‘Oldboy’ Calendar Images Show 20 Years of Culture & Politics

Published 2 years ago by , Updated October 10th, 2013 at 7:51 am,

Oldboy calender Oldboy Calendar Images Show 20 Years of Culture & Politics

Remakes of Asian films for a Western audience have a tendency to attract certain a amount of controversy, so perhaps it’s appropriate that the remake of Park Chan-wook’s gripping revenge thriller Oldboy should be directed by Spike Lee, who has already dealt with a number of controversial issues in his past work.

Lee’s film stars Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett, a seemingly ordinary man who one day finds himself abducted and locked away in solitary confinement for years on end with no explanation as to what he’s done to deserve such punishment. Eventually, he’s set free, also without explanation, and seeks to find out who stole his life from him. Perhaps as a way of one-upping the source material, the protagonist of the remake is locked away for 20 years, rather than 15, and a lot happens in those years.

Keeping tabs on the outside world using the television, Joe is able to observe every major event between 1992 and 2012 as they each appear on the news. This aspect of the story is the subject of a rather odd marketing campaign for Oldboy being run on the film’s official Tumblr, which features a host of new images showing Brolin during the imprisonment and contrasted with a major event from each year he is locked up. Check out the full gallery of images below:


Whether it was the intent or not, some of the combinations of past events with images of Joe in his cell are more funny than tragic. There probably weren’t many instances of him looking happy to choose from, so instead we see him screaming in anguish at the election of Barack Obama as president, weeping hysterically as the New York Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks, and taking a shower during Hurricane Katrina. There are a lot of politically and culturally-charged moments included, though it’s unclear whether this will be a major aspect of the movie or whether it’s just an attempt to get people talking/arguing in the lead-up to Oldboy‘s release.

As a marketing campaign, it’s kind of clunky. The basic premise seems to be connecting major events in the outside world with Joe’s life in his cell, by means of adding themes captions to each of the images. So, for Dick Cheney shooting his hunting partner in the face we get Joe proclaiming “My aim is true.” The invention of Google is matched with, “Searching for answers isn’t easy.” Joe reacts to the castration of John Bobbitt with, “What did I do to deserve this?” He’s like that annoying friend who turns every conversation around until it’s about them.

Again, this isn’t necessarily an indication that Oldboy will be this politically-charged, but if nothing else, it will probably attract some attention. This campaign might well be retitled “20 years worth of internet arguments.” With that in mind, please be gentle with one another in the comments.


Oldboy opens in U.S. theaters on November 27th, 2013.

Source: Oldboy Tumblr

Follow H. Shaw-Williams on Twitter @HSW3K
TAGS: Oldboy
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  1. Looks like OLDBOY is gonna be another social / political spike lee whinefest . You know spike some people actually saw the original and won’t dig another lame cheaply vailed lecture .

  2. Spike Lee would shoehorn in Obama to a movie that has (or shouldn’t have) anything to do with politics. Come on Lee, this isn’t Do the Right Thing, just make an inferior version of Oldboy, release it, and let us all pretend it didn’t happen like we always do with Asian remakes (except The Departed which people seem dead-set on proclaiming as a masterpiece).

    • I agree

    • Can you blame them, The Departed is fantastic.

      • The Departed is passable. I consider it a pale imitation of a much better Asian film but if people want to proclaim its greatness as penance for ignoring Scorsese’s brilliance throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s that’s their prerogative.

  3. I thought The Departed was great, didn’t bother me that not many people (in comparison) have seen the Internal Affairs Trilogy. I think far too many people get hung up on “yeah well it’s a remake of a really good Asian movie” so what? if you like the original Asian version of Oldboy/The Ring etc does it take something away from those films if they become westernized? In a perfect world all remakes would both celebrate and in-capture there original counterpart for a larger audience to experience these stories. Of course things don’t work out like that and there have been many failures (too many horror films to list).

    It seems a shame that Oldboy is getting bad comments thrown at it before it’s even been released, especially since they have a great cast and director at the helm it doesn’t come across as a slap dash remake but as a project that for the people involved are probably working very hard to get right.

    If you do go to the Cinema and walk out screaming “why why why do they make these god damn awful remakes” seek solace in the fact you can head home slip in Chan-wook Park’s original masterpiece and forget all about it.

    • Agreed!

  4. Spike Lee….SMH. Hang it up dude, nobody cares for your pseudo-social commentary. Spike Lee formula = insert controversial social commentary where it doesn’t belong, use controversy to market film. Rinse. Repeat.

  5. Im suprised so many think this movie now looks to be politically charged. When I saw these images what I got out of it was showing how long joe was held prisoner for and all of the major world events he technically missed during that time.

    • You are surprised that people think a Spike Lee movie will be politically charged? Have you ever seen a Spike Lee movie?

      • I was mainly basing my opinion off the viewing of the images, not the directors track record. And I’d be lying if I said I’ve seen any spike lee movie besides inside man (which was awsome).

    • That’s exactly what I got out of it too.

      Funny how people pointlessly hate Obama and use this article to promote such hatred instead of thinking “Wow, this character missed out on so much in the last 20 years”.

      To add in my own view before moving on from this annoyingly overblown political debate, I think Obama’s a great President who’s had a tough time passing bills and laws that would help the American people because Republicans use scare tactics and block his policies out of spite and then people blame the President for not getting things done when it’s not his fault that brainless people in the Senate won’t allow free healthcare etc.

      I also facepalm when I see $tupid people being interviewed about “Obamacare” and saying “We don’t want it, it’ll ruin the country” and choose instead to go broke paying for treatment that should be free or leave illnesses untreated because they can’t afford to pay the medical bills.

      I say this as someone who has lived in a country with free and affordable healthcare no matter who you are and loves the benefits of not being able to pay for a doctor’s appointment if I’m a little short of cash during a short-notice period of illness, having to pay nothing for the surgery I had in May except through the taxes I’ve contributed over the years to keep the health service running alongside millions of others and pay just a few pounds for medication.

      I find the stance against “Obamacare” to be quite shocking considering the US thinks of itself as a civilised nation.

      • Political lectures are much more entertaining when they’re coming from Harley Quinn.

      • I would agree with that but when average people don”t see tea party, but see occupy wall street its tough not to notice the political point of view.

        Regardless if you agree with it or not it had a much bigger influence over the past four years than OWS.

        I see where your coming from, but from experiences with the directors previous work you should have expected it.

  6. Spike Lee is one of my favorite directors. Got a problem with it; get in the back of the line.

    • Im sorry to all you cry baby, jaded Asian cinema fanboys. How is the inclusion of President Obama and President Bush, not relevant for a timeline? A 10 year+ war in Iraq and the first mixed President are crucial in society. How would that not be essential in a prisoner’s timeline?

      If you dont like Spike, fine. But lets be logical to the cultural significance of these inclusions.

      • I prefer the term Asian cinephile with a propensity for not shutting up.

        As for your last point, if this were literally ANY other director I’d buy that Obama’s inclusion in promo material was because of the cultural significance and it’d make sense. This is Spike Lee though and he has not warranted that benefit of the doubt.

  7. I’m gonna see this movie. Way to go Lee! Go get ‘em my brotha :D

  8. A politically charged Spike Lee joint? Say it isn’t so. I was hoping that this miggt have been an ace remake from an ace director in particular because of Mr. Lee’s involvement knowing he has the cojones to take on the more controversial aspects of the movie, especially in respect to violence. Seeing these images just serves to remind me that a films propensity and indeed its enticement to an audience really comes down to its director and the way its marketed. If Spielberg had directed this movie it would have had Brolins’ character locked up for 20 years going through his daddy issues (hmmm). Had David Fincher directed it, it would have been a dark journey through a tortured mans soul. So given this is a Spike Lee joint, these images don’t surprise me at all… Nor do they entice me to go see the movie(and I was willing to put aside my bias having loved the original). Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, maybe not I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether it sinks or swims at

    • I just watched the red band trailer again and it’s always the little points with these remakes, such as Brolin just, Bang! sticks the nail pull end of a hammer into the top of the guys head whereas in the original it’s not quite like that and even thinking of the original scene makes me squirm just thinking about it.

      Sometimes less is more.

  9. It would be really helpful if you guys got an image timeline of some kind lol, its obnoxious having to click each image and reload the page each time