Monday, December 19, 2022

Weekend Box Office

Via THENUMBERS.COM, here's the weekend box office:


Weekends In
1 N Avatar: The Way of Water 20th Century… $134,100,226   4,202   $31,913 $134,100,226 1
2 (1) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Walt Disney $5,346,843 -52% 3,380 -345 $1,582 $418,938,028 6
3 (2) Violent Night Universal $5,054,665 -42% 3,525 -198 $1,434 $35,016,750 3
4 (3) Strange World Walt Disney $2,210,255 -42% 2,870 -690 $770 $33,788,315 4
5 (4) The Menu Searchlight … $1,627,823 -41% 1,875 -835 $868 $32,050,322 5
6 (5) Devotion Sony Pictures $780,189 -62% 2,211 -1,247 $353 $18,616,143 4
7 (7) The Fabelmans Universal $743,740 -37% 955 -18 $779 $8,659,666 6
8 (-) It’s a Wonderful Life Fathom Events $734,571   960   $765 $11,557,472 3,966
9 (6) Black Adam Warner Bros. $445,515 -66% 1,304 -839 $342 $167,667,895 9
10 (9) I Heard the Bells Fathom Events $310,066 -59% 426 -754 $728 $4,994,221 3
11 (-) Elf
$278,500   270   $1,031 $178,100,000 998


 First off, no one wants to see THE FABELMANS.  It's bombed.  It's already available for streaming on AMAZON.  It's a bomb.  $40 million to shoot, $15 million (and counting) to advertise?  It's a bomb.  Six weeks and it's only made $8 million?  It's a bomb.  

In four weeks, BROS ($20 million budget) made over $11 million and then stopped because it was being sold (and available for rent) on streaming services.  THE FABELMANS is a bomb.

BROS should get some Academy Award recognition.  It's time to write off Steven's latest bomb.

Kat reviewed "STRANGE WORLD" and Ann reviewed "Black Adam" over the weekend, so check those out.

AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER was the number one film for the weekend.  I reviewed it in "AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER left me in tears."  Rebecca Rubin (YAHOO) reports:

James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” collected $134 million in its North American box office debut, affirming the public’s interest in Pandora and providing a needed boost to beleaguered movie theaters.

Overseas, the sci-fi epic brought in $301 million, bringing its global tally to a sizable $435 million. Those ticket sales mark the third-biggest global opening weekend in pandemic times, following “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” ($442 million globally) and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” ($600 million globally).


Brandon e-mailed to say he loved AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER and he feels like it's getting beat up?  


I would agree.  I didn't read any reviews before I wrote mine.  I wanted to just share what I saw and what I loved.  

Then people started e-mailing quoting reviews and saying that they had skipped the film because of this or that review.  

I really hope you'll give it a chance because it is a great movie.  One of the year's best.  It and BROS are my picks for the top two films of the year, in fact.  Ann and I are also talking about noting the ten worst films of the year this year because there's been so much garbage.


But AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER is not garbage.  It's really worth seeing.


Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, December 19, 2022.  Iraq has an athlete receiving worldwide attention, did Joe Biden lie about Iraq and Afghanistan, more antiquities returned to Iraq, we continue our coverage of the hearing on the rise in hate and violence aimed at LGBTQ+ individuals, and much more.

Starting in the United States:

US House Rep David Cicilline: I want to begin by reminding everyone here -- especially my Republican colleagues across the aisle -- what this hearing is about.  It's called "The Rise of Anti-LGBTQI+ Extremism and Violence in the United States."  And despite this hearing title, colleagues on both sides of the aisle have obviously condemned the attack on Club Q and violence more broadly, it's obviously more telling that the Republicans on this Committee -- with one exception -- did not ask any questions about anti LGBTQI+ extremism and violence.  Instead, they've only wanted to talk about crime broadly or hate crimes against other communities.  I'm disappointed, yet not surprised that a few weeks after a killer murdered five people at an LGBTQI+ nightclub, Republicans on this Committee could not bring themselves to discuss anti-LGBTQI+ violence and its causes with our witnesses.  Our community is scared -- terrified that we'll be attacked going to the doctor, scared that we'll be attacked going to night clubs, scared that we'll be attacked for living as our authentic selves and, unfortunately, this fear is well grounded.  The attack at Club Q is only the latest high profile attack against our community.  In 2021, 20% of all reported hate crimes were motivated by hate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Let me repeat that: Despite the fact that LGBTQI+ people make up roughly 7% of the population, 20% -- or more than 1 in 5 reported hate crimes -- last year were motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity bias.  My colleagues want to talk about anything but this anti-LGBTQI+ violence and their rhetoric that has contributed to it.  This violence is impacting both LGBTQI+ individuals and their families. 

He is exactly right.  It was shocking to watch the hearing take place, know the title and witness one Republican Committee member after another practice Florida's "Don't Say Gay or Trans" throughout the hearing.  

The stupidity and hatred was on full display from the GOP side.  It reminded me of a scene in COMING HOME.  Jane Fonda's Sally is volunteering at a VA hospital while her husband is serving in Vietnam.  She tries to speak with other officer wives about what's going on in the hospital and what the veterans are needing.  They have no interest at all.  And they certainly don't want reality in their little newsletter.  

The Republicans on the Committee turned their heads to reality just like the officers' wives in that film.

We're continuing our coverage of last week's House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.  US House Rep Carolyn Maloney presided over the hearing -- she's the Chair of the Committee, James Comer is the Ranking Member.  The hearing was held due to the rise in violence aimed at the LGBTQ+ community which includes last month's Club Q shooting.  The shooting left five people dead:

  • Daniel Davis Aston, 28
  • Kelly Loving, 40
  • Ashley Paugh, 35
  • Derrick Rump, 38
  • Raymond Green Vance, 22

The shooting also left twenty-five people injured.

Michael Anderson, James Slaugh and Matthew Haynes survived the shooting and they made up the first panel before the Committee.  The second panel was made up of Human Rights Campaign's Kelley Robinson, Pulse Nightclub shooting survivor Brandon Wolf, National Center for Transgender Equality's Oliva Hunt, Inside Out Youth Services' Jessie Pocock and The Williams Institute's Ilan Meyer.

For other coverage of the hearing, see Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" and Friday's "Iraq snapshot" and Ruth's "Allies are needed (House Oversight Committee)," Kat's "Respect for Marriage Act is only step one, more needed," "Cori Bush speaks some truth in Committee hearing," Trina's "LGBTQ youth need a safe nation (Dr. Jessie Pocock)," Mike's "Texas, come claim your idiot (House Oversight Committee)," Stan's "Shontel Brown, Chris Wallace, Wonder Woman" and Rebecca's "glenn greenwald wants to be the biggest bitch there is ."  

You can stream the hearing below.

Testifying before the Committee, Matthew Haynes, founding owner of Club Q:

We have received hundreds of hate mail and e-mails.  In the interest of time, I am not reading them all to ou.  But here are a few examples. "I woke up to the wonderful news that 5 mentally unstable f**gots and lesbians and 18 injured.  The only thing that I'm mad about is that the f**gots had courage to subdue the wonderful killer.  I hope more shootings happen again.  Have a blessed day."  "The shooter was doing God's work, 5 less f**s not enough.  Those that stopped him are the devil." "All gays should die."  I could go on, but you get the point.  I spoke Sunday with our hero Army veteran Rich Fierro and his wife Jessica.  They told me they and their daughter have been receiving hate messages on their phones, e-mail and at their business.  Most with the same basic theme: Condemning them to hell for stopping the shooter.

Brandon Wolf survived the 2016 attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Florida.  He told the Committee:

For decades, we told young people that "it gets better."  Those of us who grew up in schools where we had to hide to survive or face violence and abuse were told the tides were shifting and the world would finally let us simply be.  And for a while, it did get better.  But we are witnessing a violent backlash to that progress and I'm here to say we must recommit to the work of making America better than those who have placed a political target on the LGBTQ community, on trans youth and families, on our access to life-saving health care and who now seek to erase our existence from every school and every library.  Being LGBTQ in America, in 2022, means looking over your shoulder before holding hands with someone you love.  It means watching as your very humanity is litigated on every cable news network and across each social media platform, wondering which faces around the Thanksgiving dinner table will have been indoctrinated and emboldened to challenge your right to exist.  It means wondering when those hateful words will come from someone with an assault weapon and the directions to the bar you and your friends are in seeking refuge from a world that has been made more dangerous by extremist rhetoric of extremists and opportunistic politicians.

These are real issues.  It was surprising to watch how many on the left ignored these hearings.  Less surprising was to watch self-loathing gay men dismiss and attack the hearings.  Less surprising because that's what self-hatred prompts.

Some only identify as gay when they're pretending to care about their sick husband.  But, let's be honest, if they really cared about their husband, they wouldn't be Tweeting and doing YOUTUBE and RUMBLE political commentaries or, for that matter, announcing that they didn't want kids (despite now having two).  No, if they really cared about their sick husband who might die, they'd have their ass at the hospital every damn day.

They fake their way through life.  They're pathetic.

The hearing was about reality.  Molly Sprayregen (LGBTQ+ NATION) reports:

On Thursday, the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus released its Inaugural Report on the Conditions of LGBTQ+ People in the United States.

The report was spearheaded by the caucus’s chair, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), with the intention “to educate the public on the significant disparities LGBTQ+ people experience and serve as a benchmark by which the country can judge its progress on LGBTQ+ rights in the years to come,” according to a press release.

The report examines LGBTQ+ people in the areas of education, economic security, health care, and housing.

Unsurprisingly, it shows how LGBTQ+ people face disproportionate challenges in every single area.

It highlights, for example, a GLSEN survey that found 74.2% of K-12 trans students said they feel unsafe in school due to their gender, and that 76.1% of LGBTQ+ students who attended any portion of school in-person during the 2021-2022 school year endured verbal harassment due to their LGBTQ+ identity.

It also cites a 2020 Trevor Project survey that found 28% of LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 had been homeless or experienced housing insecurity at some point.

The list of challenges and disparities goes on.

“LGBTQ+ people deserve the same opportunities to thrive as their non-LGBTQ+ peers,” said Rep. Cicilline in a statement announcing the report. “The data presented in this report shows, however, that the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people are vastly different than those of our straight and cisgender neighbors.”

“With the increasing rise of violence against the LGBTQ+ community and the growing number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being introduced in state legislatures and in Congress, it is especially critical that all levels of government work to ensure true lived equality for LGBTQ+ people.”

“This includes by finally enacting the Equality Act into law to ensure comprehensive explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. Our ability to thrive in this country should not be limited due to our sexual orientation or gender identity. The fight for equality in this country will not be over until we address all of these disparities and create true equity for the LGBTQ+ community.”

More reality?  Saturday, David Klepper (AP) reported:



In the days after a gunman killed five people at a gay nightclub in Colorado last month, much of social media lit up with the now familiar expressions of grief, mourning and disbelief.

But on some online message boards and platforms, the tone was celebratory. “I love waking up to great news,” wrote one user on Gab, a platform popular with far-right groups. Other users on the site called for more violence.

The hate isn’t limited to fringe sites.

On Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, researchers and LGBTQ advocates have tracked an increase in hate speech and threats of violence directed at LGBTQ people, groups and events, with much of it directed at transgender people.

The content comes after conservative lawmakers in several states introduced dozens of anti-LGBTQ measures and amid a wave of threats targeting LGBTQ groups, as well as hospitals, health care workers, libraries and private businesses that support them. 

“I don’t think people understand the state of danger that we’re living in right now,” said Jay Brown, senior vice president at the Human Rights Campaign and a transgender man. “A lot of that is happening online, and online threats are turning into threats of real violence offline.”

Hospitals in Boston, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and other cities have received bomb threats and other harassing messages after misleading claims spread online about transgender care programs.

In Tennessee, masked members of a white supremacist group showed up recently at a holiday charity event at a bookstore because the evening’s entertainment included a drag performer. An upcoming holiday party at an adults-only gay nightclub scheduled for Friday was also the subject of threats. The party’s theme? Ugly Christmas sweaters.

“And they’re still coming after us? It’s just straight up bigotry and hatred at this point,” said Jessica Patterson, one of the organizers of the event, who noted that groups calling for violence against LGBTQ groups often espouse other bigotries too. “They just have to hate someone.”

 Turning to Iraq, MMA   Amir Albazi is making headlines.


Nolan King and Ken Hathaway (YAHOO NEWS) report:

At UFC Fight Night 216, Albazi (16-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) picked up his first TKO win in seven years when he finished promotional newcomer Alessandro Costa (12-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) with a slick uppercut and follow-up punches at the UFC Apex.

After the fight, Albazi hammered home that he’s not playing around. He considers himself ready for the elite of the elite at 125 pounds.

“I wanted to come here to show not the same Amir,” Albazi told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a post-fight news conference. “I’ve already submitted two blackbelts before, so I wanted to put on a really good performance to show I’m a different level than these guys and that I’m ready for the top five. I’m ready for that belt. I hope you guys saw that. I hope you saw that I have knockout power, too. I can put people to sleep standing up, and I can put people to sleep on the ground. Just keep them coming, and I’ll keep taking them out.”

Friday, US President Joe Biden spoke in New Castle, Delware at a Veterans Summit and PACT Act Town Hall.  He was speaking at The Beau Biden National Guard Reserve Center -- a place he and Jill Biden last visited January 19, 2021 when  "Jill and I stopped to say goodbye to Delaware as we were about to be sworn in in Washington, D.C. to take our Oath of Office." 

NATION.LK and FOX NEWS are convinced that he lied about how many times he has visited Iraq and Afghanistan.  FOX notes that, back in March, POLITIFACT found he had not been to the two "over 40 times" as he'd claimed them but  21 times.  Clearly, he hasn't been to either since March so 21 is still the number.

The two outlets cite this quote from Friday, "I've been in and out, not as, obviously, a combatant, but in and out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and those areas 38, 39 times as vice president, only twice as president."

So did he lie?

I don't know and they don't either.  He didn't Iraq and Afghanistan this time.  He said "Afghanistan, Iraq and those areas."  Those areas.  What is he claiming there?  Is he including Israel?  I have no idea and neither do they which countries Joe was referring to by "those areas."  And "those areas" must be the "twice as president."  He hasn't been to Iraq once since being elected president.  And he didn't even meet with Iraq's previous prime minister when the p.m. visited the US this fall to speak to the UN.

THE DAILY MAIL also gloms on the remarks about visiting Iraq and Afghanistan  without appearing to notice that "those areas" are in Friday's remarks.  THE MAIL's on stronger ground calling out this part of the speech:

He made the astonishing claims as he spoke to war veterans in Delaware and also  told them a previously unheard story of how his uncle Frank Biden won a Purple Heart medal for his service during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 during World War II.

There appeared to be some glaringly inaccurate key details in his tale - including there being no evidence of such an honor ever being awarded.

Biden went on to explain how his father urged him have his brother, Frank, be awarded the prestigious medal normally given to those wounded or killed while serving, on or after 5 April 1917, with the U.S. military.

The president claimed all of this happened when he had been elected as vice president, in 2008. However, his uncle Frank had passed away in 1999 and his own father died in 2002 making such a conversation impossible.

From The White House's official transcript of the speech:

You know, I — my dad, when I got elected Vice President, he said, “Joey, Uncle Frank fought in the Battle of the Bulge.”   He was not feeling very well now — not because of the Battle of the Bulge.  But he said, “And he won the Purple Heart.  And he never received it.  He never — he never got it.  Do you think you could help him get it?  We’ll surprise him.”

     So we got him the Purple Heart.  He had won it in the Battle of the Bulge.  And I remember he came over to the house, and I came out, and he said, “Present it to him, okay?”  We had the family there.

     I said, “Uncle Frank, you won this.  And I want to…”  He said, “I don’t want the damn thing.”  (Laughter.)  No, I’m serious.  He said, “I don’t want it.”  I said, “What’s the matter, Uncle Frank?  You earned it.”  He said, “Yeah, but the others died.  The others died.  I lived.  I don’t want it.” 

Just like a generation — this generation in Vietnam — excuse me, in — in Iraq.

The story, as Joe tells it, could not have happened. 

Frank Biden's obituary and gravestone allegedly fail to mention him as a Purple Heart recipient. Additionally, no one by that name is listed in a partial registry of known Purple Heart recipients, though this database is not extensive. The Nexis database and the archives of Joe Biden's public utterances do not contain any prior references to Frank Biden getting the Purple Heart which honors injured and dead troops. Interestingly, Joe Biden’s brother and uncle were both named Frank. His uncle, Frank H Biden died in 1999.

What those concerned about the truth -- at least with regards to Joe -- appear to have missed from his speech is this section:

One of the last times I flew into Iraq, I went up in the cockpit.  And they fly me with what’s called a “Silver Bullet” when you fly the President, and there’s a special container in the plane they stick you in. 

     And I went up with a — I went up with a group, and I was telling this to Beau’s father-in-law and my grade-school friend who’s sitting right there — and he’s taping it all because he’s going to use it against me here — (laughter) — Ronnie Olivere. 

How is anyone supposed to interpret that?  I think it can honestly be understood to be Joe saying that he visited Iraq as President and was in "what's called a 'Silver Bullet'" -- but the thing is, he's never visited Iraq once as President.  The last time he visited Iraq was 2016.  He wasn't president at that time.

So if you're concerned about a lie, there's one right there.

Staying on the topic of Iraq, The District Attorney's Office in Manhattan issued the following on Wednesday:

D.A. Bragg Announces Return of Antiquities Looted from the Iraqi Museum in 2003

December 14, 2022

       Pictured: “Stamp Seals”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., announced the return of antiquities to the People of Iraq that were looted from the Iraq Museum in 2003. The pieces were smuggled into the United States, where they were purchased through various galleries and online auctions by a private collector between 2004-2009. The antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony attended by Iraq’s Charge D’Affaires Dr. Salwan Sinjar and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tom Acocella.

“These stunningly preserved artifacts are just a few of the many antiquities looted from the Iraq Museum. Thanks to the thoroughness of our investigators and prosecutors, we discovered that these pieces were for sale online without the proper documentation. We are pleased that they are finally returning home to the museum where they rightfully belong,” said District Attorney Bragg.   

“I’m grateful for the work by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for its efforts to repatriate these precious, historic antiquities to Iraq,” said Dr.Salwan Sinjari, Iraqi ChargĂ© d’Affairs to the United States. “These pieces belong to Iraq—and belong in Iraq—and now they will help the Iraqi people better understand and appreciate our own history and culture with this connection to the past. This is another example of the longstanding cooperation, friendship, and partnership between Iraq and United States.”

“Homeland Security Investigations is proud to stand with our partners from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the Republic of Iraq to return these ancient cylinder and stamp seals. These items were looted by thieves taking advantage of the confusion of war to turn a profit with total disregard to their cultural value,” said Ivan J. Arvelo, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York. “These artifacts date from as far back as 2700 B.C.E. and were a critical part of everyday life in the ancient world. Now, they will return to their rightful home.”

The pieces returned include four cylinder seals and three stamp seals dating to between the Mesopotamian (2700-2500 B.C.E.) and the Neo-Babylonian (612-539 B.C.E.) periods. These seals were an important part of daily life and are engraved with figurative scenes. The carved illustrations on these seven seals depict images of gods, human figures, animals, and other scenes of worship. Each unique seal served as a personal signature to guarantee authenticity of either an individual or a business, and appear today almost exactly as they would have looked to the ancient people who used them.

In March of 2021, one of the stamp seals was listed for sale in an online auction, leading this Office to begin an investigation into its origin and provenance. Our investigation revealed that the consignor of this stamp seal was in possession of six additional seals that were all purchased shortly after the looting of the Iraq Museum and lacked any documentation confirming that they had entered the art market prior to 2003.

                   Pictured: “Cylinder Seals”

The investigation was conducted by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos, Chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit; Assistant District Attorney James Edwards-Lebair; Supervising Investigative Analyst Apsara Iyer, Investigative Analyst Giuditta Giardini; and Special Agent Bobby Fromkin of Homeland Security Investigations.

In 2022, the office has returned 892 antiquities, valued at over $104 million to 15 countries. Since its founding, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit has returned over 2,400 antiquities, valued at over $200 million, to 22 countries.


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