Accuracy in Media

Mark Cuban, the successful businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner, wants the public to know that he funds some decent movies, in addition to bloody horror films about people getting their limbs cut off. In response to one of my Media Monitors on corruption in Hollywood, in which I documented Cuban’s role in the Lions Gate film company, he points out that he has also invested in two films that seem more wholesome?the PG-13 rated “World’s Fastest Indian” and the upcoming PG-rated “Akeelah and the Bee.” He also says he has funded a film, “One Last Thing,” which is about “why we all should believe in the Heaven and the hereafter.” Lions Gate, he points out, is distributing “Akeelah and the Bee.”

My concern was that Lions Gate, which is behind the gruesome “Devil’s Rejects” and “Hostel,” was preparing to launch a horror-film cable channel, and that its idea of horror is bloody and graphic to the point of being nauseating. Cuban thought that “Devil’s Rejects” was funny, rather than vile, and “Not everyone’s tastes are the same.” He said he loved the horror film “Saw,” another Lions Gate production whose theme was people sawing off their limbs, and that he hadn’t seen the gory “Hostel.” Cuban said “Saw” had some redeeming social values, and that it was about a guy willing to do anything for redemption with his family, no matter what the personal cost. I watched the film and didn’t come away with that enlightening message.

The official site for “Hostel” features an endorsement declaring the film to be sick, twisted and absolutely brilliant. It’s about a hunting club that captures and kills humans. I haven’t yet figured out the socially redeeming value this one is supposed to have.

Cuban’s philosophy, as he expressed in an email, is that the beautiful thing about America is that “people speak with their choices.” He also complained about people in the media writing about things they don’t like, rather than pushing the movies people should be seeing. Fair point. That’s why I promoted “Roving Mars,” the new IMAX movie. And I’m happy to acknowledge the films that he thinks are worthwhile. I should also plug “Walk the Line,” the film about Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash that resulted in Reese Witherspoon winning best actress at the Academy Awards. Another good film, which you have to watch several times to get used to and appreciate, is “Napoleon Dynamite,” which cost only $200,000 to make but grossed $50 million.

But I can’t buy the idea that Devil’s Rejects is funny. It almost made me sick to my stomach. I worry about the impact such films have on the mentally unstable. By the way, “Saw II” is already out, and “Saw III” has been announced for Halloween 2006. Lions Gate is producing the film together with an outfit called “Twisted Pictures.” No kidding. I’m afraid the result will be more twisted people.

Mark Cuban has made a lot of money and is reported to be a billionaire. In fact, he has been called America’s “coolest billionaire.” But it’s not cool to fund trash. He’s right that people can make choices. But people in his position make choices too. They make choices available for others.

Shouldn’t these be responsible choices?

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