An editor’s note on Monday had reported that the March 30 review of the film “300” by Makda Asrat titled “Spartans storm silver screens” had copied inappropriately from a review that had been previously published in Slate. A subsequent examination of her work has revealed that eight additional film reviews written by Asrat contain passages plagiarized from professional newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and Slate. Asrat’s other reviews appear to be her own work.
The nine articles that contain instances of plagiarism include her reviews of the films “Factory Girl” (2/16/07), “Seraphim Falls” (2/9/07), “Nativity Story” (12/8/06), “Fountain” (12/1/06), “Babel” (11/17/06), “Brick” (4/14/06), “Ice Age: The Meltdown” (4/7/06), and “Prime” (11/5/05). For a comparison of the plagiarized passages, please see the text following this note.
As a result of this review of her work, Asrat has been dismissed from the staff of the News.
The News would like to apologize for betraying the trust of our readers by printing the plagiarized reviews. We greatly appreciate the reader who first alerted us to the similarities between Asrat’s work and that of professional reviewers. The News understands the importance of maintaining the highest ethical standards in all aspects of our reporting, writing and editing, and we are reviewing our code of ethics with our staff. While we are working to ensure that this issue does not arise again, we will alert our readers to any and all future instances of plagiarism in our pages.
A review of Asrat’s work revealed the following instances of suspected plagiarism:
YDN, 11/17/06: “In the Biblical tale of Babel, God punishes the human race for attempting to build a tower that will reach the heavens. He scatters humanity across the globe and creates different languages that make understanding impossible. The human race was left divided, confused and unable to communicate.
“It seems not much has changed. Indeed, for director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, things have only gotten worse.”
Slate, 10/26/06: “The Biblical story of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) begins by imagining a time when “the whole earth had one language and the same words.” After mankind dares to challenge God by building a tower “with its top in the heavens,” the Lord punishes them by introducing the confusion of multiple languages, thereby scattering humans around the Earth. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (Paramount) is bleaker even than the Genesis story: It starts with the assumption that the human race is already irreparably scattered, and things only get worse from there.”
Ice Age: The Meltdown
YDN, 4/7/06: “But most kiddies will be too distracted by the budding love story between Manny and Ellie (Queen Latifah) to worry about any Biblical allusions or parallels to current worries concerning global warming.”
New York Times, 3/31/06: “Global warming is front and center. Not that the tots will notice: they’ll be much too busy wondering if Manny (voiced drearily by Ray Romano), the woolly mammoth who lost his family in the first movie, will hook up with a cute mammoth who’s convinced that she’s a possum.”
YDN, 12/1/06: “In a particularly sensual set of rhyming images that is repeated throughout “The Fountain,” tiny hairs on a tree rise, almost erotically, to Tom’s touch just as Tommy is stirred by the soft hairs on the back of Izzie’s neck.”
Entertainment Weekly, 11/21/06: “In one particularly sensual visual repetition, tiny, breathing hairs on the bark of the fabulous Tree of Life (Real? Symbolic? Let a hundred creation myths guide each viewer’s answer) rise up erotically to the touch, just as Tommy is stirred by the hair at the back of his sleeping wife’s neck.”
YDN, 3/30/07: “No one involved in the making of “300” noticed that we are in the middle of an actual war with actual Persians (or at least inhabitants of the lands the that Persian Empire once encompassed).”
Slate, 3/8/07: “No one involved—not Miller, not Snyder, not one of the army of screenwriters, art directors, and tech wizards who mounted this empty, gorgeous spectacle—seems to have noticed that we’re in the middle of an actual war. With actual Persians (or at least denizens of that vast swath of land once occupied by the Persian empire).”
YDN: “Even more problematic are the different groups the film conflates with the Persians (and thereby Evil): black people, brown people, East Asian people, disfigured people, gay men, promiscuous lesbians, giants, monsters with lobster claws and curiously violent elephants and rhinos all stand in, at one point or another, for the Eastern antithesis of the Spartan soldier.”
Slate: “Here are just a few of the categories that are not-so-vaguely conflated with the ‘bad’ (i.e., Persian) side in the movie: black people. Brown people. Disfigured people. Gay men (not gay in the buff, homoerotic Spartan fashion, but in the effeminate Persian style). Lesbians. Disfigured lesbians. Ten-foot-tall giants with filed teeth and lobster claws. Elephants and rhinos (filthy creatures both). The Persian commander, the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is a towering, bald club fag with facial piercings, kohl-rimmed eyes, and a disturbing predilection for making people kneel before him.”
YDN: “Conversely, it appears that Leonidas (played by Gerard Butler of “The Phantom of the Opera”) and his men had regular access to the personal trainers, orthodontists, tanning salons and electrolysis offices characteristic of Malibu or some other Southern Californian beach resort.”
Slate: “It conflates moral excellence and physical beauty (which, in this movie, means being young, white, male, and fresh from the gyms of Brentwood)”
YDN, 2/16/07 : “In its search for substance, ‘Factory Girl’ imagines a power struggle between Dylan and Warhol, in which the former represents a paragon of authenticity and inner-truth, the latter a champion of superficiality.”
New York Times, 2/2/07: “[Dylan is the] God of authenticity and inner truth and Warhol the Devil of superficiality and glitter.”
YDN, 2/9/07: “Although there is little in ‘Seraphim Falls’ that has not been done before, it must be said that the cinematography is breathtaking — John Toll, who also shot ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Legends of the Fall,’ has captured the unbridled expansiveness of the American frontier with grandeur and majesty…”
San Francisco Chronicle, 2/9/07: “One thing that can be said for ‘Falls’ — it looks great. Cinematographer John Toll, who won two Oscars in a row for ‘Legends of the Fall’ and ‘Braveheart,’ captures stunning sunsets and makes palpable the cold on the mountaintop and the dust in those makeshift towns on the long way down.”
YDN, 12/8/06: “Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ painted Jesus’ relationship to his faith as one wrought with doubt and struggle; even Mel Gibson’s less irreverent though all the more problematic “The Passion of the Christ” seemed chiefly concerned with Christ’s humanity, emphasizing his fear and loneliness (not to mention the frailty of his entirely mortal body). Surely, then, Mary — a mere mortal, and a young, naive one at that — would have confronted her divine destiny with at least an inkling of confusion and — dare I say it about the Virgin Mother? — fear.”
Entertainment Weekly, 11/29/06: “If Scorsese’s wrenching, faith-splattered ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ portrayed Jesus’ relationship with his divinity as a profound human struggle, then surely Mary, as a mere mortal, a naive and parochial village girl, might greet the knowledge of her holy destiny with confusion, or even a note of distress.”
YDN, 4/14/06:“The urgent, authoritative phrase ‘You know where to find me’ has become ‘You know where I eat lunch.’”
Boston Globe, 4/7/06: “It’s a world where ‘Where do you eat?’ means ‘What clique are you in?’”
YDN, 11/5/05: “In addition to failing to fully exploit the film’s potential humor, Younger also doesn’t thoroughly explore the obstacles that such a difference in age creates in a relationship. Aside from Rafi’s surprise that Dave has never heard of John Coltrane (who is also before her time), the film largely ignores the issue of cultural referents and how they shape an individual’s character.
Los Angeles Times, 10/28/05: “But aside from a few riffs on sloppiness and Nintendo addiction, the movie leaves the little disconnects inherent in any 14-year span lying around untouched. Aside from one scene in which Dave reveals that he hasn’t heard of John Coltrane — not exactly Rafi’s contemporary, anyway — the issue of cultural referents as both time markers and identity shapers is left sadly unexplored.”