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June 17th, 2007


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01:08 pm - she beats them all and lives in the end
I guess there's been some talk about the upcoming flick Captivity starring Elisha Cuthbert as A Girl Who Dies On A Billboard or something. All this talk has been, of course, specially calculated by Lionsgate's marketing department to bring attention to the film. You don't really think they "oops" didn't sign off on a poster campaign featuring Miss Cuthbert in four stages of graphic torture and that "oops" the Wrong Material had been sent to the printers? (And that conveniently after that furor died down, they still used one of those pictures for the "actual" movie poster?) Uh huh. Pull the other one, guys, it's longer.

Now there are some who oppose the film on moral grounds and some who oppose it on the grounds that it promotes what looks to be some terribly nasty violence against women, and there are those who just oppose it on the fact that it's clear that this manufactured PR hype is all a smokescreen to hide a mediocre movie. Now, granted, nobody expected Oscar material out of this movie, but you do have to wonder how bad a film has to be when the Big Talk turns out to be all about its ad campaign. This campaign, by the way, is also a brilliant bait-and-switch. Apparently those who want to go see the film to watch Elisha Cuthbert get all tortured and killed up will be disappointed; those who are opposed to the film due to the fact that Elisha Cuthbert gets all tortured and killed up may be disappointed but relieved as well because, well, she beats them all and lives in the end.

Did I say that? I sure did. She beats them all and lives in the end. Hello, spoilers! Lionsgate decided to show no respect for its audience and created a wholly needless brouahaha that only served to give a bunch of people high blood pressure and served as an excuse for the the Indignantly Righteous Parent contingent to rise up and bleat how KIDS MIGHT HAVE SEEN THOSE BILLBOARDS!!! KIDS HAVE EYES THAT TAKE IN AND MAKE VISUAL RECOGNITION OF IMAGES BEFORE THEM!!! I CAN'T BLINDFOLD THEM 24/7 YOU KNOW!!!

So if Lionsgate has no respect for its audience or any target audience whatsoever, then I have no respect for them or their film. But I would not go so far as to tear every CAPTIVITY poster down, as I have seen some folks proudly blog about doing. Now that's just not fair. It's not as if somebody isn't going to see the movie because of one absent poster on a subway train. Nope, the only way someone's not going to see the movie is if someone ruins it for them. So if you're still mad at this movie and its portrayal of violence against women, I highly suggest you make, and affix to each movie poster, stickers that read something like this:
ACTUALLY SHE ISN'T THE ONLY ONE IN CAPTIVITY, SHE AND SOME HUNKY CHAUFFEUR GUY GET KIDNAPPED AND TORTURED AND SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH THE CHAUFFEUR GUY FOR NO REASON AND THEN AFTER THEY HAVE SEX IN A TORTURE CHAMBER BECAUSE NOTHIN SAYS LOVIN LIKE A LITTLE IN-OUT IN A TORTURE CHAMBER, IT TURNS OUT THAT BUM BUM BUM!! THE CHAUFFEUR IS IN ON THE KIDNAPPING ALL ALONG!! AND THEN ELISHA CUTHBERT ESCAPES AND KILLS BOTH THE KIDNAPPER AND THE HUNKY CHAUFFEUR GUY. THE END. YOU'RE WELCOME. NOW YOU CAN USE YOUR TEN BUCKS TO DO SOMETHING MORE CONSTRUCTIVE, LIKE LIGHTING CIGARS OR SOMETHING.
Huh. That may require a bigger sticker than you can usually get for cheap at an art supply store. Ok, how's this?
THERE'S ANOTHER CAPTIVE TOO, AND SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH HIM, BUT SURPRISE, HE'S IN ON IT ALL ALONG. SO SHE ENDS UP KILLING BOTH HIM AND THE KIDNAPPER. THE END. YOU'RE WELCOME.
As you can see, the film actually turns out to have a rather empowering ending, but the ends do not justify the means. There's still a lot of gruesome torture going on, and the whole bit about falling in love with one's co-prisoner/captor or whatever just comes as no surprise to anyone. Besides, it's completely gratuitous, and for a movie which was written while sailing the S.S. Gratuitous through the Straits of Needlessness, that's a rather damning accusation. And the slightly misleading "Hey guys, did you like Hostel? Do you like Elisha Cuthbert? Would you like to see Elisha Cuthbert in Hostel?" ad campaign, which backfired only because it was meant to, just wraps the whole package up with a little card that reads "Next time, go straight to DVD."

Now, not one single civilian (mainstream movie reviewers excluded, see) can single-handedly influence ticket sales. And I'm sure those who've torn down the posters have probably felt very good and empowered themselves about the act. But again, I say: If you don't want someone to see a movie, don't remove a single influence. Instead, be a bad influence and ruin it for them. It'll probably make you feel just as good as removing the poster, and you end up reaching far more people than the sight of a poster-less poster holder would.

I have no regrets about this post. Writing spoilers, unprotected spoilers, IN ALL CAPS EVEN is one of the greatest sins someone who loves movies can commit, but the film just threw some major stones at us. I'm just lobbing a pebble or two back.

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:modpixie
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
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it cracks me up that roland joffe has gone from directing the killing fields...

to this.

makes you wonder about the trajectory of his career had he not taken on the demi moore scarlet letter, non?
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
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From The Killing Fields and Fat Man and Little Boy to Super Mario Bros. and Captivity... now that's got to make for an interesting highlights reel. Oh, and look at his future project... an exciting thriller featuring two girls who are Tatu fans! And the title's got a gerund in it! My cup overfloweth!

("Tatu", by the way, is Russian for "lipstick lesbian.")

Frankly The Scarlet Letter was doomed from the start the instant someone opened their fat yap and said "You know, the ending, it's just too downbeat." And then the final nails were driven into the coffin when Demi Moore said (and I'm trying to find the source of the quote here) that she didn't mind the changed ending because, and I paraphrase, "not many people have read the book anyway."

o ye cats and little children.
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From:stopword
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Bless you!

I never bought the feminist interpretation of "I Spit On Your Grave", either. Even the first time I saw it, when I was 15 or so. I think I remember saying to my horror-film-loving compadre (and these friends are so, so important to the young and geeky), "doesn't it seem like this film is just a justification for showing a bloody and upsetting rape scene?"
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
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I Spit On Your Grave doesn't even work as a decent revenge fantasy for so many reasons. First, what precipitates the revenge is just so, so, so out there, it keeps on going, and if I recall correctly, at one point they basically just switch to a cinema-verite style and leave the camera running, no cuts, no nothin, and so the audience is forced to watch all Ludovico Technique-style. I believe the director has since claimed the scenes were shot to show a realistic portrayal of just how horrible and brutal rape really is, in case anybody thought it was a laugh-a-minute or something. (Of course, the brutal revenge killings what happen next happen all the time in real life too.) I consider that explanation pure bluesky.

Second, then there's an attempt to compromise (compromise WHAT?!) by making one of the rapists retarded, so presumably we are to feel a bit of sympathy when the woman metes out remorseless revenge on even the retarded guy. Why? Why do that? We're in the middle of a revenge fantasy, we're supposed to be working up nothing but blind rage for these guys so we can sympathize with the woman and cheer her on, however loudly or silently, when she does her thing next. So why should we be expected to feel for the Good Old Boys who just committed multiple acts of illogical and irreprehensible assault?

Of all the things the film claims to do (present empowering messages, etc.) the only thing it accomplished was generating controversy over a 70s exploitation film which knew exactly how far too far was, and went there anyway. Greeeeeeeat.
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From:plumtreeblossom
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:22 pm (UTC)
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I just now watched the trailer (en Espanol, cuz that's all Youtube had). It looks patently retarded.
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From:cheezdanish
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)
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I saw a poster for this last night whilst out imbibing with some tour guide buddies.

I thought the chick was Reese Whitherspoon, because of the stupid quarter-face-behind-a-chain-link-fence shot.
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 17th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad you don't have to plug this movie to pieces, Bitsy.


But...
but...
but...

WHAT'S THIS I HEAR ABOUT THE BATES MOTEL GOING CONDO!?!
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From:nathanw
Date:June 17th, 2007 06:39 pm (UTC)
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I am slightly distressed that even before I got around to finding and reading this post the usual way, I tripped over it as one of the top hits on Technorati for "captivity movie".
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 17th, 2007 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Top hits? But I just wrote it this morning...

Huh.
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From:kalibex
Date:June 17th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
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Hey, every subway poster gone = money Lionsgate's wasted. And considering the extreme manipulative cynicism with which they prepared this ad campaign, I have no regrets.
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 17th, 2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Something tells me they're wasting a lot of money on this film and more than a few posters have found their way to the circular bomb-proof subway bins. I like the idea of jamming a bit more culture, tho. But that's because I always like heckling stupid stuff.
(Deleted comment)
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From:derspatchel
Date:June 18th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
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Hey, thanks for stopping by and making some darn good points. Very nice soapbox, by the way.

I'll first say it wasn't my intention to paint everybody who protested the ad campaign as overprotective parents. For one, you're right, it's a very wide and inaccurate brush, and for two, the you-do-my-parenting-for-me angle is one of my pet peeves (see also "The Hoo-Hah Monologues") and, well, it just sort of jerked itself right out of my knee when I was pell-mell in the middle of the paragraph. It was not meant to categorize an entire side of this controversy, as the two sides here appear to be Lionsgate versus everybody else in the world.

I'll also mention I saw the mockups for the original four-stage campaign and found 'em in extremely poor taste even for the torture film genre (The Saw and Hostel series seem to be able to convey their bleakly terrifying intent through print ads that don't show too much gore, though I do believe one of the Saw ads featured some severed fingers.) What I hadn't heard, but I've now since read, was that some billboards overlooked school playgrounds, etc.

Okay, that's not cool. It's no longer something you notice in passing, driving down the highway or whatever. It's a different kettle of stuff-you-put-in-kettles altogether, and only furthers my contempt towards Lionsgate. But it also shows me how certain pet peeves can be misconstrued. Oops.

I think the current ad with the chain-link fence hits an extremely sympathetic nerve with viewers. Why? It's the eye. You see a severed finger on an ad, it's kinda gross. But if you make eye contact with the person in peril, or even see their reactions, you've made a connection.

My original point to the post, which was lost in digressions was that I think the poster campaign and the way publicity was handled, to "accidentally" offend, scare and unnerve the most amount of people, was reprehensible. But I didn't feel that just removing a poster was going to do anything for anybody else, except for the person removing the poster (and it does feel good to go a-culture jammin', ain't it?) That's where the idea to spoil the movie came in. More jammin.

Regarding the current crop of torture films in mainstream cinema (I'm unable to read your article right now as I'm at work so I dunno if this point has been brought up) I'll point out that cinema reflects the attitudes and feelings of its time. It's a two-headed beast; one head is the Escapism beast so you can forget the problems (who needs to worry about finding food when Shirley Temple's tapdancing?) but the other head is the Reflective beast. The fears and anxieties of the time are brought up, examined, and often expanded to extremes.

So during the Vietnam era, late 60s-early 70s, you had crowd-pleasing escapism in bright technicolor movies, but you also had a new crop of young directors who had a nihilistic attitude. Bonnie & Clyde, for example, was decried for its violence which merely echoed its time. Easy Rider? It's not a very happy hippy movie. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper visit a failing commune, have a bad acid trip in New Orleans, and eventually run afoul of some nasty-ass rednecks while on the road.

After Vietnam, however, came the Era of the Blockbuster. Then the feel-good America Wins military movies, such as Rambo, Iron Eagle, Red Dawn and Top Gun came along during the Cold War-era Morning In America of the 1980s -- tempered with the post-apocalyptic Mad Max universe, and the future dystopias of Brazil, Blade Runner or even Max Headroom.

Now we're in another bleak period. Things ain't too optimistic. So we gots escapism: musicals, spectaculars, American Idol, Darning Socks With The Stars, whatever. And we've got the material that reflects and echoes the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Films like Saw, Hostel and their pals wouldn't have been possible, or necessary, 20 years ago. (20 years ago, horror-wise, we were still pre-occupied with slashing up horny teenagers.)

But if we view these torturous flicks, does it make us more sensitive to the actual tortures being perpretrated by governments both "on our side" and not? Or does it desensitize us?

Hmm. I think this strayed from the original point, but I'm keeping it.
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From:ckd
Date:June 17th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
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But what about the bears?

"Bears?"

Yeah, bears! The posters on the T have the MPAA ratings boxes, and these days you get not only the letter rating but a list of reasons for the rating, and one of the reasons is "GRIZZLY IMAGES". So what about the bears??
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From:dogofthefuture
Date:June 18th, 2007 09:59 am (UTC)
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The bears will Fuck. You. Up.
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From:littlegirltoast
Date:June 18th, 2007 05:38 am (UTC)
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Here is the thing, my ole buddy.

It doesn't matter what's in the movie. At all. Well, a little, but there's no exculpatory potential in anything that may happen in the movie.

Posters of tortured women have way, way more impact on the popular culture than movies do. About a millionth as many people will see the film as the promo materials. It informs the cultural discourse on what goes on with women. It contributes to the normalization of women as victims, in an especially exploitative way.

I know you're not even sticking up for the cruddy movie, but I think it's important to pay attention to stuff like this. It's not just hand-wringing, this stuff creates our brains. It doesn't matter what's in the movie, it doesn't matter who sees the movie. What matters is the overall environment we inhabit. Ads have more to do with that.
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From:fourcoffees
Date:June 18th, 2007 02:08 pm (UTC)
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Wait, just when I thought it couldn't get lamer than "torture porn"...
From:dcart
Date:June 18th, 2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
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I've never heard of this movie until just now. Now I don't have to spend any time thinking about it. Thanks, spatch!
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From:fancycwabs
Date:July 10th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking of this post, since the movie's coming out this week, and upon reflection I respectfully disagree with you, for this reason:

Spoiling a plot twist in an effort to get folks to not see a movie is precisely the tactic Michael Medved, et al., attempted with Million Dollar Baby. I thought it was uncalled-for back then, when I was in the opposite ideological position, and I can't in good conscience resort to the same tactics when the movie (or promotional material) contains material I find repugnant.

I can say, however, that if this is the sort of film (especially given the promo material) someone would want to see, I would have serious concerns regarding the quality of their judgment in other matters beyond mere film. I can live with it if Mick Martin and Marsha Porter think I'm a fascist in training because I like Fight Club (and according to their review, they do), but I'd just as soon they not ruin the ending in an effort to make me skip the film.

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