. She told him then, “If you’re talking to any lawyer who’s representing Guantanamo [prisoners], you basically assume you are getting caught in the net of people who are being monitored. And the question is to what extent? Is it just electronic monitoring? Are they really paying attention? We always kept multiple copies of footage in different places. I didn’t want to be subpoenaed—that was certainly a concern.” Macaulay also points out that Poitras, who’s featured in this year’s Whitney Biennial, is set to give a presentation with Jacob Appelbaum on surveillance at the museum on April 20.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the MPAA’s former chief technology policy officer, Paul Brigner, is now speaking out against the Stop Online Piracy and Protect Intellectual Property Acts (SOPA and PIPA), bucking Hollywood’s general line on the issue. Quoting Brigner, “The more I became educated on the realities of these issues, the more I came to the realization that a mandated technical solution just isn’t mutually compatible with the health of the Internet.”
The L Magazine’s Henry Stewart relays an interesting wrinkle in the back-story of director Kenneth Lonergan’s film, Margaret. “The incident that sets the film’s story in motion—the distraction of a bus driver about a cowboy hat that ends in an accident—happened to a high-school classmate of the writer-director,” Stewart writes. “[Lonegran] was telling [this story] again at a recent Q&A when he saw a hand waving from the audience. And there was Jill Breslauer, the girl herself, whom he hadn’t seen in 30 years, at the movies with her husband—and wearing a cowboy hat!”