Friday, November 16, 2007

Raising Cain

Posted By on 11.16.07 at 11:50 AM

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There comes a time in a free society when citizens must take a stand. And this is one of those times. Cuban has a constitutional right to make this piece of garbage. And we have a right to criticize him and anyone who supports the project. —Bill O'Reilly on Fox News (11/14) rallying the troops against Redacted

The sidewalk outside Century shopping mall at Clark and Diversey, home to Landmark's Century Centre theaters, seems way too narrow to accommodate angry swarms of Bill O'Reilly supporters, carpooling in from Naperville and Buffalo Grove and points beyond the Fox (the river, not the TV network), who promise to descend this afternoon and evening (though maybe not—snark, snark) to protest the Chicago release of Brian De Palma's new Mark Cuban-produced anti-Iraq war film Redacted. Not to mention less angry swarms of "counterprotesters"—of which I may be one, I'm not sure yet—who, whether by accident or design, will brave the O'Reillyites' taunts and jeers to buy tickets on opening night (with reduced rates for seniors, hot damn!). But hey, we're all seasoned pros, right?—picket-line crashers from the get-go (well, maybe not quite), from Godard's Hail Mary through Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will to Kevin Smith's Dogma and beyond ...

Speaking of which: I once worked for a nonprofit group that decided to screen D.W. Griffith's notorious silent epic The Birth of a Nation to fill some downtime on the schedule. Everyone knew the classic objections—the sinister racial biases, the Ku Klux Klan hagiography, etc—but, so the rationalization went, it's still a cinematic treasure and part of our national heritage, whatever problems there are attitude-wise. So arguably we'd be performing a service: watch Nathan Bedford Forrest types ride down former bondsmen, get educated—like Johnny Guitar or whatever. Plus since everybody'd already seen it, probably no one would come—so how far down the collective-guilt ladder are we obliged to go?

But then the harassment started: first organized phone blitzes—"it's a racist film, it's racist!"—then promises of picket lines to come. Well, why shouldn't they harass us, they're all just royally pissed! Except now the idea dawned that we might actually—a shameful thought, depending on your tolerance for cynical marketing ploys—sell a few extra tickets, raise a couple of shekels. So from zero-degrees visibility to instant notoriety ... and nobody'd even bothered to raise a finger. At which point I probably should have torched the popcorn, since that's usually what I did, and—poof!—there'd go all our talk about marginal profitability in a carbonaceous haze.

Ah, capitalism ... but of course I'd be happy to give the O'Reillys another popcorn opportunity. Catering, anyone?

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