This week’s entertainment buzz

Is Zero Dark Thirty Fact or Propaganda?

The movie “Zero Dark Thirty“, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written and produced by Mark Boal tells the story— or a version of the story— of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. Many consider it among the best films of 2012. And the filmmakers come to the material off of tremendous critical success– if not box-office boffo– for their 2008 Oscar winning movie “The Hurt Locker.” But Zero Dark Thirty has been dogged by controversy from the beginning. Before the film opened, people on the Right accused it of being pro-Obama. So the filmmakers pushed the release date to after the election to avoid any politicizing of the movie. Upon it’s release, people accused it of stating that torture was in part responsible for the successful capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Many in the Government disputed the validity of that narrative and in fact a bi-partisan group of Senators sent a letter to Sony, the distributor, condemning it. Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee has turned its attention to the CIA.

They are questioning whether people at the CIA, who consulted with screenwriter Mark Boal, misled the filmmakers in an effort to justify the use of enhanced interrogation. If that turns out to be the case, were screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow used to create a propaganda message by the CIA?

The Oscar Nominations Are Coming…The Oscar Nominations Are Coming…

This Thursday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will announce the Oscar nominations. For the first time ever the Academy Awards emcee will be one of the announcers at the famed 5:35 am press conference. McFarlane, famous for creating TV shows like “Family Guy” had his first film success this year with the raunchy comedy, “Ted,” starring Mark Wahlberg alongside a foul-mouthed teddy bear voiced by McFarlane. It’s likely that “Ted” won’t get any nominations and that there will be at least one joke about that.

While likely contenders for best picture nominations include “Lincoln,” “Argo,””Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” no one is resting easy this year due to a new, complicated electronic voting system that the Academy put in place. In an effort to join the 21st Century, the Academy instituted e-voting, which wreaked havoc on the voters, causing the voting deadline to be extended by 24 hours. It remains to be seen on Thursday whether the new system skewed the numbers.

Your Cable Provider and You

Last week we saw a new dimension to the way that the business of cable channels can affect what we watch.  Current TV– famous for being co-created by Vice President/Oscar-winner Al Gore and then for luring Keith Olbermann after he left MSNBC only to lose him soon afterwards– was sold to Al Jazeera English. The new channel, tentatively called Al Jazeera America, hopes to become a new 24 hour news channel that could compete with the big boys in the U.S.. But that is only if cable and satellite providers actually carry the network. Time Warner Cable had already dumped Current before the deal went through for having such a tiny audience (40,000 households by some estimates). The cable company also dropped Ovation– an Arts and Culture channel that has a small viewing audience (though the New York Times had a photo of Ovation fans protesting outside of Time Warner’s offices so they do have placards).

The questions are many… in this fragmented entertainment world we live in, how do smaller channels that aren’t part of huge conglomerates like Viacom, NBCUniversal or NewsCorp able to get the viewers and thus the ad-dollars to justify their carriage fees to cable providers? But also, the question of a-la-carte pricing comes up again and again. Will there come a day we consumers can pick and choose the channels we want to watch and leave the rest? Well, that’s what the cord-cutters hope to do. Couple that with more entertainment online and the advent of Netflix’s original programming this year… the TV business and how and what we can see and do watch may change forever.

(Of course, if you don’t have cable, you can join the millions that tuned in for the third season premiere of “Downtown Abbey.”)

Via Hollywood Reporter: The two-hour premiere pulled a whopping 7.9 million viewers. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)