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September 18, 2007
Director David Cronenberg

Director David Cronenberg reopened an argument among critics and fans about violence in film when his latest, Eastern Promises, took the top prize at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. Eastern Promises, about Russian mobsters in London, has plenty of Cronenberg’s trademark shootouts and rub-outs, which some in the Toronto crowd said made it feel real. Others said it was distracting, unnecessary, and crass.

One thing that makes the violence in Eastern Promises distasteful is that it does nothing to move the story along, said Anthony Lane in NewYorker.com. “Violence is to threat, in his movies, as punch line is to joke: a source of glee to his fans, although every year I find it less amusing.” In Eastern Promises, it doesn’t “drive home the malice” of its characters, but instead shifts attention away from where it should be—on exploring “the spiritual sump where these characters live.” You leave the theater “feeling spooked and sullied, as if waking from a noisome dream.”

The problem with Eastern Promises is it’s not violent enough, said James Berardinelli in ReelViews.net. “Sadly,” there are “only two sequences likely to remind the viewer that he or she is watching a Cronenberg movie.” And other than those scenes, “the movie is lifeless” and ends on a note that makes it “feel unfinished.”

Cronenberg handles blood and guts with incredible finesse, said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. Eastern Promises is an “elegant treatise on the metaphysics of violence.” His character’s bodies suffer horrible damage, but “there’s a sense of respect for the body itself.” The violence is “ineluctable, brutal, and repellent, but it matters.” Even when his message isn’t entirely clear, “you leave his movies feeling unsettled in the best sense.” The Week Staff

8:48 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly exploring how to turn his business over to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., but plans to keep a stake in the real estate empire and will not heed calls to divest, The New York Times reports. People who were briefed on the discussions said that Ivanka Trump would also leave the Trump Organization, likely to assume a role in Washington, and that Ivanka and her father are exploring a "legal structure" to separate them from the company.

Critics have pointed out that any way in which Trump might have a continued financial interest in his organization could result in conflicts and questions. The Office of Government Ethics has reportedly informed Trump's lawyers that ethical concerns can only be avoided with a divestiture.

Trump has defended himself to reporters, stating that "the law's totally on my side." Still, he will have to navigate laws that prohibit government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments, with even foreign diplomats staying at his properties being a cause for scrutiny.

"There are ways to make it work legally, but the appearances are going to be terrible and it's going to be a four-year ethical challenge," former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter said. Jeva Lange

8:10 a.m. ET
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

At a "Women Rule" forum in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Kellyanne Conway said that she "will do whatever the president-elect and vice president-elect... believe is my best and highest use for them," but it probably won't involve a full-time job in the White House. She suggested she will play a "Kellyanne role" in Donald Trump's administration, but noted "my children are 12, 12, 8, and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside [the White House]." Her kids "have to come first, and those are very fraught ages," Conway said, but turning down a White House job "would be my personal choice and not a demand on me."

Conway was Trump's campaign manager for the last stretch of his campaign, and when discussing what role she could play after the election, senior campaign officials would begin the discussion, "I know you have four kids, but...." she told the audience. "I said there's nothing that comes after the 'but' that makes any sense to me, so don't even try. Like what is the 'but'?" she asked. "But they'll eat Cheerios for the rest of the day? Nobody will brush their teeth again until I get home?"

Conway said that when she helps interview potential Cabinet appointees, "I do politely mention to them the question isn't would you take the job, the male sitting across from me who's going to take a big job in the White House. The question is would you want your wife to?" she said. "Would you want the mother of children to? You really see their entire visage change. It's like, oh no, they wouldn't want their wife to take that job. But it's, it's all good."

Trump, who once called pregnancy "an inconvenience" for employers, isn't trying to steer her out of the West Wing, Conway said. "Mothers and married women and unmarried women — they're all welcome in the Trump White House and he's made that very clear to me." Working mothers have opportunities in the U.S. capital, she added, but "we still have to make choices and there are limits." Peter Weber

8:07 a.m. ET

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) is reportedly on an increasingly short list of candidates being considered by Donald Trump for secretary of state. But when pressed Wednesday night by Yahoo News' Bianna Golodryga about Trump's friendliness towards Russia, considering the human rights abuses committed by the nation, Rohrabacher scoffed, "Oh, baloney! Where do you come from?"

From there, the exchange became fiery and downright personal. Golodryga responded that she is from the former Soviet Union and that she came to the U.S. as a political refugee, to which Rohrabacher shot back: "Oh, well, then that's good, then the audience knows you're biased."

When challenged again about Russia's human rights violations, Rohrabacher, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, said Reagan would have loved his stance on Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Reagan was the one who reached out to [Mikhail] Gorbachev," he explained. Again, Golodryga attempted to clarify: "Are you comparing Gorbachev to Vladimir Putin?"

"Absolutely, I am," Rohrabacher confirmed. Watch the explosive exchange below. Jeva Lange

7:31 a.m. ET
Jeff Fusco/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump filled four top White House positions on Wednesday, provoking particular outcry on the left over his appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, to head the Environmental Protection Agency. "The EPA is gonna be run by the man who maybe hates the EPA the most in America," The Atlantic's Vann R. Newkirk II wrote. The Sierra Club said putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA was like "putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires."

Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also criticized Trump's Cabinet: "We can go through the list of people he's already chosen and it's, quite frankly, scary," Reid told David Axelrod on The Axe Files podcast.

On Wednesday, Trump also picked co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) to be the U.S. ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to be secretary of homeland security. Jeva Lange

6:28 a.m. ET
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Edgar Welch, arrested on Sunday after firing a military-style rifle inside the Washington, D.C., pizzeria Comet Ping Pong, told The New York Times via video chat on Wednesday that he drove up from North Carolina to get a "closer look" at the restaurant at the center of the false "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory and had no intention of firing a shot. "I regret how I handled the situation," he said. "I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way." Internet articles led him to believe that the pizzeria was the center of a child sex ring run by associates of Hillary Clinton, but "the intel on this wasn't 100 percent," he said, adding that just because there were no children "inside that dwelling," it doesn't mean there is no Pizzagate pedophile ring.

Welch, a 28-year-old father of two, says he doesn't believe in conspiracy theories, but listens to Alex Jones, who regularly spreads conspiracy theories on his radio show and websites. Jones is "a bit eccentric," he said. "He touches on some issues that are viable but goes off the deep end on some things." The Pizzagate myth, built through creative interpretations of emails hacked from John Podesta and released by WikiLeaks to harm Clinton's presidential campaign, is spreading outside of D.C., roping in not just late-night comedian Stephen Colbert but also the Austin pizzeria East Side Pies.

The owners of East Side Pies became aware of Pizzagate through some strange comments on the restaurant's Facebook page, then were pointed to Reddit threads linking their pizzeria to the fake story. The Austin American-Statesman's Matthew Odam runs down a few of the red herrings:

The online posts have made wild and baseless accusations about East Side Pies. They interpreted the restaurant's logo as a symbol of the "Illuminati," questioned the meaning of photos of pizza-eating children on East Side Pies' Facebook account, inferred that a picture of staffers with former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell was proof of nefarious political ties, and claimed co-owner Michael Freid, an alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, had "connections to the CIA." [Austin American-Statesman]

Owen Shroyer, who makes videos for Alex Jones' Infowars and hosts his own podcast, posted a 2.5-hour video detailing his own nutty investigation of East Side Pies on Saturday. Austin police and the FBI are investigating the threats and vandalism of a pizza delivery truck. Peter Weber

4:51 a.m. ET

On Wednesday morning, Time named Donald Trump its 2016 Person of the Year — not like there was much suspense — though its cover photo left some people wondering if Time made its pick grudgingly. Wednesday's Late Show took the idea and ran with it, imagining the editorial meeting where Time officially decided on Trump. "I think we all know who it has to be, so if someone will just come out and say it, we can move on," the editor-in-chief said at 9 a.m. You can probably imagine where this is going (think Lord of the Flies), and you can watch below. Peter Weber

4:22 a.m. ET

"We have a lot of fun here at The Late Show every night, talking about the news of the day," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's show, "but I really hope you don't get your news from me. Because news flash: This isn't news. This is entertainment." If you want news, read a newspaper or watch network news, he said, but don't trust social media, "because a lot of the news on social media is a lie." There is so much fake news sloshing around that Pope Francis even weighed in on Wednesday, comparing fake-news purveyors to people with "a morbid fascination with excrement." "If the pope's talking poop, you know we're in deep doo-doo," Colbert said.

"The craziest fake news of all is something called #Pizzagate," he said. "People actually believe a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager, John Podesta, ran a child sex ring at a pizzeria in D.C. This is a lie." If you're not familiar with this conspiracy theory, Colbert explained: "According to the folks with the spider eggs hatching in their brains, Clinton and Podesta have a series of smuggling tunnels that connect to the basement of this pizzeria, but police refuse to investigate the basement crime scene on the flimsy excuse that the pizzeria does not have a basement."

Among the "uniformed, gullible people" who fell for this crazy conspiracy, Colbert said, was Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's choice for national security adviser, who promoted the "MUST READ!" story on Twitter with the introduction "U decide." "Okay, then I decide a guy who spreads this bullshit shouldn't be in charge of national security," he said. This is partly personal for Colbert, he said, "because according to some folks on Reddit, I'm in on Pizzagate," and Clinton's payroll. ("She can't afford me," he said.)

"This is insane," Colbert said, and after explaining how talk shows work, he teasingly prepared to read the pre-interview he did with Trump — twice — before shredding it, because it's private. "Here's what these conspiracy theorists don't get," he said. "There's a difference between a conspiracy and an agreement. A conspiracy is what villains do. An agreement is what adults do. Look around the country — wouldn't you agree we need some more adults? So WikiLeaks, Alex Jones, and the sub-Reddit sub-geniuses — and I mean this in the nicest way possible — grow the f—k up." Watch below. Peter Weber

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