Monday, February 25, 2008

Blockbuster Hypocrisy

Although I've known about this for a long time, an experience over the weekend leads me to blog about it.

The girlfriend and I were browsing at her local Blockbuster over the weekend, and was surprised to see several copies of Lust, Caution, Ang Lee's latest film. I was surprised because (a) I wasn't aware it was out on DVD yet and (b) it was an NC-17 rated film, and, in my experience, Blockbuster wouldn't rent films that either carried an NC-17 or were unrated. In fact, when I was in law school I had to bypass the right-down-the-street Blockbuster store and trek to the local video store on the other end of town to rent things like David Cronenberg's Crash and Todd Solondz's Happiness. But with the advent of "unrated" versions of big movies showing up at Blockbuster, I figured maybe they'd done away with that policy.

Sadly, no. The versions of Lust, Caution available at Blockbuster were of a recut R-rated version (although you can apparently get the real thing from their online service).

I don't have any problem with Blockbuster decided what movies to rent or what kind of movies they rent. If they think that anything beyond an R rating isn't an appropriate product to rent/sell, more power to them. But I'm a bit confused as to why they won't rent the as-intended version of a Cannes-honored film by an Academy Award winning director, but will happily provide you with even gorier uncut versions of things like Saw or The Devil's Rejects. Are a couple of frank sex scenes really any worse than a series of dismemberments? According to this blog post:

It is true that Blockbuster does not carry movies that the Motion Picture Association of America has rated NC-17; this is a long-standing Blockbuster policy, Cannizzaro says. Blockbuster does carry some unrated films, but only those that the company has determined would not have received an NC-17 rating had the MPAA rated them. Thus even though they weren't rated, you won't find John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus," Michael Winterbottom's "9 Songs," nor, of course, Kirby Dick's "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" at Blockbuster.
Not surprisingly, I had no trouble getting all three of those flicks from Netflix. But that logic doesn't seem to hold water - why would the Saw folks cut down on the gore if not to secure the R rating they need to wide distribution? The logical inference is that the unrated material would have gotten the film an NC-17 had it been included.

Or, perhaps, Blockbuster is just applying the incomprehensible logic of the MPAA that Dick laid bare in his flim - that the ratings people are disproportionately concerned with sex and bad language, but generally don't give a shit about violence. In which case, shame on Blockbuster for bowing to that illogic.

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