Monday, January 9, 2023

Weekend box office and favorite directors

Okay, weekend box office from THENUMBERS.COM:


1 (1) Avatar: The Way of Water 20th Century… $45,838,986 -32% 4,340 +138 $10,562 $517,628,365 4
2 N M3GAN Universal $30,429,860   3,509   $8,672 $30,429,860 1
3 (2) Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Universal $13,541,330 -19% 3,919 -202 $3,455 $88,127,165 3
4 (-) A Man Called Otto Sony Pictures $4,202,386 +7,370% 637 +633 $6,597 $4,287,866 2
5 (3) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Walt Disney $3,523,456 -32% 2,255 -55 $1,563 $445,563,072 9
6 (4) Whitney Houston I Wanna Dance With Somebody Sony Pictures $2,415,774 -39% 3,184 -441 $759 $19,714,496 3
7 (7) The Whale A24 $1,541,201 +9% 835 +212 $1,846 $8,582,731 5
8 (5) Babylon Paramount Pi… $1,419,223 -46% 2,381 -970 $596 $13,513,117 3
9 (6) Violent Night Universal $706,820 -67% 1,981 -582 $357 $49,387,555 6
10 (8) The Menu Searchlight … $685,557 -38% 800 -60 $857 $37,628,507 8

I was not aware that the Whitney Houston movie had bombed so badly.

M3GAN appears to be a one-week wonder judging by audience scores which are much lower than the review average.  I gave it a bad review because it's a waste of your money.  I think young teens may like it (not meant as an insult) but the more horror movies you've seen, the less you'll like it.  

AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER has no left Tom Cruise and TOP GUN: MAVERICK sputtering in the dust.  AVATAR is at $1.7 billion globally in ticket sales.  It's going to continue to make money in the US -- as well as world wide -- so it will easily pass the $2 billion mark.  It could do that in less than two weeks.

And that's great because it goes to the reality that people will still support great storytelling.  James Cameron is one of our greatest directors working today.  And AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER had me in tears -- as I noted in my review.  That doesn't happen often to me.  That's how moving the film is.

Who are my other favorite living directors?

I'll do nine more for a list of ten and I'm not putting them in any order.

James Cameron

Brian De Palma 

Martin Scorsese

Tim Burton

David Fincher

Woody Allen

Spike Lee

Kathryn Bigelow

Kimberly Peirce

Elaine May

My ten favorite directors who've passed away?

Robert Altman

Alan J Pakula

Alfred Hitchcock

Howard Hawks

Billy Wilder

John Singleton

Nora Ephron

Hal Ashby 

Peter Bogdanovich

Melvin Van Peebles



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


Monday, January 9, 2023.  Poverty increases in Iraq as oil revenues reach new records highs, in the US a joint-investigation between QUEER NEWS TONIGHT and BUSINESS INSIDER notes the rise of attacks against transgender persons and the lack of follow through by police officers and district attorneys. 

Starting in the US where a war is being carried out against the LGBTQ+ community.  Ari Paul (FAIR) explains:

Last summer, while waiting for coffee at a diner in what I’ll just call a small town, I overheard three older men complaining about how schools are forcing children to swap genders. A server responded, “You’re not even allowed to talk about this anymore.” I thought to myself, “A, you’re talking about it right now, and B, where’s my coffee?”

The exchange has stayed on my mind: How on earth are so many people convinced that children’s lives are being turned upside down by the acceptance of LGBTQ rights in America? And why do they believe they are the ones being silenced, when they clearly aren’t?

The main reason is that hostility against LGBTQ “grooming”—the false idea that schoolteachers and drag queen story hours at libraries are attempting to train children to be gay and trans, rather than simply acknowledging the existence of gay and trans people, and discouraging hatred and bigoted violence against them—has become a big feature of the social conservative movement. One notable player in that is Chaya Raichik, who runs an anti-trans Twitter account called “Libs of TikTok,” which boasts 1.7 million followers.

Fox News—arguably the most influential purveyor of the “grooming” narrative—has shown Libs of TikTok consistent support in the past (e.g., 4/20/22, 6/9/22, 6/27/22, 11/21/22), frequently airing clips from the account (Media Matters, 4/1/22). While Raichik’s identity had been revealed by the Washington Post (4/19/22) months ago, she has recently chosen to come out from behind her self-imposed Twitter anonymity—and Fox was happy to offer a platform.

Raichik recently appeared on Fox News‘ Tucker Carlson Tonight (12/27/22). using her face and name for the first time, to crank up hateful rhetoric that the LGBTQ community was “evil” and a “cult.”  (Video of the interview was made available on the subscription-only Fox Nation streaming service—12/28/22.)

Raichik is clear about spreading a message designed to stir fear about LGBTQ people coming for your children. Her goal, she told the New York Post (12/31/22), is “dismantling and destroying gender ideology [sic] in America.”

[. . .]

Tucker Carlson remains one of the top-viewed cable pundits in the United States (Forbes, 12/15/22); as his obsession with demonizing trans people increases, he elevates more fringe transphobes and normalizes their bald bigotry. Many transphobes try to smuggle their hatred through customs by attacking gender fluidity as a threat to women (, 12/16/22), a sort of pseudo-feminism for the right. But Raichik attacks all LGBTQ people in her statement—in the same forum that has invoked white supremacist ideas like the “great replacement theory” (Washington Post, 7/20/22) and “white genocide” (Hatewatch, 10/2/18), suggesting that she wants LGBTQ people to be added to the long list of very bad people.


This hate speech does have an effect.  QUEER NEWS TONIGHT and BUSINESS INSIDER examined the 175 known murders of transgender persons.

Their investigation found that only 16% of trans homicides lead to murder convictions and that out of 175 murders only 1 led to a hate crime conviction.  And there is the fact that 50% of transgender persons experience domestic violence in their relationship. 

Remember the Club Q shooting?  Remember how fools like Glenn Greenwald insisted it had nothing to do with homophobia because the shooter claims to be non-binary?  That claim may or may not be true.  But as we pointed out, the homophobia from Tucker Carlson, members of Congress like Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebert, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis clearly put a target on the backs of the LGBTQ+ community and sent the message that it's okay to harm them.  That's what the shooter could have picked up on.  And that's what partners of transgender persons are picking up on.  In the report above, DJ Nena notes, "Experts suggest that the general discourse towards the trans community has increased the partner of a trans person to feel empowered to feel more free to express verbal and physical abuse in the relationship."

Click here for BUSINESS INSIDER's print article on the investigation and, from that, we'll note this:

The criminologist Rayna Momen told Insider that from judges to attorneys to jurors, key players in the criminal legal system "do not value trans lives, do not care to understand them, do not have any interest in humanizing these individuals as victims, and instead often really view them as blameworthy."

Moving over to Iraq, and starting with confusion, REUTERS reports:

Defence systems at Iraq's Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. forces, shot down a drone near the base on Sunday, with Iraqi military sources and the U.S.-led international military offering confliciting accounts of the incident.

The U.S.-led international military coalition said in a statement that it had conducted "an operational exercise..that involved engaging an Unmanned Aerial System" at Ain al-Asad base as part of a training exercise.

However, the Iraqi military sources suggested the drone may have had hostile intent, saying it was not clear whether it was on a surveillance mission or if it was carrying any explosives.

Two different stories.  PRESS TV offers:

Iraq’s al-Maalouma news agency, citing an unknown military source, said on Sunday that the unmanned aircraft had managed to pass through the entire security rings and enter the “off-limits and inaccessible” areas of Ain al-Asad base.

“At the last stage, American soldiers were able to shut it down with electronic systems,” the source said, adding, “The drone reached very important parts of the Ain al-Asad base and this was the first time that it happened.”

Moving to economics, last week, John Lee (OZ ARAB MEDIA) noted:

The Iraqi Minister of Oil, Hayan Abdul-Ghani, has announced revenues of more than $115 billion from exporting crude oil for the year 2022.

More than 1,209 billion barrels of crude oil were exported, giving a daily export rate is approximately 3.320 million barrels per day (bpd).

ARABIAN BUSINESS noted, "This is a four-year high following a collapse in prices during the Covid-19 pandemic."  But it means nothing for the Iraqi people because the US-installed government in Iraq has never attempted to better the lives of the Iraqi people.  Nouri al-Maliki and his family got rich after the 2003 invasion, it was the Iraqi people who struggled.  Jobs are nowhere to be found and politicians and officials steal the public monies.  There's no investment in infrastructure.  There's no investment in the people.  That's what The October Revolution was protesting against: corruption that destroyed not just the chances of the young people but the entire country.  Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world as ranked by Transparency International.  Today, RUDAW reports:

Over a thousand people held a demonstration before the Iraqi finance ministry on Sunday demanding permanent employment at the Shiite Endowment Office and their inclusion in the 2023 Iraqi national fiscal budget.

The protesters, some of whom have been working with the Shiite endowment by contract for the past 15 years, called on the government to make their employment permanent.

“We ask for permanent employment. Three generations of the rest of the directorates have been granted permanent employment, but we have not been until now,” Ahmad Abdulrahman, who has been working with the office for the past 13 years, told Rudaw’s Mustafa Goran, calling on Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani to address their concerns, saying “we are tired, and we have had enough.”

The total number of those who are contract-based with the Shiite Endowment Office is around 7,000, working a variety of jobs including guarding holy shrines, doing media work, cooking, and running administrative affairs.  

This is the third protest of its kind that they have held in the course of the past two months, but they have not yet received any answer from the government.

At least three.  Last week, RUDAW noted:

At least five people were wounded in Kirkuk on Monday as police applied force to disperse hundreds of angry demonstrators who protested the lack of employment by the North Oil Company (NOC) and tried to storm its headquarters.

A total of 1350 college graduates received a six-month-long training course by the state-run NOC four years ago, but have not yet been employed. Of this number, Over 450 of them staged an angry protest on Monday.

A protester told Rudaw that Baghdad already consented to employ 458 of the trained graduates, but they were not true to their words and that they employed other people instead of them.

And Chenar Chalak (RUDAW) reported:

Hundreds of recently graduated teachers who have been working without receiving payments for years gathered in Kirkuk on Wednesday to protest their lack of contractual employment, calling on the Iraqi government to address their concerns. 

Iraq’s Education Minister Ibrahim Namis al-Jubouri announced on Tuesday that the council of ministers has agreed to include teachers of the graduating class of 2020 in the 2023 budget, granting them employment by contract. The decision does not include graduates from any other year, many of whom have been teaching free of charge and without contracts for years.

“We teach at schools without any privileges… Yesterday evening, a decision was issued to employ graduates of 2020, we are graduates of 2019, 2021, 2022 and we are still waiting… We have been teaching for free for two years,” one of the protesters told Rudaw’s Hiwa Hussamadin.

Most graduates resort to teaching for free hoping it would lead to full-time employment.

The protests come as IANS notes, "The Iraqi Ministry of Planning has said that the rate in the country was 25 per cent in 2022, the Iraqi official news agency reported."  So oil income is at a four year high for Iraq, the highest since the pandemic started, in fact.  More money than in the last four years has come into Iraq from oil revenues.  And at the same time poverty has increased -- and they're blaming COVID for the poverty increase?

None of the links about want to talk about it but those living in poverty were estimated, two years ago, to be at 20%.  There's been a five-percent increase in the number living in poverty and this has taken place at the same time that oil revenues have hit record highs.

This isn't about COVID, this is about corruption within the government.  

Meanwhile Sheri Laizer (EKURD DAILY) explains:

In October 2022, some US$2.5 billion went missing from the General Commission of Taxes (GCT) – one of the accounts of the Finance Ministry. The money was withdrawn in several enormous cheques for approx. $1 million each but with at least one written for as large a sum as $62 million. Finance Minister, Ali Allawi, resigned citing corruption as the cause. The largest financial heist so far in Iraq’s history, government officials colluded with the Rafidain stateowned bank and five private companies three of which were newly set up and can have been shell companies. The massive theft became public knowledge just one week into the new premiership of Mohamed al-Sudani.

The Guardian appears to have first headlined how the scheme was devised but did not name the key protagonist. He has since been exposed or scapegoated by numerous Arabic media outlets and social media as Noor Zuhair Jassim al-Mudather. But officials from the Badr militia organization under Hadi al-Ameri ‘s leadership in the Ministry of Finance are also said to have been complicit. On this subject the Guardian also noted:

Accomplices inside the tax commission had signing authority for the cheques that were then cashed. The network was put in place by its former director, Shaker Mahmoud, according to four sources inside the finance ministry. Based on the letter from the prime minister’s office and a phone call with the audit chamber, Mahmoud ordered the removal of the audit, according to a document seen by the Guardian.Shaker Mahmoud and the executors of the plot were supported by the Badr Organisation that controls senior appointments to the tax and customs commissions, according to seven sources.

In addition, directors had to be approved by the prime minister, as per a 2020 decree…While the then finance minister, Ali Allawi, signed the paperwork for appointments, sources in the finance ministry said he had little authority over staffing. Two of his nominees turned down director positions after they received threats from Badr. “Allawi couldn’t remove anyone because Badr wouldn’t accept. And he didn’t get support from the prime minister’s office,” said one official.

In other news, cult leader and all around psycho Moqtada al-Sadr continues to strive to put some meaning into his pathetic life.

The following sites updated:

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