24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Harvey Weinstein

Dustin Hoffman directorial debut 'Quartet' acquired by Weinstein

May 4, 2012 | 11:20 am

Dustin Hoffman

The Weinstein Co. announced Friday morning that it had acquired the U.S. and Latin American rights to "Quartet," which marks the official feature directorial debut of two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman ("Kramer vs. Kramer," "Rain Man").

Though "Quartet" is his directorial debut, it is not his first time behind the camera. Hoffman was the first director on the gritty 1978  drama "Straight Time," in which he also starred. But after some difficulties on set at Folsom Prison, he had Ulu Grosbard step in and take over the directorial reins.

(Hoffman also directed the 1974 Broadway play "All Over Town," which ran for 233 performances.)

Similar to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," which opened Friday, "Quartet" is geared to an older audience. The comedy stars Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon and Pauline Collins. It revolves around a home for retired opera singers. Each year, the home puts on a concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday.

Ronald Harwood ("The Dresser"), who won an Oscar for 2002's "The Pianist," penned the script.

There is no release date set.

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— Susan King

Photo: Dustin Hoffman. Credit: Brian van der Burg/Los Angeles Times.


'Bully' rating: Some, but not all, profanity cut to get PG-13

April 5, 2012 |  5:22 pm

"Bully" documentary

In a turn that allows both sides to claim victory, the Weinstein Co. announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Motion Picture Assn. of America to re-cut its unrated documentary “Bully” to land a PG-13 rating. The movie will now go out with that rating when it opens in about 115 new theaters next weekend.

The Times initially reported Friday that the distributor was planning a new version of the movie -- which focuses on the issue of teen bullying through the lens of five families -- so it could nab the lower rating.

The new cut of the Lee Hirsch film makes some concessions to the MPAA: It removes an obscenity that begins with the prefix “mother” in an early scene, along with two other quickly uttered F-words. Audio will be dropped out in all three instances.

But the new cut leaves intact a controversial scene on a school bus in which three F-words are used against a bullied child. The case now represents an exception to the MPAA’s rules; the group typically will impose an R rating on any film with more than two F-words.  

Stephen Bruno, head of marketing for the Weinstein Co., told 24 Frames that “I can say with no stutter that we would have remained unrated if we had to change that scene.”

In an interview, Hirsch said that he felt satisfied by the results. “This was about drawing the line but not being utterly unreasonable,” he said. “What’s absolutely relevant is the scene that we retained. There was one [obscenity in another scene] I didn’t want to give up. But I didn’t want to hold back all the groups that wanted to see the movie, Boy and Girl Scout groups and school groups, that wouldn’t be able to go if we stayed unrated.”

The new rating means that children of any age can see the documentary without an adult. An R rating requires adults to accompany children under the age of 17; a PG-13 simply offers guidance without imposing an age minimum.

The new rating also means that all theater chains — including Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest, which has a policy against playing unrated films — can show the movie.

Weinstein Co. went out with the movie unrated after losing an appeals battle with the MPAA to knock the film down from an R; in the process, the company garnered buckets of free publicity as a grass-roots and celebrity-studded campaign to overturn the initial R rating gained momentum.

“Bully” opened last weekend in five theaters in L.A. and New York City as an unrated film. It did solid business, averaging $23,000 per screen.

The unexpurgated version of the movie will remain in those theaters this weekend, with the PG-13 print replacing all versions when the movie widens April 13. The MPAA bylaws require a 90-day waiting period between different cuts of a film but make an exception for movies that go from limited to wide release, as “Bully” is doing.

One person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to talk about it publicly said that Christopher Dodd, the former senator (D-Conn.) who runs the MPAA, was instrumental in making an exception on the three F-words, winning out over other personalities at the organization. Hirsch said that there was "an openness [at the MPAA] that had a lot to do with him.”

Asked about the exception via a spokesman, Joan Graves, head of the MPAA division that oversees ratings, released a statement that read, in part:

“Per the standard rating process available to all filmmakers, The Weinstein Company decided to resubmit a new, edited version of 'Bully' to be rated, and the ratings board gave this new version of the film a PG-13 rating for intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language -- all involving kids.”

She continued, “In the case of 'Bully,' the ratings system has worked exactly as it is supposed to: Parents have been kept informed of the content of each version of the film, and they have been given the information they need to make movie-going decisions on behalf of their kids."

The issue has shined a light on the rules of the MPAA, which some critics have said are inconsistent and opaque, particularly when it comes to the issue of language. Hirsch said that he had no interest in turning this into a crusade — his main focus was attracting attention to the teen-bullying problem — but that he did believe this case could affect the practices of the MPAA.

“I think this has given fuel to a conversation that’s long overdue about the double standard when it comes to rating movies,” he said. “People say you can’t change the MPAA. But we’re not throwing something at a brick wall. It’s an organization made up of human beings, and like any other great institution it can be changed to better reflect what people want.”

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'Bully' got the rating it deserved

 -- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Alex Libby, one of the subjects of the documentary film "Bully," at the premiere March 26 in Los Angeles. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press


Is ‘Bully’ a tipping point for the MPAA movie ratings system?

April 4, 2012 | 11:31 am

Harvey Weinstein’s PR blitzkrieg for "Bully" may turn out to be a pivotal chapter in the battle to overhaul the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings system
Harvey Weinstein may have cannily orchestrated a firestorm-sized ratings debate over "Bully" simply to boost ticket sales for a documentary that would otherwise be a tough sell. But Weinstein’s nonstop PR blitzkrieg for the film, now being shown in theaters as unrated, may end up accomplishing something far more lasting. In fact, it may turn out to be a pivotal chapter in the battle to overhaul the Motion Picture Assn. of America's ratings system, which slapped "Bully" with an R simply because the film contained a few scattered F-bombs.

There have been dozens of high-profile brawls over the arbitrary decisions of the ratings board in the past, all of which have left the system largely unchanged. But this time, even if Weinstein ends up undercutting his own case by tweaking the film so that he can release a version with a PG-13 rating, there are some cracks in the MPAA's wall of resistance against revamping its decades-old system.

PatrickgoldsteinEven though “Bully” was released this past weekend as unrated, a number of large theater chains that traditionally have steered clear of unrated films are now willing to play the Lee Hirsch-directed documentary, which focuses on the victims of school bullying. Regal, AMC and Carmike Cinemas -- the country’s No. 1, 2 and 4 theater chains by size -- are booking the film.

When the controversy erupted, John Fithian, head of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, pointedly warned Weinstein that if "Bully" went out unrated, it would be treated as an NC-17 film -- meaning that no one under age 17 would be allowed, even with a guardian. But Weinstein's relentless media campaign, which enlisted support from scores of celebrities, political figures and educator groups, has prompted some exhibitors to break ranks. Most are treating "Bully" as an R-rated film, allowing minors to see the movie if accompanied by a parent or guardian or, in some cases, armed with a parental permission slip.

Moreover, there are now mutterings of discontent from top executives at the major studios that actually fund the MPAA. Although it seems unlikely that any of them will publicly criticize the ratings board, they are privately expressing concern that the board's rulings could cause widespread public disenchantment with the ratings system. Such discontent, they fear, could lead to the rise of alternate ratings systems or metastasize into a partisan political issue.

Is it possible that we're actually at a tipping point with the ratings system? To get some perspective, I've been studying the history of how Hollywood has policed the content of its films. From the early 1930s until 1968, when then-MPAA chief Jack Valenti unveiled the current ratings system, studios' film content was tightly controlled by a rigid production code designed to keep the Legion of Decency and a variety of conservative-minded community groups from enforcing their own bans on movies.

Thanks to the code, America always looked like Ozzie and Harriet-ville: Married couples slept in separate beds, crime never paid and it required a prolonged siege on the part of producer David Selznick before Clark Gable was able to say "damn" in "Gone With the Wind," a word that was routinely cut out of scripts submitted to code administration chief Joe Breen. Breen was a cultural dictator -- if anything in your film offended him, it had to go, because no major theater would play a film without the production code seal.

Nonetheless, in the wake of World War II, with American society struggling with new issues such as racial inequality, feminism and anti-communist hysteria, someone emerged who was willing to test Breen's authority, much as Weinstein has done with the current ratings board. Big-city audiences had begun flocking to foreign films, especially neo-realistic ones made by Italian filmmakers such as Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti. In 1949, an ex-publicist named Joe Burstyn acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Vittorio De Sica's “The Bicycle Thief,” which had won acclaim in Europe the year before.

The film broke records when it played at an art house in New York, but Burstyn knew that he would need a code seal to run "The Bicycle Thief" in other parts of the country. So Burstyn submitted the film to Breen for approval. It was rejected for two brief scenes, one in which a boy stops in front of a wall, apparently to relieve himself; the other where the thief's pursuers race through a bordello -- a production code no-no, even though the occupants were fully clothed and eating breakfast.

Breen wasn't going to budge -- he'd only recently cut a scene from a Hitchcock movie because it showed a commode in a jail cell. De Sica refused to cut a frame. So Burstyn, like Weinstein has done today, staged a publicity campaign, figuring that a film playing without a code seal would have the tantalizing air of forbidden fruit.

Soon the press was in a "Bully"-style uproar. The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the production code as a "violation of free thought and expression." The New York Times' chief critic, Bosley Crowther, ridiculed Breen's code administrators, saying they'd "put their minds in deep freeze." Life magazine smelled hypocrisy, because Breen had no problem with a "Bicycle Thief" shot showing a suggestive poster of Hollywood's favorite pin-up girl, Rita Hayworth, yet objected to a realistic depiction of contemporary life.

To make matters worse, five days before the picture had a code appeals hearing, it won the Oscar for best foreign film. Still, Breen refused to budge. Like Joan Graves, who heads today's ratings board, he argued that if he granted an exception for "The Bicycle Thief" simply because of its artistic merit, it would set a worrisome precedent.

However, even without a code seal, "The Bicycle Thief" played to large crowds in independent theaters, with Burstyn running ads featuring the boy in the film at the wall, captioned, "Please come and see me before they cut me out." In a move amazingly similar to today's "Bully" controversy, three of the five biggest studio-owned theater chains agreed to show the movie, the first time any film without a seal had played in major theaters since the code had been instituted.

The production code lasted for two more decades before it finally crumbled, unable to squelch public interest in such groundbreaking films as "The Moon Is Blue," "Lolita" and "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (For more details, read "The Dame in the Kimono: Hollywood, Censorship and the Production Code From the 1920s to the 1960s," perhaps the best book on the subject.) Much of the impetus for the code’s collapse came not just from changing social mores but from a string of filmmakers who, like Weinstein today, used the myopic rulings of the code enforcers as a way to drum up publicity for their movies.

In today's warp-speed media universe, change comes faster than ever. As the number of movies from the six studios that fund the MPAA continues to dwindle, more films are being independently produced and distributed, spawning a host of potential new Weinstein-style rebels.

Sixty years ago, it was "The Bicycle Thief" that started the ball rolling. Like "Bully," it was a humane, compassionate film that deserved to be seen by all. But today's ratings board isn't so different than the production code under Breen -- both entities believed that making any exception would cause the whole house of cards to collapse. Of course, the code collapsed anyway, crippled by a refusal to change with the times. Who says history isn't about to repeat itself?

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"Bully": Does going unrated solve anything?

"Bully" will get re-cut to land a PG-13, sources say

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Joel McHale, Victoria Justice and Giuliana Rancic pose at the Los Angeles premiere of the documentary "Bully" on March 26. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images


Harvey Weinstein selected for French cultural honor

March 2, 2012 |  7:09 pm

Weinstein
Only five days after the French film "The Artist" walked off with a handful of Academy Awards, Harvey Weinstein, the executive responsible for bringing it to the United States and orchestrating its Oscar campaign, has been selected for France's highest cultural award, the Legion of Honor.

Lest anyone think the two events are connected, however, the Weinstein Co. released a copy of the letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy disclosing the news, dated July 22, 2011. "Weinstein requested to keep the honor private until now to avoid any conflict of interest with Academy Award best picture winner 'The Artist,'" Friday's release said.

In the letter, Sarkozy praised the American executive for "the exceptional quality" of the films he has produced, and described the Legion of Honor award as recognition of the friendship Weinstein has shown toward France and its cinema, "which you have enabled so many Americans to discover."

Weinstein and his brother Bob have been responsible for the distribution of more than two dozen French films in the United States, and will bring out the French interracial comedy hit "The Intouchables" stateside on May 25. They've also helped produce and campaign for a host of English-language Oscar winners such as "Shakespeare in Love," "The English Patient" and "Good Will Hunting."

In a statement, Weinstein expressed gratitude for the French award. "All my life, I have loved and been inspired by French cinema," he said. "I am still the young boy who walked two miles to the Mayfair movie theater in Flushing, N.Y., to see films by the greats -- Lelouch, Godard, Renoir and my personal favorite, Francois Truffaut. They inspired me and led me to the place I am today."

Other American filmmakers to have received the Legion of Honor include Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Lewis and Charlie Chaplin.

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--Lee Margulies

Photo: Harvey Weinstein arriving at the Academy Awards last weekend. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times


'Bully': Can Weinstein Co. resign from group it doesn't belong to?

February 23, 2012 |  9:02 pm

Harvey-weinstein6
To paraphrase Groucho Marx, who would want to withdraw from a club that wouldn’t have them as a member?

Harvey Weinstein, apparently.

On Thursday, the Weinstein Co. lost by one vote an appeal with the Motion Picture Assn. of America to knock down the rating of its upcoming documentary “Bully,” which looks at the problem of bullying, from an R to a PG-13. The group apparently had found that language used by some of the bullies merited the more severe rating—despite the testimony of a bullied boy from the movie that the questionable scenes were essential to show the bullies’ brutal ways and to educate parents and children.

Shortly after the hearing, the Weinstein Co. released a statement saying that it wasn't just upset with the rating: It’s about had it with the organization that handed it down.

“TWC Considers Leave Of Absence From MPAA” read the statement’s sub-headline. The statement went on to say that,  “As of today, The Weinstein Company is considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future. We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far "

There was only one problem: the Weinstein Co. isn’t in the MPAA. A spokesman for the organization confirmed that Weinstein is not a member of the group, which represents the business interests of the major studios in Washington and abroad, and also  oversees the ratings system. (Most of the members are conglomerate-owned studios; independent companies, such as TWC, are usually not affiliated.)

A Weinstein spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

(In its own statement after the Weinstein release, Joan Graves, head of the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration that oversees ratings, didn’t acknowledge the MPAA withdrawal but did respond to the ratings question. “The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that ‘Bully’ can serve as a vehicle for...important discussions,” the statement read. “The MPAA also has the responsibility, however, to acknowledge and represent the strong feedback from parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies, including language.)

The Weinstein Co. has been one of the most aggressive companies in battling the MPAA over ratings--in 2010, for example, it fought successfully to get “Blue Valentine” reduced from an NC-17 to an R.

It’s possible that what Weinstein Co. meant was that it would no longer submit its films for ratings--signatories are required to submit their films, while independent companies can opt to go unrated). Of course, if the company did that, it would deprive itself of public showdowns with the MPAA--one of its most preferred publicity tactics.

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 -- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Harvey Weinstein. Credit: John Shearer/Getty Images

 


Sundance 2012: Buyers cautious as big titles continue to play

January 21, 2012 |  6:12 pm

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in "Celeste and Jesse Forever."
With the Sundance Film Festival wrapping up its second full day, buyers continued to cool their heels.

Although the festival offers an abundance of available movies, no feature has yet sold at the Utah gathering. The two sales that have occurred have been for documentaries, with Sony Pictures Classics buying the offbeat music story "Searching for Sugar Man" and Magnolia acquiring the real-estate tale "The Queen of Versailles."

As of Saturday evening, the feature titles that seemed most likely to go were "Celeste and Jesse Forever," a romantic dramedy starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. Though the movie divided audiences at its premiere Friday night, Weinstein Co. has expressed interest in the film, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of negotiations.

Photos: The scene at Sundance 2012

The company last year bought the Paul Rudd stoner tale "Our Idiot Brother," another comedy that drew a mixed reaction in Park City, and wound up muscling it to a $25-million box-office take after an expensive marketing campaign.

The company is also eyeing "The Words," a literary drama starring Bradley Cooper as a plagiarizing novelist. The movie, which premiered Saturday at the festival, has also attracted interest from Lionsgate, according to people familiar with the bidding.

Although the glut of sales titles was expected to cause a frenzy, several sellers said they thought it could be having the opposite effect, prompting buyers to wait until seeing more available titles before making a move. Late Saturday and Sunday brought more acquisition targets, including the Richard Gere financial thriller "Arbitrage" and the phone-sex tale "For a Good Time, Call."

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--Steven Zeitchik and John Horn

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in "Celeste and Jesse Forever." Credit: Sundance Film Festival

 

 


Golden Globes: Sony leads with 22 noms, Weinstein second with 12

December 15, 2011 |  7:12 am

Sony had the most nominations at the Golden Globes
After being snubbed by the SAG Awards this week, "The Ides of March" picked up four Golden Globe nominations Thursday morning, helping Sony Pictures collect more nods than any other studio.

Including nominations for movies from its specialty label, Sony Pictures Classics, the studio collected a total of 22 honors. The George Clooney-directed political drama "Ides," the Brad Pitt baseball film "Moneyball" and Woody Allen's nostalgic "Midnight in Paris" all garnered four nominations each.

Meanwhile, it was another good morning for Harvey Weinstein, whose independent studio received 12 nominations. Leading the pack was the silent film "The Artist" with six nods, while the Marilyn Monroe film "My Week With Marilyn" earned three. Films from the Weinstein Co. were also beloved by SAG voters, who bestowed six nominations — the most of any studio — upon the studio on Wednesday.

DreamWorks has a total of seven nominees, mostly for "The Help," while Fox Searchlight had six, mostly for the family drama "The Descendants."

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— Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Ryan Gosling stars in "The Ides of March." Credit: Sony Pictures


SAG Awards: The Weinstein Co. leads the studio race

December 14, 2011 |  9:40 am

The Artist
With "The Artist," "My Week With Marilyn" and "The Iron Lady," the Weinstein Co. collected a leading six nominations for SAG Awards on Wednesday morning -- more than any other studio -- ensuring that boss Harvey Weinstein will again be a large presence this award season.

The silent film "The Artist" was nominated for three SAG honors: best ensemble, male actor in a leading role for Jean Dujardin and supporting actress for Bérénice Bejo. "My Week With Marilyn" was selected for best actress for Michelle Williams and supporting actor for Kenneth Branagh. The other Weinstein Co. nomination was for "The Iron Lady," whose star Meryl Streep was nominated for lead actress.

Counting stunt performer nominations, Universal Studios tied for the second-most nominations among the studios, collecting a total of four, including best ensemble for "Bridesmaids." DreamWorks and Touchstone joined forces for four studio nominations, thanks to "The Help," which had the most nominations of any film with four.

The SAG Awards will be presented Jan. 29.

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-- John Horn

Photo: Jean Dujardin and Missi Pyle in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


 

 


Toronto 2011: Who's the inspiration for Olivia Wilde's stripper?

September 15, 2011 |  3:13 pm

Olivia wilde is in butter Filmgoers who caught Jim Field Smith's political satire "Butter" at the Toronto International Film Festival have been making a sport of guessing just who some of the characters in the Midwestern fable are supposed to represent.

Is Jennifer Garner's smug butter-carving competitor Laura Pickler a stand-in for Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann? (Harvey Weinstein, who is releasing the film, certainly seems to be inclined toward the latter.) Is the 11-year-old African American girl competing against her in Iowa supposed to be a 2008-era Barack Obama?

Movie fans, though, may find some real-world familiarity in another character -- namely, Olivia Wilde's Brooke, a brash stripper who attempts to beat Laura at her own game. As you watch the film, she seems, it may slowly occur to you, an awful lot like Diablo Cody. (The Weinstein Co. isn't releasing any official photos yet of Wilde in the role, but some fan sites have posted some.)

Cody is of course the voluble and self-mythologizing screenwriter behind movies like "Juno" and "Jennifer's Body." The similarities between her and Wilde's character are subtle but unmistakable.

Diablo codyLike Brooke, Cody was once a stripper and is covered in upper-body tattoos. Like Brooke,  Oscar winner Cody has a certain swagger and also sought to reinvent herself in another discipline that doesn't involve pole dancing, in the hope of landing a big prize.

Oh, and Cody's real first-name? Brooke.

Screenwriter Jason Micaleff acknowledges he had the "Juno" writer in mind--sort of.

 "Slightly inspired by Diablo (who is thrilled and excited to see it, I hear)," he replied in an email when we put the question to him.

Micallef said that, perhaps unlike some of the more barbed portrayals of U.S. politicians, he intended the Brooke character as homage. "I was intrigued by the idea of a wickedly smart stripper," he said. ("Butter" is slated for general release next year, but if you can't wait that long, it will get a brief one-week run in theaters at the end of October.)

 

Micallef also wrote that the character carried a larger meaning too. "Brooke thematically represents anarchy, which is why, in a time when everyone hates the government, audiences love her so much."

He then offered that the character had her own Twitter address (@BrookeTokyoRose)--an act of self-branding that might befit, well, Diablo Cody.

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--Steven Zeitchik in Toronto

Photos: (Top) Olivia Wilde poses for a portrait to promote the film "Butter" at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday. Credit: Associated Press/Carlo Allegri

(Bottom) Diablo Cody at the Academy Awards in 2008. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times


Toronto 2011: Harvey Weinstein carves 'Butter' into political statement

September 13, 2011 | 11:24 pm

"Butter" premiere in Toronto

It wasn't enough for Harvey Weinstein to unveil his new movie, "Butter," at the Toronto International Film Festival's largest theater, Roy Thomson Hall, on Tuesday night. The film stars Jennifer Garner and treads lightly into political satire. But in a classic move from the Weinstein promotional playbook, "Butter" was served up with a saucy, quasi-incendiary statement from the studio chief -- in what seemed to be a blatant effort to make the movie into something people will be talking about.

Though Weinstein was in the theater, he chose to have one of the film's actresses, Olivia Wilde, deliver a statement on his behalf to the crowd of more than 2,000 people. After reading through some typical pleasantries, Wilde said: "In 20 years of coming to the Toronto Film Festival, I've never released a statement for a film. But I would like to take this moment to formally invite Republican congresswoman from Minnesota and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to co-host with me the big premiere of 'Butter' in Iowa in a few months from now."

The statement continued: "I know Michele will already be in Iowa for the caucus, so we can save some money on airfare and travel. I would of course be more than happy to fly in the other leading members of the "tea party" movement to make an entire day of it. We could take some math classes in the morning to help balance the budget, brush up on the Constitution in the afternoon, play some ping-pong and then maybe some verbal ping-pong on gay rights and women's rights (especially the right to choose). 

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