Sunday, October 5, 2014

Without going into spoiler territory

It must be really difficult to talk about movies these days, especially since more plot information than ever tends to fall into "spoiler territory."

Unfortunately, what seems to happen is that the people charged with the sacred duty of protecting spoilers -- particularly podcasters, who converse off the cuff and don't generally edit out slips of the tongue -- simply give lip service to avoiding spoilers ... and then fail to avoid them. 

Which makes it even more difficult to listen to people talk about movies, if you haven't seen the movie. 

"Without going into spoiler territory," they'll say, "let's just say that a certain someone in The Crying Game doesn't have a certain type of genitalia that you would expect that certain someone to have."

Really? Did you just avoid that spoiler? I don't think you did. 

That's an exaggeration, of course -- the people on the podcasts I listen to have more smarts than that. The real problem is that any individual statement they make does not constitute a spoiler, but taken in combination, you get a pretty complete image of the thing you're trying not to find out about.

So now is the time that I will give my SPOILER ALERT about Tusk ... a movie I am in a position to be able to spoil, even though I have not actually seen it. (And therein lies the problem.) 

I was listening to the second-most-recent episode of Filmspotting on Saturday, having known it was about Kevin Smith's Tusk, and having dragged my feet on listening to it long enough to realize I was not going to be able to watch Tusk within a reasonable amount of time. (I believe it comes out here on October 16th.) 

I had heard the most general logline of the movie, which was "It's about a man who turns into a walrus." I might have not liked to know even that, but with a title like Tusk, I might have assumed it had something to do either with walruses or elephants. The 1979 Fleetwood Mac album was also a possible focus of the film. 

Now, when Filmspotting co-host Josh Larsen and guest host Michael Phillips launched into their review, it was clear from the start that they intended to avoid spoilers. But it was also clear that they wanted to have an in-depth discussion of the film, which required them to give us more context than a totally spoiler-free review would allow them to do.

So there came that phrase again -- "without going into spoiler territory" -- followed by three rather suggestive phrases sprinkled through the review: "unwanted surgery," "body horror" and "obsession with walruses."

Piece those together, and now I know that there is a crazy guy who surgically implants walrus anatomy into a human.

Of course, if there were any doubts about that conclusion, I need only listen to the parts they felt confident they could share -- which basically remove any of those doubts.

However, Josh and Michael were not content just to spoil the main parts of the story. They also spoiled what is supposed to be a surprise cameo by Johnny Depp. Not just that he's in the movie, but that he plays a Quebecois detective with a walrus mustache. It's like if someone told you that Tom Cruise was in Tropic Thunder before you saw it. (And who knows, maybe someone did.)

It's the second time in the space of a month I was worried about listening to Filmspotting because of potential spoilers. I was told I should know as little as possible about Charlie McDowell's The One I Love, so I delayed listening to that episode. I was actually at a near podcast standstill, in fact, as I was also avoiding the episode of the Slate Culture Gabfest in which The One I Love was on tap.  

Fortunately, in that case, The One I Love was already available for rental on iTunes, so I scooped it up for the princely sum of $6.99 and watched it on a Friday night with my wife. When I then turned to the podcasts, I found that Josh and regular co-host Adam Kempenaar had really talked around the spoilers in their review -- but that Culture Gabfest team blew them wide open. (At least they issued a spoiler warning before divulging.) 

I'm not really criticizing any particular podcasters or people here. What bothers me is the very nature of film-related discourse, and what bothers me most is that I don't know there is any way it can be avoided. I love listening to these podcasts from week to week, and I love them precisely because they are not satisfied with a cursory, surface-level review of a movie. Getting into the meat of the movie is what makes them great. I'm so into the podcasts, in fact, that I don't want to skip any or listen to them out of order, because there are certain other features on each episode that are enhanced by listening to the shows in the intended sequence.

But I'm never going to be able to keep up with their pace of watching new releases, especially when certain movies don't even come out in Australia until three months after they hit theaters in the U.S., and certain other movies may intrigue me but don't seem like an immediate priority.

So what do I do?

Listen with one ear closed, and beg those involved to exercise as much prudence as they can.

At least I figure to see Gone Girl before Filmspotting gets to it next Friday. The plan is to go tomorrow night. 

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